Should we teach evolution beyond the biology classroom?

Evolution education around the world is assumed to be the purview of the biology classroom. There may be good reasons for this & yet it may be time to consider expanding our scope across traditional disciplinary boundaries, teaching evolution as the interdisciplinary science that it is ⎮2 min read

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By Dustin Eirdosh & Susan Hanisch

Darwin originally developed evolutionary theory as tool for explaining the origin of species, yet he was also prolific in seeing the implications of his idea for understanding the human condition much more broadly. While the extension of evolutionary thinking into societal affairs has undoubtedly taken dark turns in the past, Darwin himself and many of his contemporaries viewed human prosociality as central to our adaptive strategies as a species. Further, the 21st century has seen a resurgent interdisciplinary synthesis in the social sciences that sheds new light on the evolutionary origins of human cooperation, the role of human cooperation as a driver of human evolution, and our potential capacities to leverage our psychological flexibility towards working together and learning together on the global challenges that threaten our sustainability as a species. 

The 21st century insights of evolutionary anthropology offer numerous learning opportunities for biology classrooms and beyond, but also challenge the classic disciplinary divisions common in general education programs globally. Our new project Teaching Evolution as an Interdisciplinary Science broadly aims to advance scholarship linking insights from the leading edge of evolution science to the leading edge of interdisciplinary educational innovation. We have recently published an article in the journal Evolution Education Outreach that highlights recent work in the evolution of human cooperation and asks if evolution education can integrate such perspectives. Additionally, we have now posted two preprint articles that outline a conceptual clarification and set of hypothesized learning pathways for how teaching evolution as an interdisciplinary science may help advance the core aims of evolution understanding and acceptance as classically identified by evolution education researchers (see links below). 

Our larger project at is working to advance an open education resource base and research program for teaching evolution as an interdisciplinary science in general education through a focus on understanding the origins and continued evolution of sustainability-relevant human behaviors. 

What do you think? What are the challenges and opportunities of expanding the scope of evolution education beyond the biology classroom? We welcome feedback and collaborations from educators and researchers across all disciplines!

Recent article and preprints relevant to teaching evolution as an interdisciplinary science:

Global ESD

Educational innovation and curriculum design, as part of our work within the Department of Comparative Cultural Psychology at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

Global ESD works internationally to support sustainability education initiatives that connect concepts in human evolution, behavioral ecology, and sustainability science. By linking scientific perspectives on social change with students and classrooms seeking to make the world a better place, our aim is to foster a more global discussion about where we are going in the light of where we all have come from. Global ESD co-founders Dustin Eirdosh and Dr. Susan Hanisch are also researchers within the Department of Comparative Cultural Psychology at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.