The Loom

A while back I had the pleasure to join a team of scientists and teachers to build web site that explains evolution. Funded by the National Science Foundation and the Howard Hughes Medical Foundation, it charts the history of evolutionary thought (both before and after Darwin), and lays out the different lines of supporting evidence for evolution, as well as its relevance to everyday life. It addresses some of the common misconceptions about evolution, and lays out the nature of scientific inquiry. Science teachers can also find ideas for lesson plans and tips for answering common student questions. It’s now live, and I think they’ve done a great job of creating an elegantly simple way to navigate lots of information. (I’m speaking as someone who barely knows the difference between Java and HTML.)

I contributed the history section of the site. Writing for the web reveals to me some of the illusions that ordinary writing can create. History–particularly the history of ideas–does not proceed in a linear fashion like lines of words across a page. It is more like an expanding net, with different people influencing each other across the disciplines and from centuries past. On the Understanding Evolution site, we decided to lay out the history of evolutionary thought as a set of tangled branching vines, with plenty of links joining it all together. While books remain my first love, I’ll admit that the web sometimes gets closer to the shape of reality.

Anyway, check it out. As always, comments are most appreciated.

Comments

  1. #1 Mrs Tilton
    February 6, 2004

    Understanding Evolution is a very fine site indeed. Don’t feel defensive about your love of dead-tree based media. The site is no substitute for what one can find in books. But I’d hope it would inspire visitors to turn to those books if they haven’t already.

  2. #2 Ed Brayton
    February 8, 2004

    Wonderful timing, I just posted an entry promoting this site on my blog a couple days ago. It really is a great site and I’m sure it will only get better in the future. Thanks for your work on it.

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