Neurotopia

Nice Evolution Primer Site

If you’re looking for a website that gives a nice intro to the nature of science and evolution, but doesn’t use lots of jargon, you should check out This View of Life. From the About page:

The aim of this project is to present the topic of evolution in a scientifically accurate manner that avoids technical language, but that also avoids potentially misleading colloquial language. It strives to be accessible to the non-scientist and so it represents a general outline, merely scratching the surface of the large body of research in the many facets of this topic. For more detailed information, see the references.

As an instructor for a college freshman-level biology course, I became aware that the theory of evolution is widely misunderstood by the general public. As many have noted, this is not because the theory is a conceptually difficult one. Indeed, it would be difficult to find a simpler one with such broad explanatory power. However, researchers often use highly technical language that is lost on many readers. In addition, in attempting to explain how evolution works, scientists and journalists alike often use colloquial language that can be misread as asserting (for example) that evolution is under the conscious control of individuals, that individuals can evolve, that evolution is goal-oriented, or that it results in perfection. This, coupled with deliberate attempts at obfuscation by anti-evolution groups using popular media, has created much confusion and even disdain for this extremely well-supported explanation of biological diversity.

The site is organized into sections dealing with genes and heredity, the mechanisms of evo, the evidences for evo, and also a nice focus on ecology and energetics to explain niches and why no “ultimate species” evolves. The author does a really nice job of creating an accessible package. There’s not a lot of tangential information to confuse the reader, the site is simply and pleasantly designed, lay examples are given, and the distraction of the creation/evolution “argument” is left for other sites to deal with. We’re left with a tidy discussion of what science is and how it works, and where evolution fits within that framework. If you don’t know where to start and are intimidated by larger information warehouses like TalkOrigins, start with This View of Life instead.