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From ends to causes (and back again) by metaphor: the paradox of natural selection

Stefaan Blancke (UGent) , Tammy Schellens (UGent) , Ronald Soetaert (UGent) , Hilde Van Keer (UGent) and Johan Braeckman (UGent)
(2014) SCIENCE & EDUCATION. 23(4). p.793-808
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Abstract
Natural selection is one of the most famous metaphors in the history of science. Charles Darwin used the metaphor and the underlying analogy to frame his ideas about evolution and its main driving mechanism into a full-fledged theory. Because the metaphor turned out to be such a powerful epistemic tool, Darwin naturally assumed that he could also employ it as an educational tool to inform his contemporaries about his findings. Moreover, by using the metaphor Darwin was able to bring his theory in accordance with both the dominant philosophy of science in his time and the respected tradition of natural theology. However, as he introduced his theory of evolution by natural selection in On the origin of species in 1859, the metaphor also turned out to have a serious downside. Because of its intentional overtones, his contemporaries systematically misunderstood his metaphor not as a natural mechanism causing evolution to occur but as an agent who works towards particular ends. The difference in success between natural selection as an epistemic tool and its failure as an educational tool is labelled as a paradox. We explain the paradox from a cognitive perspective and discuss the implications for teaching evolution.
Keywords
ESSENTIALIST BELIEFS, TELEOLOGICAL EXPLANATIONS, EVOLUTION, DARWIN, SCIENCE, CONCEPTIONS, PREFERENCE, REVOLUTION, CHILDREN, ORIGINS

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Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:

Chicago
Blancke, Stefaan, Tammy Schellens, Ronald Soetaert, Hilde Van Keer, and Johan Braeckman. 2014. “From Ends to Causes (and Back Again) by Metaphor: The Paradox of Natural Selection.” Science & Education 23 (4): 793–808.
APA
Blancke, S., Schellens, T., Soetaert, R., Van Keer, H., & Braeckman, J. (2014). From ends to causes (and back again) by metaphor: the paradox of natural selection. SCIENCE & EDUCATION, 23(4), 793–808.
Vancouver
1.
Blancke S, Schellens T, Soetaert R, Van Keer H, Braeckman J. From ends to causes (and back again) by metaphor: the paradox of natural selection. SCIENCE & EDUCATION. 2014;23(4):793–808.
MLA
Blancke, Stefaan et al. “From Ends to Causes (and Back Again) by Metaphor: The Paradox of Natural Selection.” SCIENCE & EDUCATION 23.4 (2014): 793–808. Print.
@article{4121103,
  abstract     = {Natural selection is one of the most famous metaphors in the history of science. Charles Darwin used the metaphor and the underlying analogy to frame his ideas about evolution and its main driving mechanism into a full-fledged theory. Because the metaphor turned out to be such a powerful epistemic tool, Darwin naturally assumed that he could also employ it as an educational tool to inform his contemporaries about his findings. Moreover, by using the metaphor Darwin was able to bring his theory in accordance with both the dominant  philosophy of science in his time and the respected tradition of natural theology. However, as he introduced his theory of evolution by natural selection in On the origin of species in 1859, the metaphor also turned out to have a serious downside. Because of its intentional overtones, his contemporaries systematically misunderstood his metaphor not as a natural mechanism causing evolution to occur but as an agent who works towards particular ends. The difference in success between natural selection as an epistemic tool and its failure as an educational tool is labelled as a paradox. We explain the paradox from a cognitive perspective and discuss the implications for teaching evolution.},
  author       = {Blancke, Stefaan and Schellens, Tammy and Soetaert, Ronald and Van Keer, Hilde and Braeckman, Johan},
  issn         = {0926-7220},
  journal      = {SCIENCE & EDUCATION},
  keywords     = {ESSENTIALIST BELIEFS,TELEOLOGICAL EXPLANATIONS,EVOLUTION,DARWIN,SCIENCE,CONCEPTIONS,PREFERENCE,REVOLUTION,CHILDREN,ORIGINS},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {4},
  pages        = {793--808},
  title        = {From ends to causes (and back again) by metaphor: the paradox of natural selection},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11191-013-9648-8},
  volume       = {23},
  year         = {2014},
}

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