Santiago Ginnobili, Leonardo González Galli & Yefrin Ariza – Do What Darwin Did – How to Deal with Teleological Misconceptions in the Classroom

Ginnobili, S., González Galli, L. & Ariza, Y. Do What Darwin Did. Sci & Educ (2021).


We argue that teleological thinking plays a central role in biology and, more specifically, in theory of natural selection, and, therefore, the didactic goal cannot be its unnuanced elimination. In this sense, we will suggest that students’ teleological views can be used as the starting point for the construction of knowledge in this area of biology. To establish possible didactic strategies, we will turn to the way Darwin himself dealt with the teleology of former naturalists: Darwin had to modify several aspects of the previous teleological thinking: He had to reform functional biology. We will develop an alternative approach to teleology problem by conceiving of the contemporary student as a pre-Darwinian teleologist. Working from there, we will sketch two possible approaches for dealing with the students’ teleological thinking. The first approach seeks to modify the students’ intuitive functional biology in order to bring it closer to the modified functional biology developed by Darwin but avoiding the use of notions from evolutionary biology. The second approach involves using theory of natural selection as a guide to reformulate the functional biology of the students.