One of the many beautiful lessons to learn from plant species is in their resilience.
Since they cannot simply run away, they have evolved over their 430 million years of life on Earth to deal with the situation where they stand. They produce their own food through photosynthesis and hence have learnt to use it optimally. They protect themselves with evolved mechanisms like noxious chemicals, spines, sticky saps etc. while doing their best to adapt and adjust to their surroundings.
Observing a small plant can itself be a nice teaching moment.
This week the press had good coverage of the likable Pope Francis's statements acknowledging Darwin's Theory of Evolution.
I was glad that at least there was an acceptance of Evolution at the highest levels of Christian religious authority. Any progressive evolution of leaders of monotheistic religions can only benefit humanity in general even though such statements seem more a convenient way to induce the role of a "supreme creator" into widely accepted scientific facts for practical reasons.
There were many opinion pieces that were quick to point out that Pope Francis's statements were in line with the Church's position - so no big deal; while hardliners were taking a stand that the Pope can't replace God's words and that such men even of such high religious authority "will repent". Such disparate interpretations of the same religious book within the highest authorities of same community is a bit intriguing to say the least.
As far as Darwin's finding's on evolution itself is concerned, it has been a scientifically accepted fact since 1870s and there was no role of a "supreme creator" in it. If someone needs a basic refresher on evolution, they can find it here.
To paraphrase the esteemed evolutionary biologist E.O.Wilson: since human evolution is so distinctive and came so late in the history of life on Earth, it may be very tempting for many to suggest the hand of a divine creator in our creation. Fortunately biologists have identified other evolutionary lines in world fauna that have attained similar advanced social life as humans. Unfortunately human society has not focused its efforts on visualizing the advances in the social realms of other living species in the Planet. And religions through their own derived concept of a 'creator' have played a big part in this lack of human perception.
Unfortunately even in an educated country like the US, we still have 42% of the population believing in creationism. So hopefully the new statements from Pope Francis help change the perspective of religion influenced school officials / teachers who are hesitant to teach Evolution. And I hope these new statements from the Pope has a positive influence on many religious minded lawmakers and influential folks in other higher echelons of political power when deciding on laws and rules that impact future of kids.
A factual awareness of human evolution, evolutionary biology and the biodiversity of the Planet is fundamental for kids and adults alike to understand the role that Earth's different species play in human existence and to understand our dependency on and impact on other living species in the Planet. This is all the more needed in the light of climate change and its impact on our living planet.
To quote from E.O. Wilson's new book 'Meaning of Human Existence':
"Humanity, I argue, arose entirely on its own through an accumulated series of events during evolution. We are not predestined to reach any goal, nor are we answerable to any power but our own. Only wisdom based on self-understanding, not piety, will save us. There will be no redemption or second chance vouchsafed to us from above. We have only this one planet to inhabit and this one meaning to unfold. To take this step in our journey, to get hold of the human condition, we need next a much broader definition of history than is conventionally used."