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Evolution fascinates kids--what's your experience?

As an atheist with the usual frustrations and the occasional axe I might think needs grinding, I like to focus on the fascinating discoveries science is making. And, I'm terribly sentimental with children.

I don't tend to write sappy posts, but if you don't want to read about my joy at teaching a 4 year old about human evolution, I'll understand. I went to visit an old friend yesterday, an MIT couple with a 4 year old daughter they're raising to understand everything. (So when I say 4, think 7.) The book I chose for her was from the Eyewitness series, on human evolution, so text she couldn't read but great pictures (and illustrations of women evolving, not just men, which is a refreshing trend).

Within two or three minutes of clutching the book to her chest, she came running into the kitchen absolutely beaming, and exclaimed, "Mom! We used to be monkeys!" I can't think of when I'd seen a present better received. Her mother sat down with her and explained that she was almost right, explained the common ancestor, when her daughter pointed at a hominid scull and asked, "Did that used to be in our heads?"

Damn, what a good question; what an elucidating answer it leads to. I was placed in charge of explaining the book to my enraptured little host, and not having kids of my own yet, was thrilled to see how readily she understood the ideas, and what questions she came up with.

What a profound gift to children to have the knowledge and tools to provide them with such fascination. I wonder if other people have similar experiences?

Then I'll get back to commenting on the Catholic church's renewed interest in exorcisms or something; I don't want to get soft.



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