Why Do We Need to Teach the Evolution of Photosynthesis

Robert E. Blankenship, Arlene L. M. Haffa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The teaching of evolution in schools has long been a controversial societal issue, especially in secondary school education in the USA. In recent years, repeated attempts to rewrite science standards and modify textbooks to downplay evolution or present alternatives have been made. The most visible of these recent efforts has been spearheaded by the Intelligent Design (ID) movement, which has its origins in the creationist movement. ID proposes that certain biological systems are “irreducibly complex”, in that they are so complicated that it is impossible that they arose via the gradual accumulation of mutations and therefore must have been created by an “intelligent designer”. Conversely, if a process follows physical laws and logic that are understood, it also must have been created by this intelligent designer according to a “master plan”. The identity of the intelligent designer is usually not explicitly Stated but is meant to be God. Photosynthesis is a process that has been portrayed in ID literature as irreducibly complex in those aspects that are not well understood, and elegant by design in those that are. It thus becomes a central issue in this larger societal debate. It is important that scientists clearly articulate the existing evidence relating to the origin and evolution of photosynthesis and communicate this information to the community at large in a way that is both accessible and scientifically valid.
Original languageAmerican English
JournalPhotosynthesis. Energy from the Sun: 14th International Congress on Photosynthesis
StatePublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Photosynthesis
  • creationism
  • education
  • evolution
  • intelligent design


  • Biology
  • Applied Mathematics

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