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ERIC Number: EJ791435
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Mar
Pages: 5
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 18
ISSN: ISSN-0002-7685
The Beaks of Finches & the Tool Analogy: Use with Care
Milne, Catherine
American Biology Teacher, v70 n3 p153-157 Mar 2008
Analogies are an integral feature of scientific theories, like evolution. They are developed to support explanations, proposed on the basis of evidence collected from experimental studies, field studies, and other observational studies. They map a known source or process to an unknown or target with the goal of helping educators understand the target object or process a little better. Analogies are also known by scientists to be partial, that is, they do not map exactly on to the target. Where they do map, they help educators understand connections between concepts in new ways that assist problem solving and theory building. In science, their value lies in their function for prediction. They allow researchers and learners to construct models that, although not consistent with all data, have the potential to encourage important and researchable questions. In this article, the author demonstrates how a tool analogy in a simulation activity ("The Beaks of Finches") fails to examine the theoretical power of an analogy and does not assist students in learning the importance of phenomena to one's understanding of evolution. The tool analogy for finches' beaks is not only the focus of this activity but is one of the state-required laboratory activities for a high school course, "Living Environment (Biology)" (NYSED, n.d.). (Contains 2 figures, 1 table and 3 footnotes.)
National Association of Biology Teachers. 12030 Sunrise Valley Drive #110, Reston, VA 20191. Tel: 800-406-0775; Tel: 703-264-9696; Fax: 703-264-7778; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: High Schools
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A