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Natural History is Dying, and We Are All the Losers

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A few weeks ago, I came across a new paper in BioScience called “Natural History’s Place in Science and Society” that contained the following graph.

On the right axis and indicated by the line surrounded by dots is the proportion of introductory biology texts devoted to natural history since 1935.

The left axis and the bars show the minimum number of natural history-related courses required for a BS degree in biology in US colleges and universities since 1955. The median number is indicated in writing inside the bar. You’ll note that since 1995, the median number of courses has been zero. Zilch. Zip.

In other words, the people society depends on to know the most about life — people with college biology degrees — in nearly all cases have no obligation to learn anything about actual living organisms. To me, this is a shocking dereliction.

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