Acceptance of Evolution And Religiosity in New England Colleges and Universities

Acceptance of Evolution and Religiosity in New England Colleges and Universities

The Boston Public Library, a magnificent destination for enlightment (photo G. Paz-y-Miño-C — © 2010)

26% of the general faculty, 45% of the educators, and 35% of the students do not know that humans are apes…

15% of the general faculty, 32% of the educators, and 35% of the students believe, incorrectly, that the origin of the human mind cannot be explained by evolution…

30% of the general faculty, 59% of the educators, and 75% of the students are Lamarckian…

29% of the general faculty, 42% of the educators, and 37% of the students consider religion to be very important in their lives…

17% of the general faculty, 34% of the educators, and 28% of the students confess to pray daily…

*      *      *      *      *

The statistics summarized below are based on scientific polling of 1,133 individuals affiliated with 35 colleges and universities in New England, USA (states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont).

General faculty (n=244; 93% PhD/doctorate holders in 40 disciplines), educators of prospective teachers (n=62; 87% PhD/doctorate holders in 32 education specializations) and students (n=827) were surveyed on three areas: (1) the controversy over evolution vs. creationism vs. design creationism or Intelligent Design ID, (2) their understanding of how science/evolution works, and (3) their religiosity. 

Detailed methodology, results and discussion are available in the original study by Paz-y-Miño-C & Espinosa 2012.

Poll Summary

What should be taught in science classes?

General Faculty: evolution 96.3%, equal time evolution and creationism 3.7%

Educators of Prospective Teachers: evolution 86.2%, equal time evolution and creationism 13.8%

Students: evolution 70.7%, equal time evolution and creationism 29.3%

*Intelligent Design is…

General Faculty: …not scientific but proposed to counter evolution 46.7%, religious doctrine consistent with creationism 45.5%

Educators of Prospective Teachers: …not scientific but proposed to counter evolution 41.9%, religious doctrine consistent with creationism 40.3%

Students: …not scientific but proposed to counter evolution 22.9%, religious doctrine consistent with creationism 27.4%

* percent responses above or below 100% due to independent sampling per question and/or not all question-choices shown here; for details see original study by Paz-y-Miño-C & Espinosa 2012.

Hearing About Evolution Makes…

General Faculty: …appreciate the factual explanation about the origin of life and its place in the universe 96.6%, no difference because evolution and creationism are in harmony 3.4%

Educators of Prospective Teachers: …appreciate the factual explanation about the origin of life and its place in the universe 81.4%, no difference because evolution and creationism are in harmony 18.6%

Students: …appreciate the factual explanation about the origin of life and its place in the universe 76.4%, no difference because evolution and creationism are in harmony 23.6%

I Prefer Science Courses Where…

General Faculty: …evolution is discussed comprehensively and humans are part of it 98.8%, …plant and animal evolution are discussed but not human evolution 1.2%

Educators of Prospective Teachers: …evolution is discussed comprehensively and humans are part of it 96.6%, …plant and animal evolution are discussed but not human evolution 3.4%

Students: …evolution is discussed comprehensively and humans are part of it 93.7%, …plant and animal evolution are discussed but not human evolution 6.3% 

Instructors / Students Should…

General Faculty: …have no problem giving exams with questions concerning evolution 79.4%, …always include some questions concerning evolution in science exams 20.6%

Educators of Prospective Teachers: …have no problem giving exams with questions concerning evolution 72.4%, …always include some questions concerning evolution in science exams 27.6%

Students: …have no problem answering questions concerning evolution in science exams 75.6%, …always receive some questions concerning evolution in science exams 24.4%

*I Accept Evolution…

General Faculty: …and express it openly regardless of others’ opinions 94.4%, …privately but do not discuss it openly to avoid conflicts with friends and family 2.8%

Educators of Prospective Teachers: …and express it openly regardless of others’ opinions 75.0%, …privately but do not discuss it openly to avoid conflicts with friends and family 12.5%

Students: …and express it openly regardless of others’ opinions 63.4%, …privately but do not discuss it openly to avoid conflicts with friends and family 16.6%

* percent responses above or below 100% due to independent sampling per question and/or not all question-choices shown here; for details see original study by Paz-y-Miño-C & Espinosa 2012.

Evolution Is…

General Faculty: …definitely true 81.9%, …probably true 18.1%

Educators of Prospective Teachers: …definitely true 71.4%, …probably true 28.6%

Students: …definitely true 58.4%, …probably true 41.6%

Faith in a God is Necessary for Morality…

General Faculty: …true 5.0%, …false 95.0%

Educators of Prospective Teachers: …true 7.5%, …false 92.5%

Students: …true 25.1%, …false 74.9%

Religion is Very Important in My Life:

General Faculty: …true 29.0%, …false 71.0%

Educators of Prospective Teachers: …true 41.5%, …false 58.5%

Students: …true 37.3%, …false 62.7%

I Pray Daily:

General Faculty: …true 17.0%, …false 83.0%

Educators of Prospective Teachers: …true 34.0%, …false 66.0%

Students: …true 27.6%, …false 72.4%

Implications of The Study

Although 93% of the general faculty, educators, and students knew that evolution relies on common ancestry, 26% of the general faculty, 45% of the educators, and 35% of the students did not know that humans are apes. Remarkably, 15% of the general faculty, 32% of the educators, and 35% of the students believed, incorrectly, that the origin of the human mind cannot be explained by evolution; and 30% of the general faculty, 59% of the educators, and 75% of the students were Lamarckian (=believed in inheritance of acquired traits).

The general faculty was the most knowledgeable about science/evolution and the least religious (science index, SI = 2.49; evolution index, EI = 2.49; and religiosity index, RI = 0.49); the educators reached lower science/evolution but higher religiosity indexes than the general faculty (SI = 1.96, EI = 1.96, and RI = 0.83); and the students were the least knowledgeable about science/evolution and the most religious (SI = 1.80, EI = 1.60, and RI = 0.89). Understanding of science and evolution were inversely correlated with level of religiosity, and understanding of evolution increased with increasing science literacy.

Interestingly, ≈36% (average three groups) of the general faculty, educators and students considered religion to be very important in their lives, and 17% of the general faculty, 34% of the educators, and 28% of the students confessed to pray daily.

Assessing the perception of evolution by the general faculty, educators of prospective teachers and the students of New England, one of the historically most progressive regions in the U.S., is crucial for determining the magnitude of the impact of creationism and design creationism (or ID) on attitudes toward science, reason, and education in science.

Follow a discussion on this study in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

References:

Educators of Prospective Teachers Hesitate to Embrace Evolution Due to Deficient Understanding of Science/Evolution and High Religiosity

New England Faculty and College Students Differ in Their Views About Evolution, Creationism, Intelligent Design, and Religiosity

On the Theory of Evolution Versus the Concept of Evolution: Three Observations

Acceptance of Evolution Increases with Student Academic Level: A Comparison Between a Secular and a Religious College

Assessment of Biology Majors’ Versus Nonmajors’ Views on Evolution, Creationism, and Intelligent Design

Why People Do Not Accept Evolution: Using Protistan Diversity to Promote Evolution Literacy

Related Links:

Why People Do Not Accept Evolution?

Back to Evolution Literacy website



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