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Evolution: Education and Outreach

, 10:4

First Online: 17 July 2017Received: 08 April 2017Accepted: 29 June 2017


BackgroundDespite decades of education reform efforts, the percent of the general US population accepting biological evolution as the explanation for the diversity of life has remained relatively unchanged over the past 35 years. Previous work has shown the importance of both educational and non-educational sociodemographic and psychological factors on acceptance of evolution, but has often looked at such factors in isolation. Our study is among the first attempts to model quantitatively how the unique influences of evolutionary content knowledge, religiosity, epistemological sophistication, and an understanding of the nature of science collectively predict an individual’s acceptance or rejection of evolution.

ResultsOur study population had a high acceptance of evolution, with an average score of 77.17 95% C.I. ± 1.483 on the Measure of Acceptance of the Theory of Evolution MATE instrument. Our combined general linear model showed that, of the variables in our model, an understanding of the nature of science explained the greatest amount of variation in acceptance of evolution. This was followed in amount of variance explained by a measure of religiosity, openness to experience, religious denomination, number of biology courses previously taken, and knowledge of evolutionary biology terms.

ConclusionsUnderstanding of the nature of science was the single most important factor associated with acceptance of evolution in our study and explained at least four times more variation than measures of evolutionary knowledge. This suggests that educational efforts to impact evolutionary acceptance should focus on increasing an understanding of the nature of science which may be expected to have additional benefits towards generalized science denial. Additionally, our measure of epistemological sophistication had a unique, significant impact on acceptance of evolution. Both epistemological sophistication and an understanding of the nature of science are factors that might change throughout a liberal arts education, independent of the effect of direct evolutionary instruction.

KeywordsAcceptance of evolution Nature of science Epistemological sophistication Religiosity Knowledge of evolution General linear model AbbreviationsGPAgrade point average

MATEMeasure of Acceptance of the Theory of Evolution

Electronic supplementary materialThe online version of this article doi:10.1186-s12052-017-0068-0 contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Author: Ryan D. P. Dunk - Andrew J. Petto - Jason R. Wiles - Benjamin C. Campbell

Source: https://link.springer.com/

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