Teaching Evolution: Challenging Religious Preconceptions

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Conference Proceeding

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Biological Sciences


Teaching college students about the nature of science should not be a controversial exercise. College students are expected to distinguish between astronomy and astrology, chemistry and alchemy, evolution and creationism. In practice, however, the conflict between creationism and the nature of science may create controversy in the classroom, even walkouts, when the subject of evolution is raised. The authors have grappled with the meaning of such behaviors. They surveyed 538 students in a public, liberal arts college. Pre/post course surveys were analyzed to track changes in student responses to questions that were either consistent or inconsistent with the Theory of Evolution after a semester of instruction in a college biology or zoology course in which evolution was taught. Many students who were initially undecided about issues regarding evolution had shifted in their viewpoints by the end of the course. It was found that more education about the evidence for and the mechanics of evolutionary processes did not necessarily move students toward a scientific viewpoint. The authors also discovered a "wedge" effect among students who were undecided about questions pertaining to human ancestry at the beginning of the course. About half of these students shifted to a scientific viewpoint at the end of the course; the other half shifted toward agreement with statements consistent with creationism. © The Author 2008. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology. All rights reserved.



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Integrative and Comparative Biology