First, the students answered a standard set of questions designed to measure their overall acceptance of evolution. These questions probed whether students generally believed in the main concepts and scientific findings that underpin the theory.
Then the students took a test on the specific details of evolutionary science. To show their level of factual knowledge, students answered multiple-choice and free-response questions about processes such as natural selection. To gauge their "gut" feelings about these ideas, students wrote down how certain they felt that their factually correct answers were actually true.
The researchers then analyzed statistical correlations to see whether knowledge level or feeling of certainty best predicted students' overall acceptance of evolution. They also considered factors such as academic year and religion as potential predictors.
"What we found is that intuitive cognition has a significant impact on what people end up accepting, no matter how much they know," said Haury. The results show that even students with greater knowledge of evolutionary facts weren't likelier to accept the theory, unless they also had a strong "gut" feeling about those facts.
When trying to explain the patterns of whether people believe in evolution or not, "the results show that if we consider both feeling and knowledge level, we can explain much more than with knowledge level alone," said Minsu Ha, lead author on the paper and a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Teaching and Learning.
In particular, the research shows that it may not be accurate to portray religion and science education as competing factors in determining beliefs about evolution. For the subjects of this study, belonging to a religion had almost no additional impact on beliefs about evolution, beyond subjects' feelings of cer
|Contact: David Haury|
Ohio State University