A pilot study of how evolution understanding, evolution acceptance, and perceptions of conflict between religion and evolution are affected by biology, geoscience, and science education courses at a religiously affiliated institution

Thursday 1:30pm Tate B20


Brendan Anderson, Baylor University
Elizabeth Petsios, Baylor University
Suzanne, Baylor University
Dana Friend, Paleontological Research Institution
Understanding and acceptance of the theory of evolution are crucial components of science literacy, and widespread non-acceptance of evolution may have far reaching policy consequences for human health, environmental sustainability, and educational practices. The most prevalent indicator of non-acceptance of evolution among college students remains student's self-identified faith and perceived conflict of evolution with religion (Sinatra et al. 2003; Betti et al. 2020). This may have consequences for other aspects of diversity in biology and the geosciences (Barnes et al. 2020). We are seeking to evaluate how different instructor identities and instructional techniques may influence student evolution understanding, acceptance of evolution, and perceptions of these conflicts in the context of a religiously affiliated university.
To address these questions, we administered a Qualtrics survey to students before and after discussing evolutionary biology in participating biology, geoscience, and education courses. Surveys included collection of demographic information, the macroevolution component of the I-SEA inventory (Nadelson & Southerland 2012), two segments of the Perceived Conflict of Religion and Evolution instrument (Barnes et al. 2021), questions respecting student perceptions of their instructors and how evolution would be/was treated in class, and related open response questions. Students were also invited to participate in post-course interviews. In the science education courses, students also wrote a brief science teaching philosophy statement which provided a source of additional qualitative information. Student perspectives included atheistic evolution, theistic evolution, microevolution with special creation, and opinions that could be categorized as a viewpoint that evolution and religion are "non-overlapping magisteria". In Fall 2021, perceptions of conflict scores increased, although not in a statistically significant manner, but macroevolution understanding was unchanged. New data presented here will greatly increase the size of the dataset and include a larger portion of students enrolled in biology and geoscience courses.

Presentation Media

Presentation (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) PRIVATE FILE 7.3MB Jul14 22)