Acceptance of Evolution by America’s Educators of Prospective Teachers

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Paz-y-Miño-C G & Espinosa A. 2014. Acceptance of Evolution by America’s Educators of Prospective Teachers. New England Science Public: Series Evolution 2(1): 1-92 (ISSN: 2326-0971). In NESP Series Evolution Vol 2 No 1, Paz-y-Miño-C and Espinosa use the conceptual framework of the Incompatibility Hypothesis (i.e. science/evolution and belief in supernatural causation are incompatible) to document the patterns of acceptance of evolution of 495 Educators of Prospective Teachers affiliated with 281 colleges and universities widely distributed in 4 regions, 9 divisions, and 50 states in the United States. These higher-education professionals (65% PhD-, 22% doctorate-holders) were polled in five areas: (i) their views about evolution, creationism and Intelligent Design, (ii) their understanding of how science and the evolutionary process work, (iii) their position about the hypothetical ‘harmony or compatibility’ between science/evolution and supernatural causation, (iv) their awareness of the age of the Earth, its moon, our solar system and the universe, and the application of the concept of evolution to the cosmos, and (v) their personal convictions concerning the evolution and/or creation of humans in the context of the educators’ religiosity. The authors report that acceptance of evolution among these educators was influenced by their level of understanding the foundations of science/evolution and their beliefs in supernatural causation. In comparison to two other populations, whose acceptance of evolution had already been documented in Paz-y-Miño-C’s and Espinosa’s previous research (i.e. New England research faculty, non-educators, and college students; NESP Ser Evol Vol 1 No 1), the educators had an intermediate level of understanding science/evolution, low acceptance of evolution, and high religiosity, as follows: 59% of the educators accepted evolution openly, 51% thought that evolution is definitely true, and 59% admitted to be religious. Among the New England researchers, 94% accepted evolution openly, 82% thought that evolution is definitely true, and 29% admitted to be religious. Among the students, 63% accepted evolution openly, 58% thought that evolution is definitely true, and 37% admitted to be religious. Educators in each of the four regions of the United States (North East, Midwest, South, and West) had science- and evolution-literacy scores below the researchers’ but above the students.’ The educators’ rejection of evolution increased, conspicuously, with increasing level of religiosity. Paz-y-Miño-C and Espinosa indicate that their study is the first to document, comprehensively, the disturbing reality of evolution illiteracy among educators of prospective teachers in the United States. The authors highlight that these professionals are responsible for mentoring the teachers-to-be in the American school system and that their hesitation to embrace evolution resides in a deficient understanding of science/evolution and high religiosity. Paz-y-Miño-C and Espinosa conclude –as in NESP Ser Evol Vol 1 No 1– that harmonious coexistence between science/evolution and religion is illusory. If co-persisting in the future, the relationship between science and religion will fluctuate between moderate and intense antagonism.

Note: The complete 92-page study includes 23 figures, statistics, 34 maps, 12 tables, and a companion slide show ‘Image Resources’ for science journalists, researchers and educators (available at "Additional Files"). The supplementary materials include 15s figures and 25s tables.

Research Article