University faculty and their knowledge & acceptance of biological evolution Academic Article uri icon


  • 2015 Rice et al.; licensee Springer. Background: Misconceptions about biological evolution specifically and the nature of science in general are pervasive in our society and culture. The view that biological evolution explains life's origin(s) and that hypotheses become theories, which then become laws are just two examples of commonly held misconceptions. These misconceptions are reinforced in the media, in people's personal lives, and in some unfortunate cases in the science classroom. Misconceptions regarding the nature of science (NOS) have been shown to be related to understanding and acceptance of biological evolution. Previous work has looked at several factors that are related to an individual's understanding of biological evolution, acceptance of biological evolution, and his/her understanding of the NOS. The study presented here investigated understanding and acceptance of biological evolution among a highly educated population: university faculty. Methods: To investigate these variables we surveyed 309 faculty at a major public Midwestern university. The questions at the core of our investigation covered differences across and between faculty disciplines, what influence theistic position or other demographic responses had, and what model best described the relationships detected. Results: Our results show that knowledge of biological evolution and acceptance of biological evolution are positively correlated for university faculty. Higher knowledge of biological evolution positively correlates with higher acceptance of biological evolution across the entire population of university faculty. This positive correlation is also present if the population is broken down into distinct theistic views (creationist and non-creationist viewpoints). Greater knowledge of biological evolution also positively correlates with greater acceptance of biological evolution across different levels of science education. We also found that of the factors we examined, theistic view has the strongest relationship with knowledge and acceptance of biological evolution. Conclusions: These results add support to the idea that a person's theistic view is a driving force behind his or her resistance to understanding and accepting biological evolution. We also conclude that our results support the idea that effective science instruction can have a positive effect on both understanding and acceptance of biological evolution and that understanding and acceptance are closely tied variables.

published proceedings

  • Evolution: Education and Outreach

altmetric score

  • 1.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Rice, J. W., Clough, M. P., Olson, J. K., Adams, D. C., & Colbert, J. T.

citation count

  • 14

complete list of authors

  • Rice, Justin W||Clough, Michael P||Olson, Joanne K||Adams, Dean C||Colbert, James T

publication date

  • December 2015