Science & Education

, Volume 19, Issue 6, pp 625-636

First online:

Getting to Darwin: Obstacles to Accepting Evolution by Natural Selection

  • Paul ThagardAffiliated withPhilosophy Department, University of Waterloo Email author 
  • , Scott FindlayAffiliated withPhilosophy Department, University of Waterloo

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Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is central to modern biology, but is resisted by many people. This paper discusses the major psychological obstacles to accepting Darwin’s theory. Cognitive obstacles to adopting evolution by natural selection include conceptual difficulties, methodological issues, and coherence problems that derive from the intuitiveness of alternative theories. The main emotional obstacles to accepting evolution are its apparent conflict with valued beliefs about God, souls, and morality. We draw on the philosophy of science and on a psychological theory of cognitive and emotional belief revision to make suggestions about what can be done to improve acceptance of Darwinian ideas.