, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 648-665
Date: 14 Dec 2011

Why Don’t People Think Evolution Is True? Implications for Teaching, In and Out of the Classroom

Abstract

The causes of non-acceptance of evolution are groupable into five categories: inadequate understanding of the empirical evidence and the content of modern evolutionary theory, inadequate understanding of the nature of science, religion, various psychological factors, and political and social factors. This multiplicity of causes is not sufficiently appreciated by many scientists, educators, and journalists, and the widespread rejection of evolution is a much more complicated problem than many of these front-line practitioners think it is. Solutions to the widespread non-acceptance of evolution must therefore involve not just further resolution of the “religion vs. science” controversy. They must also involve better communication of empirical evidence for evolution, more effective explication of the nature of science, and explicitly addressing the numerous significant psychological obstacles that evolution presents to many (perhaps most) people. There is no clear roadmap to how to do all of this, but some practical recommendations include (1) more research on why and when different people accept or do not accept evolution when they are exposed to it, especially the role of “scientific” vs. “affective” causes for non-acceptance, and also on apparently deeply rooted psychological obstacles to acceptance. (2) A more explicit approach to explication and understanding of the causes for non-acceptance of evolution should support the often-stated goal of understanding “where students are” prior to implementing the kind of approaches frequently advocated for teaching evolution. (3) Integration of multiple educational perspectives and academic disciplines to support application of pedagogical strategies in actual educational settings. (4) Increased development and application of approaches to evolution education in settings beyond the K–16 classroom, such as museums, nature centers, zoos, parks, and aquaria.