Curriculum/Education Article

Evolution: Education and Outreach

, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp 290-298

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

The Importance of Understanding the Nature of Science for Accepting Evolution

  • Tania LombrozoAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley Email author 
  • , Anastasia ThanukosAffiliated withMuseum of Paleontology, University of California
  • , Michael WeisbergAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, University of Pennsylvania


Many students reject evolutionary theory, whether or not they adequately understand basic evolutionary concepts. We explore the hypothesis that accepting evolution is related to understanding the nature of science. In particular, students may be more likely to accept evolution if they understand that a scientific theory is provisional but reliable, that scientists employ diverse methods for testing scientific claims, and that relating data to theory can require inference and interpretation. In a study with university undergraduates, we find that accepting evolution is significantly correlated with understanding the nature of science, even when controlling for the effects of general interest in science and past science education. These results highlight the importance of understanding the nature of science for accepting evolution. We conclude with a discussion of key characteristics of science that challenge a simple portrayal of the scientific method and that we believe should be emphasized in classrooms.


Accepting evolution Understanding evolution Nature of science Philosophy of science