, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp 323-342
Date: 18 Dec 2010

New England Faculty and College Students Differ in Their Views About Evolution, Creationism, Intelligent Design, and Religiosity

Abstract

Public acceptance of evolution in Northeastern U.S. is the highest nationwide, only 59%. Here, we compare perspectives about evolution, creationism, intelligent design (ID), and religiosity between highly educated New England faculty (n = 244; 90% Ph.D. holders in 40 disciplines at 35 colleges/universities) and college students from public secular (n = 161), private secular (n = 298), and religious (n = 185) institutions: 94/3% of the faculty vs. 64/14% of the students admitted to accepting evolution openly and/or privately, and 82/18% of the faculty vs. 58/42% of the students thought that evolution is definitely true or probably true, respectively. Only 3% of the faculty vs. 23% of the students thought that evolution and creationism are in harmony. Although 92% of faculty and students thought that evolution relies on common ancestry, one in every four faculty and one in every three students did not know that humans are apes; 15% of the faculty vs. 34% of the students believed, incorrectly, that the origin of the human mind cannot be explained by evolution, and 30% of the faculty vs. 72% of the students was Lamarckian (believed in inheritance of acquired traits). Notably, 91% of the faculty was very concerned (64%) or somehow concerned (27%) about the controversy evolution vs creationism vs ID and its implications for science education: 96% of the faculty vs. 72% of the students supported the exclusive teaching of evolution while 4% of the faculty vs. 28% of the students favored equal time to evolution, creationism and ID; 92% of the faculty vs. 52% of the students perceived ID as not scientific and proposed to counter evolution or as doctrine consistent with creationism. Although ≈30% of both faculty and students considered religion to be very important in their lives, and ≈20% admitted to praying daily, the faculty was less religious (Religiosity Index faculty = 0.5 and students = 0.75) and, as expected, more knowledgeable about science (Science Index faculty = 2.27 and students = 1.60) and evolution (Evolution Index faculty = 2.48 and students = 1.65) than the students. Because attitudes toward evolution correlate (1) positively with understanding of science/evolution and (2) negatively with religiosity/political ideology, we conclude that science education combined with vigorous public debate should suffice to increase acceptance of naturalistic rationalism and decrease the negative impact of creationism and ID on society’s evolution literacy.