Science & Education

, Volume 19, Issue 6–8, pp 679–692 | Cite as

Teaching Darwinian Evolution: Learning from Religious Education

  • Tonie L. StolbergEmail author


This article examines what science education might be able to learn from phenomenological religious education’s attempts to teach classes where students hold a plurality of religious beliefs. Recent statements as to how best to accomplish the central pedagogical concept of ‘learning from religion’ as a vehicle for human transformation are explored, and then used to appraise the historical research into how Charles Darwin’s responses to religious ideas influenced and were influenced by his scientific work. The issues identified as crucial for science educators to be aware of when teaching students Darwinian evolution are then outlined and, finally, suggestions are made to enable individual students to examine how their personal religious beliefs might interact with their growing understanding of Darwin’s evolutionary approach.


Religious Tradition Darwinian Evolution Life World Religious Knowledge Religious Idea 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Anees MA (1995) Islam and scientific fundamentalism. Technoscience 8(1):21–22Google Scholar
  2. Ayala FJ (2000) Arguing for evolution: holding strong religious beliefs does not preclude intelligent scientific thinking. Sci Teach 67(2):30–32Google Scholar
  3. Barnes P (2006) The misrepresentation of religion in modern British (religious) education. Br J Educ Stud 54(4):395–411CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barnes LP, Wright A (2006) Romanticism, representations of religion and critical religious education. Br J Relig Educ 28(1):65–77CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bausor J, Poole M (2003a) Science education and religious education: possible links? Sch Sci Rev 85(311):117–124Google Scholar
  6. Bausor J, Poole M (2003b) Science and religion in the agreed syllabuses—an investigation and some suggestions. Br J Relig Educ 25(1):18–32Google Scholar
  7. Bergstrom B, Moehlmann B, Boyer P (2006) Extending the testimony problem: evaluating the truth, scope, and source of cultural information. Child Dev 77(3):531–538CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brazelton EW, Frandsen JC, McKown DB, Brown CD (1999) Interaction of religion and science: development of a questionnaire and the results of its administration to undergraduates. Coll Stud J 33(4):623–628Google Scholar
  9. Brickhouse NW, Dagher ZR, Letts WJIV, Shipman HL (2000) Diversity of students’ views about evidence, theory, and the interface between science and religion in an astronomy course. J Res Sci Teach 37(4):340–362CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brickhouse NW, Dagher ZR, Shipman HL, IV Letts WJ (2002) Evidence and warrants for belief in a college astronomy course. Sci & Educ 11:573–588CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brooke JH (1985) The Relations between Darwin’s science and his religion. In: Durant J (ed) Darwinism and divinity. Basil Blackwell, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  12. Brooke JH (1991) Science and religion: some historical perspectives. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  13. Brooke JH (2009) “Laws impressed on matter by the creator”? The origin and the question of religion. In: Richards RJ, Ruse M (eds) The Cambridge companion to the ‘origin of species’. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  14. Brown FB (1986) The evolution of Darwin’s religious views. Mercer University Press, Macon GAGoogle Scholar
  15. Cobern WW (1994) Point: belief, understanding, and the teaching of evolution. J Res Sci Teach 31(5):583–590CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Cotton DRE (2006) Teaching controversial environmental issues: neutrality and balance in the reality of the classroom. Educ Res 48(2):223–241CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dagher ZR, Boujaoude S (1997) Scientific views and religious beliefs of college students: the case of biological evolution. J Res Sci Teach 34(5):429–445CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dagher ZR, Boujaoude S (2005) Students’ perceptions of the nature of evolutionary theory. Sci Educ 89:378–391CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Darwin F (ed) (1887) The life and letters of Charles Darwin. 3rd ed. 3 vols. John Murray, LondonGoogle Scholar
  20. Darwin C (1871) The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. John Murray, LondonGoogle Scholar
  21. Day M (2008) Godless savages and superstitious dogs: Charles Darwin, imperial ethnography, and the problem of human uniqueness. J Hist Ideas 69(1):49–70CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Dear P (2001) Religion, science and natural philosophy: thoughts on Cunningham’s thesis. Stud Hist Phil Sci 32(2):377–386CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Dear P (2006) the intelligibility of nature: how science makes sense of the world. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  24. Desmond A, Moore J (1991) Darwin. Michael Joseph, LondonGoogle Scholar
  25. Farber P (2003) Teaching evolution & the nature of science. Am Biol Teach 65(5):347–354CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Francis LJ, Greer JE (2001) Shaping adolescents’ attitudes towards science and religion in Northern Ireland: the role of scientism, creationism and denominational schools. Res Sci Technol Educ 19(1):39–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Fulljames P (1996) Science, creation and Christianity: a further look. In: Francis LJ, Kay WK, Campbell WS (eds) Research in religious education. Gracewing, LeominsterGoogle Scholar
  28. Fulljames P, Stolberg TL (2000) Consonance, assimilation or correlation? Science and religion courses in higher education. Sci Christ Belief 12(1):35–46Google Scholar
  29. Fulljames P, Gibson H, Francis L (1991) Creationism, scientism, Christianity and science: a study in adolescent attitudes. Br Educ Res J 17:171–190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Fysh R, Lucas KB (1998) Religious beliefs in science classrooms. Res Sci Educ 28(4):399–427CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Gauld CF (2005) Habits of mind, scholarship and decision making in science and religion. Sci & Educ 14:291–308CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Glennan S (2007) Whose science and whose religion? Reflections on the relations between scientific and religious worldviews. Sci & Educ. doi: 10.1007/s11191-007-9097-3 Google Scholar
  33. Griffith JA, Brem SK (2004) Teaching evolutionary biology: pressures, stress and coping. J Res Sci Teach 41(8):791–809CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Grimmitt M (1987) Religious education and human development. McCrimmons, Great Wakering, EssexGoogle Scholar
  35. Grimmitt M (2000) Pedagogies of religious education. McCrimmons, Great Wakering, EssexGoogle Scholar
  36. Hahn D, Brem SK, Semken S (2005) Exploring the social, moral and temporal qualities of pre-service teachers’ narratives of evolution. J Geosci Educ 53(4):456–461Google Scholar
  37. Hermann RS (2008) Evolution as a controversial issue: a review of instructional approaches. Sci & Educ 17(8–9):1011–1032CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hildebrand D, Bilica K, Capps J (2008) Addressing controversies in science education: a pragmatic approach to evolution education. Sci & Educ 17(8–9):1033–1052CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Hobson PR, Edwards JS (1999) Religious education in a pluralist society. Woburn Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  40. IAP (2006) IAP statement on the teaching of evolution. The Interacademy Panel, TriesteGoogle Scholar
  41. Ingram EL, Nelson CE (2006) Relationship between achievement and students’ acceptance of evolution or creation in an upper-level evolution course. J Res Sci Teach 43(1):7–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Jackson DF, Doster EC, Meadows L, Wood T (1995) Hearts and minds in the science classroom: the education of a confirmed evolutionist. J Res Sci Teach 32(6):585–611CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Kardash CM, Scholes RJ (1996) Effects of preexisting beliefs, epistemological beliefs, and the need for cognition on interpretation of controversial issues. J Educ Psychol 88(2):260–271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Keynes R (2001) Darwin, his daughter and human evolution. Riverhead Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  45. Kozoll RH, Osborne MD (2006) Developing a deeper involvement with science: Keith’s story. Cult Stud Sci Educ 1:161–187CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Lederman NG, Lederman JS (2004) Revising instruction to teach nature of science. Sci Teach 71(9):36–39Google Scholar
  47. Levine G (2006) Darwin loves you: natural selection and the re-enchantment of the world. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJGoogle Scholar
  48. Levinson R (2006) Towards a theoretical framework for teaching controversial socio-scientific issues. Int J Sci Educ 28(10):1201–1224CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Loo SP (1999) Scientific understanding, control of the environment and science education. Sci & Educ 8:79–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Loo SP (2001) Islam, science and science education: conflict or concord? Stud Sci Educ 36:45–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Mahner M, Bunge M (1996a) The incompatibility of science and religion sustained: a reply to our critics. Sci & Educ 5:189–199CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Mahner M, Bunge M (1996b) Is religious education compatible with science education? Sci & Educ 5:101–123CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Martin M (1997) Is Christian education compatible with science education? Sci & Educ 6(3):239–249CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Martin-Hansen LM (2008) First-year college students’ conflict with religion and science. Sci & Educ 17(4):317–357CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Maybury J, Teece G (2005) Learning from what? A question of subject focus in religious education in England and Wales. J Beliefs Values 26(2):179–190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. McComas WF (2004) Keys to teaching the nature of science. Sci Teach 71(9):24–27Google Scholar
  57. Meadows L (2007) Approaching the conflict between religion and evolution. In: Reiss MJ (ed) Teaching about scientific origins: taking account of creationism. Peter Lang, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  58. Narguizian P (2004) Understanding the nature of science through evolution. Sci Teach 71(9):40–45Google Scholar
  59. O’Grady K (2008) The development of beliefs and values in early adolescence: a case study through religious education pedagogy. Int J Children’s Spiritual 11(3):315–327CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Ospovat D (1981) The Development of Darwin’s Theory. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  61. Oulton C, Day V, Dillon J, Grace M (2004a) Controversial issues—teachers’ attitudes and practices in the context of citizenship education. Oxf Rev Educ 30(4):489–507CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Oulton C, Dillon J, Grace MM (2004b) Reconceptualizing the teaching of controversial issues. Int J Sci Educ 26(4):411–423CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Passmore C, Stewart J (2002) A modelling approach to teaching evolutionary biology in high schools. J Res Sci Teach 39(3):185–204CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Pugh KJ (2004) Newton’s laws beyond the classroom walls. Sci Educ 88:182–196CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Reeves JA (2008) The field of science and religion as natural philosophy. Theol Sci 6(4):403–419CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Reiss MJ (2008) Should science educators deal with the science/religion issue? Stud Sci Educ 44(2):157–186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Roth W-M (2007) Fundamentalist and scientific discourse: beyond the war metaphors and rhetoric. In: Jones LS, Reiss MJ (eds) Teaching about scientific origins: taking account of creationism. Peter Lang, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  68. Sadler TD (2005) Evolutionary theory as a guide to socioscientific decision-making. J Biol Educ 39(2):68–72Google Scholar
  69. Shipman HL, Brickhouse NW, Dagher Z, Letts WJIV (2002) Changes in student views of religion and science in a college astronomy course. Sci Educ 86:526–547CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Smart N (1968) Secular education and the language of religion. Faber and Faber, LondonGoogle Scholar
  71. Smart N (1971) The religious experience of mankind. Collins Fontana, LondonGoogle Scholar
  72. Smith MU (1994) Counterpoint: belief, understanding, and the teaching of evolution. J Res Sci Teach 31(5):591–597Google Scholar
  73. Stewart J, Rudolph JL (2001) Considering the nature of scientific problems when designing science curricula. Sci Educ 85:207–222CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Stolberg TL (2007) The religio-scientific frameworks of pre-service primary teachers: an analysis of their influence on their teaching of science. Int J Sci Educ 29(7):909–930CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Stolberg TL (2008a) Attending to the spiritual through the teaching of science: a study of pre-service primary teachers’ attitudes. Int J Children’s Spiritual 13(2):171–180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Stolberg TL (2008b) W(h)ither the sense of wonder of pre-service primary teachers when teaching science?: a preliminary study of their personal experiences. Teach Teach Educ 24:1958–1964Google Scholar
  77. Stolberg TL, Fulljames P (2003) An analysis of the conceptual frameworks utilised by undergraduate theology students when studying science & religion. Discourse Learn Teach Philos Relig Stud 2(2):167–199Google Scholar
  78. Stolberg TL, Teece G (2008) Religion and science in the twenty-first century classroom. University of Birmingham, BirminghamGoogle Scholar
  79. Teece G (2008) Learning from religions as ‘skilful means’: a contribution to the debate about the identity of religious education. Br J Relig Educ 30(3):187–198CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. von Sydow M (2005) Charles Darwin: a Christian undermining Christianity? In: Knight DM, Eddy MD (eds) Science and beliefs: from natural philosophy to natural science, 1700–1900. Ashgate, AldershotGoogle Scholar
  81. Wright A (2004) Religion, education and post-modernity. RoutledgeFalmer, LondonCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of EducationUniversity of BirminghamEdgbaston, BirminghamUK

Personalised recommendations