Muslim Egyptian and Lebanese Students’ Conceptions of Biological Evolution
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In this study, we investigated distinctions among the diversity of religious traditions represented by Lebanese and Egyptian Muslim high school students regarding their understanding and acceptance of biological evolution and how they relate the science to their religious beliefs. We explored secondary students’ conceptions of evolution among members of three Muslim sects—Sunni, Shiite, and Druze—in two cultural contexts; one in which the overwhelming majority of the population is Muslim (Egypt) and another in which there is a sizable Christian community (Lebanon). Data were collected via surveys that examined students’ scientific and religious understandings of evolution among 162 Egyptian students (all Sunni Muslims; 63% females and 37% males) and 629 Lebanese students (38.5% Sunni, 38% Shiite, and 23.5% Druze; 49% females and 51% males). Additional data were collected via semi-structured interviews with 30 Lebanese students to allow triangulation of data for accuracy and authenticity. Results indicate that many Egyptian and Lebanese Muslim students have misconceptions about evolution and the nature of science which often lead to rejection of evolution. Also, Lebanese Sunni and Shiite students and Egyptian Sunni students tend to exhibit high levels of religiosity, and these students report that their religious beliefs influence their positions regarding evolution. Finally, Sunni and Shiite Lebanese students have religious beliefs, conceptions of evolution, and positions regarding evolution similar to those of Sunni Egyptian students. These conceptions and positions, however, are substantially different from those of Druze Lebanese students.
KeywordsReligious Belief Biological Evolution Secondary School Student Common Ancestry Muslim Student
This study was funded by a grant from Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada, and the Evolution Education Research Centre (EERC), McGill University, Canada.
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