Influencing highly religious undergraduate perceptions of evolution: Mormons as a case study
Evolution: Education and Outreach
Students frequently hold an incorrect view of evolution. There are several potential barriers that prevent religious students, specifically, from engaging evolutionary theory in the classroom. This study focuses on two hypothesized barriers on learning evolutionary theory in a highly religious model population, specifically members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon): (1) religious views stemming from incorrect or inadequate understanding of the Mormon church's
... Mormon church's neutral stance on evolution and (2) misunderstanding of the theory of evolution. The LDS population at Brigham Young University provides the ideal setting for studying evolution education among religious individuals in a controlled environment. To ascertain the prevalence and effect of these barriers, we measured the relationship between acceptance of evolution and knowledge of evolution, religiosity, and understanding of religious doctrine on evolution in introductory non-majors biology courses. Additionally, we measured the effect of including a discussion on religious doctrine in the classroom. Students in all sections, except for one control section, were taught a unit on evolution that included a discussion on the neutral LDS doctrine on evolution. Data was gathered pre, post, and longitudinally. Results: Our data demonstrate a positive relationship between knowledge and acceptance of evolution, a positive relationship between understanding of religious doctrine and acceptance of evolution, and a negative relationship between religiosity and acceptance of evolution. Additionally, when an in-class discussion was held addressing the LDS doctrine on evolution students became more accepting of the principles of evolution. Conclusions: These data provide compelling evidence that an accurate understanding of their religious doctrines and knowledge of evolution can lead to greater acceptance of the basic concepts of evolution among highly religious students.