Evolution Debate in Washington (12/05/05)
A paper published in the November issue of Bioscience suggests that
teaching evolution and intelligent design in college-level biology
classes may be effective in helping students differentiate science
from non-science. In 2003, 103 freshman biology majors at Central
Washington University were divided into four sections. Two sections
were taught about the arguments for evolution and intelligent design
(ID) while two other sections were only taught about the arguments
for evolution. At the end of the semester, 66 students completed a
questionnaire about their beliefs before and after the course. Six
belief choices were given on the questionnaire, ranging from biblical
literalism to atheistic evolutionism. The results indicated that 61%
of students exposed to evolution and ID changed their beliefs compared
to only 21% of students exposed only to evolution. The majority of
the 61% shifted toward evolution and away from ID.
According to biologist Steven Verhey, the study's author and teacher
of 2 of the sections, the key is recognizing that nearly all American
adults have been exposed to information about creationism and evolution.
About 70% of Verhey's students said they had learned about creationism
and evolution before entering the class. "Basic educational theory
says you can't expect people to change their attitudes without acknowledging
their prior learning," Verhey stated in a university press release.
"Most of these students were initially sympathetic to creationist
explanations and moved toward greater acceptance of evolution"
An editorial, accompanying the study by Indiana University biologist
Craig Nelson, did not endorse trying to teach evolution and ID at
the high school level because teachers are not trained to teach the
differences. In fact, one potential flaw in this study is that Steven
Verhey taught the two sections that included evolution and ID while
another biology professor taught the other two sections. Differences
in teaching style may have contributed to the different results among
the groups, although the biologists tried to control for this factor.
Nelson concludes that effective teaching is the key to eliminating
confusion about science and evolution.
The full text of the editorial is available
No Previous Action(s) listed at this time.
Background section includes material from AGI's Update
on State Challenges to the Teaching of Evolution for the 106th
Contributed by Linda Rowan, AGI Government Affairs Program.
Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.
Last updated on December 5, 2005