Students frequently hold an incorrect view of evolution. There are several potential barriers that prevent students from engaging evolutionary theory including lack of knowledge, limited scientific reasoning ability, and religiosity. Our research provides tools for overcoming barriers related to religiosity and diagnoses the barriers preventing students from fully engaging in learning the theory of evolution. This was a two-part study. The first part of our study addressed two hypothesized barriers to learning evolutionary theory among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon): (1) religious views stemming from incorrect understanding of the Church's neutral stance on evolution and (2) misunderstanding the theory of evolution. We measured the relationship between acceptance of evolution and knowledge of evolution, religiosity, and understanding of religious doctrine on evolution. Additionally, we measured the effect of including a discussion on religious doctrine in the classroom. Students in all sections, except for a control section, were taught a unit on evolution that included a discussion on the neutral LDS doctrine on evolution. Students enrolled in introductory biology for non-majors took pre, post, and longitudinal surveys on topics in evolution. We found significant relationships between knowledge, understanding of religious doctrine, and religiosity with acceptance of evolution. Additionally, an in-class discussion of he LDS doctrine on evolution helped students be more accepting of evolution. In the second part of our study, we studied a broader population to analyze differences in acceptance of evolution based on religious affiliation and religiosity. Our study focused on the interaction of five variables and their implication for evolution education: (1) religious commitment (2) religious views (3) knowledge of evolution (4) scientific reasoning ability and (5) acceptance of evolution. We measured each of these among equal samples of Southern Baptists, Catholics, Jews, and LDS populations and analyzed them with traditional statistics and structural equation modeling. Our findings showed that religious affiliation, religiosity and creationist views effected evolution acceptance, but not knowledge or scientific reasoning. These data provide compelling evidence that as students gain an accurate understanding of their religious doctrines and knowledge of evolution, they are more willing to accept the basic concepts of evolution. They also show diagnostic results that help educators better understand students' background and views. When educators better understand views that students hold, they are better able to design instruction for optimal learning.



College and Department

Life Sciences; Biology



Date Submitted


Document Type





education, misconceptions, biology, STEM, evolution acceptance, creationism, religiosity, scientific reasoning, religion, denomination, religiosity, Catholic, Jewish, Mormon, LDS, Baptist

Included in

Biology Commons