New England Faculty vs Students on Acceptance of and Teaching Evolution

ResearchBlogging.orgA new study compares “acceptance of evolution” by highly educated adult academics with college students in various categories, with all those sampled being in New England, which has the highest overall acceptance of evolution in the US (a mere 59 percent). The results are interesting.

The study is rather complicated. The original paper provides a great deal of detail about the characteristics of the population. Several different questions were ask. At the end of the day, however, the following results are the most important:

The percentage of respondents who feel that evolution alone should be taught in science class is:

Faculty: 96.3%
Public college students: 76.6%
Private secular college students: 68%
Private religious college: 71.1%

This is essentially a bimodal distribution, with faculty in one category and students in the other. The variation among the students is probably a function of complex factors; The schools sampled are distributed across New England and New England is actually quite a bit more diverse politically than many may assume.

I would like to know 3.7 percent of faculty who think creationism should be taught in science class along with evolution (the alternative answer in this poll). You know, to persecute them and stuff.

The study asks a number of other interesting questions of the students and faculty, and is worth browsing through for the detail. Here’s a copy of it: PDF

Paz-y-Miño C., G., & Espinosa, A. (2010). New England Faculty and College Students Differ in Their Views About Evolution, Creationism, Intelligent Design, and Religiosity Evolution: Education and Outreach DOI: 10.1007/s12052-010-0298-x

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6 thoughts on “New England Faculty vs Students on Acceptance of and Teaching Evolution

  1. Ill have to look up the study to see the questions. I could easily see 3.7% of faculty being 6000 year old creationists (I had a biochemistry professor who started out the lab class ranting about evolution not being taught in his class yadda yadda yadda). However, I could also see a well meaning faculty member seeing a question like this as a way to teach science by casting evolution against creationism. Personally, I think that is a great exercise in theory, but fraught with problems in practice.

  2. Well, another problem is who cares what college professors think? The issue is what happens in high schools. In teaching evolution in college, I’ve always done a two week version of what I think PZ does over a much longer period: A good history of science runs from the days when everyone was at least a theistic creationist if not someone like Agassiz, through the overthrow of all of those ideas way back when, with Darwin playing a major role.

  3. I was lucky to have a top notch science teacher in my inner city high school (she won a ‘science teacher of the year’ National award–or something to that effect, and flew to DC the year after I graduated), she taught evolution, and I don’t remember it being a big deal. My reaction was WOW! Is THAT what happened, and it made perfect sense. My atheist mom believed in evolution–except when it came to humans. She couldn’t wrap her head around the fact that humans are animals too. I never asked her for her alternative view–it WAS NOT TO BE DISCUSSED.

  4. I glanced at the paper, and I was struck by the phrase “intellectually progressive Northeast”. Is there a bias there? Hell, I grew up outside of Boston, but that phrase is rather inaccurate.

  5. Steve,

    I lived in the area much of my life (grew up in Albany, but was then based in Boston area for 17 years) and I agree. The region is more heterogeneous than any other part of the country I’ve lived in, though there may be equivalent areas of southern California.

    But on average, certain numbers are almost always better for New England. But there is so much variation and overlap that the phrase is not very useful.

  6. Well, “intellectually progressive” is relative. New England, the Mid-Atlantic, and Pacific census regions tend to be comparably progressive; the South Central (East and West) and South Atlantic regions tend to be comparably less so.

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