University of Minnesota (UM) study claims that college students' views about evolution and creationism are usually shaped by what their high school biology teachers teach them in class.
In the study, co-authors Randy Moore and Sehoya Cotner, professors in the College of Biological Sciences, surveyed 1,000 students taking introductory biology classes at UM to learn how biology majors view evolution compared to non-majors.
The results indicated that the two groups' views were similar and revealed that high school biology teachers influence whether majors and non-majors college students accept evolution or question it based on creationism.
About two thirds of students from both groups said their high school biology class included evolution and not creationism. Only 1 to 2 percent of classes covered creationism and not evolution. And 6 to 13 percent of classes did not cover either evolution or creationism.
But 29 percent of majors and 21 percent of non-majors said their high school biology class covered both evolution and creationism.
Those students whose high school biology class included creationism (with or without evolution) were more likely to accept creationist views as entering college students.
Similarly, students exposed to evolutionism but not creationism were more likely to accept evolution in college.
For example, 72 to 78 percent of students exposed to evolution only agreed that it is scientifically valid while 57 to 59 percent of students who were exposed to creationism agreed that it could be validated.
"I've long known that many biology teachers teach creationism, but was surprised to learn they have such a strong impact. It's unfortunate that so many teachers think their religious beliefs are science. Teachers who don't teach evolution deny students the understanding of one of the greatest principles in history," said Randy Moore, professor of biology and lead author.
"I was shocked that there weren't bigger differences between majors and non-majors. Evolution is the foundation of the entire discipline. It leads me to believe that these students are probably interested in biology for reasons besides gaining a full understanding and appreciation of the science," said Sehoya Cotner, associate professor of biology.
The study was published in the latest issue of BioScience, the journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences.