May 6, 2009

High school teachers sway evolution views

A University of Minnesota study has determined high school biology teachers often shape their student's views about evolution and creationism.

Professors Randy Moore and Sehoya Cotner surveyed 1,000 university students taking introductory biology classes. They wanted to determine how biology majors view evolution compared with non-majors.

The scientists said their results showed the two groups' views were similar and revealed high school biology teachers influence whether college students accept evolution or question it based on creationism.

The researchers said 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.

I've long known that many biology teachers teach creationism, but was surprised to learn they have such a strong impact, Moore said. It's unfortunate 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.

Cotner added: 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.

The research appears in the journal BioScience.