Guide Stages of Thought: The Co-Evolution of Religious Thought and Science

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Bering J. The folk psychology of souls Behavioral and Brain Science 29 Johnson D. McLeod K. Shackelford T. Reasoning about dead agents reveals possible adaptive trends Human Nature 16 Bickerton D. Bloom P. Is God an accident? The Atlantic Monthly 1 8. Religion is Natural Developmental Science 10 Boyer P. Religious thought and behaviour as by-product of brain function Trends in Cognitive Science 7 Light T.

Wilson B. Thomas Lawson Brill Leiden 27 Brown D. Bulbulia J. Meme infection or religious niche construction? An adaptationist alternative to the Cultural maladaptationist hypothesis Method and Theory in the Study of Religion 20 67 Spreading order: religion, cooperative niche construction, and risky coordination problems Biology and Philosophy 27 1 Haselton M. Bleske A. Wakefield J. Adaptations, exaptations, and spandrels American Psychologist 53 Carruthers P. Laurence S. Stich S. Chater N. Christiansen M.

Language evolution as cultural evolution: how language is shaped by the brain Wiley Interdisciplinary Review in Cognitive Science 5 Cheney D. Seyfarth R. Constraints and preadaptations in the earliest stages of language evolution The Linguistic Review 22 Language as shaped by the brain Behavior and Brain Science 31 Chomsky N. Language and Problems of Knowledge.

Clark A. Corballis M. The Recursive Mind. Cosmides L. Tooby J. Beyond intuition and instinct blindness. Toward an evolutionarily rigorous cognitive science Cognition 50 41 Dawkins R.

Evolutionary psychology of religion

Deacon T. The Symbolic Species. Dunbar R. Hurford J. Studdert-Kennedy M. Knight C. Durham W. Durkheim E. Les formes elementaires de la vie religieuse Paris Alcan. Eldredge N. Reinventing Darwin. Ferretti F. Adornetti I. Fitch T. The evolution of language: a comparative review Biology and Philosophy 20 Forber P. Introduction: A primer on adaptationism Biology and Philosophy 24 Frank R. Gould S. Lewontin R. The spandrels of San Marco and the panglossian paradigm: a critique of the adaptationist programme Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B: Biological Sciences Vrba E.

Exaptation — a missing term in the science of form Paleobiology 8 4 Grice P. Guthrie S. A cognitive theory of religion Current Anthropology 21 Faces in the Clouds. Anttonen V. Loth E. Harris E. McNamara P. Genet R. Genet C. Wyman K. Is Religiousness a Biocultural Adaptation? The Evolution of Religion. Hauser M. Science Hawks J. Wang E. Cochran G. Harpending H. Moyzis R. Recent acceleration of human adaptive evolution Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America Hopper P.

Traugott E. Grammaticalization 2nd edn. Cambridge Cambridge University Press. Irons W. Richardson W. Wildman W. Nesse R. Why people believe what other people see as crazy ideas The Evolution of Religion. Kelemen D. Psychological Science 15 Kirkpatrick L. Religion is not an adaptation Where Man and God meet: How brain and evolutionary studies alter our understanding of religion. Religion is not an adaptation: some fundamental issues and arguments The Evolution of Religion.

Laland K. Brown G. Niche construction, human behaviour and the adaptive lag hypothesis Evolutionary Anthropology 15 95 Odling-Smee F. Feldman M. Niche construction, biological evolution and cultural change Behavior and Brain Science 23 Kendal J. The niche construction perspective: Implications for evolution and human behaviour Journal of Evolutionary Psychology 5 51 Lenneberg E. Bendall D. Gene, organism, and environment Evolution from molecules to men Cambridge Cambridge University Press Malinowski B. Martin L. McCauley R. Whitehouse H. Origgi G.

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Sperber D. Chamberlain A. Penn D. Holyoak K. Povinelli D. Pinker S. Natural language and natural selection Behavior and Brain Science 13 Powell R. We limited our sampling to Arizona public institutions of higher education. We did this to limit the data collection to a realistic number of individuals and to keep constant different political and religious contexts that may lead to different instructional practices in different states. Instructors of college biology with full-time positions at these institutions were identified through their online institutional profiles and sent individual emails.

Instructors were then sent a reminder email approximately 2-wk later if they had not responded. We limited our study population to instructors with full-time positions, because we thought that the controversial nature of discussing religion in a classroom might limit the openness of instructors who do not have secure positions. Because full-time faculty have greater job security, we thought they would be more open about their beliefs and practices, so we included tenured and nontenured full-time faculty.

Our recruitment email asked instructors whether they would participate in a to min interview exploring their perspectives on how students might experience conflict between their worldviews and evolution and how they, as instructors, might address this in their classrooms.


Out of the instructors who responded to the email, we included only interviews with instructors who taught an evolution lesson to undergraduates within the past 7 yr. This ensured that the instructors had been teaching evolution after the publication of national documents that outlined the potential compatibility between religion and evolution NAS, , Thirty-two semistructured interviews were conducted by M.

The set of questions that guided the interview can be found in Table 1. Interviews lasted from 15 to 75 min, averaged 35 min, and were audio recorded. We asked instructors what role they believe God may have played in evolution and had three evolutionary biologists review the question for accuracy and interpretation.

We asked instructors to choose what came closest to their personal beliefs: 1 Human beings have evolved over billions of years from older life-forms, and God guided this process. We decided to administer these questions via a survey after the interview, because we did not want the participants to feel as though the interview was about their personal religious beliefs rather than their instructional practices, which could make them uncomfortable.

Interviews were initially transcribed and coded by M. She used content analysis to identify predetermined themes that the research team was interested in exploring before the data collection Krippendorff, , and she used grounded theory to identify additional themes from the interview transcripts that emerged after the data collection Glaser and Strauss, The analysis was an iterative process in that themes and categories were molded and transformed with each additional reading of the transcripts. Categories consist of different types of instructor perspectives and experiences, and multiple categories usually fit under one theme.

A theme was created from each interview question, and then categories emerged from instructor responses to those questions. Constant comparison methods Glesne and Peshkin, were used throughout the analysis. That is, quotes that were assigned to specific themes and categories were gathered together and compared with one another throughout the iterative process of qualitative analysis.

This constant comparison of quotes was meant to ensure that the description of the theme and category adequately represented all quotes within the same group and that the quotes were not different enough from one another to deem a separate category or theme. After M. The coding rubric consisted of detailed descriptions of each theme and category that was established in the analysis. The rubric also included instructions on how to code the transcripts, which was reflective of M.

To establish interrater reliability, a second researcher used the codebook without the help of M. After the second researcher coded the statements, M. However, reporting percent agreement for interrater reliability may inflate agreement rates because percent agreement does not take into account agreement that would occur by chance alone Hallgren, Therefore, in addition to percent agreement we also used a kappa statistic to measure the observed level of agreement among raters and control for agreement that would happen by chance.

Some researchers have questioned the utility of interrater reliability in qualitative studies using unstructured interviews, because this might compromise the richness and depth of the analysis and results Morse, However, this is less of a concern with research designs such as ours, in which the interview questions remain the same for all interviews and are asked in the same order in each interview.

Participants were given pseudonyms to protect their identities. All other demographic information is reported in Table 2. Instructor survey responses to demographic questions and other survey questions as well as their position at an R1 institution or community college. We report our findings by discussing instructor responses from the interviews and reporting the relative abundance of instructor-participant responses. A minority of instructors said that acceptance of evolution includes acceptance that speciation occurs, acceptance that allele frequencies in populations of organisms change over time, and acceptance that life changes over time.

For instance, Edward thought that what mattered for student acceptance of evolution was that students accept the natural phenomenon that biologists have studied and observed:. These instructors, including Marie, felt that, in order to accept evolution, you have to accept that it could happen by only natural processes:. But since a key aspect of evolution is natural selection based on random mutation any guiding to me seems inconsistent with this key aspect of evolution.

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She accepts a hybrid interpretation under which both evolutionary and divine design processes act. Some instructors polled their students with multiple-choice questions either through anonymous clicker questions or surveys, and others had students write essays about their views on evolution. The instructors who had students write essays did not do so with the intention of polling their students but to give them the chance to explore their conceptions and beliefs about evolution.

Many of the instructors who had not polled their students said they thought it would alienate students if they were probed about their beliefs. Although the vast majority of instructors had not polled their students, many of these instructors were willing to guess what percent of their students reject evolution. Further, only a minority of instructors had ever been challenged by students about evolution, which may have led many instructors to perceive that most students did not have a problem with learning about evolution.

We let instructors use their own definitions of acceptance of evolution to answer the question of whether it was their goal to help students accept evolution. When asked whether they considered helping students to accept evolution as part of their goal when teaching evolution, the majority of instructor participants said that it is only their goal to help students understand evolution and not to help students accept evolution. They indicated that they were teaching students to be critical thinkers rather than persuading them to accept evolution.

Interestingly, these instructors perceived that trying to change student beliefs would make them feel manipulative and authoritarian and even that it may be an inappropriate motive for instruction:. This is it, evolution is a fact, deal with it. However, a minority of instructors said they did think it was part of their goal to help students accept evolution. Some considered acceptance of evolution essential for learning:. Other instructors who said acceptance was their goal questioned whether a student could practice biology if he or she did not accept evolution.

Because evolution is the foundation of biology, these instructors thought acceptance is necessary in order to practice biology:. Finally, some of the instructors who said acceptance was their goal did not distinguish between acceptance of evolution and understanding of evolution. According to them, if a student understands evolution, that means he or she accepts evolution:.

Michael H Barnes

If you understand, you accept. The same way if I explain how the water moves from the soils to leaves, or I explain how species evolve. In addition to asking instructors about their goals when teaching, we also asked them to self-report on the extent to which they discuss religion when teaching about evolution and why they choose to discuss or not discuss religion.

The vast majority of the instructors never discussed it or discussed it briefly. Some instructors addressed religion in a way that made it seem incompatible with evolution. For instructors who do not talk about religion, elaboration of their reasons for not discussing religion will be discussed later in the section on barriers to discussing religion.

The following quote is one example from those instructors who do not discuss religion at all in relation to evolution in their courses. Many of them said they never bring up religion in their courses because it did not seem relevant to the scientific content of the course:. The following quotes are illustrative of about half of the instructors, who said they mention religion only briefly when they teach evolution. When they do mention religion in their classes, they generally contrast religion with science, often explaining how religious ideas are untestable or outside the realm of science.

However, this was usually presented as a quick disclaimer and was not emphasized to students:. Very few instructor participants said they either talked about religion several times while teaching evolution or spent at least one class period seriously discussing religion in relation to evolution.

All of these instructors reported that their goal in discussing religion was to show students that religion and evolution do not have to be in conflict. The instructor believes that being accepting of religion in class helps students to be more open to evolution:. That it is probably the narrow-minded person who uses any single particular way of knowing to understand and perceive and enjoy life experiences. In that first discussion I think I neutralize a lot of feelings that could later turn into aggression towards some of the more controversial scientific theories such as evolution.

One instructor noted how some scientists think that instructors should avoid talking about religion, but he disagreed with those other scientists. According to him, ignoring religion when teaching evolution becomes awkward, because it is such a notable point of contention:. I mean, I prefer to bring the gorilla out and sit the gorilla down center stage and start talking about the gorilla.

Instructors also discuss in their classes how some religious views can be more compatible with evolution than others. The intent of this discussion was to show that, contrary to some assumptions, many religions are compatible with evolution. For instance, Martin highlighted in his course how evolution is not in conflict with religion as a whole, although it is in conflict with some fundamentalist religious views:.

I note that the conflict—that there is no conflict between religion and evolution. There is a conflict between evolution and certain sects of Christianity and many denominations of Christianity have no trouble whatsoever with evolution. Most practitioners of Islam have no trouble with evolution. The fundamentalist Muslims do. Other religions have no problem with evolution. So I make the point that it is not a matter of evolution vs religion—it is a matter of certain denominations of religion being opposed to the idea of evolution, of an old Earth, a distinct ancestry of humans and other forms of life and of evolution in general.

Notably, all three instructor participants who had in-depth discussions about religion and evolution in their classes said they did not consider helping students to accept evolution as part of their goal when teaching Table 3. Further, all three of these instructors reported growing up in a household with a religious affiliation Table 2.

Two of the three instructors identified with a religious group and reported that they were unsure of what role God played in evolution Table 2. From the data we collected, there was nothing else that distinguished these instructors from other instructors in our subject pool. Among instructors who do discuss religion, some of them reported discussing religion in a way that seemed incompatible with religion. Oftentimes, this seemed unintentional, but instructors would imply that knowledge from religion is inferior to knowledge from science, because it is not based on testable, observable phenomena.

Other instructors, such as Samuel, were more explicit in making religion seem incompatible with evolution:.

Understanding Religion and Science

It is out to destroy America, because it is not simply evolution. Evolution is built on genetics. You will destroy America. There is a deathly silence over the classroom. Many instructor participants do not report using instructional practices that align with suggestions in the literature for increasing student acceptance of evolution. Although most instructor participants did not report spending significant time discussing religion in the context of evolution, they may still be utilizing instructional practices that have been recommended to help mitigate conflict between religion and science Smith, ; NAS, , ; Southerland and Scharmann, Further, we asked the instructors how and why they choose, or do not choose, to implement these practices.

Although most instructor participants had said it was not their goal to help students accept evolution, almost half of those instructors who said acceptance was not their goal said they had used at least one instructional strategy that has the potential to increase student acceptance of evolution. Thus, we looked at all instructor responses, regardless of whether they said that it was their goal to help students accept evolution.

About half of all the instructor participants said they were using at least one of the three strategies at some point when they teach about evolution. Instructor participants who provided students with religious scientist role models said they did so with the intent to show religious students that there are people who have religious beliefs and also accept evolution. The instructor participants wanted students to know they do not have to choose between their religious beliefs and evolution.

A few instructors used themselves as religious scientist role models for their students:. They see at least one role model, me perhaps, in that I am an evolutionary biologist and I have found a way very easily to also have religious beliefs and live a moral life and all of those things. However, most instructors who provided students with religious scientist role models who accept evolution did so using examples of other scientists:. The instructor participants who said that they talk about various viewpoints on the relationship between religion and evolution said they did it to show students that several religious groups do accept evolution.

Journal of Cosmology

These instructors wanted students to know that evolution and religion can be compatible. Some instructors, such as Craig, use national polling results that disaggregate acceptance of evolution by religious groups as a way to show students different religious viewpoints:.

Other instructors describe ways in which religious individuals have reconciled their religion with evolution:. Many instructor participants explicitly told students that evolution and religion can be compatible. They stress to their students that science does not rule out the existence of a higher power:. I contrast science and religion and I talked about how they ask different questions. A minority of instructor participants used more than one of the strategies outlined above.

Notably, most instructors who used more than one of these practices did not think it was their goal to help students accept evolution. Only a few instructor participants used all three strategies, and all of those instructors were the instructors who also discussed religion and evolution in depth in their course. Because a significant number of instructor participants were not discussing religion, we explored what barriers might exist for them doing so.

The majority of instructor participants said that they perceived barriers to discussing religion in class, which made them hesitant about incorporating religion into classroom discussions. Of the instructors who perceived barriers to discussing religion in relation to evolution in their class, half of them reported that they still discussed religion in the context of teaching evolution.

This indicates that for some instructors, these perceived barriers are not sufficient to stop them from incorporating discussions about religion into their evolution instruction. Many instructor participants believed there were barriers to discussing religion when teaching evolution. Instructors cited classroom constraints, the appropriate domain of discussion in a science class, lack of training in issues involving religion and evolution, and personal beliefs about religion and evolution.

These are discussed in more detail below. Some instructor participants felt that the logistics of their classroom were a barrier to discussing religion. The instructors usually referenced large class sizes and limited time as barriers. The instructors thought that large classrooms were not amenable to such personal discussions and that time constrained them because they had too much content to present:.

Also, some instructor participants said that their science class was not an appropriate forum for discussions of religion and evolution. These instructors often said that discussions about religion in the context of evolution are only appropriate for a philosophy class, not a science class:. And less consistent with a class that is specifically designed to discuss evolution.

The lack of training in discussing religion related to evolution was another barrier that emerged. Some instructor participants said they did not feel they were knowledgeable enough about the topic of religion and evolution to talk about religion to their students. Because it is such a sensitive topic for many students, instructors indicated that they wanted to be sure they have the knowledge to properly handle potential challenges from students:. Of all the barriers cited, personal beliefs about religion and evolution was mentioned most frequently.

Many instructor participants said that their own beliefs about religion would be a barrier to productive discussions in class. I do not believe in the God of my Bible or the less threatening God of your Bible. I have my own fuzzy … [belief in what God is]. The problem with that is that if we evolved then there was no Fall, and if there was no Fall, then there is no need for atonement of Jesus dying on the cross. I think that that part is actually quite important but the notion that you need to be saved and that the way to be saved is to believe in Jesus Christ is really at odds with the idea of an evolved species.

These personal beliefs as a barrier to incorporating discussions about religion are particularly interesting, because they relate to other findings about instructor personal beliefs from the interviews. Six percent of instructors declined to answer the question. Further, the overwhelming majority of instructors said they had never experienced a conflict with evolution and their personal religious beliefs.

These instructors fell into two categories: 1 those who did not have religious beliefs and did not grow up in a household that was religious, so there was never an opportunity for a conflict; and 2 those who grew up in a religious household but were taught that religion and evolution were not in conflict. The following are quotes from instructors who did not experience a worldview conflict with evolution:.

If we know that life works through evolution, we have to figure out how this fits into that, rather than the other way around. To me, evolution comes down to a belief in science [ I crave empirical understanding and always have and so it was easy. In this study, we explored the perspectives of instructors who have taught about evolution to undergraduates. Given the flexibility in what college biology instructors can choose to teach, the instructional decisions of college instructors are important for understanding the landscape of evolution education. However, these studies did not explore the perceived goals of college instructors when teaching about evolution, whether and how they discuss religion when teaching about evolution, and what perceived barriers exist to discussing religion when teaching about evolution.

Thus, the current literature in evolution education seems to be devoid of the perceptions of the people actually teaching evolution at the college level. This interview study of instructors teaching in public institutions of higher education in Arizona represents the first step in exploring these questions, which could be followed up with observational studies of instructor practices in the classroom and the impact of these practices on students.

If instructors do not debate whether it is their goal for students to understand or accept structure function, pathways and transformations of energy and matter, information flow, or systems should the core concept of evolution be any different and, if so, why? In our study, we did not ask instructors what might change their minds to include acceptance as an instructional goal. However, if college student acceptance of evolution is to improve, then determining how to effectively communicate with college biology instructors on the importance of acceptance in evolution education could be key.

Future studies could explore what types of evidence would be effective in convincing instructors that acceptance is a worthy goal of evolution education. One possible reason that instructors may not think it is their goal to help students accept evolution is how they personally define acceptance of evolution.

While our study offers an initial exploration into this topic, a thorough treatment of the definition of acceptance of evolution is beyond the scope of this paper. A future publication by the authors will treat this issue in more depth. Instructor participants perceive multiple barriers to discussing religion in the context of evolution in their class.

Some instructor participants said they did not think a science class is the appropriate forum for discussing religion in relation to evolution. Many instructors thought that discussions about religion in relation to evolution should be reserved for a religion or philosophy class and not a science class. While studies have shown that discussing religion in the context of evolution can be a useful way to demonstrate the nature of science Clough, ; Smith, ; Alters and Nelson, , it may be that instructors are not aware of this or do not consider this to be a part of their evolution units.

Using religion as an example, one can compare and contrast what is science i. An instructor can demonstrate the types of knowledge that science accumulates i. Additionally, instructors indicated that they did not have the experience or training to discuss religion in the context of evolution in their classes. Indeed, research shows that when instructors feel they are not knowledgeable in a content area, they tend to spend less time presenting that content in class and experience anxiety when they do present the content Griffith and Brem, Instructors may need to become more familiar with the evolution—religion realm to feel more comfortable implementing strategies that deal with this content.

Creationism Scott, are both potential resources for instructors thinking about conflicts students may face with evolution. Venues where biologists can interact with philosophers of science or biology and society programs may give college-level biology instructors the opportunity to become more familiar with these ideas. Both of the authors are housed in a school of life sciences in which there is frequent interaction among evolutionary biologists and philosophers; institutional structures such as this could be a way to encourage these conversations and break down barriers.

These were not explicitly cited as barriers by the instructors but could contribute to instructors not discussing religion in the context of evolution in biology classes. Many instructor participants did not believe there were many students in their classes who rejected evolution. In addition, the overwhelming majority of instructors reported they have never been challenged by a student about evolution in class, which could be why they believe that most of their students accept evolution.

Further, religious students may be unlikely to raise concerns in a secular environment if they feel that environment is unsupportive of religion. Only a small fraction of instructors reported that they experienced their own worldview conflict with evolution at any time in their life, which may be due to the low levels of religious belief among this population. It might be difficult for a secular instructor to identify with the struggles and challenges that religious students may face when learning about evolution.

However, if secular instructors want to help religious students become more comfortable with evolution, they likely will need to become more aware of student religiosity, rejection of evolution, and the challenges facing students who may be going through a worldview conflict with evolution. Although instructors who personally believe that there is an irreconcilable conflict between evolution and religion may feel it is dishonest to tell students that the two are reconcilable, they can still show students examples of other prominent scientists and religious leaders who have reconciled evolution and religion.

Although this was not the focus of our study, a possible extension of our findings is how instructional practices are impacting how religious students feel in the classroom. A disconnect between instructor and student beliefs about religion could possibly filter out religious students from pursuing careers in biology, thereby contributing to a less religiously diverse scientific community. Instructors could be inadvertently selecting against students who are religious, and this could impact how religious undergraduates feel about how they belong in the biology community.

If religious students feel their beliefs are not compatible with the dominant views of the biology community, this could lead to students choosing different career paths in fields in which they feel their personal beliefs are more compatible with the dominant views. If instructors insist that students have to choose between their religious identities and their biology identities, then students are likely to choose the identity that is most salient to them; for religious introductory biology students who have not had much experience with science, religious beliefs will likely be more important to them.

Religious student comfort when learning evolution could impact ethnic diversity in evolutionary biology as well as religious diversity. In recent years, the National Science Foundation NSF has released data that show doctoral degrees in evolutionary biology are rarely awarded to African Americans. This study was conducted with instructors in public institutions of higher education in Arizona.

Arizona is a relatively conservative state and, in , Arizona was ranked as the eighth in the nation for percent registered Republicans CNN, ; Gallup, Therefore, these results could be unique to the context of this geographic area and political climate. While we are not aware of any state mandates on what Arizona college instructors are not allowed to teach and interview participants did not mention any statewide policies, instructors may still be indirectly affected by their perceptions of state governance or even state politics.

It will be important to replicate this study in other geographic areas to determine whether the findings are consistent or if there are unique geographical constraints that impact these instructor attitudes and instructional practices. These were self-reports of instructional practices and not observational data. However, this is a limitation of most interview studies, which are often seen as a first step in exploring a new research area in order to subsequently inform more systematic and observational research Glesne and Peshkin, While this was intentional because we were interested in instructor perspectives, which are dependent on their own definitions, we acknowledge that an important area of future research in evolution education is to come to consensus on these definitions.

We can also begin to explore differences among different religious traditions. Although this is not often done currently, it is important for evolution education researchers to begin to disaggregate students by their religious denominations and the saliency of their religious beliefs. Finally, some of the instructors in our study were teaching whole semester-long evolution courses, while some were teaching evolution lessons as part of a biology course. This may mean that our interpretations could change if we interviewed only instructors who were teaching semester-long evolution courses.

For instance, instructors may be less likely to include a discussion of religion in a 1-wk lesson on evolution than during a whole semester on evolution. However, we did not see any patterns based on the type of course for our study. To our knowledge, this is the first study to document the attitudes and self-reported instructional practices of college biology instructors about discussing religion in relation to evolution in biology classes.

We found that the majority of instructors do not think that it is their goal to help students in their classes accept evolution, that they largely avoid the topic of religion when teaching evolution, and that there is a wide range of barriers that hinder them discussing religion in relation to evolution with their students. These data reinforce the need for a consensus on whether a goal of evolution education should be student acceptance of evolution, which includes a more specific delineation of the definition of acceptance of evolution.

Further, it also brings awareness to the potential barriers that instructors may perceive when making decisions about whether to engage with religious students about religion and evolution. We hope that this study will be useful as a reference for instructors as they make their own decisions about how to engage with religious students when teaching about evolution.