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Utah's Foremost Platform for Undergraduate Research Presentation
2018 Abstracts

Are Humans Just Animals? A Study of the Acceptance of Evolution

Chad Talbot, Utah Valley University

Evolution is central to understanding Biology and Health. Nevertheless, many people still don’t accept evolution as a well founded principle and mechanism of change (Pew 2016). The central research of this project is to examine the acceptance of evolution among Biology majors at the beginning and end of their undergraduate experience, the reasons as to why they accept or reject evolution, and if applicable, why they changed their minds during their undergraduate experience. Previously, the acceptance of evolution in non-major Biology courses (Ferguson and Ogden) has been investigated. The results show that students can change their opinions on evolution and the leading factors for this were: 1) the teaching of evolutionary evidences drove changes in acceptance; 2) the importance of a role model; and 3) helping students overcome misconceptions. Further, previous studies examined students' observations and knowledge of evolutionary theory and found that the degree of conflicts perceived between religion and science was negatively correlated with their knowledge of evolution. Main Objective: The objective of this research is to better understand the acceptance of evolution among students majoring in Biology. Methods: We will administer a short "pre-interview survey" and we will conduct interviews with students majoring in Biology, that are enrolled in Biol 4550 and Biol 4500, in order to better understand the reasons why they accept or reject evolution and why they change or don't change their minds throughout their undergraduate experience. The survey and interview questions are designed to investigate the opinions of evolution and how the students changed throughout their undergraduate experience and over the course of the semester. The recordings will be transcribed and quantified by binning answers into categories. Given the high % of students that are LDS, we will ask a few additional questions concerning religion and the student's knowledge of their religion's position concerning evolution. Hypotheses: We proposed that as students knowledge of the evidence for evolution increased over their college years that acceptance would increase. We further hypothesized that religious students would have to reconcile their religion's position on science and evolution with their growing knowledge of evolutionary theory.