Darwin’s theory of evolution is a tenet of modern science, but over the years, attacks from nonscientific circles have framed it in controversy.
In Massachusetts, a biotech and science capital of the world with leading universities and high rates of acceptance of evolution, we have been mostly insulated from the debate. But a new study, published by the journal New England Science Public: Series Evolution suggests that even here, attitudes toward science and evolution have room to grow.
Guillermo Paz-y-Miño-C at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth surveyed faculty at New England colleges and universities, educators who train teachers, and college students.
Some results were striking:
■ A quarter of the faculty, half of those who trained teachers, and a third of college students did not know that humans are apes, related to chimpanzees.
■ A third of the faculty, two-thirds of people who train teachers, and three-quarters of college students didn’t understand evolution. For example, they thought giraffes’ necks got longer because a giraffe acquired a longer neck during its lifetime and passed down the trait, a discredited theory.
■ One in every 10 non-biology majors — and a surprising 1 in every 15 biology majors — reported they were creationists.
The study concludes: “Long-term harmonious coexistence between science/evolution and creationism — and all its forms — is illusory. Societies will struggle indefinitely with this incompatibility.”Carolyn Y. Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @carolynyjohnson.