Acceptance of biological evolution in first-year Life Sciences university students

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Lack of acceptance of biological evolution, despite the overwhelming evidence that support it, can be very problematic in higher education courses that have a strong biological basis. We investigated acceptance of biological evolution in 344 first-year Life Sciences undergraduate students across five programmes at the University of Roehampton, UK. In line with previous findings in British universities, we found that 9% of the students did not accept evolution by natural selection, with an increase to 16% for human evolution. Both religiosity and programme of study were significantly related to acceptance levels in our students (p<0.001). In particular, lower acceptance was associated with Muslim or Christian beliefs, and with Biomedical Sciences and Nutrition and Health programmes (compared to Anthropology, Zoology and Biological Sciences). We suggest embedding an evolutionary perspective in the teaching of biomedical and health programmes, and to create space for explicit discussion of perceived conflicts with religious beliefs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)395–409
Number of pages15
JournalScience & Education
Publication statusPublished - 22 Feb 2020


  • evolution
  • religion
  • biology
  • Uk

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