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When It Comes to Accepting Evolution, Gut Feelings Trump Facts

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Students will only accept the theory of evolution if they feel in their gut that its actually true, according to a new study conducted by Ohio State University. Researchers found that am immediate internal confirmation, or a “gut feeling”, heavily affects whether a person believes evolution is a true and proper theory.

“The whole idea behind acceptance of evolution has been the assumption that if people understood it, if they really knew it, they would see the logic and accept it,” said David Haury, co-author of the new study and associate professor of education at Ohio State University. “But among all the scientific studies on the matter, the most consistent finding was inconsistency.”

A previous study found a strong relationship between knowledge level and acceptance, while anotherfound no relationship, he said.

“So our notion was, there is clearly some factor that we’re not looking at, he continued. “We’re assuming that people accept something or don’t accept it on a completely rational basis. Or, they’re part of a belief community that as a group accept or don’t accept. But the finding just made those simple answers untenable.”

During the study, Haury found the way people feel about something is just as important as how logical it seems, when deciding to believe in something. “Research in neroscience has shown that when there’s a conflict between facts and feeling in the brain, feeling wins,” he detailed.

The experiment, published in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching, consisted of 124 pre-service biology teachers at different states in a standard teacher preparation program at two Korean universities.

The students took two tests. The first test was to gauge their overall acceptance of evolution as a concept and theory, and also to determine their level of belief in it. The second test was also to rate their factual knowledge of evolution, but students were also told to write down if they truly felt their answers were factually accurate or not.

“What we found is that intuitive cognition has a significant impact on what people end up accepting, no matter how much they know,” explained Haury. The results show that even students with greater knowledge of evolutionary facts weren’t likelier to accept the theory, unless they also had a strong “gut” feeling about those facts,” he said.

Photo by Aaron Savage
Photo by Aaron Savage
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