Feeling of certainty: Uncovering a missing link between knowledge and acceptance of evolution



We propose a new model of the factors influencing acceptance of evolutionary theory that highlights a novel variable unexplored in previous studies: the feeling of certainty (FOC). The model is grounded in an emerging understanding of brain function that acknowledges the contributions of intuitive cognitions in making decisions, such as whether or not to accept a particular theoretical explanation of events. Specifically, we examine the relationships among religious identity, level of education, level of knowledge, FOC, and level of evolutionary acceptance to test whether our proposed model accurately predicts hypothesized pathways. We employ widely used measures—the CINS, MATE, and ORI—in addition to new variables in multiple regression and path analyses in order to test the interrelationships among FOC and acceptance of evolutionary theory. We explore these relationships using a sample of 124 pre-service biology teachers found to display comparable knowledge and belief levels as reported in previous studies on this topic. All of our hypothesis tests corroborated the idea that FOC plays a moderating role in relationships among evolutionary knowledge and beliefs. Educational research into acceptance of evolutionary theory will likely benefit from increased attention to non-conscious intuitive cognitions that give rise to feeling of knowing or certainty. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 49: 95–121, 2012