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Introduction: Why People Do Not Accept Evolution: Using Protistan Diversity to Promote Evolution Literacy


  • Presentation delivered at the symposium: Using the Diversity of Protists to Educate Students and the Public about Evolution, VI European Congress of Protistology, Free University of Berlin, July 25#x2013;29, 2011, Berlin, Germany.

Corresponding Author: G. Paz-y-Miño-C., Department of Biology, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, 285 Old Westport Road, North Dartmouth, Massachusetts 02747—Telephone number: 508 999 8226; FAX number: 508 999 8196; e-mail:


The controversy evolution vs. creationism is inherent to the incompatibility between scientific rationalism/empiricism and the belief in supernatural causation. To test this hypothesis, we conceptualized a Cartesian landscape where the dependent variable acceptance of evolution was plotted as function of three factors, each represented by an index (value range 0 to 3): Religiosity Index (RI), Science Index (SI), and Evolution Index (EI). The indexes summarized an individual's personal religious convictions, familiarity with the processes and forces of change in organisms (= concept of evolution), and understanding the essence of science (= method to explore reality). We compared and contrasted acceptance of evolution among four populations of variable educational attainment: 244 professors of New England, United States (93% Ph.D./doctorate holders), 50 protistologists from 25 countries (70% Ph.D./doctorate holders), 62 educators of prospective teachers (83% Ph.D./doctorate holders), and 827 college students. The New England faculty held the highest acceptance of evolution position (RI = 0.49; SI = 2.49; EI = 2.49), followed by the protistologists (RI = 0.46; SI = 2.30; EI = 2.48), the educators of prospective teachers (RI = 0.83; SI = 1.96; EI = 1.96), and the students (RI = 0.89; SI = 1.80; EI = 1.60); therefore, the data supported our hypothesis. Proper science education, public outreach and robust debate over the controversy “evolution versus creationism” should suffice to improve society's evolution literacy, and qualified scholars ought to lead this mission.