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Acceptance of Evolution and Support for Teaching Creationism in Public Schools: The Conditional Impact of Educational Attainment


  • Acknowledgments: Wave II of the Baylor Religion Survey was funded by a grant from the Templeton Foundation. The data are publicly available through the Association of Religion Data Archives. Thanks to Chris Bader, Paul Froese, Carson Mencken, and Bill N. Duncan for helpful comments on previous drafts. An earlier version of this study was presented at the 2008 meeting of SSSR in Louisville, KY.

Correspondence should be addressed to Joseph O. Baker, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, East Tennessee State University, P.O. Box 70644, Johnson City, TN 37614. E-mail:


Public acceptance of evolution remains low in the United States relative to other Western countries. Although advocates for the scientific community often highlight the need for improved education to change public opinion, analyses of data from a national sample of American adults indicate that the effects of educational attainment on attitudes toward evolution and creationism are uneven and contingent upon religious identity. Consequently, higher education will only shift public attitudes toward evolution and away from support for teaching creationism in public schools for those who take non-“literalist” interpretive stances on the Bible, or to the extent that it leads to fewer people with literalist religious identities.