When It Comes to Accepting Evolution, Gut Feelings Trump Facts
For students to accept the theory of evolution, an intuitive “gut feeling” may be just as important as understanding the facts, according to a new study.
In an analysis of the beliefs of biology teachers, researchers found that a quick intuitive notion of how right an idea feels was a powerful driver of whether or not students accepted evolution — often trumping factors such as knowledge level or religion.
“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. One study would find a strong relationship between knowledge level and acceptance, and others would find no relationship. Some would find a strong relationship between religious identity and acceptance, and others would find less of a relationship.”
“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 findings just made those simple answers untenable.”
Haury and his colleagues tapped into cognitive science research showing that our brains don’t just process ideas logically — we also rely on how true something feels when judging an idea. “Research in neuroscience has shown that when there’s a conflict between facts and feeling in the brain, feeling wins,” he says.
The researchers framed a study to determine whether intuitive reasoning could help explain why some people are more accepting of evolution than others…
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