Since Charles Darwin wrote the Origin of Species 150 years ago, evolution has become the leading science in understanding human biology. Using Darwin’s model as a foundation, modern scientists have been able to gain a better knowledge of how human beings relate to other organisms by comparing sequences of DNA and noting anatomical similarities. Notes taken from Darwin’s work have led to revolutionary breakthroughs in medicine and genetic science. Yet for all these monumental discoveries, there are some who remain skeptical evolution should even be taught as science. The US in particular ranks high on the list where evolution remains an unpopular opinion.
People in the United States are less likely to be proponents of the theory of evolution for a variety of reasons. A study conducted by a team from Michigan State University was able to conclude fundamental religious belief have a predominant impact on whether or not an individual chooses to accept evolution as scientifically viable. The belief that Biblical Creationism is a literal, factual account of the origins of humanity is an ideology unique to the United States. There are few European countries which practice establishing Bible colleges for the purpose of training new ministers, which has become the American norm.
Politics were also a contributing factor in the study. Individuals with more conservative backgrounds who tended to be detractors of abortion were far more likely to disregard evolution. This polarization was another startling discovery found to exist only in the United States, as an individual’s stance on evolution in Europe almost never had anything to do with his or her political allegiance.
Adults with some knowledge of genetics tend to be more amenable to the theory of evolution. However, a study conducted in 2005 found that less than half of American adults have even a basic understanding of DNA sequencing.
Why does evolution continue to remain unpopular in the US? The answer may lay in how students are being educated. An increasing number of parents are turning to home-schooling their children out of fear of what they might learn in public schools. During the 2011-2012 school year, roughly 3 percent of the country’s population was home-schooled. Most of these students were raised by Christian parents, so it comes as no surprise the majority of texts used for home-schooling lean heavily in support of Creationism.
This news is not sitting well in every corner. Susan Mule, the mother of a home-schooled teen who had been learning evolutionary biology, purchased a textbook from a Christian publisher under the recommendation of a friend. Both mother and daughter were distressed by what they found. “I thought she was going to have a coronary,” Mule said. Calvert School, based in Maryland, is reported to use one of the only scientifically viable curriculums for home-schooling, but it is evident the school is fighting a losing battle. For the time being, fundamentalist religious beliefs do not appear to be on their way out, so publishers will have to appeal to their demographic if they want to continue to make sales. All of these factors are making significant contributions as evolution continues to remain unpopular in the US.
By Sam Williams