The Importance of Understanding the Nature of Science for Accepting Evolution

Tania Lombrozo, Anastasia Thanukos, Michael Weisberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

151 Scopus citations


Many students reject evolutionary theory, whether or not they adequately understand basic evolutionary concepts. We explore the hypothesis that accepting evolution is related to understanding the nature of science. In particular, students may be more likely to accept evolution if they understand that a scientific theory is provisional but reliable, that scientists employ diverse methods for testing scientific claims, and that relating data to theory can require inference and interpretation. In a study with university undergraduates, we find that accepting evolution is significantly correlated with understanding the nature of science, even when controlling for the effects of general interest in science and past science education. These results highlight the importance of understanding the nature of science for accepting evolution. We conclude with a discussion of key characteristics of science that challenge a simple portrayal of the scientific method and that we believe should be emphasized in classrooms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)290-298
Number of pages9
JournalEvolution: Education and Outreach
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 17 2008
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Education


  • Accepting evolution
  • Nature of science
  • Philosophy of science
  • Understanding evolution


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