Murdoch University Research Repository

Welcome to the Murdoch University Research Repository

The Murdoch University Research Repository is an open access digital collection of research
created by Murdoch University staff, researchers and postgraduate students.

Learn more

Teaching evolution to creationist students: the ultimate challenge

Calver, M.C.ORCID: 0000-0001-9082-2902 and Bryant, K.A. (2017) Teaching evolution to creationist students: the ultimate challenge. Australian Zoologist, 38 (3). pp. 318-328.

PDF - Published Version
Download (1MB) | Preview
Link to Published Version:
*Subscription may be required


Despite overwhelming evidence for the common ancestry of life and evolution by natural selection, ideas invoking direct creation persist, disrupting teaching evolution as a central biological concept. While originating within fundamentalist Protestantism in the USA, creationist views are now prominent elsewhere and in other religions. Responses by educators include ignoring evolution; excluding evolutionary topics especially provocative to creationist students; advocating evolution while ignoring, disparaging or ridiculing creationism; distinguishing between scientific and religious approaches before considering only the scientific; and acknowledging evolution and creationist positions as different world views that one may understand, but not necessarily accept.

Here, we argue that any chance of success in teaching evolution to creationist students requires elements of the last two of these approaches. Applying them requires understanding students' worldviews and the methods and limitations of science, as well as employing learning activities that engage, not alienate. In this context, we describe the creationist positions that may be encountered when teaching evolution, the fundamentals appropriate to teaching scientific method, and the teaching strategies of affirmative neutrality and procedural neutrality that educators may use to counter creationist views when teaching evolution. We regard understanding of the common ancestry of life and natural selection and other evolutionary mechanisms as threshold concepts that, once grasped, can transform students' interpretations of biology and possibly their world views.

Mentioning creationism in the context of science education may be a dangerous idea, but what is worse - to establish some common ground with creationist students in the hope of leading them to an understanding of evolution, or to leave them ignorant of any evolutionary concepts at all?

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales
Copyright: © 2017 Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales
Item Control Page Item Control Page


Downloads per month over past year