Gut feelings may trump good old-fashioned facts, and even religious beliefs, when it comes to accepting the theory of evolution, new research suggests. “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,” study co-author David Haury, an associate professor of education at Ohio State University, said in a statement.
But, he noted, research on the matter has been inconsistent. While one study would find a strong relationship between knowledge level and acceptance, another would not. Likewise, studies have contradicted each other on the relationship between religious identity and acceptance of evolution, he said.
Haury and his colleagues figured that another unexplored factor must be at work. Previous research has shown that the human brain doesn’t judge the merits of an idea solely on logic, but also on how intrinsically true the idea feels: Could this process of intuitive reasoning help explain why some people are more accepting of evolution than others?
To find out, the researchers recruited 124 pre-service biology teachers at different stages in a standard teacher preparation program at two Korean universities. They chose to look at students in Korea because teacher preparation programs in the country are quite standardized. “In Korea, people all take the same classes over the same time period and are all about the same age, so it takes out a lot of extraneous factors,” Haury explained.
Moreover, about half of Koreans don’t identify themselves as belonging to any particular religion, he said. In the United States, only about 16 percent of people are religiously unaffiliated, according to the Pew Research Center. (Religion can be a reason for not accepting evolution, as some think it goes against a god as a creator.)