Science and Faith: An Examination of How Personal Beliefs of ScienceTeachers Correspond to Their Reported Work with Students on TopicsRelated to Origins

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Science and Faith: An Examination of How Personal Beliefs of ScienceTeachers Correspond to Their Reported Work with Students on TopicsRelated to Origins
Owens, Steven D
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Subjects / Keywords:
Public Schools
Secondary School Teachers
Public School Teachers
Teacher Student Relationship
Science Education
Science Instruction
Science Teachers
Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations.
non-fiction ( marcgt )
Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations


Americans have wide ranging beliefs about evolution and the intersection of beliefs and science. Public high school science teachers have an equally diverse range of beliefs on these issues. This study sought to examine those beliefs and see how they influence ways that the teachers interact with their students. A survey was developed using a combination of previously published surveys and newly developed questions. E-mail addresses for over 11,000 public high school science teachers from 19 states and the District of Columbia were used to invite teachers to participate in the internet-based survey. Over 1,400 valid responses were analyzed using both nonparametric statistical quantitative measures and quasi-statistical qualitative analyses. Based on these measures, teachers were identified who revealed strongly held beliefs and had significant differences in opinion about how to effectively address these topics with students. The results of the study have implications about how teachers can more effectively help students struggling with science and belief interactions. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest llc. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:].
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Full Text
Steven D. Owens
B.S., Lamar University, 1983
M.S., Colorado School of Mines, 2002
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Educational Leadership and Innovation

2009 by Steven D. Owens
All rights reserved.

This thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy
degree by
Steven D. Owens
has been approved
Michael P. Marlow
Mark A. Clarke
II- 1 -oi

Owens, Steven D. (Ph.D., Educational Leadership and Innovation)
Science and Faith: An Examination of How Personal Beliefs of Science
Teachers Correspond to Their Reported Work with Students on Topics
Related to Origins
Thesis directed by Associate Professor Michael P. Marlow
Americans have wide ranging beliefs about evolution and the intersection of
beliefs and science. Public high school science teachers have an equally
diverse range of beliefs on these issues. This study sought to examine
those beliefs and see how they influence ways that the teachers interact
with their students. A survey was developed using a combination of
previously published surveys and newly developed questions. E-mail
addresses for over 11,000 public high school science teachers from 19
states and the District of Columbia were used to invite teachers to
participate in the internet-based survey. Over 1,400 valid responses were
analyzed using both nonparametric statistical quantitative measures and
quasi-statistical qualitative analyses. Based on these measures, teachers
were identified who revealed strongly held beliefs and had significant
differences in opinion about how to effectively address these topics with
students. The results of the study have implications about how teachers can
more effectively help students struggling with science and belief
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis,
recommend its publication.
Michael P. Marlow

I dedicate this dissertation, first of all, in honor of my father (J.D.) who
passed away before I was able to complete this degree. His love, support,
and constant encouragement were a tremendous inspiration to me. I also
dedicate it to my mother (Adelaide) for giving me a never-ending love for
learning, and to my wife (Darlene) and children (Sean and Matthew) for
supporting me throughout the many months of work and time not spent with

I thank my advisor, Michael P. Marlow, for helping me and encouraging me
throughout my advanced degree studies both at the University of Colorado
- Denver, and my work at Colorado School of Mines. He has been a dear
friend and valuable mentor to me. I also acknowledge the graciousness and
support of my committee members, Mark Clarke, Sue Giullian, and Karen
Johnson. You all have encouraged me and given me helpful feedback and
advice throughout my work at UCD. I especially acknowledge the helpful
and extensive feedback provided by Mark Clarke leading to the refining of
this document. I also thank the members of my Sunday School class for
supporting me and praying for me, and especially Richard Meyerhoff for his
helpful feedback during the preparation of this dissertation.

Figures .................................................xi
Tables ..................................................xii
1. THE RESEARCH PROBLEM....................................1
Conceptual Framework.................................3
Research Question and Variables ....................13
2. REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE...............................18
The Nature of Science...............................18
Engaging Students and Teachers Minds .............21
Pedagogical Choices.................................28
Conflict and Dissonance.............................29
3. METHODOLOGY ...........................................42
Design of the Survey ...............................42

Demographic Questions (Numbers 1-13) ..............43
Science Teaching Questions (Numbers 14-25)..........44
Personal Beliefs Questions (Numbers 26 30)........46
Data Collection .......................................47
Testing of the survey...............................47
Collection of e-mail addresses .....................47
4. ANALYSIS OF THE DATA .....................................53
Cleaning up the Data...................................53
Reliability Estimates..................................55
Comparison with Rutledge & Warden (2000) ...........55
Internal Reliability................................58
External Validity...................................59
Working with Variables.................................61
Computing the CREATIONIST Variable..................62
Computing the NATURALIST Variable...................68
Computing the POLREL Variable.......................74
Findings from the Data ................................75
Examining Aspects of Beliefs .......................76
Examining Hypothetical Discussions with Students ...77
Question 14

Question 24...................................81
Question 25...................................103
Question 31 ..................................109
Similarities ..............................112
Only Teach Science .....................112
Allow Views to Be Expressed.............113
Avoiding Conflict.......................114
CREATIONISTS Evolution is Wrong.......115
CREATIONISTS Minimize Reasons for
Studying Evolution...................118
NATURALISTS This is Not a Controversial
NATURALISTS Treat This Topic No
NATURALISTS Adhere to the Principle of
Non-overlapping Magisteria..............121
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FUTURE STUDY ......................123
Discussion ........................................126

Recommendations for Science Teachers......134
Recommendations for Further Research......140
A. SURVEY CONSENT LETTER ......................143
B. SCIENCE TEACHER SURVEY .....................146
(AS DESCRIBED IN THIS STUDY)................177

E-MAIL INVITATIONS..............................50
QUESTION 14.....................................79
QUESTION 14.....................................80
QUESTION 24.....................................82
QUESTION 24.....................................83
QUESTION 25....................................104
QUESTION 26....................................105

3.1 States with teachers invited through e-mail contact ..............50
4.1 Level of acceptance of evolutionary theory........................57
4.2 Estimate of expected high school science teachers.................60
4.3 Pre-creation questions summed for CREATIONIST calculation.........64
4.4 Pro-evolution questions summed for CREATIONIST calculation........65
4.5 Pro-evolution questions summed for NATURALIST calculation.........69
4.6 Anti-evolution/pro-religion questions summed for
NATURALIST calculation.........................................71
4.7 Similarities and differences between CREATIONIST and
NATURALIST responses to Question 31............................110

Researchers continue to be perplexed as to why so many Americans
reject much of evolutionary theory (Antolin & Herbers, 2001). Several
explanations have been proposed to account for this rejection. The most
predominant explanation seems to be that the public is simply ignorant
about the extent and detail of evidentiary support for the theory (Rutledge &
Warden, 2000), and the corollary to this explanation is that American
science teachers are not doing an adequate job teaching about the strength
of the theory (Smith & Scharmann, 1999).
Numerous studies have examined teachers understanding of
evolution and the nature of science (See Bell, Lederman & Abd-EI-Khalick,
2000; Griffith & Brem, 2004; Ingram & Nelson, 2006; Pennock, 2003;
Rudolph & Stewart, 1998). Most of these studies have focused on teachers
from one particular geographic setting, such as a U.S. state (Buckner,
1983; Donnelly & Boone, 2007; Eglin, 1983; Ellis, 1986; Olson, 2004; Osif,
1997; Rutledge & Warden, 2000; Tatina, 1989; Trani, 2004; Van Koevering

& Stiehl, 1989; Zimmerman, 1987, 1991). Additionally, the studies have
tended not to define terms from the creation and evolution debate very
clearly within the study and results have been interpreted from perspectives
that seem to be overly dichotomous in nature (Alters, 1997; Ingram &
Nelson, 2006). For the present study, the researcher hoped to broaden the
scope of research to simultaneously examine diverse geographic settings
along with their included institutional, political, and religious influences. The
study also attempted to enable subjects to articulate their thoughts across a
broader range of possible perspectives in order to try to encapsulate the
depth and breadth of the reasons for rejection or inclusion of various
evolutionary perspectives in science classes.
The Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925 marked a significant stage in the
conflict surrounding the teaching of evolution in schools. There have been
additional legal precedents set as well in various states that have influenced
this topic, with the most recent one being the Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area
School Board in Pennsylvania in 2005. During that eighty year period, there
have been tremendous scientific advances in research on the history of life
on Earth and the mechanisms that bring about changes in living things.
There has also been a proliferation of academic endeavors in the
dissemination of work in support of a theistic creation perspective, including

but not limited to those epistemologies known as scientific creationism,
theistic evolution, progressive creation, and intelligent design (Ross, 2006).
These efforts have been used outside the domain of scientific
investigation to advance political, cultural and religious agendas in
education (Ross, 2009). Popular authors have attempted to influence
education policy. School boards at both local and state levels have enacted
policy. Political and legal defense groups have debated the issues and
argued them in court. Teachers have made curricular decisions based not
only on the scientific merits of the issues but on these socio-cultural
influences as well. This project sought to examine how teachers are
thinking about their choices in the classroom. The primary research
question driving this project is, What effect does a science teachers
personal beliefs have on the choices he or she articulates about how to
teach origins topics in public high school science classrooms?
Conceptual Framework
In order to better understand the conceptual framework around
which this study is based, it is important to examine the background and
motivation of the researcher. I am a Christian and have a vested interest in
this topic. I have encountered teachers, both as a student and as a co-
worker, who have been openly antagonistic toward belief in God and the

Bible. I have had and known students who have struggled with the mixed
messages they receive in school and at church about how science and faith
do or do not fit together. I know people in the Christian community who
have learned material presented as creation science, including the
concepts of a young Earth and flood geology, who feel that this form of
creation science is a viable scientific explanation for the geological and
biological record found in nature. I also know many Christians who have
the same basic perspective of science and faith that I do. That perspective
is that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God and can be trusted as an
accurate account of Gods character and work. I also believe that His
creation holds an accurate account of His work and can be trusted to clearly
indicate His creative processes. I believe that this dual revelation of God
(Scripture and Nature) is completely compatible and when there is apparent
conflict, the conflict is only due to our current misinterpretation of one or the
This view of a dual revelation is not original. The concept can be
traced back to Francis Bacon (Martin, 1992). Bacon is quoted as saying, A
little natural philosophy and the first entrance into it inclines mens opinions
to Atheism; but on the other hand much natural philosophy and a deeper
progress into it brings mens minds about again to religion. The implication
here is that inductive reasoning, whose origin is also often attributed to

Bacon, is used to draw inferences from empirical data Bacons first
entrance into the study of nature. However, further reflection and study on
implications from Scripture (deductive reasoning) can reveal connections
which can dispel apparent conflict. Gregory Bateson (1972) compared this
simultaneous inductive/deductive approach to reconciliation of science and
belief (or what Bateson describes as fundamentals of science or
philosophy) (Bateson, 1972, p. xviii) with the classic military pincer
maneuver. The pincer maneuver occurs when an army presses forward
into the center of its enemy. The enemy executes a pinching motion in
response by sending its outside forces in from both sides to attack the
flanks of the invading army and attempt to surround the advancing army
(Pincer movement, 2009). Batesons point is that when one examines how
the world works, it is best to keep in mind a dual inductive/deductive
approach while trying to understand things. He says, I try to teach
students... that in scientific research you start from two beginnings, each of
which has its own kind of authority: the observations cannot be denied, and
the fundamentals must be fitted. You must achieve a sort of pincers
maneuver (Bateson, 1972, pp. xx-xxi). Interestingly, with regard to the
topics around which this project is centered, Bateson himself was an
atheist, as pointed out by Noel G. Charlton (2008).

I do not have any recollection of experiencing cognitive dissonance
(see later discussion in Chapter 2) in this area. For as long as I can
remember, Ive been taught or assumed that any conflict between the Bible
and our knowledge of how the world works is due to gaps of understanding
in one or the other. Therefore, I have always been interested in simply
learning and seeking answers to my questions. However, it has both
puzzled and intrigued me to observe how other people seem to really
struggle with these apparent conflicts and seek to resolve their dissonant
feelings in a number of interesting ways. Even close acquaintances of mine
have had trouble understanding why I dont experience dissonance. I have
been asked by fellow science teachers, How do you reconcile your belief in
the Bible with the science that you teach? Likewise, church friends have
asked me, How can you call yourself a Christian and teach science?
My own thinking about this topic parallels, and is greatly influenced
by, a science-faith think tank headquartered in Los Angeles called Reasons
to Believe. It was founded by Hugh Ross in 1986, just three years after I
began my teaching career. Their efforts lately are focused on trying to
develop a testable creation model that validates both the Bible and modern
scientific discovery. They advocate for a dual revelation approach similar to
that which was discussed earlier. The research and publications produced
by this organization are well-grounded in the natural sciences and typically

cite extensively from the professional scientific literature and avoid citing
creationist literature other than their own. The following excerpts are from
the concluding chapter of a book by Hugh Ross called Creation as Science
(2006). They articulate the conceptual framework around which this
research project will be organized.
For several decades, fear of religious radicalism and the
encroachment of church into the affairs of state has led to public
avoidance of anything that could possibly be construed as an
unconstitutional establishment of religion. (p. 191)
Worldview applied to the scientific enterprise has enormous
consequences for the discovery process. A researchers worldview
not only impacts how he or she does science but also what avenues
of research he or she deems worth pursuing. Thus, a worldview
holds potential to move research forward, to bring investigative
progress to a halt, or to cause inefficiencies that significantly slow
progress toward discovery. (p. 192)
Chinese paleontologists studying the famous Cambrian explosion
fossils in the Chengjiang shale in Yunnan province have commented
to their American colleagues, In China we are not allowed to criticize
our government leaders, but we are free to criticize Darwin and
Darwinism. In your country you are free to criticize your government

leaders, but you are not permitted to criticize Darwin or Darwinism.
Could it be that at least to some degree the science education crisis
in America stems from the quelling of controversy, for example, from
a dismissive attitude toward any alternative to strict naturalism, so
much so that science education has become boring? Is the fear of
being religious or philosophical about the implications of the amazing
new discoveries at the frontiers of scientific research prompting
science educators in America to quell discussion of the really
important and intriguing why questions? Are science educators
avoiding the very issues that could engage their students? (p. 199)
The potential for yes answers to these questions seems reason
enough for science educators to include evolution/creation content in
their curricula. Students enthusiasm for science can be rekindled if
they realize that science not only can validate or invalidate the
details of nature but also can grapple with the really important and
meaningful questions of life. (pp. 199-200)
It goes without saying that public instruction on creation/evolution
issues must be handled carefully and professionally with respect
for science, the scientific method, and scientific integrity. This
simultaneously passionate-about-science and yet objectively
dispassionate demeanor may be difficult to inculcate and maintain,

but the difficulty must not stop science educators from making the
effort. (p. 200)
Most scientists have taken few if any courses in philosophy and
theology and freely admit to knowing very little about the Bible. Most
philosophers and theologians have taken few if any science courses
beyond the minimum general education requirement. This isolation
explains why science-theology dialogue is so daunting. It also
explains why so many scientists, philosophers, and theologians
involved in developing creation/evolution models fail to appreciate
the degree to which the scientific enterprise overlaps the theological.
Exposing philosophers and theologians and their students to more
science education (and scientists) and vice versa, especially at the
higher levels, may dramatically lower the level of animosity in
creation/evolution debates. Such exposure also can facilitate the
kind of cross-disciplinary integration that is key to the pursuit of
truth. (p. 201)
The current project was constructed on the belief that it is important to
understand and acknowledge the value of accessing student (and teacher)
beliefs in the context of science inquiry around origins. It is this presumption
of value that provided the conceptual framework around which the project
was designed.

The remarks by Ross cited above echo those made in the National
Science Teachers Association publication "The Creation Controversy and
the Science Classroom" (Skehan & Nelson, 2000). It provides pedagogical
information about how teachers might approach these hot topics. The
following quotes from this book reveal important conceptual framework links
as well.
Teachers must be able to help students ... realize that there is no
necessary conflict between interpretations of data from scientific
studies and religious beliefs based on the Bible. (p.2)
The reconciliation of faith and reason delivers the student from a
state of confusion about important areas of life ... the student can
appreciate and learn from both [science and religion], or at least
understand the position of those who accept both. (p.3)
If creation science advocates and others who reject evolution... are
going to be reached at all, it will be by teachers who can address
themselves to both kinds of knowledge, scientific and theological.
The education of every science teacher who is likely to face the
creation science mindset should include something about the

premises and procedures of modern biblical scholarship and the
distinct roles of scientific knowledge and religious faith. (pp.16-17)
These statements address the educational side of the conceptual
framework. A science teachers own familiarity with these issues and the
means of approaching them is critical to their successful engagement of the
topics with students.
Finally, Eugenie Scott, director of the National Center for Science
Education appeared on the PBS NOVA program Judgment Day: Intelligent
Design on Trial in 2007. In her criticism of Intelligent Design, she says,
The fundamental problem with intelligent design is that you
can't use it to explain the natural world. It's essentially a
negative argument. It says, Evolution doesn't work,
therefore the designer did it. Evolution doesn't work,
therefore we win by default. But when you ask them, What
does intelligent design tell you about nature? Does it tell you
what the designer did? Does it tell you what the designer
used to design something with? Does it tell you what
purpose the designer had for designing something? Does it
tell you when the designer did it? Why the designer did it? It
doesn't tell you anything like that. Basically, it's a negative
argument. And you can't build a science on a negative
argument. She points out a fundamental flaw in the way
many creation arguments are framed. Without specificity,
they cannot be tested, and without testability, it is difficult to
justify as science (Ross, 2009).
The conceptual framework for this project anticipates that science
teachers are going to have viewpoints about the creation/evolution debate
that have been developed through connections with their own personal

beliefs, media coverage, professional development activities, and personal
research on the topics. Given these connections, the research problem is to
investigate how beliefs, as evidenced in such variables as politics, religion,
and demographics are related to the reported curricular choices about the
teaching of origins of American high school science teachers.
Figure 1.1 illustrates a way to visualize the interaction of beliefs and
practice. As measured in this project, beliefs are reflected in a teachers
religious views, political views, and institutional influences. These, in turn,
will influence how the teacher interacts with his/her students (behavior),
how the teacher defines knowledge and how it can be acquired
(epistemology), how the teacher defines and approaches the study of
science, and how the teacher designs his/her curriculum and pedagogy

r - leaching

Research Question and Variables
What effect does a science teachers personal beliefs have on the
choices he or she articulates about how to teach origins topics in public
high school science classrooms? This question is designed to foster a
mixed methods research design. The primarily quantitative aspects of the
study will establish a description of beliefs (the independent variable),
encompassing religious beliefs, political affiliations, and institutional
influences. For the purposes of this project, the use of the word

quantitative is used to describe forced-choice or limited choice responses
to survey questions, from which numerical representations could be drawn.
The primarily qualitative aspects of the study will examine how teachers
report their thinking about pedagogy and curriculum with regard to the
teaching of origins (dependent variable). The use of the word qualitative in
this study is applied to instances where teachers were allowed or
encouraged to elaborate their thoughts in their own words in response to
open-ended questions. This definition is consistent with the view of
qualitative research derived from survey data articulated by Trochim (2006).
The combined variables used to describe beliefs are religious beliefs,
political affiliations, and institutional influences. Of these, political beliefs
was the simplest to identify, especially with the recent major election year.
This variable was determined through teacher self-identification with
Democratic, Republican, Independent, or Other party affiliation.
Religious beliefs were somewhat more difficult to measure. Religious
affiliation is one sub-variable is relatively simple to identify using such
descriptors as Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, etc. However,
these descriptors are not sufficient to demonstrate the impact of religion on
a persons individual beliefs. Further data was needed to determine the
extent of ones belief in a deity, or deities (monotheism, polytheism,
pantheism, agnosticism, or atheism). Additionally, both quantitative and

qualitative information was obtained to determine the extent to which an
individual feels that supernatural forces may interact with the world.
The institutional influence was described from demographic
information about the teachers educational and content history, measured
by their level and focus of education, type of schools attended, and
employment history. Also, geographic information (state, county, or zip
code) was collected. This information was used to develop a geographic
representation of any belief patterns which might be apparent.
The dependent variable for this study (how one expresses their
thoughts about teaching about origins) is also a combined variable with
both quantitative and qualitative aspects. Part of a teachers reported
decisions about teaching will be related to the subject matter or course that
they teach, and this information will be collected through quantitative
measures. Similarly, the amount of experience teaching was measured and
factored into this variable.
The actual topics of origins examined are associated with multiple
disciplines of science. The specific topics proposed for consideration by
teachers in this project were the origin of:
phyla, families, species, etc.

the earth
the universe
The primary qualitative information collected from teachers consisted of
descriptions of experiences theyve had in teaching (or deciding not to
teach) about any of these topics.
The data for this research came from an online survey built to collect
the information identified in the previous section. The researcher collected
e-mail addresses for science teachers from across America. In order to
avoid bias tied to affiliation with specific groups, no previous database was
used. The names were collected through a general internet search.
Typically, state Departments of Education have a list posted on the internet
of all the public schools or districts in that state. Beginning with that list,
each school servicing grades 9 through 12 were identified and located on
the internet, if possible. Then, the school website was searched for names
of science teachers and their e-mail address. If names or addresses were
not found, an attempt was made to get an e-mail address for the principal.
The goal for this project was originally to identify teachers from all 50
states and the District of Columbia. However, in the event that that didnt
happen (which it didnt), the research plan was to ensure that teachers from

all geographic regions of the United States would still be included. Over
13,000 public high school science teachers were located and identified.
One benefit of an online survey is the rapidity of availability of data.
The data were collected over a 3 month time period lasting from mid-March
to mid-June, 2008. The variables were combined and classified using
standard General Linear Modeling techniques for quantitative data. The
qualitative information was also classified according to standard qualitative
analysis techniques. The data was then entered into SPSS (Statistical
Package for the Social Sciences) and Microsoft Excel, as well as a
geographic information system (GIS) called Arcvoyager for geographic
The participation of subjects in this study was voluntary and
unsubsidized. While the intended population is all American high school
science teachers, the actual participants were limited to those who have e-
mail information available on the internet, and coincidentally, those who
tend to be somewhat more technologically literate. Also, since participation
is strictly voluntary, the teachers who chose to participate may be those
who are more interested (for a variety of reasons) in the topic of the study,
and thereby may not be generalizable to all science teachers.

The intersection of science and beliefs has seen much interest and
debate in the professional literature. This section is a brief overview of the
main findings from a literature review encompassing around 200 sources.
The review is broken into four main parts: The Nature of Science, Engaging
Students and Teachers Minds, Pedagogical Considerations, and Conflict
and Dissonance.
The Nature of Science
There is a large body of literature that discusses the nature of
science. A seminal work in this area was written by B. J. Alters (1997) titled
Whose Nature of Science? In it he did an extensive review of the literature
up to that time and pointed out that the nature of science is very poorly or
haphazardly defined in the professional literature according to whatever the
purposes for each individual study happen to be. One of the difficulties with
this ambiguity about the nature of science is the concern that science

teachers may not have a sufficient understanding of it to be able to
adequately teach about it in their classrooms (Bybee, 2001; Khishfe &
Lederman, 2006; National Academy of Sciences, 1998; Pennock, 2003;
Rudolph & Stewart, 1998; Rutledge & Warden, 2000; Sinatra, Southerland,
McConaughy & Demastes, 2003). Ironically, there has been discussion in
the literature among philosophers of science about the inadequacy of
understanding of the nature of science in professional scientists, claiming
that they are so caught up with the specialized focus of their individual fields
that they dont have an accurate understanding of the nature of science
itself (Alters, 1997).
Helen Chuang (2003) made the observation that significant
percentages of high school teachers are not convinced that evolution is a
central concept to biology and/or are of the opinion that creation should be
taught in public school science classes. She then posed the question, Are
these attitudes transferred from educators to their students? Her survey of
Utah educators revealed five ways that teachers report responding to
students around science & faith issues: (1) Statements indicating
compatability between evolution and religion; (2) Statements justifying
evolutionary theory as scientific in nature; (3) Statements distinguishing
between science and religion as separate epistemologies; (4) Statements
stressing the importance to student success of understanding evolutionary

principles; and (5) Statements indicating a desire to avoid conflict. Chuang
concludes that if a teacher limits his or her responses to Type 2 or 3
statements, it will likely leave student questions unaddressed. Therefore, it
is important to understand the nuances of teacher views in order to promote
better science education (Bell, Lederman & Abd-EI-Khalick, 2000).
However, there is a strong view in the literature that argues that as far as
matters of origins go, and the nature of science, these should not even be
topics of discussion (e.g. presentation only without inquiry or debate)
because student ability to evaluate the merits of scientific concepts is too
limited (Abd-EI-Khalick, Bell & Lederman, 1998; Cobern, 2000; Sinatra,
Southerland, McConaughy, & Demastes, 2003; Smith & Scharmann, 1999).
Another reason given for not encouraging debate or discussion is that the
discussion will likely lead to religious ideas and those should not be
permitted to be discussed in the science classroom (Chuang, 2003;
Cobern, 2000; Cobern & Loving, 2001; Colburn & Henriques, 2006; Griffith
& Brem, 2004; Pennock, 2002; Smith & Siegel, 2004; Trani, 2004).
Inherent in the discussion of the nature of science is a discussion of
the assumptions of science and the testability of worldviews (Gauch, 2006).
Much of science investigation is predicated on the assumption of certain
things being true, whether or not they are testable (Stanley & Brickhouse,
2001). However, many of these assumptions are not always clearly

acknowledged in the classroom (Smith & Scharmann, 1999). This lack of
acknowledgement by educators may stem from their own lack of
understanding of the nature of science and the assumptions associated
with it (Abd-EI-Khalick, Bell & Lederman, 1998; Callendar, 2004; Davson-
Galle, 2006; Stanley & Brickhouse, 2001), but it may also be from a
deliberate decision, based on their own beliefs or worldview, to drive the
curriculum in a desired direction without the distraction of dissenting
viewpoints (Griffith & Brem, 2004; Smith & Scharmann, 1999).
Unacknowledged bias or preconceptions are detrimental to inquiry in
science. This is why it is necessary to engage these preconceptions openly
in the classroom and use them to further the inquiry and learning process.
Engaging Students and Teachers Minds
It is important to engage student preconceptions about how the world
works if we expect them to grasp and integrate new concepts into their
knowledge base (Alters & Nelson, 2002; Chinn & Brewer, 1993). It is also
important for teachers to recognize that an understanding of evolutionary
theory and processes does not, nor should it, necessarily equate to
acceptance of those processes as truth (Brem, Ramney, & Schindel,
2003; Brickhouse, Dagher, Letts, & Shipman, 2000; Cobern, 2000; Elby &

Hammer, 2001). While some suggest that religious beliefs actually interfere
with the understanding and acceptance of evolutionary processes (Alters &
Nelson, 2002; Cobern, 2000, 2004; Downie & Barron, 2000; Lawson &
Weser, 1990; Lawson & Worsnop, 1992), others argue that there is
insufficient evidence for this (Stanley & Brickhouse, 2001). Interestingly,
some science teachers share misgivings about evolutionary tenets as well
(Eve & Dunn, 1990).
As Downie and Barron (2000) point out, there are possible ethical
concerns with trying to change student minds about something that conflicts
with their deeply held beliefs. Yet it seems that many researchers advocate
for this very thing (Alters & Nelson, 2002; Cobern, 2000; Downie & Barron,
2000; Ingram & Nelson, 2006). Rejection of evolution is seen as a primarily
American problem caused by widespread scientific illiteracy, a societal
desire for fairness and equal opportunity, and a mixing of religious values
and politics (Almquist & Cronin, 1988; Antolin & Herbers, 2001; Bybee,
2001; Kohut, 2005). The thought often expressed is that if science teachers
simply did a better job teaching evolution, the scientific literacy of students
would increase to the point that conflict would no longer exist.
It is important to note, at this point, that many of the studies
surrounding the evolution/creation dilemma tend to leave the reader with
the impression that there is a relatively simple dichotomy of viewpoints

(Alters & Nelson, 2002; Cobern, 2000; Ingram & Nelson, 2006). Ross
(2009) identifies eight different approaches to attribution of origins to a
Creator, from the Judeo-lslamic-Christian biblical perspective:
Naturalistic Evolutionist This perspective views the origin of
~~ life and the universe from a strictly natural material
perspective with no attribution of causality to an outside
Young-Earth Creationist This view is the one commonly
associated with the term creationist. It interprets the biblical
account of Genesis as describing an origin of the universe
and life which occurred over a period of 144 hours (6 days) in
the relatively recent past of 6,000 to 10,000 years ago.
Intelligent Design Movement Advocate Revived from an
argument that is centuries old, this movement seeks to
remove religious ties from the argument to make it more
palatable to scientists. However, this also removes the ability
to articulate enough specificity through development of a
creation model to make the concept testable.
Old-Earth Creationist The standard scientific paradigm of a
billions of years old universe and earth are incorporated into

the attribution of origins of each new entity (matter and living
things) to the activity of a Creator, using both natural and
supernatural processes.
Theistic Evolutionist Scientifically indistinguishable from the
Naturalistic Evolutionist, this viewpoint attributes all
development of matter and life since the origin of the universe
to natural processes originally established by a Creator.
Framework Theorist The biblical account is viewed as
simply a literary device used to describe the creative work of
God without intent of specificity about method, sequence, or
timing. No conflict should exist between science and faith.
This is because there is essentially no point of intersection
between the two.
Progressive Creationist This approach can contain elements
of several of the other views listed here. It attributes creative
activity to God at intervals along with the natural progression
of evolution and change. The points of intervention by a
Creator are often somewhat nebulous and articulated as
being those places where natural law seems insufficient to
account for observation. This is sometimes called the God of
the gaps approach.

Concordist Concordism is the view that science and the
biblical account overlap extensively and points of contention
between them arise through faulty understanding or
interpretation of one or both. This is often described through
the principle of dual revelation referencing nature and
scripture as the two books which describe Gods work in
creation. For the record, this model would best describe the
personal view of the researcher of this project.
This overview is not meant to provide a complete description of these
views, but simply to show that creation and evolution related topics are
much more complex than a simple dichotomy. Eugenie Scott (2000)
presented a similar description of viewpoints that she called The
Creation/Evolution Continuum (Figure 2.1). She emphasizes that a more
thorough understanding of the term creationist is essential to successfully
working with students (Owens, 2002). Figure 2.2 shows the
correspondence between Ross descriptions and Scotts continua.

The Creatihh/Evhlution continuum
Flat Earthers
Young Earth Creationists
Old Earth Creationists
Gap Creationism
Day-Age Creationism
Progressive Creationism
Intelligent Design
Evolutionary Creationists
Theistic Evolutionists

Continua of Science/Faith Beliefs
Hugh Ross (2009)
* Young-Earth Creationist
* Intelligent Design Advocate
* Old-Ear th Creationist
* Concordist
* Progressive Creationist
* Framework Theorist
* Theistic Evolutionist
* Naturalistic Evolutionist
Eugenie Scott (2000)
* Flat Ear ther
* Geocentrist
* Young-Earth Creationist
* Old-Earth Creationist
Gap Theorist
Day-Age Creationist
Progressive Creationist
Intelligent Design Creationist
Evolutionary Creationist
* Theistic Evolutionist
* Materialist Evolutionist
One of Ross (2006) main arguments in favor of establishing
Creation as a topic of scientific inquiry stems from his own placement at the
intersection of science and faith. He says,
Audiences express astonishment when I say I would let go
of my Christian faith if it were demonstrated beyond any
reasonable doubt that Christianity lacked a factual
foundation.... If these feelings Ive experienced are based on
delusion and untruths, they are worse than worthless to me.
I want to invest my life in reality, whatever it may be, not in
an illusion of reality. I would also expect that if my faith is
indeed rooted in reality, the factual evidence for my faith will

continue to increase as we humans continue to learn more
about the universe and humanitys place in it. (p. 184)
This is essentially a restatement of the apostle Pauls argument from
his first epistle to the church in Corinth:
... and if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is
useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then
found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified
about God that he raised Christ from the dead.... And if
Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in
your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ
are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to
be pitied more than all men. (1 Corinthians 15:14-19)
The Christian faith is one of rationality and substance based on detectable
reality (Boa & Bowman, 2001; Strobel, 2000, 2006). From that viewpoint,
the scientific process has much to say about physical evidences that
support or contradict various Christian (and other religious) assertions
about the origin and nature of the physical world and a truly scientific model
which incorporates creation should be examined through the lens of the
scientific process. This does not negate the principle of faith, but it does
lend credence to Pauls assertion that faith without substance is useless.
Pedagogical Choices
Teachers have the opportunity and responsibility to help students
address any tensions they feel between their beliefs and what they learn
about science (Alters & Nelson, 2002; Chinn & Brewer, 1993). Fysh and

Lucas (1998) are especially strong advocates for encouraging science
students to examine and articulate their beliefs in conjunction with their
science education. But in order to do that, the teachers themselves must
grapple with these issues and be able to understand and articulate their
own cognitive constructions (Chuang, 2003; Coburn, 2000).
This study is intended to focus on the teachers of science and how
they have constructed a bridge between their beliefs and science topics
regarding origins. As they are allowed to articulate their cognitive
constructions along with their pedagogical choices in the classroom, it is
anticipated that patterns will emerge that can lead to further areas of
research about how to help teachers better address these issues with their
Conflict and Dissonance
Feelings of conflict or dissonance are common when science
classroom discussions turn to topics of origins (Chuang, 2003; Ingram &
Nelson, 2006; Meadows, Doster & Jackson, 2000; Shipman, Brickhouse,
Dagher & Letts, 2002; Sinatra, Southerland, McConaughy, & Demastes,
2003). This is not only a recent phenomenon but has been around at least
since Charles Darwin introduced his ideas about origins (Dagher &
BouJaoude, 1997). It has been pointed out that much of the research on the

conflict and feelings of dissonance have been conducted from a secular or
materialist perspective which has resulted in an imbalance in perspective in
the literature (Fysh & Lucas, 1998; Monk & Osborne, 1997). In fact, some
studies written from this perspective go so far as to suggest that no conflict
actually exists for well-informed people (Colburn & Henriques, 2006; Kohut,
2005). This prompts the need for further research from a perspective that is
potentially more sympathetic to other views (Fysh & Lucas, 1998).
Additionally, much research has been directed toward the conflict that
students have with origins topics, but less attention has been given to
dissonance that teachers feel (Griffith & Brem, 2004; Trani, 2004).
Several researchers over the years have offered proposals of what
might be called a dual model approach to teaching about origins (Bergman,
1979; Brickhouse, Dagher, Letts & Shipman, 2000; Chuang, 2003; Cobern,
2000; Cobern & Loving, 2001; Ross, 2006; Roth & Alexander, 1997). While
not teaching creationism per se, this approach does offer to students the
opportunity to examine their beliefs in the context of scientific discovery and
to explore possible ways to integrate various epistemologies into their
learning. This is an interesting twist on the integration of new learning into
an already existing framework as discussed by Chinn & Brewer (1993).
Studies on science and indigenous beliefs have indicated that teachers can
make better inroads in science learning if they involve the indigenous

beliefs and background of their students in the design of their curriculum
(Cobern & Loving, 2001; Fysh & Lucas, 1998; Matthews, 2001; Stanley &
Brickhouse, 2001). While it has been noted that many Christian
denominations have issued policy statements acknowledging evolution as
being compatible with faith (Scott, 1996), this belies the large amount of
resistance to the concept that is tied to personal religious beliefs (Bergman,
1979; Bering, 2006; Brem, Ranney, & Schindel, 2003; Brickhouse, Dagher,
Letts, & Shipman, 2000; Chuang, 2003; Cobern, 2000; Dagher &
BouJaoude, 1997; Downie & Barron, 2000). Nevertheless, leading
professional education organizations encourage teachers to avoid allowing
any integration of these resistant views in the science class. Statements
such as creation beliefs have no place in the science classroom (National
Association of Biology Teachers, 1995) tend to discourage teachers from
allowing any discussion of belief in the science classroom (Colburn &
Henriques, 2006). The NABT statement was revised in 1997 to say that
creation is outside the scope of science and therefore ... not part of a valid
science curriculum (DeWolf, Meyer, & DeForrest, 2003). To suggest that
topics that may be leading to conflict and dissonance in students are
outside the scope of science curriculum and not valid for discussion is, in
the opinion of this researcher, a negligent attitude that should not be
encouraged in teachers. Rather, teachers should be encouraged to engage

the areas of conflict and utilize the dissonant feelings of students to foster
inquiry and excitement in the science curriculum.
Leon Festinger (1957) described cognitive dissonance as the effect
one experiences when faced with two different and opposing cognitions.
The dissonance would promote activity or decision-making that would lead
to a reduction in tension between the two cognitive states. In other words,
the subject under study would be motivated by the dissonance to alter his
or her views about one of the conflicting cognitive positions in order to bring
about consistency in their thinking. He proposed three hypotheses that
describe how people reduce dissonance. The first way is selective
attention. We tend to choose to view media material or listen to people with
which we agree. A second way that people face dissonance is called post-
decision dissonance. After making a difficult decision, they continue to
agonize over it after the decision is made, seeking further reassurance that
theyve acted correctly. A third hypothesis, and possibly the most
controversial of Festingers hypotheses, is that people may effect a change
in attitude if a reward is offered, but the change will be more permanent or
encompassing if the reward is the minimal amount possible. In other words,
attitude change will be more effective if people sense more internal than
external influences (Griffin, 2003).

Many of the studies designed to test Festingers ideas involved a
forced-compliance experiment (Girandola, 1997; Joule, 1991; Simmons,
Webb, & Brandon, 2004). This type of experiment consisted of taking a
subject who has a specific belief about some issue, and asking them to do
an activity that would force them to act contrary to that belief. This is similar
to what happens when a student is learning about a controversial topic
(such as evolution) that they think runs contrary to their beliefs. In these
forced-compliance situations, dissonance is likely to occur.
Ones self-image or self-conception plays a large role in determining
how much dissonance one feels or how successfully the dissonance can be
alleviated. A number of studies have looked at these issues (Aronson,
Cooper, & Blanton, 1995; Galinsky, Stone & Cooper, 2000; Simon,
Greenberg, & Brehm, 1995; Steenbarger & Aderman, 1979; Stone &
Cooper, 2001). These studies measured selected subjects who identified
strong disagreement with a concept (such as higher education tuition
increases). They were asked to argue in favor of the concept with which
they disagreed, thereby producing measurable dissonant feelings. When
subjects were provided with some self-affirming engagement during the
dissonance-reducing activity, dissonance was reduced more than in the
subjects who were not provided with self-affirming engagement. For
example, students who identified dissonance in an activity, but who had

previously strongly identified with the scientific process, were asked to wear
a white lab coat during the dissonance reducing activity. The need for self-
affirmation during a dissonance reducing activity was shown to play a large
role in the success of the reduction activity. If the self-affirmation process
was unsuccessful, then dissonance returned in full force.
A stepwise approach to dissonance reduction is more successful for
helping self-affirmation processes succeed (Galinsky et al., 2000). Subjects
strove to maintain a high level of self-affirmation when faced with cognitive
positions that were threatening to currently held self-concepts, and
dissonance reduction was more successful when they were allowed to
engage in multiple, smaller stages of dissonance engagement while
maintaining self-affirming positions.
The focus of Festingers (1957) cognitive dissonance theory is
attitude change (Griffin, 2003), and this has been the stated focus of
several dissonance studies (Gawronski & Strack, 2004; Ruiz & Tanaka,
2001; Schultz & Lepper, 1996; Van Overwalle & Jordens, 2002; Wicklund &
Brehm, 2004). A link was found between attitudes of helpfulness and
cognitive dissonance. In one experiment, subjects had dissonance induced
through a counter-attitudinal procedure and then confronted with someone
in need of help. Those subjects who had experienced the most dissonance
offered the least amount of help. However, those subjects experiencing

dissonance who did offer help experienced a reduction in the dissonance
(Ruiz & Tanaka, 2001). This has implications for education around
dissonance-inducing topics. Students (and teachers) who are experiencing
dissonance in relation to a controversial topic (in science, for example) may
experience reduction in their own dissonance when they are engaged in
helping someone else who may be struggling in a related manner.
A distinction should be made between explicitly held attitudes and
implicitly held attitudes. Explicit attitudes are those that a person can
verbalize or articulate for someone else. Implicit attitudes are those which
are actually reflected in the actions or behavior of a person. Induced
cognitive dissonance seems to be able to produce change in explicitly held
attitudes, without having much effect on implicitly held attitudes (Gawronski
& Strack, 2004). This idea sheds some light on the continuing conflict in
science education discussed in the section on Engaging Students and
Teachers Minds. Perhaps the lack of acceptance of evolution (an implicit
attitude) is not necessarily reflective of the amount of teaching or the quality
of learning of the concepts of evolution (explicit attitudes).
The strength of the relationship between beliefs and attitudes has
been a strong point of contention in psychological literature over the past
decade. Martin Fishbein and Susan Middlestadt published an article in 1995
that sparked a great deal of controversy. In the article they were critical of

work in the 1980s that moved away from the earlier theories of belief-based
attitude changes. They said that the studies supporting non-belief-based
determinants of attitude change were ineffectual and flawed in their
conclusions, and they proposed that the earlier work of the 1960s and
1970s was still valid. Several articles were published challenging the
assertions of Fishbein and Middlestadt (Haugtvedt, 1997; Miniard & Barone,
1997; Priester& Fleming, 1997).
Fishbein and Middlestadt responded to these criticisms in a follow-up
article (1997). They maintained their position, arguing that there have been
a number of studies that indicate that attitude change should be attributed
to belief-based factors. Here is where this discussion about attitude change
and beliefs links to the current study. Fishbein and Middlestadt argue that,
while a dual information-processing model may be appropriate, there is
sufficient evidence to indicate that beliefs about an object for which
dissonance is experienced must change in order for attitudes about that
object to change. In the creation/evolution debate, researchers need to
consider whether attitudes about either perspective can be expected to
change if the beliefs about the topic are not changed. This doesnt imply
that the goal should be to bring about a change in beliefs in students or
teachers, but an awareness of the relationship between attitudes and
beliefs is important.

Several studies have examined the relationship between cognitive
dissonance and emotional processes (Harmon-Jones, Peterson, & Vaughn,
2003 ; Girandola, 1997; Newby-Clark, McGregor, & Zanna, 2002). If
subjects are allowed to openly express emotions about a forced compliance
activity, dissonance can be much easier to reduce. This also has
implications for teaching controversial subjects. Students who are allowed
to openly express their emotional responses to the dissonance-inducing
material will be more likely to be successful in managing or reducing the
dissonant feelings.
Cognitive dissonance that results in conjunction with religious beliefs
presents a potential educational pedagogical opportunity (Tite, 2003). In a
broader sense, dissonance has been proposed as a deliberate pedagogical
method to get students to critically analyze their views about things
(Carkenord & Bullington, 1993; Chinn & Brewer, 1993, 1996, 2001;
Hodgkin, 1995; Lindblom- Ylanne, 2003; Vermunt & Minnaert, 2003;
Wiseman, Sunday, Bortolotti, & Halmi, 2004). In particular, Chinn & Brewer
(1993) examined how individuals attempt to discount scientific data through
seeking alternative explanations. They proposed a methodology with which
to present ideas to people with various scientific preconceptions through the
judicious use of anomalous data. The purpose of focusing on anomalous
data is to force the examination of the data in the light of theories that may

have difficulty explaining it. Before designing a lesson to present, an
educator needs to be aware of the various ways that people may deal with
this anomalous data.
Ignoring the data This is the most extreme way that people
may deal with new data. By ignoring the implications of the
data to their currently held theory, they are able to choose to
keep their theory intact. This is not something that is limited
to the general public. There have been times that the
scientific community as a whole has chosen to ignore
anomalous data for a time rather than try to alter currently
held theories.
Rejecting the data This goes beyond ignoring the data in that
the person will try to discount data for a number of reasons.
The most frequent arguments against anomalous data are
that the data is erroneous due to some error or flaw in data
collection. Another argument is that the data can be
explained as a fluke or random fluctuation of nature.
Questioning the Validity of the data In a follow-up study,
Chinn and Brewer tested their taxonomy and concluded that
one additional response needed to be added. They said that
individuals faced with anomalous data will sometimes dismiss

the data as being falsified or purposely deceptive (Chinn &
Brewer, 1998). This is different than the previous category in
that the source of the data is what is being rejected, in
addition to the data itself.
Excluding the data Instead of rejecting the data, or its
source, the student may acknowledge (to a certain degree)
the validity of the data but excuse the data as being outside
the constraints of their particular theory. In this way, the
student does not need to explain the data because, in their
opinion, the data does not apply to their theory and does not
need explanation.
Holding the Data in Abeyance Another way to forestall the
explanation of an anomaly is to hold it in abeyance. This
means that the student acknowledges the anomaly and
proposes that his theory does not have an explanation only
because no one has thought of it yet. This essentially accepts
the data as anomalous, but with the expectation that it will
likely be explained by their theory at some point in the future.
Reinterpreting A student may also choose to reject the data
indirectly by offering a reinterpretation of the data that will
allow it to fit into their current theory. At this point,

proponents of different theories can agree that the data, as
interpreted by them, poses a problem for the other. This has
the potential to open an initial line of communication between
proponents of differing theories by forcing them to understand
something of how the data fits into both theories.
Peripheral change Depending on the strength and
abundance of the data, the student may choose to alter his or
her theory in order to explain the anomalous data without
throwing the theory out altogether. This encourages
refinement of a model or theory and pushes the student closer
to the scientific process of model testing.
Theory change If the data is sufficiently convincing, the
student may reject his theory altogether. Before adopting a
new theory, the student will make sure the data is credible
and can be explained. Lastly, the student will begin work on
their own beliefs, adjusting them to fit both the new theory and
the problematic data. The new theory must have two main
characteristics in order for the student to accept it. It must be
of good quality, which has the inherent elements of accuracy,
breadth, consistency and simplicity, and it must be able to
lead to further research. It must also be plausible, being

easily understood and containing reasonable mechanisms of
operation. This gets back to the idea of cognitive consistency.
These eight responses to anomalous data result from the dissonance-
reducing strategy of interpreting data according to a previously held theory.
It is important for educators to be able to recognize and understand these
methods of dissonance reduction in their students and themselves.

This section is broken into two parts. First, the design of the study
will be described. This description will detail the development of the survey.
Most of the survey questions came from previously published studies,
adapted for use in the current project. Following that will be a description of
the data collection and subject selection.
Design of the Survey
This project constitutes a mixed methods (quantitative and
qualitative) approach to gathering the requisite information from teachers.
No survey was found that seemed to address the fundamental research
question of this project, which is What effect does a science teachers
personal beliefs have on the choices he or she articulates about how to
teach origins topics in public high school science classrooms? Therefore, a
survey instrument for this research topic was developed by the researcher
using a combination of previously published surveys. The survey was
administered through an online survey company called Zoomerang

(www.zoomerang. com). A consent letter was published on the research
web page ( This letter can be
viewed in Appendix A. Although both the letter and the survey were
electronically accessed, they have been reproduced in print form for this
document. Appendix B contains the survey questions.
Demographic Questions (Numbers 1-13)
The primary invitation method for the survey was through e-mail, but
there was some contact made through word-of-mouth. The first question
asked how the subject heard about the survey. The choices provided
allowed the researcher to identify those who received an e-mail invitation,
those who received a flyer at the National Science Teachers Association
convention, and those referred by an acquaintance.
Questions two through six were used to establish the gender, age,
and geographic location of the subject. Age levels spanned ten years (e.g.
31 40 years, 41 50 years, etc.). Geographic location was identified by
state and county and zip code. However, only the first four digits of the zip
code was requested and used in the analysis. This was to prevent being
able to associate a subject with a particular school or school district.
Question seven sought to establish the political leanings of the
subjects. Respondents could self-select multiple descriptors of political

party affiliation or social viewpoint, or they could articulate their own
descriptor. This information was intended to align with national election
results for comparison with local political tendencies.
Questions eight through thirteen were used to establish content-area
education and experience, and to verify that the subjects are all high-school
science teachers. While every attempt was made to invite only high-school
science teachers, the survey found its way to some non-science educators.
Additionally, a few non-public school teachers took the survey, as did some
teachers of pre-ninth grade students. These teachers were subsequently
filtered out prior to data analysis.
Science Teaching Questions (Numbers 14-25)
Most of the questions in this section of the survey appeared on
published surveys gleaned from the literature review. However, in an
attempt to preclude bias in the respondents, question 14 asked them to
self-identify any topics they teach or have taught that are deemed
controversial by either them or their school community. Since most of the
survey questions deal with topics around evolution and religious beliefs, this
question was intended to explore which topics came to mind for the
respondents before they knew what the survey was about.

Question 15 is a multi-part matrix of questions measuring the level of
agreement about statements regarding the teaching of evolution and/or
creation related topics. These questions appeared verbatim in a survey
published by Rutledge & Warden (2000). The original survey was intended
to measure the level of acceptance of evolutionary theory of high school
biology teachers. A similar purpose was intended by including these
questions in this project. The results were also triangulated with the results
of the Rutledge & Warden study as part of the reliability and validity
Questions 16,17 (another level of agreement matrix), and 23
through 25 replicate questions from Colburn & Henriques (2006). The
original study was focused on clergy responses to the evolution/creation
debate. It was felt by the researcher of this project that the content was
applicable to the focus of the study even though the target population was
significantly different.
Questions 18 through 22 are questions which appeared in the
VOSTS survey instrument published by Aikenhead and Ryan (1992). The
VOSTS instrument was designed to measure viewpoints of Canadian high
school students about science, technology and society. Fysh & Lucas
(1998) used some of these questions in their exploration of religious beliefs
in science classrooms, as did Shipman et al. (2002). The current project

chose to apply the selected questions to teachers to assess similar
viewpoint stances.
Personal Beliefs Questions (Numbers 26 30)
Questions 26 through 28 were published as part of the Virginia
Commonwealth University Life Sciences Survey by Urban & Huff (2005).
This project is an annual nationwide public opinion survey designed to
inform policymakers about topics related to science, religion and education.
Again, it was felt that the questions selected by the current researcher could
be cross-correlated for validity and reliability assessments as well as
provide insight into science teachers personal religious beliefs.
Questions 29 and 30 were also selected from the VOSTS survey
(Aikenhead & Ryan, 1992). These questions explore the respondents
views about the influence ones religious beliefs will have on their collection
and interpretation of scientific data. Once again, while the original target
audience was students, it was felt by the researcher that the questions
would be useful in revealing viewpoints and beliefs of teachers as well.
The final question on the survey was designed specifically for this
project to answer the primary research question. The question asks
respondents to imagine a scenario in which they plan and teach a topic
related to origins (of life, earth, or the universe). They were given the

opportunity to describe any experiences theyve had in a similar situation
and how they approached any perceptions of controversy.
Data Collection
Testing of the Survey
A prototype of the survey was piloted with a small group of teachers
and associates of the primary researcher, including the members of the
dissertation oversight committee. Of the 20 people invited to give feedback,
eight people responded to the survey. Based on the sample data and
respondent feedback, the survey was modified. A second invitation for
feedback was given to eight more teachers and further revisions were made
based on those responses. The final survey was posted on in April, 2008.
Collection of E-mail Addresses
Beginning about a year before the posting of the survey, the
researcher began collecting e-mail addresses. The original goal of the
research design was to gather data from public high school science
teachers in all 50 states (and the District of Columbia), but time constraints
and funding did not permit that to happen. Instead of attempting to obtain

an e-mail list from a group such as NSTA, the researcher chose to search
the internet for addresses. The reason for this approach was to avoid bias
which might be introduced by common membership in a professional
organization. By searching the internet, it was hoped that this would induce
a degree of randomization not possible through pre-formatted e-mail lists.
The researcher created a database in Microsoft Excel for the
collection of e-mails. Typically, the first step would involve searching a
states Department of Education website for a list of schools in that state.
Most states have databases posted that include information about all public
and private schools. Using filters in MS Excel, the list could be refined to
include only public high schools.
The next step was to use a search engine ( to find
websites for as many of the high schools as possible. Not all schools have
websites, but a large majority of them do. As a schools website was found,
the researcher browsed for a list of staff members. Many high schools list
staff members by subject area and often include e-mail addresses for those
staff members. In some cases, staff members were listed without indication
of subject area. In those cases some other contact person was selected,
such as the principal or webmaster. There were other schools that listed
staff members by subject area but without e-mail addresses. In many of
those cases, the researcher was able to browse the rest of the school or

district websites and determine the standard format of e-mail addresses for
that school and derive an estimate for the e-mail addresses for the staff
Since all 50 states (and the District of Columbia) were originally
intended for the study, the researcher simply began with the first state
(Alabama) and alternated with the beginning and end of the alphabet
(Wyoming came next). As the year progressed and available project time
became limited, a new system of state selection was devised. Census data
from July, 2005 was used to estimate each states population. The e-mail
database for the states already searched was then used to estimate how
many e-mail addresses the researcher could expect to find in each
remaining state. These estimates were sorted from smallest to greatest and
the researcher began searching the states from the least populous to the
most populous. The reasoning behind this decision was to obtain as much
geographic diversity as possible for the study. Figure 3.1 identifies which
states were included in the invitation.


m%- m

s§ x. Wy
n 1 \ 1 i ¥* W
||g§£&f IISIIMh


- State canvassed with e-mail invitations
Note that with the exception of Connecticut and Rhode Island every state
was either canvassed with e-mail invitations or is touching a state that was.
Table 3.1 illustrates the number of science teachers located and e-mail
invitations sent to each state.

Table 3.1 States with teachers invited through e-mail contact
State 2005 Population # of Science Teachers found Science Teacher Percentage of Population E- mails sent
Wyoming District of 509,294 116 0.02% 88
Columbia 550,521 32 0.01% 27
Vermont 623,050 319 0.05% 254
North Dakota 636,677 247 0.04% 208
Alaska 663,661 244 0.04% 202
Delaware 843,524 182 0.02% 173
Hawaii 1,275,194 202 0.02% 175
West Virginia 1,816,856 423 0.02% 357
New Hampshire 1,309,940 559 0.04% 503
Maine 1,321,505 578 0.04% 539
Nevada 2,414,807 449 0.02% 308
Wisconsin 5,536,201 737 0.01% 646
Arkansas 2,779,154 796 0.03% 659
Indiana 2,966,334 964 0.03% 865
Iowa 6,271,973 1072 0.02% 985
Arizona 5,939,292 1120 0.02% 968
Alabama 4,557,808 1216 0.03% 932
South Carolina 4,255,083 1486 0.03% 1381
Colorado 4,665,177 1415 0.03% 1298
Washington 6,287,759 1450 0.02% 1326
Total 55,223,810 13607 0.03% 11894
A geographic representation of the data collection was desired, so
part of the survey included zip code information, truncated to include only
the first four digits of the five digit code. 5-digit zip code data for ArcView
GIS software is available from the U.S. Census Bureau at
51 The researcher
converted the 5-digit zip codes to 4-digit regions. The geographic
distribution of the regions contacted within each state during the e-mail
canvassing can be viewed in Appendix C.

This section will describe how the data were prepared for analysis.
Preparation began with cleaning up the data. The researcher looked for
significantly incomplete responses and demographic information that fell
outside the scope of the study. Next, estimation was made of the reliability
and validity of the data using standard statistical techniques. New variables
were created through the combination of various responses to establish
similarities and groupings for making comparisons and generalizations.
Finally, findings from the data are discussed.
Cleaning up the Data
There were 2,057 visits to the survey website and 1,393 surveys
completed. Additionally, there were 365 partial surveys taken, bringing the
total responses for some questions to 1,758. 98% of respondents indicated
that they took the survey as a result of the e-mail invitation. The other 2%

indicated being referred to the survey by an acquaintance or through
communications in conjunction with NSTA.
The data was downloaded from the Zoomerang website and
imported into Microsoft Excel. 216 records were removed from the dataset,
leaving 1,542 records to be used in the final analysis. Of the 216 which
were removed, 210 contained only demographic responses (survey
questions 1-13). Two of the remaining six records were from individuals in
non-public non-high school settings. Two others of these six records had no
demographic information and very few other responses. Another one did
not teach in a science field, and the final one had such few responses that
no correlations between their responses would have been useful.
Geographic information for the 1,542 remaining respondents had to
be checked. By including state, county and zip code information, the
responses could be checked for consistency. In some cases the three
geographic indicators did not match, but using two of the three (e.g. state
and county, or county and zip code) enabled the determination of the
missing or incorrect information. Additionally, not all respondents truncated
the zip code as requested (by listing only the first four digits) and these
codes had to be corrected. The final cleaned data was transferred from
Microsoft Excel to SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences) for
analysis purposes.

Reliability Estimates
Since the researcher designed the survey by collecting many of the
survey questions from other sources, the instrument has only been used
once to collect data (beyond the initial trials). An estimate of the reliability of
the information collected is necessary to justify drawing any conclusions.
Two methods of reliability estimates will be described here. The first is
through triangulation with the results of the other studies from which the
questions were drawn. The second is through the use of Cronbachs alpha
to estimate the internal reliability of the instrument.
Comparison with Rutledge & Warden (2000)
Rutledge & Warden (2000) designed a survey to investigate teacher
acceptance of evolutionary theory, teacher understanding of evolutionary
theory, and teacher understanding of the nature of science. The 20-item
sub-scale designed for the measurement of teacher acceptance of
evolutionary theory was the section adopted for this study which became
survey question set number 15 (See Appendix B). The questions were
quoted exactly as Rutledge & Warden wrote them. However, Rutledge &
Warden used Likert Scale choices of strongly disagree, disagree,

undecided, agree, strongly agree. This study altered these choices based
on feedback during the initial pilot study. Some respondents were
uncomfortable with the use of the words agree and disagree and
preferred the ability to partially agree or disagree. Therefore, the choices
were changed to disagree, somewhat disagree, neither agree nor
disagree, somewhat agree, agree.
The Rutledge & Warden study focused on Biology teachers in the
state of Indiana, which happened to be one of the states canvassed during
this study. A comparison of the results for each question is displayed in
Appendix D. Table 4.1 shows the level of acceptance results of Rutledge
& Warden compared with the results of this study. While the Rutledge &
Warden results indicated that Indiana Biology teachers averaged a score of
77.59 (out of a possible 100), the teachers surveyed for this study had
levels of acceptance ranging from 85.39 (for Indiana respondents) to 87.81
(for all Biology respondents).

Table 4.1 Level of acceptance of evolutionary theory
Rutledge & Warden 552 77.59 19.83
Owens All 1541 86.51 17.66
Owens Biology 927 87.81 16.89
Owens Indiana 89 85.39 17.76
Owens Indiana Biology 62 86.46 17.43
This indicates that from the time of the 1995 Rutledge & Warden survey to
the 2008 survey for this study the overall acceptance of evolutionary theory
among high school science teachers has increased.
According to Rutledge & Warden, item seven (regarding the
testability of evolution) was the least accepted concept, and that was true of
the teachers in this study as well. Evolution of man was also one of the
least accepted concepts in both studies. Both studies also found that
perceptions of the acceptance of evolutionary theory by the scientific
community ranked pretty high among the teachers. These results indicate

that the reliability of this portion of the survey was consistent with its original
design and use.
Internal Reliability
There were consistently high correlations within the twenty questions
from the Rutledge & Warden (2000) survey. There were also some high
correlations within the nine questions from the Colburn and Henriques
(2006) survey. There is some concern about the relative lack of correlation
between the two surveys, but they do deal with very different aspects of the
topic. One question from Colburn and Henriques had a fair level of
correlation with Rutledge & Warden.
Using SPSS, an inter-item correlation was run to determine the
Cronbachs Alpha reliability assessment. Both the standardized alpha and
the unstandardized alpha were the same (.95). This is a very high indicator
of internal consistency and reliability (Morgan, Leech, Gloeckner, & Barrett,
2004). This reliability estimate was performed for the nine questions from
Rutledge & Warden (2000) that specifically address evolutionary theory
from a positive perspective.
A similar assessment was run for the nine questions from Rutledge &
Warden (2000) which present evolution as an unsubstantiated theory. The
Cronbachs Alpha was somewhat lower (.91) but still considered very high

(Morgan, et al., 2004). Also, the nine questions from Colburn & Henriques
(2006) which concern the compatibility of religious views and evolution
demonstrate a lower, but still strong Cronbachs Alpha of .82. These results
indicate a high level of internal reliability for this dataset.
External Validity
There were 11,894 e-mail invitations successfully sent out to
teachers across the country. The 1,758 responses to the survey represents
a response rate of 14.9%. Kaplowitz, Hadlock, & Levine (2004) suggest that
a response rate for an internet survey of this type might anticipate a
response of 20.7%. However, Sheehan (2001) found that response rates
for internet-based surveys are declining, but the decline is in inverse
exponential decrease. Projecting forward from the Sheehan 2001 study to
this current research, the response rate would be expected to be around
15%, or equivalent to the response rate obtained in this study.
As part of the planning for the study, it was estimated that high
school science teachers make up approximately 3.2% of all the public
school teachers in a state. This number is an estimate based on the total
number of teachers identified on state department of education websites
and estimating the number of high school science teachers that would

make up a subgroup population. Estimates were based on 2007 statistics.
Table 4.2 depicts the numbers used for this estimate. With an average of
Table 4.2 Estimate of expected high school science teachers
State No. Of Expected Science Percent
Teachers HS Science Teachers Expected
Found to Found
Alabama 39,752 1,291 1,216 94%
Alaska 8,902 289 244 84%
Arizona 45,964 1,494 1,120 75%
Arkansas 33,578 1,091 796 73%
Colorado 49,383 1,605 1,415 88%
Delaware 8,810 286 182 64%
Hawaii 11,270 366 202 55%
Iowa 28,243 918 1,072 117%
Maine 17,168 558 578 104%
Nevada 22884 744 449 60%
New Hampshire 15,289 497 559 112%
North Dakota 9,292 302 247 82%
South Carolina 49,197 1,599 1,486 93%

State No. Of Expected Science Percent
Teachers HS Science Teachers Expected
Found to Found
Vermont 12,051 392 319 81%
Washington 53,901 1,752 1,450 83%

Table 4.2 (Cont.)
State No. Of Expected Science Percent
Teachers HS Science Teachers Expected
Found to Found
West Virginia 20,318 660 423 64%
Wisconsin 59,796 1,943 737 38%
Wyoming 6,913 225 116 52%
Average 79%
79% of expected science teachers being found, this is an indicator that the
targeted population has been adequately accessed. This accessibility and
the response rate discussed earlier are both indicators of medium to high
external validity for the survey.
Working with Variables
A correlation matrix of the Rutledge & Warden and Colburn &
Henriques survey questions is presented in Appendix F. Out of 406
possible correlations, 389, or 95.8%, were statistically significant to the .05
level. 153 of them (37.7%) had a Pearson correlation coefficient (absolute

value) greater than .500. With this much strong correlation in responses, it
was determined that the responses should be able to be combined to
produce a representation of the relationship between religious belief and
scientific interpretation, or worldview. Two computations were designed to
provide a comparison of beliefs: the CREATIONIST (creationist) variable
and the NATURALIST (non-creationist) variable.
Computing the CREATIONIST Variable
In order to seek an answer to the primary research question What
effect does a science teachers personal beliefs have on the choices he or
she articulates about how to teach origins topics in public high school
science classrooms the personal beliefs of the individual had to be
considered. The first group to be established would be those teachers who
tend to lean toward a belief system that embraces an interpretation of the
Bible that approaches the beliefs of a biblical creationist. By definition, this
could be those who believe the Bible calls for a young-earth interpretation
of scientific inquiry but also includes those who believe God directly created
life and organisms within the broader time of standard scientific
interpretation (old-earth and universe). For brevity, the CREATIONIST
variable is intended to encompass the gamut of beliefs, both young-earth
and old-earth, held by biblical creationists.

The CREATIONIST variable was computed through a combination of
twenty-six of the twenty-nine questions from the Rutledge & Warden and
Colburn & Henriques surveys. The starting point for the computation was
question 10 from Rutledge & Warden. The question stated, The age of the
earth is less than 20,000 years. Since the generally accepted value for the
age of the earth is 4.6 billion years, science teachers who selected either
Agee or Somewhat agree would likely fall into the creationist category.
6.3% of the respondents agreed with this statement with an additional 5.3%
stating they neither agree nor disagree. With over 150 science teachers
choosing to respond in this way, this could be seen as an indicator of the
proportion of creationists teaching science. However, allowing for the
possibility of another explanation, the researcher chose to use this question
as a starting point for determining beliefs and develop the CREATIONIST
variable from there.
The response to the young earth question was multiplied by the sum
of the responses to ten other survey questions. Table 4.3 lists the questions
used for this calculation. These particular questions were used because
they align with assertions frequently made by creationists. A brief review of
the literature from multiple creationist perspectives reveals a general
skepticism toward the scientific validity of evolutionary theory (Behe, M.,

2006; Denton, M 1986; Johnson, P.E., 1993; Ross, H 2006; Sarfati, J. D.,
Table 4.3 Pro-creation questions summed for CREATIONIST calculation
Question Question
3. The theory of evolution is based on speculation and not valid scientific observation and testing. 8. The theory of evolution cannot be correct since it disagrees with the Biblical account of creation.
9. With few exceptions organisms on earth came into existence at about the same time. 13. Organisms exist today in essentially the same form in which they always have.
14. Evolution is not a scientifically valid theory. 15. Much of the scientific community doubts if evolution occurs.
18. Humans exist today in the same form in which they always have. 20. The available evidence is ambiguous as to whether evolution actually occurs.
23. Evolutionary theory conflicts with the Bible and forces people to choose sides. 29. Evolution and God are incompatible.
The next step in the computation of the CREATIONIST variable
involved multiplying the young earth response by the sum of fourteen other
questions from the Rutledge & Warden and Colburn & Henriques surveys.
These questions are represented in Table 4.4.

Table 4.4 Pro-evolution questions summed for CREATIONIST
Question Question
1. Evolution is a scientifically valid theory. 2. Organisms existing today are the result of evolutionary processes that have occurred over millions of years.
4. Modern humans are the product of evolutionary processes which have occurred over millions of years. 5. There is a considerable body of data which supports evolutionary theory.
6. Most scientists accept evolutionary theory to be a scientifically valid theory. 11. The theory of evolution brings meaning to the diverse characteristics and behaviors observed in living things.
12. Evolutionary theory generates testable predictions with respect to the characteristics of life. 16. Current evolutionary theory is the result of sound scientific research and methodology.
17. Evolutionary theory is supported by factual, historical, and laboratory data. 19. The age of the earth is approximately 4-5 billion years.
21.1 think there is little or no conflict between the scientific theory of evolution and Christianity. 22. Evolution is in some way part of Gods overall plan.
24. Acceptance of evolution and belief in God can coexist 26. Science is neutral toward religion (by definition, science usually neither supports nor rejects religious ideas)

The purpose of this computation was to reduce the value of the
CREATIONIST variable for those individuals who selected a young age for
the earth but provided choices in support of most other aspects of
evolutionary theory. This, in effect, filtered out those individuals whose
answers would not be consistent with a typical creationist response. The
results of the second calculation were subtracted from the first to produce
the final CREATIONIST value for each respondent. The maximum possible
value for this calculation is 236 ((5 x (5 x 10) (1 x (1 x 14)) and the lowest
possible value is -340. Teacher respondents to the survey had scores
ranging from 165 to -240. Figure 4.1 illustrates the method and result of the
CREATIONIST variable calculation. Respondent scores are depicted in
Figure 4.2.

Computation of CREATIONIST Variable
Disagree Somewhat Disagree Neither agree nor disagree Somewhat agree Agree
1 2 5 4 " 5
Bl LOW Acceptance of Evolution
(l5/xj[l5c+15/i+15i+15M+15/i+15p+15r+15i 4 Ylc+YJi )
between Bible
and Science
-(l5jfx I5a+15b+l5d+15e+15f+15k+15t+15p+15q+l5s
HIGH Acceptance of Evolution
Perceive little Overlap
between Bible and
Maximum Possible : (5 x (5 x 10))(l x(l x 14))=236
Minimum Possible: (l x (l x 10))(5 x (5 x 14)) = -340
Actual Value Range

Computing the NATURALIST Variable
While the CREATIONIST variable was computed based on an individuals
views of evolutionary theory, the NATURALIST variable was computed
through a combination of views on evolution and respondents identification
of their lack of belief in a supernatural deity. The multiplier factor for this
variable was based on the response to the question Regardless of whether
or not you attend religious services, do you consider yourself Protestant,

Roman Catholic, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, atheist, agnostic or what? Based
on the self-described responses provided, the researcher assigned each
individual to one of three categories: Religious, Unsure of Religion, or Not
Religious, with Religious bearing a value of 1 and Not Religious bearing a
value of 3. This value was multiplied by the sum of thirteen pro-evolution
statements. The ten Rutledge & Warden questions are the same as those
used for the subtractors in the CREATIONIST calculation, but the Colburn &
Henriques questions are different than those used for the CREATIONIST
calculation. These questions are represented in Table 4.5.
Table 4.5 Pro-evolution questions summed for NATURALIST calculation
Question Question
1. Evolution is a scientifically valid theory. 2. Organisms existing today are the result of evolutionary processes that have occurred over millions of years.
4. Modern humans are the product of evolutionary processes which have occurred over millions of years. 5. There is a considerable body of data which supports evolutionary theory.
6. Most scientists accept evolutionary theory to be a scientifically valid theory. 11. The theory of evolution brings meaning to the diverse characteristics and behaviors observed in living things.

Table 4.5 (Cont.)
12. Evolutionary theory generates testable predictions with respect to the characteristics of life. 16. Current evolutionary theory is the result of sound scientific research and methodology.
17. Evolutionary theory is supported by factual, historical, and laboratory data. 19. The age of the earth is approximately 4-5 billion years.
23. Evolutionary theory conflicts with the Bible and forces people to choose sides. 26. Science is neutral toward religion (by definition, science usually neither supports nor rejects religious ideas)
29. Evolution and God are incompatible.
The next step in computing the NATURALIST variable involved multiplying
the reverse of the religious types (Not Religious =1, Religious =3) by the
responses to nine anti-evolution and pro-religion questions. These
questions are represented in Table 4.6. The final NATURALIST variable
was calculated by subtracting this second calculation from the first one.
This produced a value which could range from a maximum value of 186 ((3
x (5 x 13) (1 x (1 x 9)) to a minimum value of -122 ((1 x (1 x 13) (3 x (5 x
9)). Actual values for respondents ranged from a maximum of 186 to a
minimum of -89. Figure 4.3 illustrates the calculation of the NATURLIST
variable, and the range of scores for this variable is depicted in Figure 4.4.

Table 4.6 Anti-evolution/pro-religion questions summed for
NATURALIST calculation
Question Question
3. The theory of evolution is based on speculation and not valid scientific observation and testing. 7. The theory of evolution is incapable of being scientifically tested.
8. The theory of evolution cannot be correct since it disagrees with the Biblical account of creation. 9. With few exceptions organisms on earth came into existence at about the same time.
10. The age of the earth is less than 20,000 years. 14. Evolution is not a scientifically valid theory.
20. The available evidence is ambiguous as to whether evolution actually occurs. 21.1 think there is little or no conflict between the scientific theory of evolution and Christianity.
22. Evolution is in some way part of Gods overall plan

Computation of NATURALIST Variable
Disagree Somewhat Disagree Neither agree nor disagree Somewhat agree Agree
1 2 \ 4 5
Y LN=3
HIGH Acceptance of Evolution
Perceive Great Conflict
between Bible anti
(26J?x i5a+15*+15 (26Vx (I5c+15^+l5/i+15i+15 y+15n+15f 17a+17fr|
LOW Acceptance of Evolution
Perceive No
Conflict between
Bible and Science
Maximum Possible : (3 x(5xl3)) (l x(l x9))= 186
Minimum Possible: (l x (l x 13 ))(3 x (5 x 9))=-122
Actual Value Range

In the case of both the NATURALIST and the CREATIONIST
variables, teachers identified as such simply fall on a continuum of scores
based on the described calculations. The teachers at the extreme ends of
the continuum were chosen for comparison in this study. Approximately
thirteen percent of the teachers were selected to be identified with each
group. A break in the score calculation was used as the final determinant of
the group cutoff point. Interestingly, the plateaus occurring on the left side
of the graph in Fig. 4.4 mark the reported religious beliefs of the

respondents. The first plateau, at the extreme left represent the teachers
who chose the word atheist to describe their religious beliefs, while the
second plateau represents those who preferred the term agnostic to
describe their religious beliefs. Both of these groups make up the main
components of the NATURALIST variable. The geographic distribution of
both the identified CREATIONISTS AND NATURALISTS is displayed in
Appendix E.
Computing the POLREL Variable
One other variable was calculated to represent a combination of
political views and religious views. The respondents were asked to describe
their political leanings by selecting one or more terms from a list
(Democrat, Republican, Independent, Conservative, Liberal, Moderate,
Other specified). A combination of this information and the previously
determined religious types produced nine groups of respondents:
Non-religious democrat
Unsure religious democrat
Religious democrat
Non-religious republican
Unsure religious republican

Religious republican
Non-religious independent
Unsure religious independent
Religious independent
This variable was used as part of the examination of the relationship of
beliefs and scientific information.
Findings from the Data
The research question, again, is What effect does a science
teachers personal beliefs have on the choices he or she articulates about
how to teach origins topics in public high school science classrooms? Out
of this question comes the necessity of examining the beliefs about how the
world works. The NATURALIST and CREATIONIST variables describe one
aspect of these beliefs. Other aspects that were measured in the project
survey relate to educational background and political affiliation. These will
be examined in this section.
Another part of the research question concerns choices a teacher
reports about teaching origins topics in science classrooms. Origins can be
very much tied to ones beliefs as well. Several of the open-ended
questions in the survey enabled teachers to express how they would

hypothetically discuss some of these issues with their students. Specifically,
survey questions 14, 24, 25, and 31 (See Appendix B) address these types
of situations and they will be examined at the end of this section.
Examining Aspects of Beliefs
Once beliefs were established, the next task was to examine
relationships between the beliefs. For example, is there a difference in
political affiliation for Naturalists and Creationists? In order to answer this
question a chi-square statistical test was performed on the survey data.
Standard chi-square assumptions of sample independence and expected
frequencies were checked and met. The Pearson chi-square results for
identified Naturalists and Creationists (x2 = 89.19, df= 2, N= 381, p < .001)
shows that there is a significant difference in political affiliation for the two
belief structures. Naturalists are more likely to be Democrats and
Creationists are more likely to be Republicans. Eta, which indicates the
strength of the association between the two variables, is .484 and, thus, the
effect size is considered to be much larger than is typical, according to
Cohen (1988).
Performing a similar comparison of belief and highest degree
attained (%2 = 17.11, df= 5, N= 380, p < .005), it was found that Naturalists

tend to have higher degrees than Creationists. However, with an eta value
of .212, Cohen (1988) indicates that this is a smaller than typical effect size.
The terminal degrees identified in the Creationists had counts that were
lower than are statistically expected, so these results should be read with
caution. Similarly, a chi-square examination of belief and content major (%2
= 29.37, df= 3, N = 374, p < .001) indicated that Naturalists tend to have
degrees related to the life sciences. There was no particular trend apparent
for Creationists. Eta for these results is .280, which is typical (Cohen, 1988).
Examining Hypothetical Discussions with Students
Question 14
Question 14 of the survey asked teachers to describe the most
controversial topic they have to (or have had to in the past) teach. The topic
was defined as one deemed controversial by them, their students, or their
community. Prior to this question, no specific content topic (such as
evolution or creation) had been mentioned. The only other reference to the
content of the survey was on the invitation web page (See Appendix A) in
which teachers were informed that the study was designed to learn more
about curricular choices that science educators make in relation to their
own personal beliefs, worldviews, and cultural influences. It was hoped that
teachers would not be influenced to identify any particular topic.

The responses of the Naturalists and the Creationists were compared using
the quasi-statistical qualitative analysis methods of word count and keyword
in context (Miles & Huberman, 1994). A visual representation of the word
choice frequencies are depicted in Figures 4.5 and 4.6. These word
clouds were generated from the Wordle website ( This
site automatically removes frequently used English words (e.g. the, and, of,
is, etc.). The size of the word in the graphic represents the relative
frequency of use of that word.
The scale of each graphic is automatically generated by the website,
so the size of a word in one graphic is not necessarily comparable to the
size of the word in the other graphic. Words mentioned six times or more
are listed in the chart accompanying each graphic, and two words
mentioned in the original question (controversial and topic) were removed
from the frequency chart. Note that in both cases, evolution was by far the
topic considered most controversial by both Naturalists and Creationists.
Global warming and the Big Bang also appeared high in both lists.
Interestingly, Earth age appeared on the Naturalist list twice as frequently -
eight occurrences as it did on the Creationist list four occurrences. This
is interesting because the Creation perspective is often times associated
with arguments against an old earth or universe, but it did not appear as
frequently in the Creationist list of controversial topics.

g|obal a5,^
$*n Theory
c ~ *
1 i i 3 -- * co I r~7 ** - ;

evolution 117
Global 22
Bang 21
Big 21
warming 21
Theory i5
science 13
students 12
Earth 10
age 8
Change 8_
Climate 8
Universe 7
i geologic 6
i human 6
i Sex 6
Stem 6

.Theory §

ii co
Evolution 99
Global 14

Question 24
This question asked the teachers how they would respond to a student who
felt that accepting the tenets of the scientific theory of evolution meant
giving up their belief in God or Christianity. Figures 4.7 and 4.8 illustrate the
word cloud and word frequency of the Naturalist and Creationist responses
to this question. In presenting the word clouds for this question, the text of
all the Naturalist (and Creationist) responses was used. Four words which
appeared in the original question were omitted from the cloud and the
frequency list (evolution, belief, God, and Christianity). However, the
researcher chose, after several iterations of the cloud, to leave the word
theory in the cloud and frequency list, even though it was also a main
conceptual word from the original question. This word appeared much more
frequently in the Creationist responses (132 times) than in the Naturalist
responses (38 times).

__ v/Jui
qj evidence
sis o .5 (* £
V a. ~

theory 132
student 69
Believe 62
science 49
need 44
based 43
beliefs 37
tell 37
all 35
make 34
up 34
will 32
explain 31
decision 30
faith 30
evidence 28
understand 28
give 26
other 26
both 24
creation 24
encourage 24
one 24
theories 24
world 24
Figure 4.8 FREQUE
relationship VVOr Cl *11 TT
31 | f\ ffifcrawMM
aIsotrvUSeagree *
I evolutionary

Without exception, the occurrence of the word theory in the
Naturalist responses was simply as an identifying noun, as in the theory of
evolution, atomic theory, genetic theory, etc. There were no qualifiers or
discussion of the meaning of the term. In contrast, 25 of the Creationist
responses (including 37 uses of the word theory) used it in such a way as
to raise the question of the meaning of the word. These individuals made
statements such as
... the concept of evolution is a theory and not a
proven fact...
Evolution will stay a theory so long as it is not
parsimonious and not repeatable and not consistent
in explaining anomalies. It falls short on three
important tests.
.. .question the feeble chain of ideas that lead to the
theory of evolution. The second law of
thermodynamics disproves the basic fundamental
tenets of evolution.
I would encourage a student to have stronger
adherence to their religious beliefs which (should)
influence daily living over a theory that may or may

not be true and doesn't have much relevancy toward
daily living.
... I would discuss the difference between a theory
and a law, and explain that evolution was a theory
.. .the theory of evolution should really be called the
hypothesis of evolution. Until there is undeniable,
concrete proof of evolution as a truth, it should not be
considered to be a theory.
I would remind the student that evolution is a theory
that takes more faith to believe in than God or
The actual theory of evolution conflicts with common
sense... this makes it hard not to conflict with other
A scientific theory must by definition be testable
evolution does not have that characteristic at best it
can be classified as an interesting conjecture.
...a more important question is, "Are students having
a fair teaching of evolution as a theory and not a fact

and are they not ostracized if they do not embrace the
evolutionary theory, as I have seen in higher
There was a strong emphasis on evolution as being just a theory. These
teachers indicate that they would tell students to hold evolutionary theory as
tentative and to not let it interfere with their faith.
While the NATURALIST group did not question the term theory,
they did tend to respond to the question in three primary ways: 1)
Encourage the student to learn about evolution without accepting it; 2) Point
out that others have been able to successfully blend faith and science; 3)
Try to convince the student of the strength of evolutionary theory.
Additionally, a few of the NATURALIST group responded in ways that fall
outside of these categories. Following is a brief discussion of each of these
Encourage the student to learn about evolution without accepting it
These responses tended to emphasize that the teachers role is not to
change someones belief but simply to teach the curriculum. Some
examples of the responses are

I would simply tell them, that it is not my goal to
change their beliefs in anyway in fact they don't have
to believe anything I say. But in order to be educated
and make decisions they must learn about evolution.
Science is subjecting belief to rigorously applied
scientific method. It's not what you know, but how
you know it. If you are not willing to subject your view
of the universe to scientific scrutiny, that's fine. Just
learn it for the test.
I would never ask a student to give up their religious
beliefs for my class, all I ask is that you listen to the
evidence with an open mind. Even if you choose not
to accept the conclusions drawn by scientists it is still
important for you to know the concept of evolution
even if only to create a valid argument for
I would be sorry if that was upsetting for the student,
but for the purposes of my class, making this decision
is not necessary. The student would only need to
understand the tenets of evolution, not accept them.