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1 November 2007 Natural History Museum Visitors' Understanding of Evolution
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Abstract

Natural history museums are the principal repositories of the collections that represent much of the objective evidence for evolution. With approximately 50 million visitors annually, US natural history museums can significantly influence the public's understanding of evolution. Here we present the results of a study that investigated the knowledge of key evolutionary concepts exhibited by high-school students and adults who visited natural history museums. Ninety-five percent of the study participants understood relative geological time (superposition), but only 30 percent explained biological change (microevolution) in terms of natural selection, and 11 percent explicitly rejected evolution. In general, museum visitors have an incomplete understanding of evolutionary concepts. For example, while participants have a good understanding that fossils represent evidence for evolution, they have a poor understanding of the mechanisms of evolution. Natural history museums can foster visitors' understanding of evolution by integrating this content—particularly concepts that are difficult to understand—throughout all relevant exhibits and public programs.

BRUCE J. MacFADDEN, BETTY A. DUNCKEL, SHARI ELLIS, LYNN D. DIERKING, LINDA ABRAHAM-SILVER, JIM KISIEL, and JUDY KOKE "Natural History Museum Visitors' Understanding of Evolution," BioScience 57(10), 875-882, (1 November 2007). https://doi.org/10.1641/B571010
Published: 1 November 2007
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