Evolution has historically been a topic in biology that is fraught with controversy, and a conflict between religion and evolution is often assumed. If students perceive that evolution is in conflict with their religious beliefs, it can have negative ramifications for their learning of evolution and attitudes toward science. However, religion and evolution have been argued to be compatible. An instructor can incorporate a discussion of this compatibility into their teaching, but the impact of this on students' perceptions of compatibility is still unknown. In this study, we describe a two-week module on evolution with embedded discussion about compatibility between religion and evolution. We surveyed introductory biology students before and after this evolution module about whether they thought evolution and religion could be compatible. We found that the evolution module reduced the number of students who perceived a conflict between evolution and religion by 50 percent. Unexpectedly, perceived conflict between religion and evolution was reduced for both religious and nonreligious students. These results indicate that how instructors present a module on evolution can have an impact on student perceptions of compatibility between religion and evolution.
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Vol. 79 • No. 2