What Do My Classmates Think About Evolution? What Do Scientists Believe About Religion?

Written by Kelly A. Hogan, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Learning Outcomes:

– To appreciate that there are three major views on evolution

– To correct the misconception that one has to choose between science and religion

Activity Description: Students are polled using a national Gallup poll question regarding evolution. After looking at class data, they are shown national data using the same poll question and asked to draw some conclusions. Lastly, data will be presented to engage students in a prediction followed by a discussion about science vs. religion.

Time Needed: At least 15-20 minutes, depending on time devoted to discussion

Materials Needed: None

Activity Instructions:

1. Ask them a poll question: Ideally, this is done with clickers so that the results are anonymous to the class. In a small class, voting on paper would work too.

Which most closely resembles your current belief system?

A. God created man pretty much in his present form at one time within the last 10,000 years.

B. Man has developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process, including man’s creation.

C. Man has developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life. God had no part in this process.

2. Ask the students to compare the class results with national results. Ask them to comment on the similarity or difference.

3. Ask the students what is different about the class compared to the population polled?

(The class is younger and at a college education level.  The poll would have included young and old with various degrees.)

Next show them more data and ask them to make some conclusions.

(The creationist view decreases with a rise in education level; the theistic and naturalistic views rise with a rise in education level.)

4. Ask them if religion and science are incompatible. If this question was asked to scientists, what do they predict would be the outcome? After their predictions, show them the data below and ask again if science and religion are incompatible.

5. Discuss the misconception that a belief in science excludes a belief in religion. This is an important issue because there is much division in the U.S. about this issue.

a. Th eBerkeley website about evolution is a great place to read more about this:


“Religion and science (evolution) are very different things. In science, only natural causes are used to explain natural phenomena, while religion deals with beliefs that are beyond the natural world. The misconception that one always has to choose between science and religion is incorrect. Of course, some religious beliefs explicitly contradict science (e.g., the belief that the world and all life on it was created in six literal days); however, most religious groups have no conflict with the theory of evolution or other scientific findings. In fact, many religious people, including theologians, feel that a deeper understanding of nature actually enriches their faith. Moreover, in the scientific community there are thousands of scientists who are devoutly religious and also accept evolution.”

b. Additionally, the director of the NIH Francis Collins, one of the most influential scientists in the U.S., has been quite outspoken on this issue. He believes that God created life through evolution (and he rejects intelligent design and creationsim). However, Collins chose to use the term BioLogos because of the association of evolution with atheism that occurs in some religious communities. His book, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (Free Press, 2006), spent many weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

c. Statements from Religious Organizations: http://ncse.com/media/voices/religion

PowerPoint Presentation: What Do My Classmates Think? PowerPoint Presentation