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The Relationships Between Paranormal Belief, Creationism, Intelligent Design and Evolution at Secondary Schools in Vienna (Austria)


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The present study is the first to investigate the relationships between a multiple set of paranormal beliefs and the acceptance of evolution, creationism, and intelligent design, respectively, in Europe. Using a questionnaire, 2,129 students at secondary schools in Vienna (Austria) answered the 26 statements of the Revised Paranormal Belief Scale (R-PBS) and three statements about naturalistic evolution, creationism and intelligent design (ID). The investigated Austrian students showed an average R-PBS score of 82.08, more than 50% of them agreed with naturalistic evolution, 28% with creationism, and more than a third agreed with ID, the latter two closely correlated with each other. Females generally showed higher belief scores in the paranormal, creationism and ID. The agree-ment with naturalistic evolution correlated negatively with religious belief, but not with other paranormal beliefs, whereas the two non-scientific alternatives to evolution signifi-cantly correlated with both traditional and paranormal beliefs. Religious belief showed a significant positive correlation with other paranormal beliefs. All subscales of paranormal belief decreased during the eight grades of secondary school, as did acceptance of crea-tionism and ID. However, the acceptance of naturalistic evolution did not correlate with age or grade. Possible reasons and implications for science education and the biology curriculum at Austrian secondary schools are discussed.
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The Relationships Between Paranormal Belief,
Creationism, Intelligent Design and Evolution
at Secondary Schools in Vienna (Austria)
Erich Eder
Katharina Turic
Norbert Milasowszky
Katherine Van Adzin
Andreas Hergovich
Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010
Abstract The present study is the first to investigate the relationships between a multiple
set of paranormal beliefs and the acceptance of evolution, creationism, and intelligent
design, respectively, in Europe. Using a questionnaire, 2,129 students at secondary schools
in Vienna (Austria) answered the 26 statements of the Revised Paranormal Belief Scale
(R-PBS) and three statements about naturalistic evolution, creationism and intelligent
design (ID). The investigated Austrian students showed an average R-PBS score of 82.08,
more than 50% of them agreed with naturalistic evolution, 28% with creationism, and more
than a third agreed with ID, the latter two closely correlated with each other. Females
generally showed higher belief scores in the paranormal, creationism and ID. The agree-
ment with naturalistic evolution correlated negatively with religious belief, but not with
other paranormal beliefs, whereas the two non-scientific alternatives to evolution signifi-
cantly correlated with both traditional and paranormal beliefs. Religious belief showed a
significant positive correlation with other paranormal beliefs. All subscales of paranormal
belief decreased during the eight grades of secondary school, as did acceptance of crea-
tionism and ID. However, the acceptance of naturalistic evolution did not correlate with
age or grade. Possible reasons and implications for science education and the biology
curriculum at Austrian secondary schools are discussed.
E. Eder (&) N. Milasowszky
Department of Evolutionary Biology, University of Vienna, UZA-I Althanstraße 14, 1090 Vienna,
K. Turic
GRG 12, Erlgasse 32-34, 1120 Vienna, Austria
K. Van Adzin
Wellesley College, 106 Central Street, Wellesley, MA 02481, USA
A. Hergovich
Department of Psychological Basic Research, University of Vienna, Liebiggasse 5, 1010 Vienna,
Sci & Educ
DOI 10.1007/s11191-010-9327-y
1 Introduction
Paranormal belief in its various forms has always been a common phenomenon not only
among adults, but also especially in adolescents. Neutrally defined, paranormal beliefs
‘transcend the explanatory power of mainstream science’ (Gray 1991, p. 7), because
‘paranormal phenomena, if genuine, would violate basic limiting principles of science’
(Broad 1953, p. 44). Popular trends of superstitious and other supernatural beliefs are
widespread among children and teens (Harder 2001), to whom a senseless and chaotic
world might feel especially frightening. The rituals of both traditional religion and
superstition appear to provide a certain comfort (Gorsuch 1988; Emmons and Paloutzian
2003), particularly under suboptimal living conditions (Schiemann 2010). Scientific
thinking does not provide the same feeling of security with regard to individual fate, but
ultimately provides a higher degree of insight into and predictability of the world’s
We assert that science education is the natural antagonist of any form of paranormal
belief (Martin 1994; Martin-Hansen 2008; Matthews 2009). For example, astrology, for-
tune telling, or psychokinesis fundamentally violate the laws of physics, and we expect that
students’ belief in these ideas decreases after having understood the principles of science.
A scientific, naturalistic worldview emerges not only without supernatural explanations,
but is fundamentally contradicted by them (Martin-Hansen 2008; for a thorough review of
scientific implications on supernatural claims see Fishman 2009).
The secondary school years span the pupils’ transition from childhood to adulthood, and
are therefore formative in terms of either their adherence to paranormal beliefs or their use
of scientific reasoning and independent critical thinking (Kuhn 1999). Therefore it is of
particular interest to determine whether or not paranormal belief decreases during the years
of secondary school. Austrian secondary school starts after primary school at an age of
approximately 10 years with grade 5, and ends after grade 12 with a final examination
called ‘‘Matura’’ (equivalent to the German ‘‘Abitur’’) for admission to university. In 2009,
more than 82% of all Austrians between the ages of 25 and 34 have at least passed this final
examination (Schwabe and Radinger 2010). A study at secondary school level can
therefore provide broad insight into the opinions of Austria’s younger generation, as well
as a rough forecast of the next decades’ opinion spectrum.
So far, no systematic evaluation of paranormal beliefs among Austrian children and
teenagers exists. The only tested group were university students (Hergovich and Arendasy
2005; Hergovich et al. 2005), using the Paranormal Belief Scale (PBS) developed by
Tobacyk and Milford (1983). Recent studies on paranormal belief in Europe were made in
Iceland (Haraldsson and Houtkooper 1996; Thalbourne and Hensley 2001), Germany
(Thalbourne and Houtkooper 2002), the U.K. (Huntley and Peeters 2005), and Finland
(Lindeman and Aarnio 2006, 2007). A comprehensive overview on the research status in
Europe is given by Hergovich (2005).
2009 was the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species. It was therefore
of special interest to us to gauge students’ acceptance of naturalistic evolution, and to
check if alternative explanations such as creationism (a supernatural explanation of life on
earth) or intelligent design (ID, a pseudoscientific variation of creationism; Pennock 2003)
were correlated with paranormal beliefs. As with paranormal belief, it seems reasonable to
expect that belief in creationism and ID would decrease between grades 5 and 12 due to
increasing knowledge of biology, and the acceptance of natural evolution should increase.
In 2002 and 2005, a large survey compared the public acceptance of evolution in 32
European countries, Japan, and the USA (Miller et al. 2006). In 2002, one third of the
E. Eder et al.
Austrian respondents fully agreed with the statement ‘Human beings, as we know them,
developed from earlier species of animals’’, another third considered the statement as
‘probably true’’, and less than 20% denied the existence of evolution. Three years later, the
overall agreement with the above statement had fallen from two thirds to less than 60%,
while almost 30% of respondents denied evolution. In 2009, a large oral opinion survey
about the Austrians’ attitude towards creationism and evolution asked participants ‘what
should be taught at Austrian schools?’ Only 50% agreed with a naturalistic definition
about the ‘origin of the world’’, while 21% advocated creationism (GfK Austria 2009).
Both the development of paranormal belief and/or acceptance of evolution, creationism
and ID during 8 years at secondary school could inform new aims and purposes of science
education as well as its efficacy.
Several previous studies confirmed the obvious relationship between creationism, ID,
and religiosity.
Others found a positive correlation between religiosity and ‘‘superstitious’
paranormal belief.
This suggests an investigation of the so far unidentified relationships
between attitudes about evolution/creationism/ID and paranormal beliefs, respectively.
With the present study, we aim to examine the following questions:
1. How strong are different supernatural beliefs among Austrian secondary school
students, and are there gender differences?
2. How many students agree with naturalistic evolution, with creationism, and intelligent
design, respectively?
3. Do the opinions about evolution/creationism/ID correlate with paranormal beliefs?
4. Do students’ attitudes change towards scientific thinking between grades 5 and 12; i.e.
does the agreement with evolution increase, whereas paranormal beliefs and the
agreement with creationism/ID decrease?
2 Materials and Methods
2.1 Survey Participants
In a preparation phase, before performing the study on a large scale, we interviewed 316
students belonging to 18 different secondary schools (two of them outside Vienna) in the
street, where we asked 30 of them for detailed feedback about the questionnaire to ensure
that each statement was well understood by the students. According to these interviews and
the preliminary statistical analysis (N = 316), minor changes were made in translation and
layout to improve the questionnaire for the large-scale survey. Subsequently, ten secondary
schools voluntarily participated in the main phase our study, each located in a different
Viennese district, altogether providing a representative cross section of secondary schools
in Vienna.
A total of 2,166 students answered our questionnaires; 37 of them were excluded due to
a large number of missing, double, or obvious hoax answers (e.g. zigzag patterns), which
resulted in a final number of 2,129 participating students.
See Shankar (1989), Bishop and Anderson (1990), Scharman and Harris (1992), Shankar and Skoog
See Haraldsson (1981), Irwin (1985), Svensen et al. (1992), Goode (2000), Orenstein (2002), Thalbourne
(2003), Hergovich et al. (2005).
Paranormal Belief, Creationism, Intelligent Design and Evolution
2.2 Questionnaire
Our questionnaires consisted of the revised Paranormal Belief Scale (R-PBS) by Tobacyk
(2004, see Appendix 1) in German translation (available at
Tobacyk (2004) defined the following subscales: ‘Traditional Religious Belief’ = -
Mean of Items (1, 8, 15, 22); ‘‘Psi’ = Mean of Items (2, 9, 16, 23); ‘‘Witchcraft’ = Mean
of Items (3, 10, 17, 24); ‘Superstition’ = Mean of Items (4, 11, 18); ‘Spiritual-
ism’ = Mean of Items (5, 12, 19, 25); ‘Extraordinary Life Forms’ = Mean of Items (6,
13, 20); ‘Precognition’ = Mean of Items (7, 14, 21, 26). For a conversion to the previ-
ously used, five-scaled PBS (Tobacyk and Milford 1983), we used the formula: R-
PBS = 1.5 (PBS - 26) ? 26. For a separation of traditional religiosity from other para-
normal beliefs, we subtracted questions 1, 8, 15, and 22 from R-PBS, which resulted in a
‘cleared’ R-PBS_c (R-PBS without traditional religious belief).
As a measurement for naturalistic evolution (1), creationism (2), and intelligent design
(3), respectively, we used the three following statements (German original, first used by
FOWID 2005):
1. Life on earth has emerged without the influence of any supreme being and has evolved
through a natural developmental process. (Statement ‘evolution’’)
2. God directly created life on earth, including all species, as described in the Bible.
(Statement ‘creationism’’)
3. Life on earth was created by a supreme being (God), and has undergone a long
developmental process directed by this supreme being (God). (Statement ‘ID’’)
Although improvements could be suggested for both the R-PBS
and evolution
statements, we did not change the detailed wording of the statements in order to be able to
compare the results with previous studies. As in Tobacyk (2004), we used a seven-point
Likert scale for all 29 questions, allowing respondents to precisely describe their beliefs (7
strongly agree—6 moderately agree—5 slightly agree—4 uncertain—3 slightly disagree—
2 moderately disagree—1 strongly disagree). To exclude response order effects (Krosnick
and Alwin 1987; McClendon 1991; Lemay et al. 2009) and to avoid copying answers from
neighbouring students, we used three different versions of the questionnaire, with a ran-
domly varied order of the items. Additionally, the following demographic data were col-
lected in the questionnaire: sex, age, grade, and religious denomination. Without any time
pressure, filling in the questionnaires took approximately 10 min, for the lower grades up
to 15 min.
2.3 Statistics
Original data (available at were subjected to principal
components analysis (PCA) using the correlation matrix. Only principal components that
accounted for variances greater than 1 (Kaiser-Guttman criterion) were used to represent
E.g. the ,,life on other planets‘ statement seems not to be a measurement for paranormal belief any more
(cf. Burchell 2009); and Thalbourne (pers. comm. 1991, cit. in Irwin 1993) critically discussed the subscales
defined by Tobacyk and Milford (1983).
The ‘ID’ statement used more accurately represents ‘theistic evolution’’. ID exponents try to evoke
doubts about naturalistic evolution via the ‘‘irreducible complexity’ argument, but usually do not explicitly
define how the actual diversity of organisms came to existence. However, in German speaking countries,
theistic evolution is usually seen as synonymous with ID.
E. Eder et al.
the data. A ‘varimax’ rotation was applied to the retained components to redistribute the
variance among factors to obtain PC scores (James and McCulloch 1990; Norus
is 1990;
Jolliffe 2002). Correlation and regression analyses were used to test the relationships
between the independent variables and the dependent original variables, e.g. between
grades in the three evolution statements and in R-PBS. T-tests were used to test gender
differences in the R-PBS subscales. Chi square tests were used to test differences between
observed and expected values for the evolution statements. All statistical analyses were
performed using SPSS for Windows, Version 11.5 (Norus
is 2002).
3 Results
The 2,129 usable questionnaires were filled in by 1,046 male and 1,083 female secondary
school students. 172 of the students attended grade 5, 226 grade 6, 343 grade 7, 334 grade
8, 293 grade 9, 333 grade 10, 212 grade 11, and 216 grade 12. The most frequent
denomination present was Roman Catholic (1,191), the next largest group was religiously
unaffiliated (342), followed by Muslims (269), Protestants (133), and Serbian Orthodox
(81). Only few students were Greek Orthodox (15) and Jewish (6), or belonged to ‘other
denominations’ (92, not evaluated in detail).
The principal component analysis of our data (see Appendix 2) confirmed the seven
subscales defined by Tobacyk (2004). Seven principal components together explained
63.1% of the total variance.
3.1 Paranormal Belief
The mean total R-PBS score of our sample was 82.08 (SD = 27.55), which corresponds to
a calculated PBS of 63.39. Five years ago, Austrian university students scored higher than
our sample (PBS 71.01 & R-PBS 93.5, Hergovich 2005). Also in the southern United
States, university students scored with a higher PBS of 72.9 (&R-PBS 96.53, Tobacyk and
Milford 1983) and, more recently, with a R-PBS of 89.1 (Tobacyk 2004).
Paranormal belief is associated with gender: females showed a significantly higher
R-PBS score (85.33, SD 25.77) than males (78.65, SD 28.78) (p = 0.0000). This was
mainly due to the subscales ‘traditional religious belief’’, ‘spirituality’’, and, less signif-
icantly, to subscale ‘psi’ and ‘witchcraft’’. No significant difference was found in the
subscales ‘superstition’ and ‘precognition’’. The only subscale showing a higher agree-
ment value in males was ‘extraordinary life forms’’.
3.2 Evolution, Creationism, ID
Little more than half of the students (50.49%, Fig. 1) agreed with evolution (remarkably,
most of them ‘fully’’), 22.45% were uncertain, and 27.05% disagreed. Almost identical
with the number of students disagreeing with evolution, 27.85% agreed with the ‘crea-
tionism’ statement, 18.79% were uncertain, and 53.36% disagreed. More than a third of
the students (34.38%) agreed with the ‘ID’ statement, 24.28% were uncertain, and
41.33% disagreed.
Similarly to paranormal belief, females agreed more strongly with creationism
(p = 0.0123) and ID (p = 0.0000) than males, and males significantly agreed more
strongly with naturalistic evolution (p = 0.0000).
Paranormal Belief, Creationism, Intelligent Design and Evolution
3.3 Paranormal Belief and Evolution/Creationism/ID
The two alternatives to evolution that rely on supernatural forces to explain the nature and
history of the natural world, creationism and ID, correlated positively with paranormal
beliefs (Table 1): both of them were correlated with high statistical significance with the R-
PBS as well as the R-PBS_c (without traditional belief) and the subscale ‘traditional
religious belief’’. The explained variance was highest for the subscale ‘traditional religious
belief’’. For naturalistic evolution, on the other hand, we did not find any significant
correlation with paranormal assumptions—except for a significantly negative correlation
with the subscale ‘traditional religious belief’’, with low effect size, however.
Consequently, we also calculated the relationship between the subscale ‘traditional
religious belief’ and all other paranormal beliefs (‘‘cleared’ R-PBS_c). We found a sig-
nificant positive correlation between traditional religious belief and other paranormal
beliefs (R-PBS_c), explaining approximately 28% of the total variance (Table 1).
Table 1 Crossover correlations of agreement with evolution (EVO), creationism (CREA), intelligent
design (ID), the subscale ‘traditional belief’ (TRAD), and the revised Paranormal Belief Scale, ‘cleaned’
of traditional belief (R-PBS_c), respectively. Pearson’s r = correlation coefficient, r
= coefficient of
determination, N = 2129
EVO Pearson’s r -0.31 -0.34 -0.29 -0.04
0.10 0.12 0.08 0.00
p 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000 0.0886
CREA Pearson’s r 0.59 0.60 0.33
0.34 0.36 0.11
p 0.0000 0.0000 0.0000
ID Pearson’s r 0.65 0.36
0.43 0.13
p 0.0000 0.0000
TRAD Pearson’s r 0.53
p 0.0000
Fig. 1 Overall agreement with the statements ‘evolution’’, ‘creationism’’, and ‘ID’ (N = 2,129). Black
segments: agreement (agreement scores 5–7), grey: uncertain (score 4), white: disagreement (scores 1–3).
There is statistical evidence that the observed distribution of the agreement data is different from an
expected random distribution (X
= 7.558, p = 0.0023)
E. Eder et al.
3.4 Development from Grade 5–12
Paranormal belief decreased significantly with rising grade (linear regression analysis,
p = 0.000, Fig. 2a). In grade 5, total R-PBS score was 91.28 (SD = 25.14), and decreased
continuously until 74.81 (SD = 27.28) in grade 12. Similarly, the single subscales
decreased over the 8 years of secondary school: there were highly significant differences in
the subscales ‘traditional religious belief’ (p = 0.000, r
= 0.013), ‘psi’ (p = 0.000,
= 0.011), ‘superstition’ (p = 0.000, r
= 0.056), ‘extraordinary life forms’
(p = 0.000, r
= 0.012), ‘precognition’ (p = 0.000, r
= 0.023), significant differences
in ‘‘spiritualism’’ (p = 0.005, r
= 0.004), and no significant differences were found in the
subscale ‘witchcraft’ (p = 0.309, r
= 0.000).
The relationships between school grade and the statements about life on earth are
complex: surprisingly, we could not observe any significant differences in the agreement
with naturalistic evolution among the eight grades of secondary school (p = 0.778,
Fig. 2b). However, there was a highly significant negative correlation between belief in
creationism and grades (p = 0.000, Fig. 2c) as well as between belief in ID and grades
(p = 0.000, Fig. 2d). At grade 12, the median value for ‘creationism’ ended up at 1,
which is the lowest possible value (‘‘strongly disagree’’).
4 Discussion
Regarding paranormal beliefs, Vienna’s secondary school students seem to possess a well-
established critical worldview. Their R-PBS score was relatively low, even compared with
graduate students from the University of Vienna (Hergovich and Arendasy 2005;
Fig. 2 (a) R-PBS score and grade, (b) evolution and grade, (c) creationism and grade, (d) ID and grade.
X-axis shows grade, y-axis shows R-PBS score (a) and Likert scale 1–7 (bd). Black squares indicate mean
values; bars indicate standard deviations (N = 2,129)
Paranormal Belief, Creationism, Intelligent Design and Evolution
Hergovich et al. 2005). More than half of our students agreed with the following state-
ments: ‘I believe in God’’, ‘there is life on other planets’’, ‘the soul continues to exist
though the body may die’’, and ‘life on earth has emerged without the influence of any
supreme being and has evolved through a natural developmental process’’, followed by 821
students who agreed that ‘‘mind reading is not possible’’. This means that among the ‘‘top
five’ statements, there were only two clearly paranormal statements, both of them
belonging to traditional religious belief. ‘‘Life on other planets’ should be considered as an
indicator of scientific curiosity rather than as a paranormal belief, the explicit denial of
mind reading surpassed all paranormal belief statements, and the ‘naturalistic evolution’
statement reached number four of the top five statements of our questionnaire. Never-
theless, no reason to sit back and do nothing.
4.1 Evolution in the Austrian Secondary School Curriculum
With no doubt, evolution is the ‘Ariadne’s thread’ in life science, underlying and
explaining all existing phenomena in biology. However, the idea of this red thread seems to
be missing in the biology curriculum at Austrian secondary schools (BGBl II Nr133 2000;
BGBl II Nr 277 2004).
The subject ‘Biologie und Umweltkunde’ at Austrian secondary schools has to deal
with numerous highly relevant matters, pressed into a maximum of 2 weekly hours. In
particular, the Austrian curriculum emphasizes the topics ‘human body and health’’,
‘animals and plants’’, ‘ecology and environment’ (grades 5–8), and additionally
‘understanding world and nature’ and ‘biology and production’ for grades 9–12. In all
grades, the curriculum is structured around these topics, designated to achieve the fol-
lowing objectives: ‘the students should become familiar with the principles, cycles and
interdependences involved in biology, as well as understand the methods of hypothesizing
and experimenting used in the natural sciences. The students should gain an understanding
of their own bodies so as to foster a sense of responsibility for themselves (acceptance of
their bodies, sexuality and health). The students should recognize and understand the
dependence of humans upon nature and the environment, and be motivated to environ-
mental consciousness and sustainability’’. This list continues, and we did not find a single
objective in it that could be considered unimportant. However, with the discussion of
evolution only intermittently involved in the topics ‘animals and plants’ (grade 7, defined
as ‘the history of development of earth and life, including mankind’’) and ‘understanding
world and nature’ (grade 12, ‘the principles of chemical and biological evolution, evo-
lutionary theories, overview of the course of phylogeny’’), it is left to the teacher’s
responsibility and ability to include evolution as an underlying theme throughout biology.
Most biology textbooks present these topics as isolated subjects, without emphasizing the
connections between them. Evolution is presented as one of these ‘chapters’’, and not as a
continuous explanation of life and nature (for an international comparison, see Skoog
2005). This may be one of the reasons why the agreement with the ‘evolution’’ statement
in our questionnaire did not increase significantly between grades 5 and 12 (Fig. 2b).
However, the belief in the two alternative supernatural explanations of life on earth
decreased significantly within the eight examined grades of secondary school (Fig. 2c, d).
There may be other relevant factors that influenced the students’ agreement to our
‘evolution’ statement. One aspect is upbringing. The opinions of children and teens are
greatly influenced by their parents. As the percentage of pro-evolution respondents in our
study was almost equal to that in Austrian adults (GfK Austria 2009), we suppose that
opinions about the origin of species are borrowed from the parents, similarly to religious
E. Eder et al.
belief (Gorsuch 1988). Familiar convictions are more resistant to environment and school
education than other opinions, and both attitudes in favour of or against evolution may
persist almost unchanged throughout secondary school. Another aspect may be the wording
of the statements. There is, for example, a fundamental difference between the statement
‘Human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of animals’ (Miller
et al. 2006) and ‘Life on earth has emerged without the influence of any supreme being and
has evolved through a natural developmental process’’ (FOWID 2005), while both claim to
represent ‘evolution’’. In the case of our questionnaire, the formulation ‘withoutany
supreme being’ (an exclusion that applies to naturalistic science per definitionem and
makes the crucial difference here between theistic and Darwinian evolution) may have
hindered some religious students who otherwise would have agreed with the general idea
of evolution from accepting this statement.
4.2 Agreement with Evolution: International Comparison
Among 34 countries examined for the agreement with evolution in 2005 (Miller et al.
2006), Austria fell in the last third, while the United States exhibited the second lowest
acceptance of evolution (40%) and surpassed only Turkey. Considering that ‘no European
country has experienced the politicization of the evolution issue that has occurred in the
United States in recent decades’ (Miller et al. 2006, SOM p. 7), it is not surprising that
throughout all studies performed, Austria showed a higher agreement with evolution than
the USA. In Austria, the Roman Catholic Church is predominant, and pope John Paul II
acknowledged Darwin’s theory being ‘more than a hypothesis’ in 1996. In 2007, his
successor Benedikt XVI rejected creationism and acknowledged scientific evidence of
evolution (see Brasseur 2009). However, the position of the Catholic Church is not uni-
form: In 2005, the influential cardinal archbishop of Vienna caused an emotional public
discussion about ID with an article published in the New York Times (Scho
nborn 2005, for
a thorough comment see Junker 2007), a topic that was formerly thought to be specific to
the USA. The ongoing discussions in mass media made ID popular in Austria, as there
were only few scientists who dared to contradict a cardinal archbishop in the public. In
March 2009, the market research company GfK Austria performed a large oral opinion
survey (N = 1,500) about the Austrians’ attitude towards creationism and evolution (GfK
Austria 2009). Informants had, quite similarly to our study, to agree or to disagree with
various statements. However, GfK Austria asked mostly for ‘interests’ instead of beliefs
or opinions, and the questionnaire showed major deficits in the questioner’s understanding
of evolution. For a comparison with our study, the possibly most suitable question in GfK
Austria (2009) was ‘what should be taught at Austrian schools?’ because these answers
most probably reflect the respondents’ own opinions: 50% agreed with a naturalistic
definition about the ‘origin of the world’ (18% disagreed), 21% with creationism (62%
disagreed). There was no question about ‘intelligent design’ in this study. These data
correspond well with the answers of our students (Fig. 1): regarding the naturalistic def-
inition, students showed approximately the same level of agreement as adults, but a
remarkably higher level of disagreement (27%). For creationism, our students showed a
higher agreement than adults (28%) and less disagreement (53%) than adult Austrians.
For Germany, different results in relation to age were shown in a survey about belief in
creationism and agreement with evolution by FOWID (2005): 70.8% of people between
ages 14 and 29 agreed with naturalistic evolution which was more than the percentage of
older people: at an age between 30 and 44, 67.4% agreed with evolution, which decreased
to 48.8% for participants aged over 74. The reason why FOWID (2005) generally received
Paranormal Belief, Creationism, Intelligent Design and Evolution
higher levels of agreement than our study is most probably that choosing one of the three
statements was obligatory, and therefore there were almost no ‘uncertain’ answers. To
compare our data with the FOWID (2005) results, we re-calculated the percentages:
without the answer ‘‘uncertain’’, 65.4% of Austrian students agreed with evolution (61% in
Germany), 34.6% with creationism (12% in Germany), and 44.7% with ID (25.2% in
Germany). For the latter two, there is a considerable overlap in our study (11%), as
students had the option of agreeing with more than one statement. Still, the agreement with
the non-scientific explanations of life on earth was much higher in our data than in the
German study. This might be due to the fact that there is less influence of the Roman
Catholic Church in Germany than in Austria, as there are only 30% Catholics and Prot-
estants each, and 34.1% without religious denomination in Germany (FOWID 2008).
4.3 Evolution and (Paranormal) Belief
Our data show creationism and ID correlating both with religiosity and other paranormal
beliefs. On the other hand, the agreement with evolution correlates negatively with reli-
giosity, but not with other paranormal beliefs. Evolution as a scientific finding interferes
with the creation myth of the Bible (and corresponding verses of the Koran, see Riexinger
2009), and accepting both naturalistic evolution and traditional religious myths requires
either an unorthodox, metaphorical exegesis of the holy scriptures or a strict intellectual
separation of naturalistic science on the one hand and spiritualism on the other. Both ways
of coping with this contradiction seem to be difficult at the age of a secondary school
student, which might explain why so many of them chose ID as a seemingly convincing
alternative, including both a creator and evolution. As outlined by Pennock (2003) and
Perakh (2003) among many others, ID is not the most intellectual solution for the dilemma
science versus belief, as it requires continuous interventions by the ‘intelligent designer’’,
who would have to control each single mutation and recombination to achieve his goals: ID
is no more than a perpetuated creationism. It is therefore no surprise that we found very
high correlations between ID and creationism (explaining 34% of total variance, see
Table 1) and between both of them and traditional religion. ID correlated even more
strongly with the ‘traditional religious belief’ subscale than creationism. Remarkably,
both ID and creationism correlated highly significantly with all other paranormal
assumptions (‘‘R-PBS_c’’, without traditional belief), which identified them as paranormal
concepts. Recent studies discuss the evolutionary advantages of both religion (Bulbulia
2004) and superstition (Foster and Kokko 2009), which paradoxically gives an evolu-
tionary explanation for the popularity of creationism and ID. Other authors found high
paranormal belief to be associated with lower intelligence,
and in this regard, future
research regarding cognitive abilities and the belief in creationism or ID seems a promising
It is obvious that evolution on the one hand and creationism/ID on the other hand
represent contradictory worldviews (cf. Graf 2010), and hardly surprising that they cor-
relate with religious beliefs. However, some German studies claimed not to find any
connection between religion and the agreement with evolution, such as Illner (2000) for
German students of Christian denominations and Demastes et al. (1995). Wandersee et al.
(1995) state that no study so far has succeeded in showing any correlation between reli-
gious belief and the acceptance of evolution. The mentioned studies were long-term
interviews with sample sizes of n = 4 (Demastes et al. 1992, cit. in Wandersee et al. 1995)
See Tobacyk (1984), Wierzbicki (1985), Messer and Griggs (1989), Musch and Ehrenberg (2002).
E. Eder et al.
and n = 5 (Illner 2000), and without any clear methodical exclusion of the interviewer’s
influence on the students. This kind of research may be helpful to understand a single
child’s knowledge or thoughts, but does not justify general conclusions. Other authors
outlined a clear relationship between creationism, ID, and religiosity.
Paranormal and scientific attitudes frequently show a long-term coexistence within a
single person (Lindeman and Aarnio 2006, 2007), a contradiction in terms that is usually
neglected by the individual. Our data show for example that many people simultaneously
believe in God and are convinced that origin and evolution of life on earth happened
without any god, a combination that is not explicitly covered by any doctrine of the
predominant European religions. The inclusion of religious and other paranormal
assumptions in everyday life may seem harmless to the observer, but can lead to wrong
individual (e.g. susceptibility to sects, cf. Abgrall 2000) and political (e.g. susceptibility to
right-wing authoritarianism, cf. Heard and Vyse 1999, Hunsberger et al. 1999) decisions:
‘An ‘all things are equal’ attitude may seem appealing and tolerant, but is in fact dan-
gerous’ (Council of Europe 2007).
4.4 Religion and (Other) Paranormal Beliefs
The differences between religion and other, non-institutionalized, beliefs in the super-
natural may be less than traditionally assumed (Irwin 1993; Rice 2003). The claim that
‘the paranormal is undoubtedly a common characteristic of both religion and parapsy-
chology’ (Hergovich et al. 2005, p. 293) is supported by a significant correlation in our
study, showing traditional religiosity hand in hand with all other subscales of the para-
normal: it seems that one who believes
tends to believe anything.
This contradicts the
hypothesis that esoteric ideas serve as a substitute for religion for those who are not
traditionally religious (Emmons and Sobal 1981; Persinger and Makarec 1990; Beck and
Miller 2001). The so-called substitution theory is not supported by our data, aside from a
few individual exceptions. There were in fact students in our sample to whom the sub-
stitution hypothesis seems to apply due to their simultaneously low adherence to traditional
religious beliefs yet high levels of belief in other aspects of the paranormal. These cases are
rare, however, and our sample contained less than 1%. Almost as rare are non-superstitious
religious persons, who exhibit strong belief in traditional religion but very little belief in
other supernatural claims. We did not ask for regular church attendance in our question-
naire, which could be a possible factor for non-superstitious religiousity (McKinnon 2003).
The majority seems to confirm Blaise Pascal’s saying ‘‘Il y en a beaucoup qui croient, mais
par superstition’ (there are many who believe, but due to superstition; Pense
es IV, 256).
Consequently, a common characteristic of religion and other paranormal beliefs must be
an (at least partial) ignorance or even denial of scientific methods and findings. If not
already falsified in detail (such as astrology: Carlson 1985; von Eye et al. 2003), para-
normal statements either contradict basic principles of nature (such as the first two laws of
thermodynamics) or ignore methodological principles like parsimony or null hypothesis
(e.g. the very improbable existence of a Loch Ness monster). The significant PBS decline
between grades 5 (age 10–11) and 12 (age 17–18) indicates that the more students know
See Shankar (1989), Bishop and Anderson (1990), Scharman and Harris (1992), Shankar and Skoog
i.e. in God.
i.e. any other paranormal ideas.
Paranormal Belief, Creationism, Intelligent Design and Evolution
about science, the less they believe in the paranormal. This applies both to traditional and
to non-religious paranormal beliefs.
4.5 Science Education in Austria—Outlook and Recommendations
Does science education work at Austrian secondary schools? In the context of this study,
we would answer with a careful ‘yes, but it could work better’’.
Significantly decreasing paranormal belief from grades 5–12 can be interpreted as a
result of school education, increasing scientific knowledge and critical thinking. However,
it could also be interpreted simply as an effect of cognitive maturation, as developmental
psychology has known for long that religious (and therefore other paranormal) beliefs of
adolescents decrease with age (Ausubel 1971; Oerter 1973). It is not easy to separate
maturation and education from each other, but in the case of creationism and ID we think
that it is possible. Whereas R-PBS decreases continuously with grades (Fig. 2a), belief in
creationism and ID show the most significant decrease at/after grade 7 (Fig. 2c, d), the year
when evolution is first taught at school. This case indicates the influence of secondary
school curriculum on the students’ worldview, and therefore we think that science edu-
cation does have a stake in decreasing paranormal beliefs.
One stain remains, however: the acceptance of naturalistic evolution does not change
during 8 years of secondary school. Still, it should be possible to get across the compelling
arguments for evolution and to reduce teleological interpretations (cf. Johannsen and
ger 2005): ‘It is not a matter of opposing belief and science, but it is necessary to
prevent belief from opposing science’ (Council of Europe 2007). It would be a surrender
of the education system to accept that almost 50% of secondary school graduates miss the
point of 8 years of biology education—because evidently (almost) ‘nothing makes sense
in biology except in the light of evolution’ (Dobzhansky 1964).
We therefore urge a change in the Austrian syllabus of biology towards an immanent
evolutionary understanding in all grades instead of the common ‘natural history’
approach. Good teachers have been doing so for long; but both scientific and pedagogical
knowledge (van Dijk and Kattmann 2010; van Dijk and Reydon 2010) are crucial to
appropriately cope with the difficulties of students’ understanding of evolution and sci-
entific theory in general. Extra-occupational courses combining evolution theory, ‘nature
of science’’, and science didactics (cf. Rudolph and Stewart 1998) should be an obligatory
standard in postgraduate science teacher education.
There is no explicit ‘science education’ at Austrian schools: physics, chemistry and
biology are taught as three independent subjects, mostly without any overlapping projects,
except for extracurricular programs such as IMST (Krainer and Mu
ller 2010). In 2006, the
Programme for the International Student Assessment (PISA) surveyed the competencies in
science of 15 year-old students in OECD and non-OECD member countries (n = 59).
Based on the percentage of students at 7 levels of student proficiency in science, Austria
ranked 19th with a mean of 551 (overall mean = 500).
To improve these competencies,
we propose a concept change from merely subject-oriented lessons towards a compre-
hensive teaching of science as a unifying concept of physics, chemistry, and biology.
Above all, teaching of the scientific method and theory in the sense of NOS (nature of
science) is not stipulated in the Austrian curriculum. There is no systematic instruction on
scientific theory and/or epistemology at all to be found in the Austrian secondary school
curriculum below the 11th grade, and therefore also no institutional approach dealing with
For a comparison, the United States ranked 36th with a mean of 489.
E. Eder et al.
para- or pseudoscience. We finally agree with Martin (1994) that science education has to
accept the challenge of paranormal and pseudoscientific claims and must not ignore them
as unworthy. If science teachers critically evaluate the paranormal as well as pseudosci-
ence, students may learn not just ‘to understand science but to be scientific, that is, to tend
to think and act in a scientific manner in their daily lives’ (Martin 1994).
Acknowledgments We gratefully acknowledge the permission to perform this study in the classrooms by
the Vienna Board of Education (Stadtschulrat fu
r Wien) and the directors of the participating schools, Karl
Heinz Hochschorner, Klemens Kerbler, Hubert Kopeszki, Georg Latzke, Gu
nter Maresch, Inge Pollak,
Hans-Leopold Rudolf, Albert Schmalz, Margaret Witek, and Elfriede Wotke. The teachers Heidemarie
Amon, Ursula Fraunschiel, Bettina Girschick, Simon Go
tsch, Doris Kruder, Kathrin Schandl, Peter Schandl,
Christine Strondl, Johann Turic, and the biology students Lisa C. Auleitner, Stefanie Bruns, Tobias
Schernhammer, Iris Starnberger, Klaus Tscherner, and Michaela Urbauer collected answers in the class-
rooms and on the street, respectively. We appreciate the useful hints by Martin Scheuch (University of
Vienna, AECC Biology) on questionnaire design. Not less than seven reviewers made critical but very
constructive comments on the manuscript. Finally, we express our gratitude to all participants of this study,
especially to those who cheered up data entry with attached comments like ‘There is a devil.—Yes: it is
teacher S.’ or ‘The Loch Ness monster exists.—Yes: it is teacher K.’
Appendix 1
The original questionnaire of the revised Paranormal Belief Scale by Tobacyk (2004).
R-PBS_01 The soul continues to exist though the body may die
R-PBS_02 Some individuals are able to levitate (lift) objects through mental forces
R-PBS_03 Black magic really exists
R-PBS_04 Black cats can bring bad luck
R-PBS_05 Your mind or soul can leave your body and travel (astral projection)
R-PBS_06 The Yeti (abominable snowman of Tibet) exists
R-PBS_07 Astrology is a way to accurately predict the future
R-PBS_08 There is a devil
R-PBS_09 Psychokinesis, the movement of objects through psychic powers, does exist
R-PBS_10 Witches do exist
R-PBS_11 If you break a mirror, you will have bad luck
R-PBS_12 During altered states, such as sleep or trances, the spirit can leave the body
R-PBS_13 The Loch Ness monster of Scotland exists
R-PBS_14 The horoscope accurately tells a person’s future
R-PBS_15 I believe in God
R-PBS_16 A person’s thoughts can influence the movement of a physical object
R-PBS_17 Through the use of formulas and incantations, it is possible to cast spells on
R-PBS_18 The number ‘13’ is unlucky
R-PBS_19 Reincarnation does occur
R-PBS_20 There is life on other planets
R-PBS_21 Some psychics can accurately predict the future
R-PBS_22 There is a heaven and a hell
R-PBS_23 Mind reading is not possible
R-PBS_24 There are actual cases of witchcraft
R-PBS_25 It is possible to communicate with the dead
R-PBS_26 Some people have an unexplained ability to predict the future
Paranormal Belief, Creationism, Intelligent Design and Evolution
Appendix 2
Principal component loadings for our 29 questionnaire statements, based on a sample size
of 2,129 secondary school students. The highest correlations between single statements and
principal component axes are given in bold. An asterisk shows the statements originally
belonging to one subscale.
The principal components confirm the R-PBS subcales, except for statement 1 (‘‘the
soul continues to exist’’, originally supposed to belong to the subscale ‘traditional religious
belief’’), which showed a closer relationship to the subscale ‘spiritualism’ in our sample,
and for statement 23 (‘‘mind reading is not possible’’), which loaded more closely upon the
subscale ‘precognition’’. Both the statements 25 (‘‘it is possible to communicate with the
dead’’) and 20 (‘‘there is life on other planets’’) did not significantly load upon one of the
seven principal components.
Principal component (PC) 1 (12% of variance) was equivalent to subscale ‘traditional
religious belief’’. PC 2 (10.1% of variance) was equivalent to subscale ‘witchcraft’’, PC 3
(9.8% of var.) to subscale ‘precognition’’, PC 4 (8.5% of var.) to subscale ‘superstition’’,
PC 5 (8.3% of var.) to subscale ‘Psi’’, PC 6 (8.3% of var.) to subscale ‘spiritualism’’, and
PC 7 (5.7% of var.) to subscale ‘extraordinary life forms’’. Remarkably, all three state-
ments on evolution cohered with PC 1: ‘ID’’ and ‘creationism’ correlated positively with
PC 1, and ‘naturalistic evolution’ correlated negatively with PC 1.
PC 1 PC 2 PC 3 PC 4 PC 5 PC 6 PC 7
R-PBS_01 0.48* 0.10 0.07 -0.03 0.06 0.63 0.03
R-PBS_02 0.03 0.22 0.20 0.08 0.81* 0.16 0.08
R-PBS_03 0.08 0.66* 0.16 0.17 0.30 0.15 0.06
R-PBS_04 0.15 0.14 0.10 0.79* 0.08 0.04 0.02
R-PBS_05 0.09 0.25 0.09 0.13 0.27 0.66* 0.00
R-PBS_06 0.02 0.16 0.13 0.13 0.07 0.05 0.79*
R-PBS_07 0.13 -0.02 0.63* 0.34 0.11 0.16 0.16
R-PBS_08 0.59* 0.46 -0.23 0.14 -0.02 0.13 0.17
R-PBS_09 0.06 0.25 0.15 0.12 0.78* 0.19 0.14
R-PBS_10 -0.03 0.69* 0.19 0.11 0.14 0.16 0.23
R-PBS_11 0.12 0.15 0.14 0.76* 0.06 0.14 0.08
R-PBS_12 0.05 0.28 0.08 0.17 0.19 0.64* 0.06
R-PBS_13 0.05 0.19 0.14 0.13 0.15 0.01 0.77*
R-PBS_14 0.11 0.00 0.61* 0.41 0.16 0.06 0.15
R-PBS_15 0.78* -0.07 0.08 0.11 0.07 0.11 -0.06
R-PBS_16 0.08 0.23 0.23 0.13 0.73* 0.20 0.09
R-PBS_17 0.17 0.60* 0.18 0.29 0.25 0.16 0.08
R-PBS_18 0.10 0.12 0.12 0.71* 0.11 0.02 0.12
R-PBS_19 0.03 0.10 0.36 0.06 0.12 0.65* 0.09
R-PBS_20 -0.31 -0.01 0.02 -0.08 0.06 0.39 0.43*
R-PBS_21 0.10 0.35 0.69* 0.19 0.15 0.15 0.09
R-PBS_22 0.72* 0.22 -0.05 0.22 0.02 0.18 0.07
R-PBS_23 0.01 0.26 0.60 -0.05 0.10* 0.04 0.01
R-PBS_24 0.03 0.66* 0.36 0.07 0.18 0.17 0.12
E. Eder et al.
Appendix continued
PC 1 PC 2 PC 3 PC 4 PC 5 PC 6 PC 7
R-PBS_25 0.09 0.45 0.40 0.02 0.21 0.35* 0.07
R-PBS_26 0.06 0.35 0.63* 0.08 0.29 0.21 0.10
Evolution 20.57 -0.03 -0.13 0.16 0.07 0.20 0.03
Creationism 0.76 -0.03 0.13 0.24 0.10 -0.01 0.00
ID 0.78 0.03 0.09 0.09 0.10 0.16 -0.02
Explained variance 12.03% 10.13% 9.78% 8.49% 8.35% 8.28% 5.72%
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E. Eder et al.
... Esta pregunta necesita una respuesta de forma que se puedan diseñar actividades adaptadas a cada contexto, que sean de interés para el alumnado, que fomenten las relaciones CTSA y que resulten en un aprendizaje significativo. Una educación en ciencias y una alfabetización científica relacionada con la sociedad y la tecnología, debería de disminuir estas creencias en el alumnado a medida que avanzan en su entendimiento sobre la propia ciencia (Eder et al., 2011). ...
... La astrología sigue teniendo un gran impacto puesto que aún sugiere preguntas entre los estudiantes cuando se compara con la astronomía (Kaplan, 2014). En Austria también encontramos ideas y creencias sobre fenómenos paranormales varios y diseño inteligente (Eder et al., 2011). Por la parte de Croacia parece ser que abundan las ideas a favor sobre la telequinesis, la telepatía y los viajes astrales (Miklousic et al., 2012). ...
... La astrología se trata en muchos artículos, pero nosotros nos basamos en afirmaciones como las que plantean Sugarman et al. (2010). Eder et al. (2011) fue nuestra referencia para las afirmaciones referentes a los sucesos paranormales, creacionismo, diseño inteligente y evolución. Para finalizar, los estudios de Losh y Nzekwe (2011) los revisamos para plantear nuestras afirmaciones sobre magia, creacionismo, criptozoología y orígenes de las pseudociencias. ...
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Alternative conceptions of different natural phenomena can influence the perception of the science students about the concept of science and scientific method. These conceptions can lead to a lack of critical thinking, which can generate pseudoscientific beliefs on the students. For this reason, the main objective of this work is to know the degree of implantation of pseudoscientific ideas in Secondary education and part of Baccalaureate students. Since the pseudoscientific ideas and conceptions are very broad and varied, we will focus on studying some present in Spanish society, such as astrology, ufology, the flat earth model and cryptozoology. As a derived objective in this work, we intend to know the origin of these pseudoscientific ideas, since knowing their context is key to developing future interventions, methodologies and activities adapted to minimize them according to the means of transmission thereof.
... Previous research in Europe revealed that religious faith and acceptance of evolution are closely related in respondents of various education levels, indicating a lower acceptance with increasing religious faith (Athanasiou et al. 2016;Betti et al. 2020;Clément et al. 2012;Deniz and Sahin 2016;Eder et al. 2011). However, previous research on the relationship between religious faith and acceptance of evolution is limited to few European countries (Kuschmierz et al. 2020b). ...
... It was previously shown that acceptance of evolution differs between denominations for university students in Austria, Germany, and the UK. Students without a denomination showed the highest scores (Beniermann 2019;Konnemann et al. 2016;Lammert 2012), while Christian Free Churchers (Beniermann 2019;Konnemann et al. 2016) and Muslims (Eder et al. 2011;Fenner 2013;Lammert 2012;Southcott and Downie 2012) showed the lowest scores. In agreement with those findings, in our study, Muslims accepted evolution significantly less than students without a denomination. ...
... Looking at the literature, however, it was found that pseudoscience beliefs did not statistically change according to gender variable (Kirman Çetinkaya, 2013;Başer Gülsoy et al., 2015;Şenler & İrven, 2016). In addition, according to Eder et al. (2011), female secondary school students generally have paranormal beliefs more than males. ...
... In addition, there was a negative and significant correlation between the job satisfaction hope and pseudo-predictive claims of the students. In the study of Eder et al. (2011), all paranormal beliefs sub-scale scores, such as acceptance of creationism and intelligent design, were found to decrease in eighth graders. However, acceptance of natural evolution was not associated with age or degree. ...
In today's world, where science and technology are developing rapidly, raising science-literate individuals has gained importance in order to keep up with the requirements of the digital age. In line with this, STEM education, which is the integration of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, has become the center of attention. However, an increase in the interest in science causes an increase in pseudo-scientific beliefs, which are far from being scientific. Therefore, this study investigated whether secondary school students' hopes and goals towards STEM education and pseudoscience beliefs differ by gender, grade level, and parental education level. In addition, the correlation between the students' pseudo-science beliefs and their hopes and goals towards STEM education was also investigated. A total of 351 secondary school students participated in this study. The "Hopes and Goals Survey" and "Pseudoscience Belief Scale" were used for data collection. As a result of the study, it was found that the hopes and goals of students towards STEM statistically differ by gender, in favor of female students, by grade level, in favor of lower-grade students, and maternal education level, in favor of students whose mothers had a bachelor's degree or higher. However, despite the higher hopes and goals towards STEM education scores in students with university graduate fathers than the others, the difference was not statistically significant. It's also revealed that pseudoscience beliefs of the secondary school students differ significantly by gender, in favor of female students, and by grade level, in favor of upper-grade students. While it is noteworthy that the pseudoscience beliefs of the students with primary school graduate fathers were higher than the others, the difference was not statistically significant. Moreover, the pseudoscience beliefs of secondary school students did not differ significantly in terms of maternal education level. A positive and significant correlation was found between the students’ pseudo-medical claims and their hopes and goals towards STEM education. Moreover, there was a positive and significant correlation between the students’ pseudo-medical claims and the learning in school hope. On the other hand, there was a negative and significant correlation between the learning in school hope and pseudo-predictive claims of the students. In addition, there was a negative and significant correlation between the job satisfaction hope and pseudo-predictive claims of the students.
... Previous research in Europe revealed that religious faith and acceptance of evolution are closely related in respondents of various education levels, indicating a lower acceptance with increasing religious faith (Athanasiou et al. 2016;Betti et al. 2020;Clément et al. 2012;Deniz and Sahin 2016;Eder et al. 2011). However, previous research on the relationship between religious faith and acceptance of evolution is limited to few European countries (Kuschmierz et al. 2020b). ...
... It was previously shown that acceptance of evolution differs between denominations for university students in Austria, Germany, and the UK. Students without a denomination showed the highest scores (Beniermann 2019;Konnemann et al. 2016;Lammert 2012), while Christian Free Churchers (Beniermann 2019;Konnemann et al. 2016) and Muslims (Eder et al. 2011;Fenner 2013;Lammert 2012;Southcott and Downie 2012) showed the lowest scores. In agreement with those findings, in our study, Muslims accepted evolution significantly less than students without a denomination. ...
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Background Investigations of evolution knowledge and acceptance and their relation are central to evolution education research. Ambiguous results in this field of study demonstrate a variety of measuring issues, for instance differently theorized constructs, or a lack of standardized methods, especially for cross-country comparisons. In particular, meaningful comparisons across European countries, with their varying cultural backgrounds and education systems, are rare, often include only few countries, and lack standardization. To address these deficits, we conducted a standardized European survey, on 9200 first-year university students in 26 European countries utilizing a validated, comprehensive questionnaire, the “Evolution Education Questionnaire”, to assess evolution acceptance and knowledge, as well as influencing factors on evolution acceptance. Results We found that, despite European countries’ different cultural backgrounds and education systems, European first-year university students generally accept evolution. At the same time, they lack substantial knowledge about it, even if they are enrolled in a biology-related study program. Additionally, we developed a multilevel-model that determines religious faith as the main influencing factor in accepting evolution. According to our model, knowledge about evolution and interest in biological topics also increase acceptance of evolution, but to a much lesser extent than religious faith. The effect of age and sex, as well as the country’s affiliation, students’ denomination, and whether or not a student is enrolled in a biology-related university program, is negligible. Conclusions Our findings indicate that, despite all their differences, most of the European education systems for upper secondary education lead to acceptance of evolution at least in university students. It appears that, at least in this sample, the differences in knowledge between countries reflect neither the extent to which school curricula cover evolutionary biology nor the percentage of biology-related students in the country samples. Future studies should investigate the role of different European school curricula, identify particularly problematic or underrepresented evolutionary concepts in biology education, and analyze the role of religious faith when teaching evolution.
... Science teachers in particular face unique challenges such as science knowledge and practice that are changing (Van Noorden, 2014), enacting science-related reforms (National Research Council, 2012), anti-science sentiment (e.g., Deniz et al., 2008;Eder et al., 2011;Glaze et al., 2015;Hufnagel, in press;Skoog & Bilica, 2002), and educational systems that underprioritize science. Schools and districts dedicate fewer hours and monetary resources compared to other subjects like English and mathematics (Banilower et al., 2018). ...
In-service teachers of science work with unique content and pedagogical experiences. Understanding teacher agency in these circumstances will help researchers understand the actions that these teachers take, actions that are consequential for shaping teaching patterns and supporting the development of students’ scientific practices. The purpose of this study was to understand how the agency of six elementary (K–5) in-service teachers was expressed discursively during a global pandemic. The teachers’ agency was qualitatively analyzed using a case study approach (Yin, 2012, 2017) that applied discourse analysis to identify the ways in which science teacher agency is conceptualized, afforded, and constrained through consequential saying, being, and doing (Gee, 2010) within elementary classrooms. I found that elementary science teachers conceptualize and operationalize their agency in service to the student, thus, deprioritizing their own needs as teaching professionals. The teachers have a clear sense of agency, primarily framed by a structure-agency dialectic, the scale of expression is their classroom. I also found that centering the teacher voice during the research process increased teachers’ reflexivity about their professional agency. Recommendations are addressed including future considerations of in-service K-5 teacher agency in science education research.
... Science teachers in particular face unique challenges such as science knowledge and practice that are changing (Van Noorden, 2014), enacting science-related reforms (National Research Council, 2012), anti-science sentiment (e.g., Deniz et al., 2008;Eder et al., 2011;Glaze et al., 2015;Hufnagel, in press;Skoog & Bilica, 2002), and educational systems that underprioritize science. Schools and districts dedicate fewer hours and monetary resources compared to other subjects like English and mathematics (Banilower et al., 2018). ...
... So stimmten 2005 lediglich 60 Prozent der Schweizer Bevölkerung der Aussage «Menschen, so wie wir sie kennen, haben sich aus früheren Tierarten entwickelt» zu (Miller, Scott & Okamoto, 2006). Diese Skepsis gegenüber der Evolution des Lebens findet sich auch in Klassenzimmern (Eder, Turic, Milasowszky, van Adzin & Hergovich, 2011;Lammert, 2012). Neben der fehlenden Akzeptanz der Evolutionstheorie erweist sich insbesondere die Vermittlung adäquater naturwissenschaftlicher Konzepte zur Evolution als anspruchsvolle Aufgabe für Lehrpersonen, da sich Alltags-und Fehlvorstellungen als erstaunlich resistent gegenüber naturwissenschaftlichem Unterricht zeigen (Fenner, 2013;Kattmann, 2017). ...
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Die fehlende Akzeptanz der Evolution sowie die Entwicklung adäquater naturwissenschaftlicher Vorstellungen gelten im Biologieunterricht als grosse Herausforderung. Der Einbezug verschiedener Perspektiven auf die Thematik mithilfe der Methode des Philosophierens scheint ein vielversprechender Lösungsansatz zu sein. Der vorliegende Artikel stellt das Potenzial philosophischer Gespräche im Kontext eines inter- uns transdisziplinären Unterrichts dar und erläutert dieses anhand eines aktuellen Forschungsprojektes zur Evolution.
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Article Authors Metrics Comments Media Coverage Peer Review Abstract Introduction Method Results General discussion Conclusions Supporting information References Reader Comments Figures Accessible Data IconAccessible Data See the data Link Icon This article includes the Accessible Data icon, an experimental feature to encourage data sharing and reuse. Find out how research articles qualify for this feature. Abstract Background Research into paranormal beliefs and cognitive functioning has expanded considerably since the last review almost 30 years ago, prompting the need for a comprehensive review. The current systematic review aims to identify the reported associations between paranormal beliefs and cognitive functioning, and to assess study quality. Method We searched four databases (Scopus, ScienceDirect, SpringerLink, and OpenGrey) from inception until May 2021. Inclusion criteria comprised papers published in English that contained original data assessing paranormal beliefs and cognitive function in healthy adult samples. Study quality and risk of bias was assessed using the Appraisal tool for Cross-Sectional Studies (AXIS) and results were synthesised through narrative review. The review adhered to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines and was preregistered as part of a larger registration on the Open Science Framework ( Results From 475 identified studies, 71 (n = 20,993) met our inclusion criteria. Studies were subsequently divided into the following six categories: perceptual and cognitive biases (k = 19, n = 3,397), reasoning (k = 17, n = 9,661), intelligence, critical thinking, and academic ability (k = 12, n = 2,657), thinking style (k = 13, n = 4,100), executive function and memory (k = 6, n = 810), and other cognitive functions (k = 4, n = 368). Study quality was rated as good-to-strong for 75% of studies and appears to be improving across time. Nonetheless, we identified areas of methodological weakness including: the lack of preregistration, discussion of limitations, a-priori justification of sample size, assessment of nonrespondents, and the failure to adjust for multiple testing. Over 60% of studies have recruited undergraduates and 30% exclusively psychology undergraduates, which raises doubt about external validity. Our narrative synthesis indicates high heterogeneity of study findings. The most consistent associations emerge for paranormal beliefs with increased intuitive thinking and confirmatory bias, and reduced conditional reasoning ability and perception of randomness. Conclusions Although study quality is good, areas of methodological weakness exist. In addressing these methodological issues, we propose that authors engage with preregistration of data collection and analysis procedures. At a conceptual level, we argue poorer cognitive performance across seemingly disparate cognitive domains might reflect the influence of an over-arching executive dysfunction.
Judgment and decision-making paradigms have been relatively well-studied in developmental samples. The measurement of these competencies in developmental samples has been of scientific interest. They have been recognized as having important implications for defining rational thinking in children and youth but also for teaching and training (such as, critical thinking in education). The origin of the theories and paradigms come from the adult literature, which has also undergone considerable progress in theoretical advancements and empirical studies over the last several years. The integration of our understanding from the work conducted in adults with consideration of developmental factors provides a way to advance our understanding of judgment and decision-making in children and youth. To accomplish this, establishing stimulus equivalence will be important given that these paradigms were first designed for adult samples. In addition, taking into account the rapid growth and change in cognitive capacities, that happen in development, are central for understanding performance on these paradigms. Using a working taxonomy of rational thinking based on adult samples, data from a longitudinal developmental study were used to empirically examine performance patterns on these paradigms.
Moderne Entwicklungspsychologie. - 18., durchges. u. erg. Aufl. - Donauwörth : Auer, 1980. - 656 S. - [7. Aufl. 1970]
The Paranormal Belief Scale and a self-report item concerning college grade point average were given to 307 introductory psychology students. As hypothesized, greater reported belief in both Superstition and in Witchcraft subscales were significantly associated with lower grade point average. These relationships, although statistically significant, were small.
Principal component analysis has often been dealt with in textbooks as a special case of factor analysis, and this tendency has been continued by many computer packages which treat PCA as one option in a program for factor analysis—see Appendix A2. This view is misguided since PCA and factor analysis, as usually defined, are really quite distinct techniques. The confusion may have arisen, in part, because of Hotelling’s (1933) original paper, in which principal components were introduced in the context of providing a small number of ‘more fundamental’ variables which determine the values of the p original variables. This is very much in the spirit of the factor model introduced in Section 7.1, although Girschick (1936) indicates that there were soon criticisms of Hotelling’s method of PCs, as being inappropriate for factor analysis. Further confusion results from the fact that practitioners of ‘factor analysis’ do not always have the same definition of the technique (see Jackson, 1981). The definition adopted in this chapter is, however, fairly standard.
Split-ballot experiments for three sets of items measuring attitudes towards lawyers, anomia, and self-esteem were included in a telephone survey to test for both acquiescence and response-order effects. The experimental design also investigated whether these response effects would be reduced by giving respondents an explicit opportunity to say “don't know” (a filtered question form). Extensive evidence for both acquiescence and recency response-order effects was found. These response effects also often occurred for the same item. Thus the use of a forced-choice form to avoid acquiescence to agree-disagree items may often substitute one type of response effect (recency order effects) for another (agreeing-response bias). Furthermore, there was very little evidence that the use of a filtered-question form would reduce these response effects. In addition to these practical conclusions, the patterns of these response effects across the three different types of attitudes, as well as their relationships to education and income, have important theoretical implications. Lack of item-specific expertise, for example, may be a more important cause of acquiescence and recency effects than low cognitive sophistication.
Using a 1978 national Gallup poll, we test the hypothesis that belief in nonreligious paranormal phenomena is a functional alternative to religion. Results indicate that those with no religious preference, or for whom religious beliefs are unimportant, are more likely to believe in nonreligious and less likely to believe in religious paranormal phenomena. Baptists (in contrast with more liberal Protestant denominations) are more likely to believe in the religious paranormal and less likely to believe in the nonreligious. Controlling for demographic variables reduces but does not eliminate the functional alternative pattern.
In his monograph "Die Akte Astrologie" ["The Astrology Dossier"], Sachs (1999) claims that statistically signifi cant relationships exist between signs of the Zodiac and behavior. The author presents these relationships in the form of local associations in contingency tables that cross the signs of the Zodiac and numerous behavior categories from statistical registers of Switzerland. As one example, we discuss and re-analyze his data on astrology and crime that, according to Sachs, demonstrate a clear relationship. Although Sachs' methods are largely transparent, his conclusions are not valid. The main reasons for this lack of validity are that the analyses capitalize on chance and fail to take into account the mutual dependency of statistical tests performed on the same data. Our re-analyses of Sachs' data on criminal convictions and the signs of the Zodiac using (1) Confi gural Frequency Analysis and (2) two-way cluster analysis suggest that the conclu-sions drawn in the monograph are untenable. Statistical and substantive aspects of our results are discussed.