Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type





Educational Policy Studies and Eval

First Advisor

Dr. Jane Jensen


This dissertation examines college student understanding and attitudes toward biological evolution. In ethnographic work, I followed a cohort of 31 students through their required introductory biology class. In interviews, students discuss their life history with the concept - in school, at home, at church, and in their communities. For some Creationist students, confronting evolution in class has meant confronting existential issues regarding both the basis of science and the basis of faith. For other Creationist students, claims of evolution's theoretical strength are eschewed for its direct challenge to their worldview. For most students, science holds minimal interest against other values in their lives. Faculty and policy makers decry this as poor American science literacy which demands change. This work illustrates the gap between "ideal science literacy", and the everyday practices which result in half of Americans rejecting evolution as sound science.