Psychic Powers, Astrology & Creationism in the Classroom? Evidence of Pseudoscientific Beliefs Among High School Biology & Life Science Teachers

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Dana Dunn, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: Many authors and researchers have noted the popularity of pseudoscientific beliefs in the United States.1,2 Although pseudoscience is not a new phenomenon (it has been around at least as long as science itself [Trefil 1978]), some suggest that pseudoscientific beliefs have become even more widespread in recent decades.3 The last three decades have also seen a decline in scientific literacy in the general public (Hively 1988). Unless the simultaneity of these two trends is purely coincidental-which seems highly unlikely-it may well be that understanding the mechanisms behind the origin and transmission of pseudoscientific beliefs will shed some light on the decline in scientific literacy.It is scarcely necessary to argue that knowledge and understanding of science has become more and more vital in this increasingly complex, high technology world. A much wider cross-section of the population is today asked to decide on matters involving issues with a substantial high technology component (e.g., SDI, space and environmental programs). To the extent that the promulgation of pseudoscientific beliefs is interfering with this knowledge and understanding, it must be addressed if we are to reverse the rising tide of scientific illiteracy. This paper examines one important potential source of pseudoscientific belief in the population-the extent to which those given the responsibility of transmitting knowledge of science to our high school students actually hold pseudoscientific beliefs themselves. The first section of the analysis presents evidence for the prevalence of pseudoscientific belief among the general public. Previously suggested sources for pseudoscientific beliefs are explored in the second section. We then focus in detail on one potential source of pseudoscientific belief-science teachers. The extent and specific types of pseudoscientific belief held by a sample of high school life science and biology teachers are examined, as well as the demographic and social correlates of such beliefs. Finally, the implications of high school science teachers' pseudoscientific beliefs for science education are discussed.

Additional Information

American Biology Teacher
Language: English
Date: 1990
Pseudoscientific beliefs, Education

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