This study is based on a zoology course designed for in-service teachers, which aimed to provide basic scientific knowledge about evolution using the Religious cultural competence in Evolution Education framework. The study explores whether learners who were resistant to evolution modify their attitudes and willingness to learn about it, and whether they develop respect toward learners who hold contradicting views.
Using qualitative methods, the findings indicate that using the Religious cultural competence in Evolution Education framework increased some formerly “resistant” learners’ willingness to learn about evolution and include it in their own teaching, albeit in varying degrees and with various reservations.
The learners appreciated the freedom to express their challenges concerning evolution learning or teaching and became more willing to respect opposing perspectives, even though not all the religious learners accepted evolution as an explanation for the development of organisms. This study has international implications for bridging the gap between science and religion, thus reducing resistance to learning and teaching about evolution.
Even toward the end of the course, the feelings of most of the religious learners remained clear: learning about evolution as a scientific theory was indeed an attractive experience, especially in an atmosphere of open discussion. However, the idea of fully adopting the theory, or accepting it as possible, stood against formidable odds, somewhere on a scale between forbidden and impossible, and likewise the idea of teaching it at school. It follows that in order to be able to learn or teach in any way about evolution, the religious learners had to be reassured that such a behavior could be morally justified. Such a reassurance was partly provided by the invited (national-religious) scientist, who explained that being a scientific theory, evolution was essentially “refutable”. The religious learners then felt that since evolution was regarded to be a theory and not an absolute truth, they had no obligation to accept it or believe it, compared to the absolute truth of the Torah’s narrative of creation. In view of Popper ’s claim that refutability is what makes a theory scientific, the reaction of the learners may be regarded by the scientific community as unfortunate, but it unveiled their feelings: they welcomed arguments that may allow religious people to study or teach evolution.