PLoS One. 2022 Sep 19;17(9):e0273929. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0273929. eCollection 2022.
The idea of biological evolution is not accepted by many people around the world, with a large disparity amongst countries. Some factors may act as obstacles to the acceptance of evolution, such as religion, a lack of openness to experience, and not understanding the nature of science. Although the strength of the association between evolution acceptance and non-scientific factors varies among studies, it is often assumed that resistance to evolution is the byproduct of a religious background. Some studies are even more specific and try to associate the acceptance of evolution with precise religious affiliations. We aimed to explore the strength of associations among nationality, religion, and the acceptance of evolution by students using multiple correspondence analysis (MCA) and statistical tools, with nationwide samples from two different countries. Here, we show that wider sociocultural factors predict the acceptance of evolution to a higher degree than a religious background. We carried out two nationwide data collections that allowed us to compare differences in the acceptance of evolution in Italy and Brazil by high school students who declare to belong to the same religion in the two countries. Roman Catholic students showed significant differences between the two countries, and the gap between them was wider than between Catholics and non-Catholic Christians within Brazil. Our conclusions support those who argue that religious affiliation is not the main factor in predicting the level of evolution acceptance. The sociocultural environment and the level of evolutionary knowledge seem to be more important in this regard. These results open up new interpretative perspectives and provide a better understanding of attitudes towards evolution.