The present survey was designed to assess predominant regional belief systems and the roles these beliefs play in science understanding and attitudes, and curricular effectiveness in colleges and universities. To this end, we created a wide variety of theory-driven subscales (lower order factors) reflecting, for example, exposure to evolutionary material, young earth creationist beliefs, moral and social objections, political ideology, endorsement of intelligent design fallacies, knowledge (and distrust) of the scientific enterprise, and attitudes of evolutionary theory's relevance in several domains (e.g., sciences and humanities). We also included potentially important demographic variables (e.g., rural upbringing, family size). Finally, we assessed openness to experience, a key facet of personality. Hierarchical Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) analysis showed the 16 constructs to have a theoretically meaningful and quantitatively coherent higher order factor structure. In this large Kansas sample of university students, creationist reasoning and conservative orientation (political and religious) were negatively associated with exposure to evolutionary theory, knowledge about it, and positive attitudes toward its relevance. At the same time, exposure to the theory was positively associated with knowledge and positive attitudes. Importantly, though most Kansas-specific demographic variables (e.g., rural origins) were largely unrelated to outcomes of interest in this university-based sample, the personality factor openness to experience appears to be highly relevant for several higher order factors (e.g., exposure, knowledge and relevance, and creationist reasoning). We close with implications for educators and the next steps in survey development.
- Confirmatory factor analysis