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Background: Accepting the concept of evolution is important for the advancement of biological science and has many implications for daily life. However, a large portion of the general public does not currently accept biological evolution. Therefore, it is important to understand what factors are associated with a decline in the acceptance of evolution. Of particular interest for us is the relationship of individuals’ sense of trust in science in relationship to evolution acceptance.

Methods: Using the Trust in Science and Scientists and Inventory of Student Evolution Acceptance we surveyed 159 undergraduate students enrolled in an introductory psychology course. Additionally, we also asked the students questions regarding their religious commitment and political orientation. To analyze the data we calculated correlations, regressions, and conducted a path analysis.

Results: We found that lower levels of trust in science and scientists, stronger religious commitment, and more conservative political orientations were associated with a decrease in the acceptance of evolution in an undergraduate sample. We also found that the results shifted as the contexts for evolution changed.

Conclusion: While religious commitment has been previously studied, when combined with levels of both trust in science and scientists and political orientation we gain new insight into how different factors combine to influence evolution acceptance, particularly as the evolution context changes. By understanding how these factors are linked to acceptance of evolution, we may be able to start developing strategies for increasing the acceptance of evolution that are consistent with a range of worldviews.

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This document was originally published by Springer in Evolution: Education and Outreach. This work is provided under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License. Details regarding the use of this work can be found at: doi: 10.1186/s12052-015-0037-4