Science, Evolution & Religion

What is the place of human beings in the animal kingdom? How teachers conceive the human mind? The project intends to answer these questions in secondary education, in which biology teachers discuss thehuman's placeitsorigin and evolution, as well as discuss the physiology and anatomy of the human brain. It is believed that the teacher's vision can impact their students’ conceptionsregarding these questions and their religiosity. It is intended to use questions from theEuropean questionnaire, used in various continents, to portray the concepts of biology teachers. Questions about the origin of humans, God's role in this process and human's place in the evolutionary process and questions about the human mind will be analysed. Furthermore, interviews will be conducted seeking to validate and discuss the results of the questionnaire. The research subjects are the teachers of three Latin American countries with contrast between church and state: Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.

How do Biology teachers conceive human's position in nature? How do teachers deal with this subject regarding their religiosity? Is it possible to reconcile scientific knowledge and religious befiefs when dealing with the human origin and his evolution? Is the Creator’s imageconsidered when discussing the position of man in the Animal kingdom? Could theological and philosophical knowledge help teachers dealing with the theme in the classroom, minimizing possible conflicts between science and religion? How do Biology teachers conceive the human mind?Are there gender differences onhuman intelligence? Do teachers know how to teach the basic concepts related to the human brain? Is the brain plasticity and epigenesis recognized? How important are the genes and education in the development of human’s intelligence? Does human’s intelligence give a superior character over other species? Does religion interfere in the human mind conceptions?

The hypothesis is that the biology teacher, through their influence on students, is an important social agent in the understanding of the human’s place in nature and the human mind. The questionnaire application is intended to see how biology teachers realize this position of the human species in nature. Interviews are intended to investigate whether the teachers’ visionimpacts the way they teach the subjects of human's origin, its evolution and the human mind. The objective is to know whether teachers take into account the participation of a Creator in the human origin and evolution and his brain.It is believed that in the teachers’ practice they convey their religious conception. Teacher's conceptions, including religion,can have an impact in view of the human species place in nature and mind. Recent changes in the religious patterns in Latin America, especially the growth of the evangelical percentage and of atheists can influence teachers’ conceptions.

This proposal relates with the theme of the human's place in the cosmos, as teachers are askedto consider the origin of humans and what is its position in relation to other animals.It is intended to realize if teachers believe that the human species is the result of a divine creation or merely the result of evolution. The DNA's role in the species classification is it intended to relate thehuman's place as primate?Can the teacher’s religion impact these conceptions about the position of the human species?The question of the human brain as a building factor of the teacher's conception about the human's place in nature will be investigated. It is intended to investigate and discuss if teachers realize that human’s mind as something supernatural or merely the result of the evolutionary process. A critical factor to be investigated is how these conceptions of human's place in nature, of its brain and intelligence is transferred to the moment of teaching these topics in the classroom.

The project calls for the application of the questionnaire BIOHEAD-CITIZEN (Carvalho, 2004; Carvalho & Clément, 2007) and conducting interviews in three countries, which involves costs. Since there will be support from local partners, the costs will be reduced. At least a visit to Argentina and Uruguay will be scheduled. The acquisition of a digital recorder to record and store the interviews will be asked. The Portuguese language is a difficulty for dissemination of results at global scale, therefore, costs are requested for translation into English of the texts produced for four scientific articles. A book with the final results and conclusions of the project will be produced. At least two papers should be produced and published, one in each half of the project development and this requires additional costs to the translation since many scientific journals are requiring costs for publication. Furthermore, the participation in two international conferences, one in each half of the project with oral presentation and article published in full in the journal related to the event, makes four articles to be published at the end of the project. In addition to this publication on scientific congress, international events are also dialogues opportunities with researchers from other countries and open new perspectives for research, as well as the possibility of partnerships in further projects. To carry out the project it is necessary to acquire a laptop computer for storage and analysis of data, especially in the missions needed for the research in different countries. The costs of travel and stay of the Project coordinator for two months, in Portugal, to work with the senior researcher at the University of Minho, Prof. Graça S. Carvalho, who coordinated the European consortium that created the original questionnaire BIOHEAD-CITIZEN, to be used in this project. It is intended that this period of time is dedicated to the deep analysis of the questionnaire data obtained in the three Latin American countries, as well as to the interviews, seeking to produce abstracts for submissions to conferences, scientific articles and a book.

It is intended to prepare four articles, two in scientific journals and two in proceedings of scientific conferences, all in English to allow a greater publication impact. Two abstracts will be presented at international scientific congresses, with two oral presentations, publications in proceedings, one on each half part of the project. These publications will be part of the proponentpost-doctoral project, so the completion of the project will result in that the Pos-Doc title. A book in English will be edited as a result of the qualitative and quantitative analysis of the data at the end of the project. It is intended to submit the analysis of issues relating to concepts of biology teachers about the human mind to the Brazilian event of 2016. It is intended to create a study group, of multidisciplinary and transnational nature, involving biologists and educators of Argentina, Brazil, Portugal and Uruguay. A website will be developed to disseminate the results obtained.

It is intended that the results instigate a discussion on the teachers’ position and teaching in relation to the position of humans in nature and the human’s mind. From this discussion it seeks to draw up suggestions for teacher training courses in Latin America, taking into account the particularities detected and thus impact on science education. It is expected that a study groupand transnational research is maintained, giving continuityto these studies and publications after finishing this project. It is intended that this group, from that experience, can submit a research project on the relationship between science and religion in Latin America to the John Templeton Foundation. The publications are intended to attract other Latin American researchers for the study group and perhaps the creation of others. It is expected that the analysis of project issues generate new questions about the interface between science and religion, to be investigated by the study group in the future.

The aim is to stimulate the creation of study group of multidisciplinary and transnational research, in Brazil with partnership with researchers from other Latin American countries, expecting that it will continue even after finalizing the project. It is expected that this group acquire the necessary experienceto seek new external financial support for new projects, in order to maintain this group of new research and possible new related groups. From this experience we intend to develop the necessary expertise to commit to a long-term research project to the John Templeton Foundation. This project will be part of the proponentpost-doctoral research, thus generating an important academic qualification for him and the University Center. It is intended to show to research institutions from Latin American countries that it is possible to seek financing funding for research projects from external sources, something particularly relevant in times of scarce resources, as at the moment.