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Publication Detail
Evolution and the Controversy: Existential and Psychoanalytic Perspectives
  • Publication Type:
  • Authors:
    Newall E
  • Date awarded:
  • Pagination:
    1, 270
  • Supervisors:
    Reiss M
  • Status:
  • Awarding institution:
    University College London
  • Language:
The teaching of evolution has been consistently associated with controversy and has been the source of a great deal of debate and research in the science education community across the world. Much of the relevant research scholarship has highlighted the significance of religious belief in this debate. However, little research has looked at affective responses to evolutionary concepts that may in turn explain the rejection of the scientific explanation by some people, irrespective of whether or not they have a religious faith. In this thesis I propose that the concepts presented by evolution can be perceived as potentially disturbing to all; ideas about change, uncertainty, absence of purpose or plan, extinction and struggle, as well as challenges to identity arising from the emphasis on our place in the natural world alongside other animals. Drawing on a psychoanalytical theoretical framework, I have used Free Association (FA) in narrative interviewing to examine novice educators’ unconscious and conscious emotional responses to evolutionary concepts. My findings suggest that for many, the ideas inherent in evolution reveal disturbing existential questions, irrespective of whether they have a faith or not. I propose that the role of existential concern, its impact on our relationship with the natural world, and our emotional response to evolution have not been fully appreciated. I suggest affective and existential issues require greater examination in the context of teaching and learning about evolution and that this research highlights the importance of dialogue and trust in the classroom.
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