Study: SA doesn't understand evolution
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Study: SA doesn't understand evolution

South Africans fall behind foreigners in their understanding of human evolution because of insufficient education, a new study has shown.

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The study, published in the South African Journal of Science this month, used responses from visitors to the Cradle of Human Kind World Heritage Site near Johannesburg.

“South Africans were less likely to accept human evolution than their international counterparts,” the article said.

“The survey I did was mainly of adults who would never have learned of evolution at school,” said author of the study, Professor Anthony Lelliott from Wits University in Johannesburg.

The study surveyed more than 800 visitors and assessed their understanding of human evolution and the concept of “cradle”.

The article explained that 60 percent of the people who rejected evolution used a religious foundation as the reason.

“People may think that religion and evolution are in conflict, when they aren’t necessarily,” said Lelliott, who added that the majority of people who accepted human evolution based it on evidence.

Lelliott said that the Cradle’s visitors centres should do more to explain how evolution worked.

“The centres should try to get people to think more deeply about human origins in relation to their existing beliefs,” said Lelliott.

According to Lelliott, the only way to do this was through better education.

“Human evolution is more controversial due to South Africa’s racialised history. It needs to be presented and explained better.

“However, any stigma is really due to a lack of understanding of the theory,” said Lelliott.

Numerous hominid fossils have been discovered at The Cradle of Humankind since the 1930s, making it a Heritage Site and an important part of the history of human evolution.

“The visitor centres should present human origins in southern Africa within a larger African context, so that people understand that ‘the Cradle’ really refers to Africa more generally.”

Links needed to be made with the hominin fossil finds in East Africa, added Lelliott.

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