People who think evolution is a bunch of hogwash are, per a new study, much more likely to be bigoted.
In a new interview with PsyPost, University of Massachusetts at Amherst researcher Stylianos Syropoulos discusses the implications of a new study his team published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Syropoulos and his colleagues found that in the United States — as well as in Eastern Europe and the Middle East — that a low threshold of belief in the theory of evolution corresponded with higher prejudices both within one's own group as well as bigotry towards people of other creeds, races, and nationalities.
"Our findings were consistent across cultural, religious, and national contexts, for majority and minority groups, and even towards groups that were fictional (i.e., created by the research team)," Syropoulos told PsyPost.
The effect appear to be strong across the world.
In Israel, for instance, they found that "people with a higher belief in evolution were more likely to support peace among Palestinians, Arabs and Jews." In Muslim countries, they demonstrated that belief in evolution was "associated with less prejudice toward Christians and Jews," and in the 19 primarily Orthodox Christian Eastern European countries they analyzed, belief in evolution was correlated with less prejudice towards Jews, Muslims, and Roma people.
Syropoulos noted that the researchers' findings "are correlational," which means that they are not positing that disbelief in evolution causes prejudice, but rather that there is a correlation that previously had gone unexplored.
That said, Syropoulos added that the relationship between disbelief in evolution and greater rates of bigotry "was consistent, and remained significant after adjusting for key psychological variables such as ideology or religiosity."
The finding is particularly poignant because, as the researchers noted in their statement about their study, Charles Darwin's theory of evolution has in the past been used as a vehicle for racism via its foundational "survival of the fittest" and natural selection tenets.
"There have been theoretical accounts that predict the opposite of what we found," Bernhard Leidner, an associate professor of psychology at UMass, said, "so it was exciting for us to show that this actually is not the case, that the opposite is true and that belief in evolution seems to have pretty positive effects."
READ MORE: People who reject the theory of human evolution tend to have more bigoted attitudes [PsyPost]
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