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Illuminating the complexities of conflict with evolution: validation of the scales of evolutionary conflict measure (SECM)

  • Sbeglia, Gena C.1
  • Nehm, Ross H.1
  • 1 Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY, 11794, USA , Stony Brook (United States)
Published Article
Evolution: Education and Outreach
Springer US
Publication Date
Nov 23, 2020
DOI: 10.1186/s12052-020-00137-5
Springer Nature


BackgroundAlthough personal, familial, and community conflict with evolution have been documented in the literature, these scales require conceptualization as a construct and operationalization as a measure. The Scales of Conflict with Evolution Measure (SECM) instrument was developed in response to these needs. Using a construct validity framework, the content, internal structure, convergent, and substantive validity of the SECM were evaluated using Rasch analysis, Structural Equation Modeling (SEM), and follow up questioning. The conceptual utility of the instrument was explored by examining whether it added explanatory insights into evolution acceptance above and beyond religiosity, evolution knowledge, and background variables.ResultsA literature review and expert consultation indicated that construct of evolutionary conflict perception should (i) encompass the hierarchical nature of human social structures (personal, family, community) and (ii) probe conflict as it relates to human values, cultures, and beliefs. A three-dimensional construct was operationalized as a nine-item rating scale measure. Using Rasch analyses of SECM responses from a diverse sample of > 1000 students studying evolution, the instrument met criteria of robust measurement, including: fit to model expectations; three-dimensional structure; high reliability; good rating scale function; measurement invariance with time; and convergence with a similar construct. SEM showed that: (i) family and community conflict had unique causal contributions to personal conflict, with family showing a stronger and modest impact, and (ii) personal conflict had a significant and modest causal impact on evolution acceptance above and beyond the contributions of religiosity, evolution knowledge, and background variables.ConclusionThe SECM is an easy-to-administer instrument to measure conflict with evolution and is supported by several forms of validity evidence. The SECM has potential for facilitating measurement of evolutionary conflict in educational settings, thereby raising instructor awareness of conflict levels in students, promoting rigorous evaluations of educational interventions designed to reduce conflict, and fostering conceptual advances in the field of evolution education. Future work is needed to gather additional forms of validity evidence and to test current validity claims in additional participant samples. SECM measures should also be incorporated into more complex SEM models that treat evolution knowledge and religiosity as part of the structural paths to evolution acceptance. Such models could provide insights into the most worthwhile targets for the development of educational interventions to mitigate conflict at multiple scales.

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