Relatively little is known about the general public’s views of evolution, particularly with respect to humans. The study provides valuable information on why people visit the Cradle of Humankind (a World Heritage Site in Gauteng Province, South Africa), how they view the concept of human origins, and what features of the visitor centres may influence visitors’ views. Maropeng Visitor Centre (MVC) aims to  provide visitors with positive experiences of science-related activities, yet its impact is relatively  unknown. The principal method of data collection was a survey of the general public visiting MVC, along the lines of previous studies in similar contexts. Visitors who exited the Visitor Centre were invited to complete a survey questionnaire eliciting information about their visit. 437 ‘general public’ visitors were surveyed between May and July 2013. Analysis is on-going, but the results analysed so far show that  people’s reasons for visiting the area are varied, but relate principally to a “day out” for pleasure, and to a lesser extent, learning. Approximately 80% have not visited the centre before, and a similar number consider that their visit made an impression  on them. While very few visitors have heard of the newly discovered Australopithecine (A. sediba), the great majority (85%) have heard of “Mrs. Ples” (the Australopithecine discovered in the area in 1947). Around 60% of respondents do not consider that anywhere else could be called the ‘cradle of humankind’ – their more detailed responses are still being analysed. The participants were also asked about their acceptance of evolution of humans from an ape-like ancestor. A slightly majority (58%) do accept the concept of human evolution, and refer to anatomical, genetic, fossil, and behavioural facts in support of their opinion. Those who do not accept the idea of human evolution mostly invoke religious reasons (e.g. God as a Creator; the bible as the source of authority) for their views. This suggests very different ways of thinking between the two groups. These findings will be compared with the relatively few other international studies in the area of human origins, and their implications for the field.

">
 [PCST]
PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

A survey of visitors' experiences of human origins at the cradle of humankind, South Africa

Anthony Lelliott   University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

Relatively little is known about the general public’s views of evolution, particularly with respect to humans. The study provides valuable information on why people visit the Cradle of Humankind (a World Heritage Site in Gauteng Province, South Africa), how they view the concept of human origins, and what features of the visitor centres may influence visitors’ views. Maropeng Visitor Centre (MVC) aims to  provide visitors with positive experiences of science-related activities, yet its impact is relatively  unknown. The principal method of data collection was a survey of the general public visiting MVC, along the lines of previous studies in similar contexts. Visitors who exited the Visitor Centre were invited to complete a survey questionnaire eliciting information about their visit. 437 ‘general public’ visitors were surveyed between May and July 2013. Analysis is on-going, but the results analysed so far show that  people’s reasons for visiting the area are varied, but relate principally to a “day out” for pleasure, and to a lesser extent, learning. Approximately 80% have not visited the centre before, and a similar number consider that their visit made an impression  on them. While very few visitors have heard of the newly discovered Australopithecine (A. sediba), the great majority (85%) have heard of “Mrs. Ples” (the Australopithecine discovered in the area in 1947). Around 60% of respondents do not consider that anywhere else could be called the ‘cradle of humankind’ – their more detailed responses are still being analysed. The participants were also asked about their acceptance of evolution of humans from an ape-like ancestor. A slightly majority (58%) do accept the concept of human evolution, and refer to anatomical, genetic, fossil, and behavioural facts in support of their opinion. Those who do not accept the idea of human evolution mostly invoke religious reasons (e.g. God as a Creator; the bible as the source of authority) for their views. This suggests very different ways of thinking between the two groups. These findings will be compared with the relatively few other international studies in the area of human origins, and their implications for the field.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

BACK TO TOP