The opinion of George Clooney or Emma Watson on the theory of evolution has more impact than that of biology teachers

Only in the first months of last year, four states in North America studied laws to authorize the teaching of creationist theories in science class. And is that, despite the scientific consensus around Darwinism, human evolution remains a controversial issue in much of the world.

Therefore, many scientists are dedicated to pursuing strategies to better convey evolutionary ideas and make them stop in a reluctant society. It is true that this problem is especially strong in the US where 42% of the population believes that man was created as it is today. But that is precisely what is helping us to learn things: like where a celebrity gets to take off a biology teacher.

Through the New Evolutionary Illustration, I came to a work by Steven Arnocky and his team realized that no research had explored whether the acceptance of evolution could be susceptible to the opinions of other influential people. To study it, they selected 158 subjects to different opinions to see which of them had a greater effect on the population.

On the celebrity side, they chose George Clooney and Emma Watson (who were selected because a previous investigation showed that they met the maximum criteria of social attractiveness). On the side of the academy, they created a prestigious biology professor named George Rooney.

The sample is small and homogeneous, but as exploratory research it seems correct. In addition, the conclusions go in the line of previous investigations. The data indicate that, indeed, the opinion of a celebrity on the evolution influences the social acceptance of the same (more than the one of the experts in the field). It is not a big surprise. We already knew that celebrities can influence the fundamental values ​​and beliefs of people, on important issues, such as political orientation or religious affiliation.

But, more important, what the study points out (and previous ones) is that once the celebrities make a statement, the impact is very difficult to eliminate. "Public statements made by celebrities that contain scientific misinformation continue to exert an influence on people's opinions, even after they have retracted," the authors explain.

That is, the results show that, for better or for worse, celebrities have a fundamental role in the scientific literacy of the general population. In evolution, but also in vaccines, climate change or transgenics, the influence of celebrities seems to be decisive. It is something to keep in mind.