This is a quickie - how old we you when you were first TAUGHT about evolution.
In the UK, it was in advanced biology - an optional class for school leavers and I was about 17 at the time - in 1980. (Oh god, I'm old!)
I didn't understand it: accepted it, yes, but didn't understand it.
Anyone who knows me well might find this surprising, because I didn't bother looking at evolution proper until a couple of decades back - while researching something completely different.
These days, evolution is taught in secondary schools (at least, it should be) which puts it in the age 11-16 or 11-18 depending on when the child started.
Dawkins thinks - and I heartily agree - we should introduce this cornerstone of Biology in primary science - so I wonder, how many people hear came to understand Darwin later in life?
Expel him as unfit for purpose.
"And now we have a self-declared creationist as vice-president of the main national scientific institute... uh..."
Tell us more.
Who is this?
What is his scientific background? Pretty near zero, I should think.
Just to give another European answer (that does not help much): I have no idea when I first was introduced to evolution and as far as I can recall it have always made perfectly sence. If I'm to guess the introduction was somewhen in primary school or from a book at home. As a child I prefered to read about planets and stars (still do) but read some on biology too as all science were fun and interesting.
By the way: We Europeans need to be aware of creationism growing up un-noticed. A coleague of mine had a discussion on evolution with someone she knew. The other lady was looking at a cell through a microscope and claimed: "I can't see the cell change so there can be no evolution". Right.
I'm a amazed, disgusted and surprised at how many people I bump into who say things like, "It's only a theory!"
Most of them are religious - but not all.
Evolution is like backgammon or chess, I suppose. One of those things were the more we understand about the game and as simple as it first appears, the more complex it gets.
I too am a Brit.
I have seen agnostics (the kind who say they are unsure of God, and dont care) also point out that it is only a theory.
British schools (well from my experience at least) could certainly have clarified the concept of a scientific theory, from its regular use of the word. Which I feel is the cause of the confusion.
You're right about creationism growing in Europe and nearby. Recent NCSE (Nat'l Council for Sci. Educ.) newsletters have reported large amounts of money being spent on creationist literature there. Every nation that has xians has fundamentalist xians.
The "It's only a theory" objection suggests a paraphrase on the chicken/egg question: which came first, the scientific definition of "theory" or the anti-scientific definition?
I was taught evolution at the age of 15. I remember it well because our regular biology teacher was a born-again Christian and would not teach it, so we had another teacher for two weeks. This was a pretty rare situation in the UK, even back in the mid seventies (1976).
However, both my parents were scientists and I was well aware of evolution before this time, though I cannot remember at what age I actually "got" it.
I suppose it depends on what you mean by "taught" and "understand." I knew that life had evolved since, oh, age three or four, maybe. Disney's "Fantasia" (more specifically "Rite of Spring," with the dinosaurs) illustrated it, and the museum (my favorite place as a child) showed the same thing, so I was exposed to it very young, and I never saw any reason to question it. I don't recall being formally taught it until ninth grade... but that doesn't mean I didn't see it before then. I may well have zoned out during that part of the class because I already knew it. I did that a lot.
On the other hand, you asked about "understanding" Darwin as well, and that was much more recent. It was not a subject I gave a lot of thought to until the last year or so-- biology has never been my field. It was through being introduced to Dawkins, actually, that I really began to think about it. So while I was exposed to it before I can even recall, I never bothered to gain a thorough understanding of it until very recently.
Yes, understand was really the key here.
Accepting something as a fact is faith. Understanding and being able to demonstrate it is science.