Creationism at the Geological Society of America

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There will be a session on creationism presented at this year’s GSA Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City (October 16–19, 2005). “T103. Is it Science? Strategies for Addressing Creationism in the Classroom and the Community” has 16 presentations from a range of science professionals. There are some familiar names (Meert, Scott, Wise) but happily more unfamiliar ones. Hopefully there will be a Proceedings published.

I opened comments after some hesitation. Please restrict yourselves to comments about the conference abstracts, or your teaching experience. Off topic comments will be deleted.

27 Comments

I taught multicultural “creationism” for 30 years in an anthropological context. Using diverse origin myths from around the world, I would slip in the Hebrew version(s) from time to time, and students generally were able to make the connection that stories (myths) were the “best” exlanation given time and circumstance. But, humans have evolved not only biologically but culturally as well. There came a time to put storks and magical stones behind for any mature understanding of a vast and messy universe. The development of a self-correction paradigm was offered as a profound human intellectutal achievement

This worked extremely well in archaeoastronomy, but also in geology and intro astronomy.

Just a thought.

I saw this abstract on the conference schedule: Using the Concept of Apparent Age to Defuse Creationist Confrontations in the Classroom This is from the abstract: The concept of apparent age is one successful instructional strategy that in the proper context can defuse much of the internal and external conflict over topics such as the geological time scale and the age of the earth. In its simplest form, apparent age implies that an object or feature was created to look old. By acknowledging up front that special creation is always a possible option (although not a scientifically proveable one) - so long as that creation carries the imprint of apparent age - the tension among many creationist students is relieved and geological processes and concepts can be investigated in good conscience based on the apparent age of rocks, fossils, or landscapes. With students no longer on the defensive, they are free to study geology without feeling like they are betraying their religious faith. Is there any particular reason that we should be concerned about students’ religious beliefs in this situation?

I think we’re concerned that good scientific evidence not be seen, by anybody, as “just another” belief, or, indeed, a “belief” at all. I read the above as kind of a hedge, to be sure, but one that might help allow students with heavy creationist baggage to see how all the evidence fits together and supports itself from different avenues of inquiry, without constantly butting up against “how it really is” in their worldview.

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“a maine yankee”

I had a similar experience. I used creation myths that I was fairly familiar with, Mayan, Polynesian, Judeo-Christian, and Chinnichnich (S California). There are questions that people will ask about the universe, life and death. Science is not the easiest or even most pleasant source for answers.

Jim Wynne,

Many students become so emotionally disturbed when presented with geochronology that there is no chance for them to even complete the course. The “appearance of age” argument allows them to proceed. (They rarely seem to ask, “Why would God create a “worn” universe?”) Confrontations with students about their personal beliefs are not productive, and could even be construed as a violation of the first Ammendment.

Regarding Kurt Wise, I was quite taken with his use of the word “evidences.” We can’t test a student’s beliefs, merely their ability to recall information, or (with written assignments) their ability to organize information.

I’m rather surprised the GSA is wanting to get involved with this issue. I think it’s indicative that the issue is continuing to advance in the forefront of peoples minds.

The YEC’s of Loma Linda were actually on the cover of Geology, February 2004. Is the GSA part of the journal?

Salvador

I found this to be a very interesting but troubling suggestion. It seems almost underhanded to me (Bush-esq in political nature). I don’t know how this would fly in the classroom-It could come off as mocking students.

http://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2005AM/fi[…]ct_92960.htm

“Branding ID as Incompetent Design involves both humor and grit but avoids direct insult to the opposition, a mistake to be avoided in any political campaign. All the tools of political campaigns should be used: slogans, songs, bumper stickers (“Human skeletal errors: Incompetent Design or Evolution ?”), IDers will attempt to take us off-message with debates on origins of life, thermodynamics, etc., but instead we must continue to pound simple themes of obvious design failures. Science can win this battle only if we recognize this is not a Sunday school debating match but a deadly serious political contest.”

The article provides several examples.

Also, to anyone with a theological background-couldn’t it be argued these “design flaws” are a result of the fall (from eden)?

Is this an inherent theological problem with I.D’s world view? Because of the fall, we cannot see/prove the intellegence of design. I’m not clear on the role of the fall/evil in morphological changes in I.D.

The concept of apparent age is one successful instructional strategy that in the proper context can defuse much of the internal and external conflict over topics such as the geological time scale and the age of the earth…

Is there any particular reason that we should be concerned about students’ religious beliefs in this situation?

The primary goal is to teach, not to convert. If this tactic allows them to learn more about geology, etc. while still believing in a ‘trickster god’, then why not?

Robert, IDists (or at least the variety of IDists that insist that ID isn’t religion) can’t argue that design flaws are a result of the fall, because the Fall cannot be part of a secular ID. The designer has to take full credit for everything, including full blame for the mistakes.

RBH beat me to it:

YAC epistemology accepts Biblical claims over physical evidence and human reason

Apparently, people like Kurt Wise can learn the principles of a subject without ever accepting the validity of those principles. At least they are honest about it and don’t try to hide their true feelings (even if they are in denial about their irrationality). I hope there are some PTers who will attend and ask some reasonable quetions of these speakers (even if the speakers and their most devoted fans may be unmoved by any arguments), and report back.

Some years ago I taught a Gened geology course for an evangelical liberal arts college. It was a four week course at their field station and largely field based. I had ten students , 5 were YEC , one at the start thought dinosaurs were made up by wicked evolutionists but went home with some dinosaur bits found in a roadcut. For a brit like me it was a fascinating experience, especially to see how competent science profs, especially geology and biology, coping with this when the clientelle of the college was often YEC. They get hammered by AIG for example. The students produced good work and excellent cross-sections from the Precambrian to the Tertiary, all Phanerzoic dipping to the east (I bet some have now identified the place from that geological clue!), but it was bizarre to find them all rattling off geological dates and half didnt beleive them. My policy was to avoid confrontation and get on with teaching geology but not compromising myself. One example I used was when below a 50 ft of Cambrian strata with about 70 identifiable beds was to consider what the minimum time required for deposition allowing for hardening of the first layer before the aquous deposition of the next.We soon came up with years which is too much for Noah and his floating zoo.

I also spent two evenings looking at the history of the relationship of Christianity and geology and evolution with mixed reactions. But one student complained of being brainwashed by her youth pastor.

I canot see how Wise and Austin could keep their heads down to qualify and not beleive what they were learning. I am grateful to have been taught in a department which encouraged thought and expected students to disagree

I cannot see how you can teach ID, YEC or “teach the controversy” in proper science courses as they just dont count as science and I am sure Mr Cordova will agree with me!!

Regarding YECs like Kurt Wise: they say that their belief in the literal truth of the bible trumps all evidence, but their actual behavior proves that they do not in fact believe this. The vast majority of YECs have no problem whatsoever with reinterpreting the bible whenever it suits them. They don’t sell all they own and give it to the poor. They plan for retirement even though the bible says they should not. They fight for public prayer even though the bible prohibits it. Their certainty in the absolute truth of the bible may apply to Genesis I, but it fails as soon as their pocketbooks or political powerbase are at stake.

Bayesian Bouffant commented:

The primary goal is to teach, not to convert. If this tactic allows them to learn more about geology, etc. while still believing in a ‘trickster god’, then why not?

The reason why not is because this undermines the whole structure of scientific research - or at least learning about it. (“We’re going to learn these things, but they’re not based on anything you really need to have any confidence in…”). It also sets up such a student to have the rug pulled out from under them at any point by the religious leaders. At any point the Ken Hams or Kent Hovinds of the world merely need to spout a couple of Bible versus to convince the fallen one that no, God is not a deceptive God. At that point, guess which knowledge set the student will throw out first?

IMHO, the proper pedagogical tool in this case should be something more along the lines of, “here’s why professional geologists, who have spent half their lives studying the topic, think that the earth is very ancient…”. With that, you can send to the ostensibly dubious student the message that they don’t have to Believe (capital B), namely they do not need to reject their own religion and “convert” to some other religion (read: Belief System as opposed to Epistemological Construct), but it still allows them to learn the scientific method and its application.

By the way, I mean to state that to the students explicitly. Just telling them that ‘here’s what geologists say’ is (a) probably how it’s being taught today anyway, and (b) has a tone that to the layman would be more akin to an Appeal to Authority argument. This can only be in conflict with the authority already inculcated in them from many years of church and Sunday school. That’s required in order for them to understand next that you (we) are not trying to replace their current set of religious (and moral) beliefs with another set.

Without that foundation in place, I would expect that most teachings of science will only lead to a sort of cognitive dissonance from which few brought up in a strict religious upbringing will emerge with a proper science understanding.

RBH -

The author of that article appears to be arguing YEC’s are Christian presuppositionalists.

I think a healthy chunk of them are just doggedly ignorant, comfortable because that ignorance is culturally acceptable, and don’t have any technical ideas about epistemology and scripture in mind. But in the case of the better educated YEC’s, chances are they do priveledge revelation over scientific methology in such a way that arguments over science aren’t going to be persuasive for them, because scripture does trump science. To the most radical sort of presup, you have to presuppose an inerrant, literal intepretation of the Bible to be rationally consistent in believing in any science at all anyway. Any inconsistency between the two represents our failing, and scientists need to work harder to find explanatory solutions that fit the more ultimate standard of truth.

“I’m rather surprised the GSA is wanting to get involved with this issue. I think it’s indicative that the issue is continuing to advance in the forefront of peoples minds. “

Strange, indeed, how many recent newspaper headlines have focused on how to combat Al Quaeda. I think it’s indicative that more and more people are coming to accept the truth of Wahabbist Islam.

Hiero: I had the beginnings of a pithy rebuttal to Sal’s insinuation brewing in the hindbrain, but you have freed up neural space for other more important matters, like what to eat for dinner tonight.

Because, folks, that insinuation has been re-BUTTED. QED.

Jim Wynne Wrote:

Is there any particular reason that we should be concerned about students’ religious beliefs in this situation?

It could be argued that the difference between real and apparent age is a metaphysical one, and therefore to speak of apparent age is simply to avoid a metaphysical commitment. However, one should then also speak of the sun apparently rising, apparently opening what is apparently a book to what is apparently chapter 16, and so on.

Robert Wrote:

couldn’t it be argued these “design flaws” are a result of the fall (from eden)? … Because of the fall, we cannot see/prove the intellegence of design.

Even if it could, such an argument gives away the store. The IDist’s purported “scientific” argument is that intelligence can be seen; that’s the whole purported basis for the ID claim in the first place. If that is taken away, then it becomes apparent that it’s purely a statement of prior commitment, i.e., faith, i.e., religion.

P.S. What kind of pub is it where the proprietors are hesitant to let the patrons speak?

Savlador Wrote:

The YEC’s of Loma Linda were actually on the cover of Geology, February 2004. Is the GSA part of the journal?

JM: GSA is the organizing body that publishes the journal and yes they were on the cover. Guess that shoots your assertion that YEC’ists cannot get a fair hearing in science journals doesn’t it? Anyway, GSA should be involved in Science education and should confront nonscience when it rears its ugly head via political action. GSA is to be commended for meeting ID head on and offering the opportunity for scientists to refute the claims of ID and also to point out its overall scientific bankruptcy.

Cheers

Joe Meert

Indeed, GSA has long been involved in geoscience education. It’s only proper that this involvement be concerned with attempts to corrupt science education (and thereby the scientific enterprise) with psedoscientific and non-evidence-based “alternatives.” You can view GSA position statements on evolution (May 2001) and the importance of teaching earth science in the public schools (April 2004), and others, here.

Bayesian Bouffant, FCD Wrote:

The primary goal is to teach, not to convert. If this tactic allows them to learn more about geology, etc. while still believing in a ‘trickster god’, then why not?

First, let me say that I have never had this particular gun at my head, so I have a tendency to defer to active teachers who need to take care of business. With that small disclaimer in mind, I don’t think the question is whether to teach or convert. If teaching accomplishes conversion, so be it. If not, it doesn’t. Teaching the subject matter from the vantage point of preponderance of evidence has nothing to do with religious beliefs–it is what it is, and each student is free to accept it or reject it. I see no reason that class time should be wasted on pandering to the metaphysical beliefs of individual students, however. As far as “apparent age” is concerned, if we speak strictly in terms of relative values (something is older than something else by a factor of x, e.g.) it soon will become apparent that a span of 6000 years is too small to hold all of the cumulative x’s. “Apparent age” becomes a meaningless term when a student holds to the belief that all of geochronology can be explained by the Noachian flood. Throwing such people a bone just to shut them up is intellectually dishonest and does a disservice both to the institution and to students who want to learn something.

Why should science teachers have the responsibility of sorting out every student’s religious differences? I’ve been a public school teacher, and not only do I feel this wasn’t my responsibility, it’s not something I was qualified to do. Our only obligation is to teach the facts, teach the theories, and keep the standards of success level. The students can go sort out the meaning of the theories in church and Sunday school - it’s their problem, not ours; we shouldn’t cave on this point - teachers have enough curriculum standards to worry about already without having to teach the theological implications of science.

“GSA is the organizing body that publishes the journal and yes they were on the cover. Guess that shoots your assertion that YEC’ists cannot get a fair hearing in science journals doesn’t it?”

The publication of this paper also shoots down the widely held belief amongst YECs (deriving from out and out lies passed down by the ‘scientists’ at AiG and ICR) that geologists are simply blind uniformitarians who insist that everything in the past happened at a snails pace.

The first thing (literally) I was taught as a geology undergraduate was that the present isn’t necessarily the key to the past. Modern geology accepts fast and slow depending upon the evidence. YECs accept only slow (and ignore modern analogues), because they absolutely have to. The irony is that YECs are the true uniformitarians.

The strategy will ultimately fail ofr ID if the premises that the creation account, be it Old Earth or Young Earth is fundamentally wrong. If the creation account is the way it happened, that is a sufficient, but not necessary condition for Intelligent Design being true.

The presumption by most at GSA is that creation did not happen. That is not necessarily true. There is a good chance it happened. And there is an even stronger case that at least, if not special creation, at least some level of Intelligent Design.

If indeed either ID or the more daring hypothesis of special creation is the way it happened, most of the abstracts at the GSA are arguing from a fundamentally flawed premise about reality, and no amount of strategizing will negate brute facts.

Also, it is afterall going to be a matter of money at some point that the non creationists and non-IDists will be in the class rooms.

The logarithmic-like increase in the number of young-age creation (YAC) books published since 1800, the increase in number of books written by YACists with earned doctorates, the growth in number of YAC professional organizations and YAC professional conferences and YAC professional journals, as well as the results of Gallop Polls since 1980, all suggest that YACism is thriving in the U.S. YACists will compose a significant minority of students in classrooms at all levels for decades to come. Thus it is suggested that educators develop methods which encourage peaceful coexistence between creationists and evolutionists in the classroom.

I can assure you the next generation of IDists have many good theoritical reasons to hold to their beliefs, and so do the Young Age Creationists. Wise is correct that they are infiltrating the highest educational institutions with the blessings and encouragement of the families and churches.

Unless their beliefs are refuted empirically, their beliefs will not change. That is after all a key part of the scientific method: observing empirical proof. Further, there is the growing prospect, their view is empirically correct view of reality. And if that’s the case, it is better to join them rather than trying to beat them.

the next generation of IDists have many good theoritical reasons to hold to their beliefs

Uhh, Sal, I think you misspelled “theological” there.

it is better to join them rather than trying to beat them.

Why can’t we all get along, Sal? *muffled laughter*

The strategy will ultimately fail ofr ID if the premises that the creation account, be it Old Earth or Young Earth is fundamentally wrong. If the creation account is the way it happened, that is a sufficient, but not necessary condition for Intelligent Design being true.

So ID is creationism, and IDers are just lying to us when they claim it’s not.

Got it.

Now that you’re back, though, Sal, I still don’t remember getting answers to any of the simple questions I’ve asked of you. Forget them already? No problem, Sal. As promised, I will ask again. And again and again and again. As many times as I need to, until you answer.

*ahem*

1. What is the scientific theory of intelligent design, and how do we test it using the scientific method? And please don’t give me more of your “the scientific theory of ID is that evolution is wrong” BS. I want to know what your designer does, specifically. I want to know what mechanism it uses to do whatever the heck you think it does. I want to know where we can see these mechanisms in action.

2. According to this scientific theory of intelligent design, how old is the earth, and did humans descend from apelike primates or did they not?

3. what, precisely, about “evolution” is any more “materialistic” than weather forecasting, accident investigation, or medicine?

4. do you repudiate the extremist views of the primary funder of the Center for (the Renewal of) Science and Culture, Howard Ahmanson, and if so, why do you keep taking his money anyway? And if you, unlike most other IDers, are not sucking at Ahmanson’s teats, I still want to know if you repudiate his extremist views.

Revolutionary Science Discoveries

GRAVITY SHOWN NOT TO BE FORCE BUT SIMPLE EXPLAINABLE NATURAL PHENOMENON

Since the time of Isaac Newton, scientists have tried to find the force of gravity. They have measured an acceleration due to gravity. Still, they cannot find the force associated with the measured acceleration. This is because there is no such force as gravity; and, that the acceleration is caused by a newly discovered natural phenomenon which is everywhere in the universe. Click here to understand what NASA and university scientists have failed to understand.

CONTINENTAL CONGRUENCE DISPROVES THE THEORY OF PANGAEA

The theory of Pangaea is not the answer despite millions of research dollars spent by NASA and academia. Close observation of coastlines on earth demonstrates that an inverted mirror image of continental features on the opposite side of the globe match their respective diametric counterparts. The most obvious and prominent example is the superposition of the inverted mirror image of Australia upon North America with Brisbane coincident with San Francisco. Other prominent examples are New Zealand and Italy as well as Colombia and Viet Nam. The SCHRIEFER UNIFIED THEORY© of the universe explains how interstellar mass and energy emissions and those of our local star, the Sun, interact so that matter stagnates to accumulate mass at specific locations on our planet. The same SCHRIEFER UNIFIED THEORY© uses the same phenomenae of matter and energy to explain what is called gravitational attraction, electromagnetic attraction and repulsion, and how the sun’s observed pulse can be mathematically calculated to coincide with otherwise scientifically unexplained measurements, which are yet to be explained by NASA and academia in general. Besides these explanations by the SCHRIEFER UNIFIED THEORY©, other unexplained scientific mysteries such as the so-called dual nature of light and electromagnetic energy, as well as the inconsistency of time and temperature as basic scientific quantities or parameters.

160 MINUTE SOLAR PULSE RELATED TO SOLAR CYCLE MATHEMATICALLY

It is observed that the sun pulses every 160 minutes. The sun’s diameter actually swells and contracts. Scientists have studied this phenomenon since its discovery in 1962 by a group at Cal Tech headed by Robert Leighton. NASA and academia, in projects such as SOHO and GONG, spend millions of research dollars; and, have still not explained this phenomenon. See the calculations for the solar pulse period and solar diameter change extent and rate that match real-world recorded observations as well as a close match to the actual 22-year solar cycle. This topic is based upon the SCHRIEFER UNIFIED THEORY©.

The more you know, the less you make! PROOF: We hear that Knowledge is Power; and, Time is Money.

So, Let K = Knowledge, P = Power, T = Time, M = Money, and W = Work. Then, since Knowledge is Power, K = P And, since Time is Money, T = M In Physics, Power is defined as Work divided by Time. So, P = W/T Substituting Knowledge for Power, K = W/T Substituting Money for Time, K = W/M Rearranging, M = W/K Therefore, for the same Work, Money is maximized by minimizing Knowledge; and, Money is minimized by maximizing Knowledge! So, .the more you know, the less you make!

Say Good Night Gracey.

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This page contains a single entry by Gary Hurd published on August 2, 2005 10:26 AM.

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