2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 16–19, 2005)

Paper No. 4
Presentation Time: 2:15 PM


MONTGOMERY, Keith, Geography - Geology, U. Wisconsin Marathon County, 518 South 7th Ave, Wausau, WI 54401, kmontgom@uwc.edu

Creationism challenges physical, as well as biological science. Therefore one teaching strategy for addressing creationism (any non-scientific and pseudo-scientific beliefs) is to promote critical thinking across the entire science curriculum. The goal is to promote a deeper student understanding of "theory," and to provide them with sound criteria that enable them to judge competing scientific and non-scientific explanations for themselves.

According to William Perry's classic study, students entering college tend to believe that knowledge consists primarily of facts that are either right or wrong. However, some students accept that more than one view can exist on a subject, but acceptance of one view over another is mainly a matter of personal preference (e.g. "my science vs. your science"). With appropriate support, many first-year college students can be encouraged to go further and think for themselves about what we accept or reject as reliable knowledge.

Using Perry's scheme on intellectual development, teaching in a physical geology course can expose students to ambiguity and multiple interpretations and perspectives. It then makes explicit the epistemic values we emphasize in accepting one explanation or theory over another.

This can be done consistently throughout a course by means of various historical case studies, such as: the interior structure of Earth as fact and theory; choosing one theory over another -- plate tectonics vs. expanding Earth in the late 1950s; the Ice Age vs. the Flood as historical theory; and, James Hutton's Theory of the Earth -- rigorous science in a Providential context. Evolution, both as fact and theory, can thus be understood in a broader context.

This indirect approach to combating creationism is likely to have wider and more lasting benefits for our students. Some initial results are reported.