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

Paper No. 9
Presentation Time: 10:00 AM


WAGNER, John R., Geological Sciences, Clemson University, 340 Brackett Hall, Clemson, SC 29634-0919, jrwgnr@clemson.edu

Many undergraduate students take geology courses only to fulfill their institution's general education laboratory science requirements. Self-reported reasons for selecting geology include a perception that geology will involve less math and that it will be easier academically than biology, chemistry, or physics. A significant number of such students, particularly at large state-related schools like Clemson University, also bring religious viewpoints and perspectives to their geological studies that create internal conflict when concepts such as evolution and geologic time are discussed. Most of the students in this category will grudgingly memorize the minimum amount of geological information they need to pass the course, but will let the instructor and other classmates know that they don't believe a word of it is true. Such a situation is not good for the student, the class morale, or for the greater goal of achieving a minimum level of scientific literacy for all citizens.

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.