North-Central Section - 42nd Annual Meeting (24–25 April 2008)

Paper No. 11
Presentation Time: 11:40 AM


GREER, Penny, Geology and Physics, The University of Southern Indiana, 8600 University Blvd, Evansville, IN 47712,

Science has functioned and flourished because we have assumed that the universe is governed by natural laws that can be discovered by reasoning humans. Whether we are empiricists (Bacon and followers) or those seeking to discover laws and processes through mathematics (Descartes and followers), scientists have devised methods that govern procedure and interpretation of results. Geologists have devised a specialized scientific method that targets an understanding of processes that have taken place over long periods of time and often only in the past. Time is central to geologists.

Presently, all scientific methods are under attack due to the prominence of a particular group of philosophers, the Postmodernists. Influenced by Kant and others that followed him, Postmodernists argue that the scientific method is not the only valid approach to understanding the world. They assert that all methods and world views are equally valid and deserve to be considered side by side. Moreover, some Postmodernists would assert that one cannot easily know anything, for knowledge is merely a political tool and it cannot directly connect us to the "real world." The "real world" is actually an ever-changing social creation, a mere construct of human language.

However absurd these ideas might seem to geologists, they have encouraged those advocating "equal time" treatment of Creationism, a Young Earth, and Intelligent Design in science classrooms, who have a completely different conception, justification and method for determining time. Ironically, a Creationist, Young Earth or ID proponent would reject many of Postmodernism's assumptions since a divine Creator must be at the center of theirs or any other world view. Whereas not everything that has grown out of Postmodernism is negative, geologists need to understand that Postmodernism is a controversial school of thought and that its central claims are vulnerable. We are fully justified, therefore, in retaining our scientific world view and in continuing to teach geologic time with integrity in the science classroom.