Southeastern Section - 64th Annual Meeting (19–20 March 2015)

Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 2:40 PM


KELLEY, Patricia H., Geography and Geology, University of North Carolina Wilmington, 601 S. College Road, Wilmington, NC 28403,

This Interdisciplinary Honors Seminar at University of North Carolina Wilmington (Fall 2013) analyzed the evolution/creationism controversy using insights from geology, paleontology, biology, philosophy, religion, and education. We explored what science is and how it differs from religion. We examined principles of evolutionary theory; creationist views, including Intelligent Design (ID); educational and political issues. Readings from the literature and Genie Scott’s Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction exposed students to varying perspectives.

The Honors seminar was discussion based and writing intensive. Each class included hands-on, active learning. Students used specimens from the paleontology teaching collection to investigate change in life through time. They assembled sequences of transitional fossils from illustrations of iconic specimens (e.g., fossil whales at various stages in the terrestrial-to-aquatic transition). They debated “Is evolution science?” and “Is creationism science?” The videos Judgment Day and Flock of Dodos introduced educational and legal issues involved in teaching creationism, including ID; to reinforce understanding, we held a mock school board meeting for an imaginary school district in Mississippi. I acted as moderator, pretending to be a high school teacher pushing a creationist agenda. Students invented personas (e.g., parents, teachers, school board members) and either advocated or opposed approaches to include creationism in schools (textbook disclaimers, opt-out policies, equal time proposals, teaching “strengths and weaknesses”). We compared quotes from scientists, theologians, and philosophers (e.g., Dawkins, Gould, Barbour) to explore views of the relationship of science and religion (conflict, independence, dialogue, integration). We compared historical context, language, mode and sequence of creation in Genesis 1 and 2 to understand differing Biblical perspectives on creation.

Students’ majors ranged from science to humanities to secondary education. Students respected each other’s perspectives; religious views included atheist, Protestant (mainline and evangelical), Roman Catholic and Muslim. The course prepared them to make informed public policy decisions related to evolution (e.g., teaching of creationism).