EARTH HISTORY AND EVOLUTION AT A RELIGIOUSLY AFFILIATED UNIVERSITY
Geology courses primarily serve non-science majors, and there is no geology major. This limits the depth, as all classes must be assumed to be introductory, but gives greater flexibility of content.
At a private institution, the flexibility to discuss theological issues is greater than may be the case at state schools. I start off all classes with a discussion of the nature of science – what it can and cannot do and how we use it to investigate geology and other earth sciences. Next, plate tectonics, erosion, and deposition provide a survey of modern features and processes that we can also observe in the geologic record. This is followed by relative dating, including a look at the historical development of understanding of earth history and the diversity of types of evidence that point to a vast history of the earth. Given the abundant misinformation available, it’s important to address both young-earth and “science versus faith” errors. After all this, we get to actual numbers through radiometric dating and an examination of evolution. The topics are covered in greatest detail in Historical Geology, but the Physical Geology class will cover the others and touch on evolution, and Oceanography/Meteorology has only a little of the earth history but does look at the time spans suggested by plate motion.
Several students have expressed appreciation for the coverage of theological issues. One approach that seems to be working is to have the students submit questions about each section. Those who want to pursue particular issues can ask, while others can stick to basic questions about the geology and still fulfill the assignment.