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

Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 9:30 AM


DEVORE, Melanie L., Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Georgia College & State University, Milledgeville, GA 31061 and FREILE, Deborah, Geoscience and Geography, New Jersey City University, 2039 Kennedy Boulevard, Jersey City, NJ 07305,

One of the fundamental first steps necessary to successfully teach evolution is to be certain students recognize the difference between exploring the natural world using scientific methodology from accepting explanations for natural phenomena based on faith. Crucial for accomplishing this objective is to understand the religious preferences of your students. Using data from, we looked at the distribution of religious affiliations for regions in Georgia. The top three denominations are 1) Southern Baptist (SBC); 2) United Methodist Church (UMC); and 3) Catholic Church. We estimate that between 50-75% of religious students from rural counties are SBC members. With the exception of Fulton, at least 30% of the students from a county with a city are SBC members. There are major differences among the position statements between the SBC and UMC. The official UMC statement on Science and Technology says in part, "We find that science’s descriptions of cosmological, geological, and biological evolution are not in conflict with theology." The UMC also “opposes introducing theories such as Creationism or Intelligent Design into public school curriculum”. In sharp contrast, the SBC resolution established by the Baptist Convention, June 1982, expressed “support for the teaching of Scientific Creationism in our public schools”. In essence, the SBC directly encourages members to influence the teaching of science in Georgia schools. This climate has resulted in the landmark court cases associated with Cobb County Board of Education’s decision to place evolution “warning” stickers in textbooks. As college faculty members, we have been employed at a large public university in an urban setting, and both private and public 4-year universities in Georgia. We have taught courses in historical geology and paleontology as well as general evolution courses offered in biology departments at both the graduate and undergraduate level. In this presentation we will share case studies illustrating how we enable students to begin to see the value, and necessity, of being able to accommodate science into the way they view the world.