GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 285-5
Presentation Time: 9:20 AM


RANNEY, Wayne, 255 E. Hutcheson Dr., Flagstaff, AZ 86001,

For more than 40 years I have worked as a geologic educator on the Colorado River and trails in Grand Canyon, and on worldwide expeditions to all seven continents. While most participants encountered are comfortable with traditional geologic interpretations, some who identify as young earth creationists (YEC’s) are not. These experiences, as well as professional interactions with traditional geologists who also identify as religious, have helped me to develop working strategies that can mitigate the non-acceptance of ideas related to deep time and earth history. These tools may impart to some who have deeply held religious views a new appreciation of the legitimacy of geologic thought.

All geologic interpreters working with the public can develop diplomatic skills in dealing with the various worldviews that are often encountered on these multi-day, adventure-oriented trips. A seasoned geoscience interpreter can often anticipate where resistance to basic geologic concepts might be found – for example from church groups or participants from the Deep South. When recognized, one strategy is to bring up the perceived controversy in advance. I often begin with, “Nothing I am about the share with you is meant to challenge your spiritual or religious beliefs.” This serves the purpose of putting people at ease with the topic of geology and is an invitation to listen. I often recount the first Renaissance-era scientists who, as Bible-believing Christians, sought to use their newfound science in the search for evidence of Noah’s flood. By interjecting names and concepts that YEC’s are familiar with, a further relationship is established. If discussion follows, I might ask if the original intent or higher purpose of the Bible is to function as an earth science textbook (No!). I have found this approach to be quite useful with those who are on the fence but less advantageous with committed YEC’s.

Finally, I impart a belief that loftier geologic and theologic ideas share, at their deepest core, a common purpose. That is, they mutually serve to show how humanity is subordinate to other, more powerful concepts. Most Western religions endeavor to show how humans are acquiescent to a supreme creator, while geology in much the same way shows how the vast span of earth history dwarfs human existence. Both these belief systems show humanity as secondary.

  • Wayne Ranney GSA 2016.pdf (15.0 MB)