Public school presentation of only the theory of evolution without any alternative theory of origins abridges the Constitution's protection of freedom of religious exercise for students and parents, because it undermines their religious convictions, violates their separatist practices, compels their unconscionable statements, and hinders religious training by parents....The resolution was offered "as a prepared resolution for local citizens' groups seeking to obtain a fair presentation of the creation/evolution question." The accompanying text also states, "Please note that this is a suggested resolution, to be adopted by boards of education, not legislation proposed for enactment as law. ICR has always taken the position that the route of education and persuasion on this issue is more fruitful in the long run than that of coercion" [emphasis in original].
Public school presentation of only the theory of evolution without any alternative theory also violates the Constitution's protection of freedom of belief for students and parents and in doing so hinders the purpose of education by impeding their search for truth, denying them academic freedom, and restricting scientific objectivity.
Recently a California teacher requesting help from NCSE wrote:
I am a high school biology teacher trying to find information on the official position of Christian denominations and other major world religions on evolution for use in my classes. I have many creationist students in my classes who assume anyone who believes in God agrees with the literal creationist beliefs on this. Can you help?
This teacher also felt he needed more information about the legal rights and responsibilities of teachers who are teaching evolution.
These are questions which arise for teachers all across the country. NCSE had already produced a flyer summarizing court decisions. The NCSE brochure "Seven Significant Court Decisions Regarding Creation/Evolution Issues" outlines the relevant legal issues. The position statements of science teachers' professional associations published in NCSE's Voices for Evolution also confirm that science teachers can honestly tell their students, "Legally, I cannot teach you 'creation science' or any other religious explanation of life on earth."
However, although they cannot teach religious doctrines, teachers are permitted to teach about religion. The topic is usually reserved for social studies classes, but many science teachers, like the one whose questions are quoted above, want to be better informed about evolution/creation beliefs and may find that sharing such information with students and their community clears the way for teaching about evolution.
While a number of recent surveys give us some information on how many Americans express beliefs compatible with literal interpretations of the Bible, they don't tell us whether such beliefs are, in fact, required of Christians by their denominations. Even though the numbers of those polled in the US who say that they accept evolution is about equal with those who accept special creation of humans, the majority of Americans professing to be Christians belong to denominations that accept evolution.
Table 1 is adapted from a 1998 article released by the Religion News Service and lists the twelve largest denominations in the US in order of size. It also shows which denominations have in some manner officially supported the teaching of evolution in public schools. The percentages listed in the second column represent the percentage of that denomination's members in relation to the total membership of those listed in the table (not in relation to all Christian denominations). A mark in the column entitled "Voices" indicates that the leaders of this denomination have contributed an official statement which we have published in NCSE's Voices for Evolution (Matsumura 1995).
Some denominations have subsequently issued additional statements. The column headed "Joint Statement" shows which denominations endorsed "Religion in the Public Schools: A Joint Statement of Current Law" (American Jewish Congress and others 1995), an interfaith statement that declares:
5. Students may be taught about religion, but public schools may not teach religion….
6. These same rules apply to the recurring controversy surrounding theories of evolution. Schools may teach about explanations of life on earth, including religious ones (such as "creationism"), in comparative religion or social studies classes. In science class, however, they may present only genuinely scientific critiques of, or evidence for, any explanation of life on earth, but not religious critiques (beliefs unverifiable by scientific methodology). Schools may not refuse to teach evolutionary theory in order to avoid giving offense to religion nor may they circumvent these rules by labeling as science an article of religious faith. Public schools must not teach as scientific fact or theory any religious doctrine, including "creationism", although any genuinely scientific evidence for or against any explanation of life may be taught. Just as they may not either advance nor inhibit any religious doctrine, teachers should not ridicule, for example, a student's religious explanation for life on earth.
Finally, official representatives of some denominations were plaintiffs in the famous McLean v Arkansas case. Official denominational opposition to the law requiring the teaching of "creation science" is recorded in the column headed "McLean".
Table 1: Membership and Acceptance of Evolution in 12 Largest US Christian Denominations
|Denomination||Membership (millions)||Percent||Voices||Joint Statement||McLean|
|Roman Catholic Church||61.2||49.0||•||•|
|Southern Baptist Convention||15.7||12.6||†|
|United Methodist Church||8.5||6.8||•||†||•|
|National Baptist Convention USA||8.2||6.6||†|
|Church of God in Christ||5.5||4.4|
|Evangelical Lutheran Church in America||5.2||4.2||‡|
|Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons)||4.8||3.8|
|Presbyterian Church (USA)||3.5||2.8||•||‡||•|
|National Baptist Convention of America||3.5||2.8||†|
|African Methodist Episcopal Church||3.5||2.8||†||•|
|Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod||2.6||2.1|
|The Episcopal Church||2.5||2.0||•||†||•|
|• Indicates statement issued by official body of this denomination.|
† Indicates statement signed by the National Council of Churches of which this denomination is a member.
‡ Indicates that this denomination was listed as an "endorsing organization".
Table 1 demonstrates that of Americans in the 12 largest Christian denominations, 89.6% belong to churches that support evolution education! Indeed, many of the statements in Voices insist quite strongly that evolution must be included in science education and "creation science" must be excluded. Even if we subtract the Southern Baptist Convention, which has changed its view of evolution since McLean v Arkansas and might take a different position now, the percentage of those in denominations, including the United Church of Christ and the National Sikh Center, have shown some degree of support for evolution education (as defined by inclusion in Voices or the "Joint Statement").
However, many Americans, including your students, may not know the position of their denominations. Several science teachers have told NCSE staff, "When I tell my students to check with their ministers, they are surprised to find out that it's okay for them to learn about evolution!" Seeing the information in Table 1 might give some students just such a surprise.
While it isn't a science teacher's job to tell students or the community at large "what they should believe", clearing away their misconceptions may help a teacher get on with the job of teaching science. By all means tell them that what most Americans believe and most Christian denominations teach is this: "teaching evolution is okay!"
American Jewish Congress, American Civil Liberties Union, American Jewish Committee, American Muslim Council, Anti-Defamation League, Baptist Joint Committee, Christian Legal Society, General Conference of Seventh Day Adventists, National Association of Evangelicals, National Council of Churches, People for the American Way, Union of American Hebrew Congregations. Religion in the Public Schools: A Joint Statement of Current Law, April 1995. [Note: The "authors" listed here are organizations represented on the drafting committee. An additional 22 organizations are listed as "Endorsing Organizations". The entire statement may be found on the worldwide web at http://www2.ed.gov/Speeches/04-1995/prayer.html (last accessed June 2, 2010) or by contacting any organization represented on the drafting committee.]
Matsumura M. Voices for Evolution. Berkeley (CA): National Center for Science Education, 1995. [Voices can be viewed on the worldwide web at http://ncse.com/voices].
Religion News Service. Believes: Dynamic Dozen. June 1998, http://www.religionnews.com/arc98/b_060198.html (last accessed June 4, 1998.) [Note: This source cites, in turn, the 1998 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches.]
This review currently available in pdf format. Download link below.
The diversity of life on earth is the result of evolution: an unsupervised, impersonal, unpredictable and natural process of temporal descent with genetic modification that is affected by natural selection, chance, historical contingencies and changing environments.Shortly after this statement appeared, I began to see letters to the editor from around the country decrying the "atheism" of the NABT. Anti-evolutionists like Phillip Johnson included broadsides against NABT in their writings. As one Christian said to me, defining evolution as "unsupervised" and "impersonal" implied to many Americans that "God had nothing to do with it and life has no meaning." Reflecting these public concerns, two distinguished theologians, Cornell's Huston Smith and Notre Dame's Alvin Plantinga, wrote a polite letter to NABT's board of directors, asking it to delete the two words "unsupervised" and "impersonal". They specifically noted that the use of the two words
has two unfortunate and unintended consequences. It gives aid and comfort to extremists in the religious right for whom it provides a legitimate target. And because of its logical vulnerability, it lowers Americans' respect for scientists and their place in our culture.When the NABT's board convened at its annual meeting in Minneapolis in October 1997, members' initial reaction was that creationists were trying to get them to change the statement, and they weren't about to knuckle under to that sort of pressure. They voted at the end of a 9-hour meeting, after only a brief discussion, not to change the statement.
[I]t is extremely hard to see how an empirical science, such as biology, could address such a theological question as whether a process like evolution is or isn't directed by God.... How could an empirical inquiry possibly show that God was not guiding and directing evolution?And they were right. If we are to say to postmodernist attackers of science that they should not confuse science with positions or philosophies derived from science, then we must be consistent and not equate science with materialist philosophy.
1. I believe in a God in intellectual and effective communication with humankind, i.e., a God to whom one might pray in expectation of receiving an answer. By "answer", I mean more than the subjective psychological effects of prayer.
1. I believe in a [personal] God...|
2. I do not believe in a God |
as defined above.
3. I have no definite belief|
regarding this question.
"Why couldn't a scientist think as follows? God has created the world, and of course He created everything in it directly or indirectly. After a great deal of study, we can't see how he created some phenomenon P (life, for example) indirectly; thus probably he has created it directly." (Plantinga, 1997)Plantinga's position is given in more detail in. "Methodological Naturalism? Part 2", Origins and Design, 1997; 18(2):34 (footnote 63).
... It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, ...and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.(Isaiah 40:21-23)Had there been a controversy in the Babylonian public schools of the day — and had there been Babylonian public schools — these would have been the issues in debate.
[T]he thought grew in to my mind that the canyons of this region would be a Book of Revelations in the rock-leaved bible of geology. The thought fructified and I determined to read the book.Powell recognized that there are few places on the planet with such awe-inspiring beauty and with such dramatic and continuous vertical exposures, as can be seen in the colorful walls of the Grand Canyon through which the Colorado River flows for 450 km from Lee's Ferry to Lake Mead. The Canyon is more than 1600 m deep, and ranges from 6 to 30 km wide. Each year more than four million visitors visit Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. There is perhaps no better place in all the world to appreciate the grandeur of geologic time (Calvin 1986; Redfern 1980).
|Radiometric dating of rocks and minerals works by modeling the time elapsed since the formation of a sample by measuring the ratio of the abundance of a parent isotope to the abundance of its daughter isotope produced by radioactive decay. The rate at which a radioactive parent isotope decays to its daughter isotope is well known. To correct for the ratio of this isotope pair present at the time of formation of the sample, we use the so-called "isochron" method (Dalrymple 1991). This requires that we analyze a number of samples that geologic criteria indicate were cogenic (that is, they formed at the same time) and from a medium which had a common, uniform ratio of the two isotopes. A typical example would be a sample of rocks and minerals extracted from a single volcanic extrusion with a common initial isotope ratio acquired from that lava. For samples which are cogenetic, the isotope ratios of parent to daughter, normalized to a non-radiogenic isotope of the daughter element, plot on a straight line, termed an isochron. This is because, in each sample, the parent isotope decreases and the daughter isotope increases due to radioactive decay. Having obtained an isochron we can determine the initial parent to daughter isotope ratio and correct for it in calculating the time elapsed since the formation of the rock.|
igneous. Igneous rock is formed as magma cools. This type of rock may be produced as lava flows cool on the surface (or the ocean floor) or as the molten rock forces itself between other rock in the earth's crust.The Rock cycle. The rock cycle describes the various stages in the building and remodeling of the rocks which make up the earth. For convenience the cycle starts with molten magma below the earth's crust. The magma slowly rises to the surface on currents like those we can see in boiling water. When it invades the solid crust or reaches the surface, the magma cools and forms solid rock. Movements in the earth's crust and erosion by ice, wind, and water cause minerals to be worn out of the rock and cause deeper rock to be exposed to the surface. These minerals are transported and deposited in layered sediments which solidify into rock. The intense pressure and/or temperature applied to sedimentary and igneous rock by geological processes transforms it into metamorphic rock. Higher pressure and temperature can transform any solid rock back into molten magma to complete the cycle.
sedimentary. Sedimentary rock is formed as mineral particles are deposited in layers in lakes, river deltas, dunes, or seabeds. The particles can be transported by glaciers, wind, or water.
metamorphic. Metamorphic rock is formed as igneous or sedimentary rocks are subjected to intense pressure and/or heat. This causes the structure and the properties of the rock to be changed. If enough heat and pressure are applied, the rock melts to become magma again.
"If you will not let me treat the Art of Discovery as a kind of Logic, I must make a new name for it. Heuristic, for example" (William Whewell, quoted in Todhunter, 1970).Creationists continue to claim scientific validity for their version of "scientific creationism" and to demand its admission to the science classrooms of the nation's public schools. If both "models" are fairly presented, they say, students would overwhelmingly prefer the creation model over the evolutionary view.
[W]hen we regard every production of nature as one which has had a history; when we contemplate every complex structure and instinct as the summing up of many contrivances, and each useful to the possessor... when we thus view each organic being, how far more interesting... will the study of natural history become!Rules of classification, he added, will become simpler, embryology will reveal structure, geographical distribution will be illuminated by increased geological knowledge, changes of climate, and so on. All these and many more areas of human curiosity will be freshly perceived through the perspective of descent with modification.
A grand and almost untrodden field of inquiry will be opened, on the causes and laws of variation, on correlation of growth, on the effects of use and disuse, on the direct action of external condition, and so forth. The study of domestic productions will rise immensely in value. A new variety raised by man will be a far more important and interesting subject for study than one more species added to the infinitude of already recorded species. Our classifications will come to be, as far as they can be so made, genealogies; and will then truly give what may be called the plan of creation (C Darwin, p 486).
You cannot imagine how pleased I am that the notion of Natural Selection has acted as a purgative on your bowels of immutability. Whenever naturalists can look on species changing as certain, what a magnificent field will be open — on all the lines of variation — on the genealogy of all living being — in their lines of migration, &c., &c. (F Darwin 1837:485).And Hooker in turn expresses the heuristic advantages of evolu-tion when explaining his intentions to his botanical colleague William H Harvey.
What I shall try to do is, to harmonize the facts with the newest doctrines, not because they are the truest, but because they do give you room to reason and reflect at present, and hopes for the future, whereas the old stick-in-the-mud doctrines of absolute creations, multiple creations... are all used up, they are so many stops to further enquiry; if they are admitted as truths, why there is an end of the whole matter, and It is no use hoping ever to get to any rational explanation of origin or dispersion of species — so I hate them (Huxley 1918:481-2).The deadening effects of a strong commitment to special creation is nowhere more clearly illustrated than by Adam Sedgwick in his 1860 review of Origin.
Change the conditions of life, he admits, and old species would die out, and new species might have room to come in and flourish. But how, and by what causation? I say by creation. But, what do I mean by creation? I reply, the operation of a power quite beyond the powers of a pigeon fancier, a cross-breeder, or hybridizer; a power I cannot imitate or comprehend; but in which I can believe. (Quoted by Hull 1973:161).By declaring his faith in a "power I cannot imitate or comprehend", Sedgwick has set the problem of species outside the scope of human inquiry, and in Hooker's words, "there is an end of the whole matter."
The known is finite, the unknown infinite; intellectually we stand on an islet in the midst of an illimitable ocean of inexplicability. Our business in every generation is to reclaim a little more land, to add something to the extent and the solidity of our possessions. And even a cursory glance at the history of the biological sciences during the last quarter of a century is sufficient to justify the assertion, that the most potent instrument for the extension of the realm of natural knowledge which had come into men's hands, since the publication of Newton's "Principia," is Darwin's "Origin of Species" (F Darwin 1887: 557).An additional century has not altered the validity of Huxley's assessment, and the creationism so vigorously rejected then still has no place in the intellectual toolbox of science today.
[I]t has been pointed out that if the [fundamental mode] oscillations arise in the deep interior, then-because of damping mechanisms-the oscillations seen at the surface should be weaker than those in the interior. Attempts to calculate the oscillation magnitudes required to match the [surface] observations appear to indicate that they would become of such great amplitude that they would disrupt the solar interior.Nicholson is referring to observed oscillations, not theoretical ones, and if you will recall from an earlier discussion, all known oscillations have periods less than one hour. As such, Nicholson is saying that any of the observed fundamental oscillations would be powerful enough to disrupt the core. Why this does not happen he did not explain, but it should be obvious that, despite Davies' claim, oscillations longer than one hour could be tolerated by the standard model just as the short-term oscillations are.
It is also evident that a very drastic change in the solar model would be necessary to enable the 2 h 40 min oscillation to be interpreted as the fundamental radial mode, as Severny et al.and Brookes et al. suggest. Indeed it is unlikely that any such model can be found that can generate the observed photon luminosity by thermonuclear reactions [emphasis added] (Christensen-Dalsgaard and Gough 1976, p90).In other words, the authors are saying that drastic changes would be necessary only if the long-term oscillation is a fundamental mode oscillation, and that only under such circumstances would it be impossible to construct a model that relies on stellar fusion. As I hope to demonstrate later, Christensen-Dalsgaard and Gough did not believe it was a fundamental mode oscillation.
School library media professionals cooperate with other individuals in building collections of resources appropriate to the developmental and maturity levels of students. These collections provide resources which support curriculum and are consistent with the philosophy, goals, and objectives of the school district. (ALA, 1990)While the library should have some materials that satisfy the general reading and learning interests of students, a large proportion of material must support classroom curricula — for example, if students in the school study early American history, the library should have biographies of leading figures of the time, historical novels set in that time, and material covering various topics in greater depth than do textbooks — both to provide supplementary readings and to support research assignments. The number of such books related to any given topic is limited by the need to provide similar selections supporting other courses and teaching units.
Members of the school community involved in the collection development process employ educational criteria to select resources unfettered by their personal, political, social, or religious views. Students and educators served by the school library media program have access to resources and services free of constraints resulting from personal, partisan, or doctrinal disapproval. (ALA, 1990)Proposed "creation science" or "evolution/creation" materials must be evaluated within this context. Even citizens who support putting such materials in the school library will not want to change district policies in a manner that would lead to filling school libraries' shelves with third-rate novels and tabloids that report UFO sightings. They can also see why it is untrue that "All controversies must be heard." "All controversies" could include everything from disagreements in neurology journals over whether pallidotomy or hypothalamic stimulation is the better treatment for Parkinson's disease, to disagreements within militias over the best way to "resist" the federal government.
After my speech a couple of the traditional people approached me and said that the next time I came, if I had time, they would take me to see the spot where the people last saw this creature, implying that it was still possible to see the animal during the last century before the reservations were established. I gave their knowledge credence (p 243).Deloria is telling us that he believes that these "traditional people" have helped him to prove that the scientists are wrong — that dinosaurs did not go extinct millions of years ago; a hundred years ago the Sioux saw the stegosaurus walking in the Badlands. He "gave their knowledge credence." Imagine how these "traditional people," these Standing Rock Sioux, must have felt to have Vine Deloria, a university professor and one of their own, talking with them seriously about paleontology — and giving credence to what they were able to tell him about the stegosaurus, what they were able to tell him out of the storehouse of their traditional knowledge. Anyone who knows anything at all about American Indian history must understand what a moment this must have been.
The creationists have learned a lot in their long struggle to unseat evolution. Trial and error has shown them what doesn't work: Anti-science doesn't, efforts to ban [the teaching of] evolution don't, and purely religious invective is also a losing proposition. The idea of being open-minded, religiously neutral, and scientific has gained such wide credence (or at least lip service) that creationists can't successfully oppose it, no matter how much they might like to. So, their new tactic is to declare creationism scientific, then join in with the majority and espouse the virtues of the times in their own name. In this way they can pose as latter-day Galileos being persecuted by "orthodox" science (Edwords 1980: 4-5).Add to this a large measure of standard-issue American Ethnic Invective, and you have Deloria's method exactly.
Deloria has a Siouan sense of black humor, and likes to tease his readers. Unless he has changed in the last few years, he would laugh at the idea of men and dinosaurs living together. But then he might tell you that.So, Brown is not convinced, really, that dinosaurs and human beings were on the earth at the same time. No, Brown thinks it likely that ol' trickster Deloria is just counting coup in his on-going culture war with the Anglo establishment, just having fun with me — and all the others who might be willing to fork over $23 for a book advertised to dispel "the myth of scientific fact". But if Deloria's book is just a politico-ethnic practical joke, it seems to have taken in another of the blurb writers.
[E]ven the most sophisticated of modern scientists, in explaining the fossil remains, finds that species in the rocks are distant relatives to each other, not direct lineages.... Apparently somewhere, and at a time unknown, when species were ready to evolve they went offstage, made their changes, and then rushed back into the geologic strata to leave evidence of their existence (p 40).In fact, by the time Deloria was penning these lines, the paleontological world was already abuzz with the news that transitional forms had been found. In the January 14, 1994 issue of Science Thewissen and Aria described the fossil skeleton of a whale with large, complete, and functional hind legs — legs which would have allowed this early whale to get about on the land! Gould calls this a "bag packer for creationists", the paleontological "smoking gun" (1995: 366-7). This was big news, and Science is not exactly an obscure journal. The publication of the article was early enough for Deloria to have read the piece (or even Gould's April, 1994, account of the discovery in Natural History reprinted in Gould 1995: 359-76), had he been doing the kind of reading one would have to do in order to write a book responsibly attacking the basic tenets of geology and paleontology.
Perhaps the epitome of scientific fraud was the work of Sir Cyril Burt on twins. Fearful of criticism of his work, Burt simply performed the peer-review process by himself, writing glowing reviews of his work using pseudonyms. This deceit, and the manipulation of statistical data in his studies was eventually exposed (p 41-2).Deloria misses much here. Burt's work claimed to find a very high correlation between IQ scores of twins raised apart. This was regarded as important evidence for hereditarian views — evidence which was useful to those who claimed that race could determine intelligence. But ethnic pseudoscience was not necessary to reveal Burt's fraud. Here is the story as Gould tells it:
I think that the splendid "official" biography of Burt recently published by LS Hearnshaw (1979) has resolved the issue so far as the data permit (Hearnshaw was commissioned to write his book by Burt's sister before any charges had been leveled). Hearnshaw, who began as an unqualified admirer of Burt and who tends to share his intellectual attitudes, eventually concluded that all allegations are true, and worse (1981: 236).Hearnshaw, then, actually began as an apologist for Burt, but when he found real evidence of fraud, he was forced to change his mind. This is real scholarship. My guess is that Deloria will not change his mind about "transitional forms" (and so about evolution and creationism) just because of the walking whales.
A man in tweed stands before an academic audience. He is, let us say, a professor of English (as I am); he has (like me) no scientific training, aside from some amateur reading. He delivers a series of lectures on "creation science". He acknowledges that his religious affiliation is, let us say, Pentecostal, to suggest that he is guided by the spirit.This would, of course, be highly unlikely. Most of the well educated people who praise Red Earth, White Lies would be embarrassed even to be found in the audience on such an occasion. Most academics would work hard to prevent such "fundamentalist" notions from intrusion into the science curriculum of their children's school. But change lecture to book published by Scribner's, change Pentacostal Christian to charismatic Sioux religion — and this unlikely fantasy is exactly what Vine Deloria has accomplished.
In his lectures he argues that the scientists have it all wrong, that the earth was created, and not created some unimaginable billions of years ago. He asserts that, while he is not certain of the age of the earth, he is fairly sure that human beings were on earth with the dinosaurs, that human beings were on earth to see the formation of the mountains. And all of the earth's igneous rock poured forth in one great volcanic cataclysm triggered by the impact of a great meteor. He argues that the universal flood of the book of Genesis is probably historical fact.
His scientific breakthrough, he explains, is that he is bringing to bear the testimonies of the people who actually witnessed these events. He presents the testimonies of pre-literate peoples as preserved in their oral traditions of which he is a skilled interpreter; he shows how these oral traditions are very often exactly in keeping with Old Testament accounts. He argues that many scientists actually know the truth of the biblical account of creation (as corroborated by pre-literate peoples) — but they are cowed into dishonest silence by the fear of ostracism from the cozy scientific community. His lectures are applauded by this academic audience and endorsements are written by some rather eminent figures in attendance.
A Camel Skull!!!
How Can a Camel Skull Be Used in the Ministry?
Take a look at the following three overheads. I think you will see how we can use even a camel skull to show that our pre-conceived ideas will influence how we see the world around us. Remember when you use these the audience will not know (usually) that it is a camel skull.
1. First show this graphic and have the audience give you feedback. ... Was this animal a flesh-eater, omnivore etc. Point out the "sharp teeth", what would this animal have used these teeth for?
2.Then show this next graphic. This is a drawing made showing what one person (the artist) thought the animal may have looked like.
3. Lastly, show this graphic of what the animal really was. Even though something has sharp teeth it doesn't necessarily "prove" that it ate meat.
In the same way we have to have all of the information before we can know what happened in the past. Only God was there in the beginning and has told us what has happened. We have to trust Him when it comes to issues such as the origin of man, earth, the universe etc. These issues are outside of the realm of science and cannot be "proven". I hope these help!
This course fulfilled a basic science requirement for students at Madison (WI) Area Technical College (MATC). There were no prerequisites, and most of the students would not go on to specialize in any area of the sciences. In short, this could be the last or the only science education many of these students would receive. Most of the students were adults returning to school after a number of years or recent high-school graduates whose grades, prior scholastic preparation, or financial situation precluded matriculation at a baccalaureate institution. Most of these students were in the "college-transfer" program, which meant that they hoped to transfer these credits to a school that granted a 4-year degree.
During the one-semester Animal Biology course, we explored the typical zoology topics — basic chemistry, cell biology, genetics, evolution, ecology, and comparative biology (anatomy, physiology, and behavior). Because MATC has a strong program for animal technicians, our teaching lab contained skeletons and mounted specimens of a number of species. We were also fortunate to have access to the University of Wisconsin Geology Museum to supplement our teaching. Athough the department had a staff to prepare specimens and schedule laboratory use, the small class size meant that all instruction — classroom, laboratory, field trips, and discussion sections — were led by the course instructor. There were 2 "sections" of the course — 16-17 students in each.
By the time I discovered the AIG materials in March, these students had already studied specimens at the UW Geology Museum and had begun comparative studies of skeletal materials in their laboratory sections. One of the assignments in that exercise was to examine skeletal material, including teeth, to understand the relationship between dental anatomy and behavior (including food sources). The AIG challenge to bring these images directly to these students seemed to me to be the ultimate "authentic assessment" of their learning and my teaching. If they could apply their "book learning" to this "real-life" situation, then they really did grasp the process that we call "science as a way of knowing" (SAAWOK). It was not without a little trepidation that I presented the AIG materials during the 2-hour discussion sections.
The first AIG overhead is a line drawing of the skull of a camel (see Figure 1). True to the AIG expectations only one of my students — a young woman from North Africa — knew what sort of animal this was (see sidebar). She agreed to sit on the sidelines and fill us in later on camel behavior and ecology and how they relate to the structures we observed. Also true to AIG expectations was the students' initial reaction — they focused immediately on the tall, pointed teeth in the front of the skull as I asked the what sort of food these animals ate. But then things changed.
These students with a minimum of prior instruction in comparative anatomy also noticed the molars — high, flat teeth which are typical of animals eating grasses and tough vegetation. One student remarked that, although the "anterior dentition" is impressive, it is really the back teeth which dominate the mouth. They seem more "important" to the animal than the few larger pointed teeth in the front.
Because they had already examined the dentition of flesh-eating, plant-eating, and omnivorous reptiles and mammals in the museum and lab, the students were able to see that the "sharp" teeth in the front of the jaw were not really sharp! The teeth were tall and narrow, but even the line drawing showed that they were blunt, not sharp.These students had seen large canines and incisors in plant-eating animals and knew that these were used in a variety of social and antipredator behaviors — not for eating meat. Furthermore, many were familiar with horses and deer and recognized that the combination of lower incisors with a bony "cutting board" in the upper jaw is useful for animals that bite off tough stems or grasses.
The discussion of the qualities of the skull lasted about 20 minutes, and then I introduced the second AIG image (see Figure 2). This artist's rendition of the living animal clearly presents the animal as a flesh-eater. After discussing the rendition in small groups for about 10 minutes, the students came up with 2 reasons to reject this image as inappropriate. The first was the shape of the mouth. One group noticed that the "lips" opened far back into the jaw. This is good for flesh-eaters which need to open wide to kill and tear chunks of flesh from their prey or which use teeth near the back of the jaw as a sort of "bone-cracker". However, for grazing animals, like camels, horses, and deer, that need to chew their food a lot, the "cheeks" help keep the food between the teeth while chewing. The mouth is smaller and the molars almost never show In this rendition, the students suspected that the half-chewed food would keep falling out of the animal's mouth.
Second, the students noticed that the front teeth were not "sharp" and that the lack of teeth at the front of the upper jaw would cause serious problems for any animal that needed to tear flesh or deliver a deep puncture wound to its prey. This animal had none of the sharp, piercing, slicing teeth needed to be a competent predator.
Then, following the AIG "lesson plan", I showed the students the artist's rendition of the camel's head (see Figure 3). All the students agreed within minutes that this head was the more likely fit. They were willing to hedge their bets as to whether the skull had to be a camel, but they clearly saw that the animal had to be a plant-eater and not a flesh-eater. Of course, they had already rejected the flesh-eater as a good fit solely on the basis of anatomical evidence. They had seen skulls of many animals and recognized that the dental anatomy in this animal was that of a plant-eater with special adaptations for "mowing" stems and grinding foods, not piercing and tearing.
At last, our North African student gave us a brief account of camels in her homeland. Once she explained how and what camels eat, their social organization, and their behavior, there was a "chorus" of nods and murmurs.
An important part of the "discussion" sections in this class was a period for reflection on ideas and issues raised in the course or on the various learning activities, such as this one, that they engaged in. It is a classic SAAWOK component — what do we know and what makes us sure we know it? The students needed to identify the question(s) they were asking, the data available to them, what else they might need to know to answer the questions(s), and how to present their conclusions persuasively (for example, Stewart and Jungek 1995). An important part of this process is to identify the evidence and the materials used in the process and to explore how they influenced our conclusions (Petto and Petto 1997).
In this activity, the students recognized that the prominent front teeth had tended to attract their attention away from the other evidence and away from a more thorough examination of the anatomical features in the camel skull. This attraction, they agreed, prompted them to jump to conclusions about the nature of the organism before they had a chance to consider all the information available. Perhaps most important, the students recognized that a focus on the large front teeth caused them to put aside — at least temporarily — their previous knowledge and experience which were vital for solving the problem.
The AIG website invites us to "show that our pre-conceived ideas will influence how we see the world around us" without, of course, telling us that the AIG conclusions are derived from Genesis 1:30: "And to every beast of the of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat." This is the passage that AIG Director Ken Ham uses in his lecture to "prove" that Tyrranosaurus rex was a plant-eater (See Skip Evans's "Creationism: A trip to the dark side" RNCSE 1998 Mar/Apr;18:22-2). If abandoning the scientific evidence in favor of a 6000-year-old scriptural account doesn't constitute being influenced by "pre-conceived ideas", I don't know what does.
In the end, however, these students really came through and performed as AIG said they ought to — forming their conclusions on the basis of the evidence and not on "pre-conceived ideas". I couldn't have written a more appropriate and challenging final exam.
Special thanks to the students in my spring 1998 Animal Biology class at Madison Area Technical College. Without them, this outcome would not have been possible, but most of all, thanks for proving that you were learning something about the process of science as well as the data.