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Author Topic: Creationist in a bio class!  (Read 15609 times)
mad_doctor
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« Reply #105 on: January 29, 2010, 12:13:35 am »

I'm aware of the Pew studies. However, the most recent and best rebuttal of the fallacious "ID ~= creationism" is Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District (2005). Poll results do not explain how one could support life appearing in its present form without suspending disbelief in a staggering mountain of evidence, which is itself an act of faith.

If there is a dictionary or legal definition of "Creationism", I'm probably not referring to "Creationists" in the same way.  I mean someone who more-or-less believes the creation story, specifically that God made it all.  I have met plenty of scientists who believe both evolution and creation.  These scientists would probably say that the process we call "evolution" is simply the process God chose to create life on Earth.  If that is true, then the study of evolution really is an exciting thing, as frogfactory's student seems to believe, since it gives us a little insight into the mind of God.  I tend to agree, since in my opinion, it is a really unfortunate distinction people have made between evolution and creation, that is, to make the two beliefs mutually exclusive.  I doubt even Darwin himself would accept such a distinction.
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mdwlark
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« Reply #106 on: January 29, 2010, 2:19:25 am »


It's not weird at all. You're just young.

Agreed, with emphasis on the bolded.  Consider that you have the gem of a student who is seeking to reconcile long held beliefs with the desire and willingness to acquire new knowledge.  That is what it sounds like to me.

Religious belief/scientific knowledge is not a Hobson's choice, after all.

Yes and Yes. This is really not about creationism, it is about effective teaching and mentoring.  This isn't a difficult student.  This is a good student.  He is intently interested in the subject matter.  He is accurately stating in his quizzes and assignments what he is learning.  He is a courageous student.  He is trying to learn new ideas even knowing these ideas are taking him into a world he had never seen before and that might be threatening.  When he entered unfamiliar waters he hung on to an old anchor.  He is filled with desire.  It doesn't get any better or any easier than that for an educator.  This should be an exciting student to teach, and he is a student who the wrong teacher could crush. 

One of the most "sacred" challenges, if I may call it that, that we face as educators is not to merely teach facts, theories, or science, but to change student's world view to one that is deeper, truer, and that encompasses a broader universe.  Many students aren't willing to go there. It is a dangerous time for students who are open to it.  Most of the time, the change doesn't happen all at once.  It is a gradual process over four years.  However, sometimes breakthroughs are sudden.  I remember being a student in an English class, and one day I walked into a class discussion, and one hour later I walked away a different person.  I hardly spoke during the discussion, but I was transformed.  One thing I will always remember is the truly loving way the professor treated the conservative student in the class who did speak up.  She was troubled, and she was troubled by a universal problem of the heart that the roomful of blase literary critic types didn't see.  And the professor honored her unique perception and carried us all into a discussion of what is love.  He was able to do that because he was a teacher who loved his students and his subject. Your problem isn't the student.  Your problem is how to teach what this student needs, and it sounds like he is worth it.  Please don't make the mistake of just asking him to switch sides.  Give him a bigger universe.   
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shastymcnasty
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« Reply #107 on: January 29, 2010, 10:36:07 am »

Yes, I suppose "creationist" is a vague term.  Certainly it's reasonable to believe that some divine power must have been involved in the formation of the universe and still accept the theory of evolution.  However, K16's earlier post indicates that she is a "6,000 year universe" creationist.  She claims that the universe could not have begun millions of years ago because this contradicts "the scriptures."  She makes this claim on an academic forum, no less.

By the way, "hard core" creationists believe that the universe began 6,000 years ago, not 5,000.  In the 17C, the Anglican bishop James Usher claimed that the universe was created in 4004 BC.  He later defined the date more precisely: October 13, 4004 BC, at 9 AM.  He identified this precise time by studying "the scriptures."  Did I mention that this occurred in the 17C?  Perhaps K16's views may be just a tad outdated?
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pathogen
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« Reply #108 on: January 29, 2010, 12:33:23 pm »

Frogfactory,
True story from my days as a bio TA. Evolution was taught in lecture by the prof, not by me, but I did the assignment grading. Students had to write an essay on evolution (I had to grade all 50...the pain...). One of my best students emailed me, saying that she did not believe in evolution and wondered how to handle the assignment. I told her what she thought of the theory of evolution was not my business, so long as she could demonstrate mastery of the concept. She accepted that answer. A few weeks later, I was slogging through the essay pile. Painful. Most of the students had a shaky grasp of the material, at best. Then I got to creationist student...her essay kicked a$$. She understood the theory of evolution better than most of her classmates, who were NOT creationists. At the end of the semester, her final grade was not only the highest in my section, but was the highest across all the class sections (>500 students).
I guess I would say- don't underestimate your students. You're giving him a firm grasp of the fundamental concepts of biology. That's more than many people who say they accept the theory of evolution have (part of the problem with perception of evolution is that for most people, fundamental grasp of the concepts involved is poor). He's young and has room to grow from here, and you've helped kick start that process. Take a deep breath, give yourself credit, and don't worry about him- if he comes away understanding the ideas, you've done a hugely important thing.
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rroscoe
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« Reply #109 on: January 29, 2010, 3:18:40 pm »

Pathogen makes a good point here. Students need to demonstrate mastery of the concepts we teach them. That, and not what we personally consider "daft" (which in my case would actually be the OP's view of religion and religious people), is what really counts at the end of the day. In this case, the student's view of evolution is less important than whether or not he can show on assignments that he clearly understands it.

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anthroid
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« Reply #110 on: January 29, 2010, 5:39:20 pm »

Yes, I suppose "creationist" is a vague term.  Certainly it's reasonable to believe that some divine power must have been involved in the formation of the universe and still accept the theory of evolution.  However, K16's earlier post indicates that she is a "6,000 year universe" creationist.  She claims that the universe could not have begun millions of years ago because this contradicts "the scriptures."  She makes this claim on an academic forum, no less.

By the way, "hard core" creationists believe that the universe began 6,000 years ago, not 5,000.  In the 17C, the Anglican bishop James Usher claimed that the universe was created in 4004 BC.  He later defined the date more precisely: October 13, 4004 BC, at 9 AM.  He identified this precise time by studying "the scriptures."  Did I mention that this occurred in the 17C?  Perhaps K16's views may be just a tad outdated?

Ussher (not Usher), who was an Anglican bishop in Ireland, counted the "begats" in Genesis, assuming that each "begat," or generation, was a uniform 20 years.  Apparently doing the math meant that he fixed the date of Creation exactly as Shasty McN states.  However, since it was entirely a guesstimate based on what engineers called a SWAG ("scientific wild-assed guess"), sticking to a strict 4004 BC date of Creation, even if one IS a believer, requires a suspension of disbelief so great as to be, well, unbelievable.  It's hardly a reliable source nor is it a reliable date, even if one does believe that every single word of Genesis and the Bible is true.

RRoscoe's point is spot on, as is Kedves'.
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eumaios
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« Reply #111 on: January 29, 2010, 7:52:24 pm »

Yes, I suppose "creationist" is a vague term.  Certainly it's reasonable to believe that some divine power must have been involved in the formation of the universe and still accept the theory of evolution.  However, K16's earlier post indicates that she is a "6,000 year universe" creationist.  She claims that the universe could not have begun millions of years ago because this contradicts "the scriptures."  She makes this claim on an academic forum, no less.

By the way, "hard core" creationists believe that the universe began 6,000 years ago, not 5,000.  In the 17C, the Anglican bishop James Usher claimed that the universe was created in 4004 BC.  He later defined the date more precisely: October 13, 4004 BC, at 9 AM.  He identified this precise time by studying "the scriptures."  Did I mention that this occurred in the 17C?  Perhaps K16's views may be just a tad outdated?

Ussher (not Usher), who was an Anglican bishop in Ireland, counted the "begats" in Genesis, assuming that each "begat," or generation, was a uniform 20 years.  Apparently doing the math meant that he fixed the date of Creation exactly as Shasty McN states.  However, since it was entirely a guesstimate based on what engineers called a SWAG ("scientific wild-assed guess"), sticking to a strict 4004 BC date of Creation, even if one IS a believer, requires a suspension of disbelief so great as to be, well, unbelievable.  It's hardly a reliable source nor is it a reliable date, even if one does believe that every single word of Genesis and the Bible is true.

RRoscoe's point is spot on, as is Kedves'.

Plus you have to assume that those guys who lived 700 and 800 years did some extra begettin' on the side that might not have been recorded. I mean, I know I probably would have. Anyway, all sorts of things can heave a monkey wrench into the calculations. That's why reasonable creationists admit that the world might be as much as 10,000 years old.
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mythbuster
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« Reply #112 on: January 31, 2010, 12:07:58 pm »

Quote
Anyway, all sorts of things can heave a monkey wrench into the calculations. That's why reasonable creationists admit that the world might be as much as 10,000 years old.

Monkey wrench! LOL Too funny.
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tolerantly
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« Reply #113 on: January 31, 2010, 12:53:17 pm »

Pathogen makes a good point here. Students need to demonstrate mastery of the concepts we teach them. That, and not what we personally consider "daft" (which in my case would actually be the OP's view of religion and religious people), is what really counts at the end of the day. In this case, the student's view of evolution is less important than whether or not he can show on assignments that he clearly understands it.

However, if the student believes it's a lot of bunk, then only a careerist or indifferent student will stfu and get on with the memorization and spouting. If the student thinks it's bunk and is a good student, he or she will argue with you and be headstrong about it. This will make more work for you, but if you're not up for that, then maybe you picked the wrong job. Unless, of course, you're careerist or indifferent yourself.
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european
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« Reply #114 on: January 31, 2010, 1:02:06 pm »

Pathogen makes a good point here. Students need to demonstrate mastery of the concepts we teach them. That, and not what we personally consider "daft" (which in my case would actually be the OP's view of religion and religious people), is what really counts at the end of the day. In this case, the student's view of evolution is less important than whether or not he can show on assignments that he clearly understands it.

However, if the student believes it's a lot of bunk, then only a careerist or indifferent student will stfu and get on with the memorization and spouting. If the student thinks it's bunk and is a good student, he or she will argue with you and be headstrong about it. This will make more work for you, but if you're not up for that, then maybe you picked the wrong job. Unless, of course, you're careerist or indifferent yourself.

I think this is an exaggeration. Students who don't like confrontation, or who realize that entering a discussion on this would not be proper academic behavior, or who are naturally shy, ... might remain silent on the matter too.
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pennsyltucky
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« Reply #115 on: January 31, 2010, 1:07:08 pm »

Pathogen makes a good point here. Students need to demonstrate mastery of the concepts we teach them. That, and not what we personally consider "daft" (which in my case would actually be the OP's view of religion and religious people), is what really counts at the end of the day. In this case, the student's view of evolution is less important than whether or not he can show on assignments that he clearly understands it.

However, if the student believes it's a lot of bunk, then only a careerist or indifferent student will stfu and get on with the memorization and spouting. If the student thinks it's bunk and is a good student, he or she will argue with you and be headstrong about it. This will make more work for you, but if you're not up for that, then maybe you picked the wrong job. Unless, of course, you're careerist or indifferent yourself.

I think this is an exaggeration. Students who don't like confrontation, or who realize that entering a discussion on this would not be proper academic behavior, or who are naturally shy, ... might remain silent on the matter too.

...or who think that their course grades might be at risk.  Whatever the accuracy of this perception (I hope it is very inaccurate), many students have it.
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the_logical_poster
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« Reply #116 on: January 31, 2010, 1:30:31 pm »

I value students who are confrontational, but rational, intentional, unconventional.

And students who are dependable, befriendable, bendable, mendable. 
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Breakfast in the Fora
tolerantly
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« Reply #117 on: January 31, 2010, 3:00:26 pm »

Pathogen makes a good point here. Students need to demonstrate mastery of the concepts we teach them. That, and not what we personally consider "daft" (which in my case would actually be the OP's view of religion and religious people), is what really counts at the end of the day. In this case, the student's view of evolution is less important than whether or not he can show on assignments that he clearly understands it.

However, if the student believes it's a lot of bunk, then only a careerist or indifferent student will stfu and get on with the memorization and spouting. If the student thinks it's bunk and is a good student, he or she will argue with you and be headstrong about it. This will make more work for you, but if you're not up for that, then maybe you picked the wrong job. Unless, of course, you're careerist or indifferent yourself.

I think this is an exaggeration. Students who don't like confrontation, or who realize that entering a discussion on this would not be proper academic behavior, or who are naturally shy, ... might remain silent on the matter too.

...or who think that their course grades might be at risk. 

See under "careerist".
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scienceprof
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« Reply #118 on: February 01, 2010, 12:18:58 am »

Frogfactory:

You might be interested in the Biologos Foundation:

http://biologos.org/questions/category/basics/

"BioLogos represents the harmony of science and faith. It addresses the central themes of science and religion and emphasizes the compatibility of Christian faith with scientific discoveries about the origins of the universe and life."

There are, in fact, a substantial number of scientists in the United States who are people of faith, and many who specifically believe in a creator (without, of course, believing the earth is 6000 years old, etc.).  The founder of BioLogos is Dr. Francis Collins, formerly head of the Human Genome Project, and now the director of the NIH, so whatever you may think of his beliefs, hardly someone at the "lunatic fringe".

« Last Edit: February 01, 2010, 12:20:38 am by scienceprof » Logged

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frogfactory
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« Reply #119 on: February 01, 2010, 11:11:19 am »

Scienceprof:

Thanks for the link.  I was aware of Biologos, and I am aware that there are indeed many scientists who are believers of some sort or another.  It seems to me, however, that there is a world of difference between this and literal belief in the creation myth laid out in Genesis, which is where I think things get problematic to deal with in a science classroom (no offence meant, kaysixteen).  At this point, however, there's nothing as such to 'deal' with, so I'm going to forget about this, try to remember that it's possible I have other students with similar beliefs who may be less open about it, and think again if problems or difficulties do arise.

The Templeton Foundation, now that's the lunatic fringe.
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