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Scientific Illiteracy and Geology

Posted by pbio on 07 May 2009 at 22:13 GMT

Author: 'DONALD' 'OWEN'
Position: Professor/Geologist
Institution: Lamar University
Submitted Date: April 19, 2006
Published Date: April 20, 2006
This comment was originally posted as a “Reader Response” on the publication date indicated above. All Reader Responses are now available as comments.

The same sort of problems described in this excellent article for biology education also applies to geology education. I teach a large proportion of the general population of undergraduate students who choose two semesters of geology to fulfill their science requirement in our public institution. The second semester of this sequence is historical geology, which deals in large part with the evolution of life and the fossil record that documents it. I have studied the arguments of the creationists and use materials provided by the NCSE, including Scott's book, in class. In geology, we encounter the same hard core of religious fundamentalist students that biologists encounter, as well as the slim majority who fall in the confused/undecided middle. We find, in addition to religious opposition to evolution, that opposition to a 4.5 billion-year old Earth is almost as common among the hard-core group. Some even object to plate tectonics and other slow processes that change Earth during long periods of time. When I point out that the top of Mount Everest, at 29,000+ feet above present sea level, is composed of fossiliferous limestones deposited below sea level, they see this as evidence for Noah's flood! Many students conclude that I am an athiest and left-wing socialist because I "believe" these awful things when, in fact, I am neither. As an active Republican, I work to oppose the religious right politicians who demand agreement with their scientifically ignorant positions. Sometimes, I actually have some success in these attempts!

No competing interests declared.