Monday, September 14, 2009

A New Kind of Geology Class

I think that if more people took a class like this, flood geology wouldn't be quite so well accepted. Clay Farris Naff of The Humanist (a magazine that I don't ordinarily read) has a good article on how geologist David Harwood, of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, teaches his students to understand geology. Naff writes:
What would happen if the pro-science side quit trying to win over young people with words and instead let them discover science for themselves? That is what geologist David Harwood, holder of the Stout Chair in Stratigraphy at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), decided to find out. Together with his former doctoral student, Richard Levy, he has created a unique geology field course for future teachers. The idea is simple: In the rocky wilderness of Wyoming, a dozen students are pressed into teams and tasked with recapitulating centuries’ worth of geological discovery in a matter of days.
It really isn't very simple. It took quite some time to understand the geology of the Rockies. Still, interesting things happen along the way. He writes about a particular student:

It soon becomes clear that everything he knows about science comes from the standard creationist cant. He brushes Harwood’s idea of science aside as “a lot of this’s and that’s. It all comes down to one word—theory.” It turns out that his main objection in this class is to the geological column, which sets the Earth’s age at billions of years. “It’s a hypothesis that can’t be proven or hasn’t been proven,” he says. “It’s not a fact.” To avoid the possibility of heresy, David avoids writing any dates at all in his field journal.

And yet, within a week, David’s mind opens up to new ways of thinking, and he becomes a vigorous advocate of the inquiry method of learning. That is not to say he drops his lifelong commitment to fundamentalist Christianity. That would be too much to expect. But change washes over him all the same like a baptism in broad-mindedness.

This is sad because it reminds me a bit of Glenn Morton's "conversion" from flood geology, which almost cost him his faith. If the church would simply teach good science to start with, then discoveries like this would not be so jarring for the average Christian who takes a class in geology. I wonder how many people who are "jarred" by information like this never find their way back to their faith.

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