Eugenie Scott @ GSA

Keith B Miller (
Fri, 14 Nov 1997 22:09:33 -0600 (CST)

Ken VanDellen provided this report of the "Ussher Symposium" held at the
annual Geological Society of America meeting, and the talk presented by
Eugenie Scott the director of the National Center for Science Education. I
think this is important considering the "bad press" that the NCSE often


>On October 22, I heard Eugenie Scott of the National Center on
>Science Education give a paper in the Archbishop Ussher Symposium:
>Quantifying Earth History, at the annual meeting of the Geological
>Society of America. It was titled, Ussher, Young-Earth, and Old-Earth
>Creationism. She began by pointing out that there are creationists
>and there are creationists. One group believes that God created
>everything all at once and created all of the "kinds, whatever they
>are", separately. The other group is made up of evolutionists.
>She then went on to plot on a diagonal line, from upper left to lower
>right, a spectrum of views. These are:
> -Flat Earthers (who use the biblical "four corners" as a basis)
> -Geocentrists (who also use Bible passages as a basis)
> -Young-Earth Creationists (as described above)
> -Old-Earth Creationists
> (Day-age creationism)
> (Gap creationism)
> (Progressive creationism)
> (Intelligent Design Theory - citing books by Denton, Johnson,
> Kenyon, Behe)
> -Theistic Evolutionists
> -Materialists (distinguishing philosophical and
> methodological materialists)
>She said she was not a believer, but stressed that student should not
>be required to make a choice between creation and evolution (or
>between Christianity and science).
>I totally agreed with her spectrum, except that some Theistic
>Evolutionists might prefer to be thought of as Old-Earth Creationists.
>Also, I have long been of the view that it is unfair and inappropriate
>to present to students that there are only two positions, with
>Young-Earth Creationism as the alternative to traditional science, as
>is so often pushed for in the public schools by Fundamentalist
>In a discussion afterward, she noted that the National Science
>Teachers were preparing a credo about life, that had included a
>statement to the effect that life is meaningless, which is somewhat
>ambiguous. In response to letters from Plantinga (probably Alvin,
>rather than Neal) and another philosopher/theologian, they decided to
>rephrase this. They apparently are sensitive and are trying to
>Personal observations:
>I have trouble understanding why people would want to force teachers
>to present a viewpoint that most would call extreme, being close to
>one end of the spectrum, and expect it to be presented
>As a Christian who is not a Young-Earth Creationist, I would not want
>my children or grandchildren to be taught that the YEC version and
>the traditional version of origins are the only two.
>I was surprised at the fair, balanced, and even-handed way that Scott
>presented her paper. I think it was a revelation for many who heard
>it. Likewise, the introduction of "Archbishop Ussher" in his clerical
>attire and the comments that the "Archbishop" made, presented
>information about what Ussher did and what Lightfoot did. The basis
>for their calculations was briefly explained, and "Ussher" closed
>with the observation that we are better able to calculate Earth's age
>than he was, and he hoped that our results stood up better after 150
>years than his have. I was suspicious that this would be an
>opportunity for ridicule, and turned out to be quite the opposite.
>Ken Van Dellen

Keith B. Miller
Department of Geology
Kansas State University
Manhattan, KS 66506