Re: [asa] dialog with YEC brethern

From: Roger G. Olson <>
Date: Fri Sep 08 2006 - 17:20:45 EDT

>>>> "Roger G. Olson" <> 09/08/06 9:04 AM >>>writes:
> My experience has been that students (97% in the 19-21 yo range) don't
> care to engage at all in the origins issue. This frustrates me.
> I'm also
> aware that more than a few of these students come from Fundamentalist
> backgrounds and do believe implicitly the YEC propagandist screed,
> but are
> unwilling to talk about their beliefs in an open forum.
> Ted replies:
> My experience has been just the opposite. I can't find enough
> spaces in
> my
> science/religion courses (which deal substantially or even entirely
> with
> origins) for the students who want to be in them, and many of those
> students
> want to talk about the course material. Perhaps that's b/c nearly
> all of
> my
> students are from conservative Protestant backgrounds (although we
> do have
> some mainline students and a few RC students) and they have heard
> about
> this
> in their churches & schools, or even at home. I also structure my
> courses,
> however, to begin directly with the biblical and theological
> issues, not
> with the science. I've found that this particular pedagogical move
> makes
> everything else go much better. I also give those issues significant
> space
> in the course, at least one-third of the course in fact. Much less
> than
> that and it doesn't go very well and students don't want to talk as
> much.
> ted
“Humanity in the Universe I and II” and

Weekly Format: one or two common lectures and two individual discussion


I just wrote a long reply to you and David O (is he David 1, 2, or 3
BTW??), but lost the message due to an automatic logout timeout on my
webmail! I'll attempt to recreate some of my message. This time I'll
compose the reply in an offline text editor.

Sounds like you have a great course. I envy you! Do I take it that
an elective course? One big problem with the two I’m involved with is
they are required courses in Saint Joe’s “core” program. Most kids
really want to take them. Also there’s little emphasis on
Biblical/theological issues at least in the lectures. The lectures
mainstream science with the occasional mention that this can be
with religious views. There’s a heavy emphasis on NOMA. I give only
out of forty lectures, and these are on science topics. The only time I
have to engage faith issues is in my discussion sections, and there’s
little time for this after the necessities are done – lab activities,
lecture review, quizzes, and “damage control”. Also, since my further
discussion is not part of the syllabus of the course, most don’t care to
learn extra material that’s extraneous to their common grading. This is
in general a real weakness of team-taught courses.

Another issue is that this is team-taught with a collegially stipulated
syllabus and not all of the faculty are Christians. We have an atheist
teaching a section of core 6. There’s one priest, one “good” catholic
layperson, one evangelical Christian (who, BTW, got a gift membership to
the ASA after completing her Ph.D. in astrophysics this summer), and
truly. Ergo, I don’t have the editorial control of the course. It ends
being basically a survey of scientific method followed by a history
of the
cosmos and Earth and pre-humanity from a mainstream science with only a
perfunctory treatment of theology.

Again, I do envy your course, Ted. And, I think it’s a wonderful
idea to
start with the theology and various flavors of exegesis BEFORE one gets
into the scientific evidences.

[David: Roughly half our students are RC. Most of the RCs are not YEC
AFAICT. I have met some who are. Did they get this from a priest or
a YEC “ministry” or is it just a default position from ignorance? I
know. I can never get an answer. Perhaps I should invite each
student to
come to my office and discuss their views one-on-one? BTW, the absolute
nuttiest YECs I’ve ever seen are the Novus Ordo catholics. They make
Dino look like Stephen J. Gould. But the RC theologians and
scientists at
Saint Joe’s are JEPD allegorists. I do know of one older gentleman
(English and Philosophy prof) who's a pre-Vatican II RC (you know, the
Douay-Rheims only kind! heehee...) and doesn't accept evilution.

Most of our clientele are residents students – over half are athletes
come to SJC to have an opportunity to play collegiate sports at an NCAA
Division II school. We are in a rural setting. Rensselaer is often
jokingly referred to by the humorous pejorative “Rensseltucky”. A good
portion of our commuter students come from pretty Fundamentalist
backgrounds. Some of them are really bright. I still can’t get them to
engage in an origins discussion.

As a sad and amuzing anecdote, I had two students last spring who were
both very bright. They answered the test questions the “right” way.
were polite and nodded their heads and laughed at my jokes. But in
final essays on their views of evolution, from one I got the “Leviathan
was obviously a T-Rex so evolution is false”, and from the other
was finished on day 6 so evolution is false, and besides the geologic
column is a myth” (not exact quotes, but the gist is there).
makes me
want to blow my brains out (not literally of course!).]


To unsubscribe, send a message to with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Sat Sep 9 15:43:59 2006

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Sat Sep 09 2006 - 15:44:00 EDT