Re: [asa] Accuracy vs. Methodology in Science Education

From: Merv <>
Date: Thu May 24 2007 - 21:07:43 EDT

This also is not an answer to Brian's question / (statement really) over
the antiquity of stalactites, but more commentary on it. Geologists on
this list are the ones who could enlighten us. E.g. is it really
claimed that these things all took millions of years to develop?

His [Brian's] sweeping conclusion may represent a simple naiveté over
such a broad issue, but he did make a specific observation about a
specific kind of event -- and that is part of what science is about,
even along with all the messy motivations for seeking those answers in
the first place.

Close to where I live, flood waters in the summer of '93 eroded some
significant gullies (some around 30 feet deep) through hard rock &
soil. The resulting "cliffs" were not trivial things to behold. This
was taken by some local YECs as a triumphant answer to the claim of the
Colorado river needing millions of years to carve out the Grand Canyon.
If these large rock formations could be shaped in a matter of weeks by a
local flood, then the Grand Canyon feat should be (relatively) quick
child's play for global flood waters. So does that represent a
slam-dunk for flood geologists on age issues? I'm sure most here would
be happy to share their commentary on why it doesn't. But the small
observation would still remain: flood waters can do an impressive
amount of work in a hurry. We have seen it with our own eyes, and that
bit of data remains despite what anybody does with it. And however
long it took stalactites to form in caves, young Brian has seen that
mineral rich, dripping water can leave a deposit in a short measurable
amount of time. While it isn't some new observation that any
scientists should be surprised, it still deserves an answer, if indeed
it is claimed that all such formations took thousands of millenniums.
  I think such science projects are a great opportunity and are pregnant
with "teaching moments" where observation & scientific method can be
affirmed, and the dangers of sweeping generalizations and illogical
leaps can also be discussed. It's the stuff of science education!


Christine Smith wrote:
> A friend of mine forwarded me the following tidbit
> from:
> "Brian Benson, an eighth-grade student who won first
> place in the Life Science/Biology category for his
> project "Creation Wins!!!," says he disproved part of
> the theory of evolution. Using a rolled-up paper towel
> suspended between two glasses of water with Epsom
> Salts, the paper towel formed stalactites. He states
> that the theory that they take millions of years to
> develop is incorrect.
> "Scientists say it takes millions of years to form
> stalactites," Benson said. "However, in only a couple
> of hours, I have formed stalactites just by using
> paper towel and Epsom Salts.""
> Initially, I was rather dismayed at the YEC "science"
> implicit in this story...but after thinking about it
> for a while, I posed the question to my friend "what
> are science fairs really for? Should the student be
> judged based on how much they struggled with and
> utilized the scientific method, regardless of the
> interpretation they come to, or should it be more
> about the accuracy of their conclusions?" This evolved
> (no pun intended) into a more general discussion about
> where the balance was between these two? And is the
> criteria different in the context of tests/quizzes
> versus the more exploratory context of
> reports/projects? In this particular example, can we
> really fault the student for coming to the conclusion
> that he did? Didn't he apply, to the best of his
> ability (and as much as we can tell from the article),
> the scientific method?
> Just curious as to the forum's take on this one...
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Received on Fri May 25 04:46:46 2007

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