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Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience > Earth History Approach > Addressing Creationism > What Kind of Creationism?
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What Kind of Creationism?

picture of a rainbow over the ocean from NOAA There is a diversity of religious views in college classrooms, some of which are incompatible with certain scientific theories. Which theories are not accepted depends on the particular belief systems, which are generally outlined below.


Young-Earth Creationists

In the U.S., the most common (Crapo, 1989 ), and until recently, the most outspoken (National Center for Science Education (more info) ) creationists in the U.S. are Christian Protestants who believe that the Earth was created by God in six 24-hour days (Genesis 1).

Subtypes of Young-Earth Creationists include:

Old-Earth Creationists

In addition to the Young-Earth Creationists described above, many students are likely to be Old-Earth Creationists, Christians who do not interpret parts of the Bible (particularly the early chapters of Genesis) literally.

What is Intelligent Design?

Intelligent Design is a diverse collection of beliefs held by people who generally claim to have observational evidence that living organisms are not the result of random or mindless processes like natural selection, mutation, drift, and gene flow, but rather show evidence of intelligent, intentional planning.

Non-Christian Philosophies and Beliefs

Students whose beliefs make it difficult to learn about evolution extend beyond creationist Christians.
  • There are many creation stories besides the one in the Bible. In the US, Native American and Hindu creationism are also influential.
    • Native American students may be unusually skeptical of theories about their ancestors migrating to the Americas from Asia or playing a major role in the extinction of the North American megafauna about 10,000 years ago (e.g. Deloria, 1997 ).
  • Many students have a teleological (directed to improvement of the species) view of evolution, and will need considerable evidence to understand that natural selection is not always acting on every population and that it does not always make organisms "better" than they were before.
    • Teleology requires an intelligent will, but believers may describe the driving force as God, progress, or the good of the species.
    • These students may also consider humanity to be the pinnacle or end result of evolution.
  • Non-religious rivals of evolution, such as the adherents of Lysenkoism and Anti-uniformitarians (more info) are likely to be rare in a U.S. college classroom.
  • Some students simply haven't thought about evolution and consider it a needless complication.
  • Other Non-Scientific Beliefs that Hinder Learning Earth History

    Among students attending public universities in Utah, Texas, California, and Connecticut, Crapo, 1989 found that, in addition to Young-Earth Creationist beliefs, that high percentages (15-50%) of the students accepted unscientific beliefs involving:

    Earth history classes may be able to contend with these beliefs by teaching students how to make hypotheses, collect and assess evidence, and distinguish between those questions that can be answered by science and those that cannot.

    For Further Reading

    The classifications above are based on the following resources:

    Much information about different creationist beliefs is detailed on the web sites of creationists themselves.


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