Teach the Earth > Online Teaching > Online Course Collection > The Evolution/Creation Debate

The Evolution/Creation Debate

Timothy H. Heaton
University of South Dakota
Author Profile


In this course students are exposed to the modern scientific theories of the earth and life and to the diverse brands of Christian creationism and how they measure up to scientific analysis. Students explore these topics through readings, lectures, discussions, and essays.

Institution Type
Public four-year institution, primarily undergraduate

Course Size


Grade Level
College Upper (15-16)

Course Context

This is an elective course that is cross-listed between Earth Science, Philosophy, and Religion. It has no prerequisites, and it attracts a diverse variety of students. It has previously been taught face-to-face and is now being developed for online delivery.

Course Content

The course will begin with students writing a short essay on their previous exposure to the evolution/creation debate, their reasons for taking the course, and what they hope to gain from it. The content will begin with coverage of earth history and evolution from a traditional scientific perspective. Following that we will cover the various brands of Biblical creationism beginning with the most literal (Young-Earth Creationism) and working toward the most liberal or allegorical (Theistic Evolution). Each of these will be contrasted with the scientific view to assess its scientific merits and weaknesses. The implications of each approach to the Christian church and its appeal to various groups of Christians will also be discussed (i.e. some Christians believe the church is best served by accepting a literal Bible at all cost, whereas others believe it is better to accept the conclusions of modern science). The course will end with a synthesis of the various creationist approaches and a general discussion of the value and pitfalls of trying to reconcile science with religion.

Course Goals

Course goals are as follows:
1) To teach the processes, causes, and evidences of biological evolution and the scientific evidence for an ancient earth,
2) To expose students to the fundamentals and history of the varieties of creationism including Young-Earth Creationism, Intelligent Design, Progressive Creationism, and Theistic Evolution, and
3) To discuss the difficulties and philosophical implications of merging science with religion.


Discussing impressions of various positions on the evolution/creation debate will be a central activity of the course. For each section students will be required to post their analysis by a certain date and be required to make substantive comments on several other students' comments. The instructor will moderate and participate as needed.


Students will be graded on the following activities:
1) Completion of worksheets for the readings,
2) participation in class discussions,
3) quality of essays and capstone project, and
4) performance on midterm and final exams.

Teaching Notes

Adaptations have been made that allow this course to be successful in an online environment

Readings replacing many lectures.

The most successful elements of this course are:

The course has not yet been taught in an online setting.

Recommendations for faculty who teach a course like this:

Stay tuned.




Other References

Why Evolution is True, by Jerry A. Coyne, 2009, Penguin Books, ISBN 978-0-14-311664-6

The New Creationism: Building Scientific Theory on a Biblical Foundation, by Paul Garner, 2009, EP Books, ISBN 978-0852346921

More than a Theory: Revealing a Testable Model for Creation, by Hugh Ross, 2009, Baker Books, ISBN 0801013275

Understanding Intelligent Design: Everything You Need to Know in Plain Language, by William A. Dembski and Sean McDowell, 2008, Harvest House Publishers,
ISBN 978-0736924429

Scientists Confront Creationism: Intelligent Design and Beyond, edited by and Andrew J. Petto, 2008, W. W. Norton & Company, ISBN 978-0393330731

Making Sense of Evolution: Darwin, God, and the Drama of Life, by John F. Haught, 2010, Westminster John Knox Press, ISBN 978-0664232856

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