The GeoChristian

The Earth. Christianity. They go together.

Review of Earth Science textbook in Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith

earthscienceThere have been a number of positive reviews of my Earth Science textbook Earth Science: God’s World, Our Home, published by Novare Science and Math. One of the most comprehensive reviews is in the journal Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith (Volume 69, Number 2, June 2017, pp. 111-113). The review was written by a middle school science teacher, who like me, had been forced to use secular textbooks in a Christian school because of the lack of credible options. Here are some highlights:

“The text is very readable, and it includes appropriate graphics to illustrate concepts and provide examples. Nelstead’s warm voice present in the text suggests a caring teacher behind the writing rather than the cold prose typical in many science textbooks.”

“Nelstead is clear throughout the text that he loves scripture and holds the perspective that the Bible reveals God as the caring, sovereign Creator. He emphasizes the perspective in this text as one that accepts “the strong evidence for an old universe” (p. xvi). However, Nelstead also encourages Christian educators to put the issues of the age-of-the-Earth debate behind them, stating, “Since Scripture and creation both come from the same God, they cannot be in conflict. And when both are rightly understood, they won’t be” (p. xvi). I recognize that not all Christian educators will agree with this perspective. However, many Christian educators teach with secular texts that embody a very different worldview than that of the teacher. The fact that Nelstead is upfront about his beliefs and how they influence the writing of the book is encouraging, and a model that Christian educators might follow.”

“I thoroughly enjoyed reading this text, and I believe Christians teaching science will find it a valuable resource. It may prove to be an excellent textbook choice for an earth science course for students in grades 7–9, and I would recommend that science teachers in Christian schools examine it for themselves for possible adoption. Christians involved in teaching science at other grade levels or in different types of schools would also benefit from this text as a resource to keep on the shelf. I believe that anyone interested in a thoughtful elaboration of Earth science that holds a biblical perspective as integral to that study would benefit from reading this book.”

Novare’s Earth Science is the textbook some Christian educators have been waiting for for decades. Buy it directly from Novare rather than from Amazon, which is over-priced.

October 20, 2017 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Creation Care, Creation in the Bible, Earth Science Textbooks, Geology, Meteorology, Oceanography, Science Education | | Leave a comment

Using Google Earth for Earth Science Education

I am creating a series of Google Earth labs to use with my middle school Earth Science textbook Earth Science: God’s World, Our Home. For the most part, these labs could be used with other textbooks as well, though I do occasionally refer to figures or pages in my textbook.

ge_horn

At this stage, I would love feedback on the labs. The feedback could be in regard to the simple Google Earth interface I am using, which involves navigating from placemark to placemark, or it could be in regard to the actual content of the lab.

The first three labs (alpine glaciers, streams, volcanoes) can be downloaded from here:

earthscience_googleearthlabs

This is a .zip folder, which can be extracted (on a PC) by downloading it then right-clicking on it and selecting “Extract All…” The extracted file will be named earthscience_googleearthlabs.kmz. Double-click on this file to open Google Earth (if you have Google Earth installed on your computer).

Most of these exercises have three parts:

  1. I take the students on a tour, which they do by double clicking on links in the Places pane of Google Earth. In this part, students will be reviewing what they have read in the textbook about various landforms.
  2. In the second part of the lab, I will again take students from placemark to placemark, but this time they will name the landform and sometimes answer a question.
  3. In the third part, I will take the students to a location, and have them create placemarks for various landforms.

Most of the labs are designed to be completed in about an hour.

Thanks!

February 22, 2017 Posted by | Geology, Science Education | 5 Comments

RTB review of Earth Science textbook

Reasons to Believe (old-Earth Christian apologetics organization of Hugh Ross et al.) has a nice review of my new textbook Earth Science: God’s World, Our Home.

“Overall, Earth Science: God’s World, Our Home is an outstanding textbook to add to an old-earth science curriculum. Compared to a few years ago, we now have a rich well of resources to draw from for teaching science to young students, whether it is in formal classrooms at a Christian school or in homeschooling environments. As a matter of fact, this particular book, while excellent at teaching concepts for its intended middle school audience, could even be used at the community college level. Anyone looking for an earth science textbook for junior high or high schoolers should definitely consider this book. The straightforward writing keeps the focus on the science. Yet, as students might discover, science (as a study of God’s creation) should engender the soul and the mind to worship the Creator.”

Thank you to Dan Bakken for taking the time to review the book, and to Reasons to Believe for publishing the review.

Grace and Peace

September 10, 2016 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Apologetics, Geology, Oceanography, Old-Earth creationism, Origins, Science Education, Uncategorized | | 1 Comment

Biologos interview

The folks at Biologos.org have interviewed me regarding Earth Science: God’s World, Our Home, my new middle school textbook published by Novare Science and Math.

http://biologos.org/blogs/chris-stump-equipping-educators/new-science-textbook-celebrates-ancient-age-of-earth-from-christian-perspective

earthscience

August 30, 2016 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Apologetics, Creation Care, Creationism, Geology, Meteorology, Oceanography, Old-Earth creationism, Origins, Science Education, Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

The story of “Earth Science: God’s World, Our Home” – a Christian middle school textbook

ESci_coverMy first experience teaching Earth Science was at a small Classical Christian school in Missouri for the 2001-2002 school year. The headmaster was a young-Earth creationist. She knew that I was an old-Earth Christian, but perhaps being desperate for a science teacher she went ahead and hired me as a part-time teacher for a year, teaching middle school Earth Science and high school Chemistry. I had (if I remember correctly) eight seventh-grade students, almost no laboratory materials, and a pile of Bob Jones University Press Space and Earth Science textbooks. The students were great, I could make do with the limited resources, but the young-Earth textbook? That was hard to work with. I taught the students that there was a range of beliefs among Bible-believing Christians in regards to the age of the Earth and the formation of the rock and fossil records.

My second experience teaching Earth Science was at an International Christian School in Bucharest, Romania, where I taught Earth Science at the high school level (along with all of the other sciences in grades 7-12) from 2003 to 2008. The students, from a number of different countries, were once again wonderful. The supplies were once again limited, though I had brought a number of minerals, rocks and maps with me. One big improvement was that I was able to choose my own textbook. I would have loved to have had a Christian Earth Science textbook, but the only Christian titles on the market were from young-Earth publishers. I had learned by this point that it would be better to take a secular textbook and add Christian content than to take a young-Earth textbook and try to undo both the questionable Biblical interpretation and bad science that these books inevitably contain. At my recommendation, the school purchased Earth Science textbooks published by Glencoe, and I went ahead and produced supplementary materials on the relationship between Earth Science and Christianity.

At some point I got the idea that perhaps I should be the one to write a Christian Earth Science textbook. I even wrote a few complete chapters, and used some of them with my students. I shared the textbook idea with several friends, who all encouraged me to move forward. But the dream sat on the shelf for the most part from 2008 until 2014. I still had the idea in the back of my mind, but had no idea how to move forward with the project in terms of the business side of things, such as publishing, printing, and marketing. I knew that even if I were to write the best Christian Earth Science textbook in the world, it would be a failure if I didn’t get the business aspects right.

In July of 2014, I first heard of Novare Science and Math, a new Christian educational publisher. I posted a short note on GeoChristian.com:

GeoChristian20140704_2

 

On Novare’s web site, they listed that they would be producing an Earth Science textbook in the future. I figured that someone else had beaten me to it, which was acceptable to me. I went ahead and sent an email to the publisher, John Mays, explained who I was, and offered my services to review the book and help in any other way I could. My desire was to do what I could to make their upcoming book the best it could be, as I saw this as a critical need in the Christian educational system. John wrote back and said he didn’t actually have an author lined up. I sent him a chapter I had written several years previously, and before long, John asked me if I would be willing to write the book.

I agreed, we worked out an agreement and timetable, and I started working on the book. I began writing in September of 2014, and we initially set an aggressive schedule to complete the book by the summer of 2015. We soon realized that this timetable was unrealistic, but by that point, a handful of schools were committed to using the book for the 2015-2016 school year. We managed to put together a preprint of the first half of the book to get the students started, provided a second preprint with a handful of additional chapters a few months later, and I finished the writing in February of 2016, which was seventeen months after starting.

Earth Science: God’s World, Our Home is now complete, printed, and in the hands of students. I am thankful to God for what has been accomplished, and pray that this book would be used to help students love and worship their Creator, love and serve their neighbors, and better know and care for the creation, which is God’s world and our home.

It is common in book prefaces for authors to give their thanks to those who sacrificed alongside the author as the book was being produced. I and my family now know from experience what this is all about, and I would like to thank my beautiful wife, Shirley, and wonderful adult children for their sacrifice of time while I worked on the book, a project that took over twelve hundred hours while I was working full time at my natural resources job. When I was done with my book, my wife commented how good it was to have me “back.”

I would also like to thank John Mays and the Novare team for their leadership and patience as the book slowly came together. I know there times when John wondered when in the world the next chapter was going to show up. Novare has been a delight to work with, and many of the things that make this book good—the educational philosophy, page layout, and even the title of the book—are thanks to John.

Novare had an excellent team of reviewers for the textbook: Steven Mittwede, Ronald DeHaas, and Chris Mack. They caught a number of errors in my writing and made numerous other suggestions that greatly improved the textbook. There were a few of their suggestions that I chose not to implement, and hopefully I made the right choice in those rare circumstances. I am sure there are some things in the book that are not exactly the way they should be, and any errors that exist are certainly my responsibility.

The best endorsements as far as I am concerned have been from my wife, who proofread each chapter and let me know it was interesting, and from a group of middle school students somewhere out there who read portions of a chapter and liked it.

I am most of all thankful to my Creator and Redeemer. As we stand in awe of his many works—thunderstorms, mountains, forests, waterfalls, and much more—may we be moved to worship him for all that he has done and is doing.

Grace and Peace

—————————————

Note: Order the textbook directly from Novare Science and MathIf you order from Amazon, you will get one of the paperback preprints rather than the hard cover final version.

April 18, 2016 Posted by | Christianity, Creation Care, Environment, Geology, Meteorology, Science Education | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Cover art for Earth Science textbook

Earth Science: God’s World, Our Home from Novare Science and Math has a cover!

ESci_cover

June 2, 2015 Posted by | Geology, Old-Earth creationism, Science Education | , , , | Leave a comment

Does Genesis 1 Demand Belief in a Young Earth?

I highly recommend Novare Science and Math’s most recent newsletter, which highlights the question “Does Genesis 1 Demand Belief in a Young Earth?

My upcoming middle school textbook, “Earth Science: God’s World, Our Home” is being published by Novare, and will be available for the 2015-2016 school year.

CPF-New-300x300

May 22, 2015 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Creation in the Bible, Creationism, Old-Earth creationism, Science Education | | 59 Comments

Novare Earth Science — an upcoming middle school textbook by The GeoChristian

NovareLogo_2Color_122012

Like their secular school counterparts, many Christian schools offer a full year of Earth Science at the middle school level. These Christian schools, as well as home school parents who wish to offer a year of Earth Science, really have only two sources for curricula: secular publishers, such as Glencoe or Holt, or young Earth creationist (YEC) Christian publishers, such as Bob Jones or A Beka. When I taught secondary-level Earth Science at a Christian school, I went with a secular textbook. I figured it was easier to insert a Christian perspective into a secular textbook than it would be to undo the bad science and dogmatic but questionable biblical interpretations in the YEC textbooks.

I was excited this past summer when I stumbled across the web site for Novare Science & Math, a rapidly growing Christian science curriculum publisher. One thing I was enthusiastic about was Novare’s three Core Principles:

  1. CPF-New-300x300Mastery. Typical middle school and high school science textbooks are 800+ page monsters, filled with a lot of interesting stuff, but also packed with more information about more topics than most teenagers could possibly learn and remember. This leads to a Cram-Pass-Forget cycle, which almost all teachers and students can relate to. The Novare textbooks, on the other hand, take a Learn‑Master-Retain approach, part of which involves publishing textbooks that cover fewer topics, with each being covered in more depth.
  2. Integration. Science classes are often taught in compartmentalized boxes. Novare textbooks integrate their subjects with other fields of science, mathematics, and history, with an emphasis on developing science writing skills throughout (no multiple-choice questions).
  3. Kingdom Perspective. Rather than taking the conflict model taken by many Christian educators, who insist that there is a war between science and Christianity, Novare takes an “All truth is God’s truth” approach. As the Novare website states, “There can be no inherent conflict between faith in the One who made the world, and study of the world He made.” Novare textbooks seek to be thoroughly Biblical in their approach to the study of God’s world, which does not negate what God has revealed in his creation.

Here’s what Novare says about the age of the Earth:

Finally, virtually every Christian science textbook publisher is overtly committed to an agenda of rejecting mainstream scientific evidence pertaining to the age of the earth. For both Biblical and scientific reasons, we believe it is time to put this debate behind us. We find the literalistic model of an earth approximately 10,000 years old to be not only not necessitated by the soundest principles of Biblical exegesis, but to be in conflict with the “other book” of God’s revelation: the creation itself. From Psalm 19 and other passages we believe the creation reveals the glory of the Lord. Since scripture and creation both come from the same God, they cannot be in conflict. And when both are rightly understood, they won’t.

I got even more excited when I read that Novare is planning on publishing a middle school Earth Science textbook in time for the 2015-2016 school year. I contacted the owner of the company, and offered my services for reviewing this upcoming product. To make a long story short, the conversation quickly moved from me being a reviewer to being a co-author, to being the author.

Earth Science01

Writing a textbook in a very short amount of time is a daunting task. Not only do I need to present content from a wide range of fields at a level appropriate for middle schoolers, I need to do so in a way that points them to the loving providence of our all-powerful and wise Creator. I am currently working on Chapter 3 (out of about 15), and appreciate your prayers as I write.

Grace and Peace

October 28, 2014 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Christianity, Environment, Geology, Meteorology, Oceanography, Old-Earth creationism, Science Education | , | 6 Comments

Around the Web 10/23/2014 — Old Earth textbook, No Ham for dinner, inverted smileys

I’ll break out of my semi-monastic lifestyle for a few moments to pass on some good GeoChristian kinds of links…

Old-Earth Classical Christian Middle School Earth Science TextbookNovare Science and Math, a relatively new Christian curriculum publisher, has announced that they will publish an old-Earth middle school Earth science textbook in time for the 2015-2016 school year. Does anyone want to guess who is writing that much-needed textbook?

Ken Ham Rejects Entering Into “Gracious Dialog” With Old-Earthers — Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis and the world’s foremost promoter of young-Earth creationism, has turned down a dinner invitation from the president of BioLogos, the world’s foremost promoter of evolutionary creation (i.e., theistic evolution).

Part 1 — The invitationKen Ham, We Need a Better Conversation (Perhaps Over Dinner?) — BioLogos president Deborah Haarsma, concerned about the level of acrimony among Christians over the topics of evolution and the age of the Earth, invited Ken Ham to have dinner with herself and Reasons to Believe head Hugh Ross:

“All three organizations are also concerned about the departure of young people from the church over origins issues. Each tends to think that the positions of the others are contributing to the problem! But studies have shown that it is the acrimony over this issue that drives young people away. We respect the commitment that Reasons to Believe has demonstrated to gracious dialogue with those of other positions. We completely agree with Hugh Ross that “If we Christians can resolve this issue in a peaceful way it’s going to attract non-Christians to enter into dialogue with us. But if we continue to fight…it turns them off.” Perhaps Ken Ham could join Hugh Ross and me for a friendly conversation over dinner? My treat.”

Part 2 — The rejectionShould I Have Dinner With BioLogos? — Ken Ham compared himself to Ezekiel, warning the people of God against compromise, and Nehemiah, who refused to be distracted by the enemies of God’s people, though he added that he doesn’t consider Hugh Ross to be a personal enemy, only an enemy biblical authority.

“We at AiG are busy “rebuilding a wall.” We are equipping God’s people to defend the Christian faith, and I believe we are doing a great work for God. We are busy being “watchmen”—warning people of those who undermine the authority of the Word of God.”

Ken Ham later wrote that Answers in Genesis “will not, however, send out such a kumbaya message,” by fellowshipping with compromisers.

Part 3 — Hugh Ross respondsAmbassadors for Reconciliation — Hugh Ross is a gracious man, but is obviously disturbed by the discord sewn by those who villainize old-Earth Christians.

“One way we can help people receive our message of reconciliation with God is by modeling reconciliation among ourselves. John 13:35 says, “All men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” And yet, although creation beliefs hold a core position in our Christian faith (Hebrews 11:6), no other subject exposes a greater lack of love among believers. Some creationists treat fellow believers with ugly, disparaging disdain.”

“Enough is enough. There are mission fields still to be reached. How can we ask nonbelievers to dialogue with us if we cannot graciously dialogue with one another, if we treat one another as enemies? Unless we make some progress in reconciling our differences, how can we expect to help reconcile a skeptical world to Christ? We are commissioned by God to be His ambassadors. It’s time for us to start behaving as ambassadors.”

It seems strange that someone like Ken Ham can interact graciously with Christians who disagree with him on issues such as eschatology, predestination, baptism, or spiritual gifts without condemning those who disagree with him as “compromisers,” and yet when it comes to a secondary issue such as the age of the Earth (which is an issue of interpretation, not biblical authority), he cannot even have dinner with those who differ from him.

I must add that my limited personal interaction with Ken Ham has been cordial: Do Old Earthers and Young Earthers Agree On Anything?

A Hundred Inverted Smiley Faces — I had moderate success viewing today’s partial solar eclipse with a shoebox pinhole camera and by projecting the eclipse onto the patio with my binoculars. But when I walked back into the house, I was welcomed by hundreds of solar eclipse images on the floor, steps, and walls. Gaps in our horizontal blinds acted as pinhole cameras and projected a multitude of eclipse images:

DSCN7287

October 23, 2014 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Around the Web, Christianity, Old-Earth creationism, Science Education, Theistic evolution, Young-Earth creationism | , , , , | 16 Comments

Around the web 7/4/2014 — Science curricula, ichthyosaurs, and antipodes

A promising alternative for science in Christian schools and home schools? — Christian educators generally have had two choices when looking for secondary-level science curricula — young-Earth creationist material or secular curriculum packages. When I was a high school science teacher, I always opted for the secular. It was much easier to integrate biblical principles into the “secular” textbook than to undo all of the really bad science (and some pretty questionable biblical interpretation) found in the YEC materials. I just stumbled across a link to Novare Science and Math. Here’s what they say about the age of the Earth:

Finally, virtually every Christian science textbook publisher is overtly committed to an agenda of rejecting mainstream scientific evidence pertaining to the age of the earth. For both Biblical and scientific reasons, we believe it is time to put this debate behind us. We find the literalistic model of an earth approximately 10,000 years old to be not only not necessitated by the soundest principles of Biblical exegesis, but to be in conflict with the “other book” of God’s revelation: the creation itself. From Psalm 19 and other passages we believe the creation reveals the glory of the Lord. Since scripture and creation both come from the same God, they cannot be in conflict. And when both are rightly understood, they won’t.

Does anyone know anything about Novare?

Icthyosaurs eat YEC arguments for breakfast — Naturalis Historia blog has had a consistent stream of great articles. For example, in When Marine Reptiles Ruled the Sea: Huge Ichthyosaur Fossil Find and the Age of Reptiles, biology professor Joel Duff outlines the serious problems young-Earth creationists have with Mesozoic marine reptiles, such as ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs. Marine reptiles had similar ecological niches as do Cenozoic cetaceans (whales and dolphins), but the two are never found together. Cetaceans have never been found in Mesozoic strata, and the large marine reptiles have never been found in Cenozoic strata. If the standard YEC attempts to explain the nature of the fossil record were valid, one would expect some mixing of these organisms to occur in the fossil record. YECs try to explain the order in which fossils occur in the geologic column with a combination of differential mobility and ecological zonation, but these processes completely fail to explain why marine reptiles are always stratigraphically lower than cetaceans, and why the two are never found together. An even greater difficulty is that it is not just individual organisms that must remain sorted during the flood, but entire ecosystems.

The problem with YEC is biblical as well as scientific — Here’s a good 30-minute presentation on why young-Earth creationism is not Biblical:

Did you know where your antipode is? — When I was a child, I was told that if I dug deep enough, I’d reach China. Actually, if I dug straight down, I’d come up in the Indian Ocean near the snow capped Kerguelen Islands (we can ignore the inconvenient problems of digging through Earth’s mantle and core). If you don’t know where your antipode is, this dual map will nail it for you: Antipode Map (AKA Tunnel Map).

Persecution of Christians continues — from CNN: Extremism fuels abuse of Christians in Mideast. The atrocities that make the news–such as the acts of Boko Haram in Nigeria–are just the tip of the world-wide iceberg of religious persecution.

July 3, 2014 Posted by | Around the Web, Science Education | 2 Comments

The Old-Earth Christian homeschooling vacuum

At times it seems like the young-Earth creationists have a virtual monopoly on science curriculum materials for the Christian homeschool market. There are popular homeschool magazines that ban advertisements from curricula—secular or Christian—that teach an old Earth or biological evolution. The same goes for homeschool conventions and curriculum fairs.

At the extreme in the homeschool movement are those who want to build walls around their children to protect them from all evils, such as evolution. We were part of a homeschool parents’ group in St. Louis whose leader had a rather dominating personality. I think one of our last appearances at the monthly meetings was when she stood up and virtually forbade members of the group from taking their kids to the St. Louis Zoo because of its new talking statue of Charles Darwin. That didn’t stop us, of course, from taking our kids to the zoo, even with the animatronic Darwin. My anecdotal experience is that the outcome for families who took the build-a-wall-around-our-children approach to homeschooling was not positive, either academically or spiritually.

We homeschooled our children in their early elementary years and they all have done very well in middle and high school, and in college. One of the primary sources for our material was Sonlight Curriculum, which has been banned from some homeschool conferences and magazines because they carry old-Earth material along with young-earth. John Holzmann of Sonlight has written an excellent article: Young- and Old-Earth Creationists: Can We Even Talk Together? A quick search for “Sonlight curriculum evolution” in your web browser will turn up a multitude of “We don’t use Sonlight because it includes evolution” blog posts and articles.

The Atlantic has recently posted an article entitled Old Earth, Young Minds: Evangelical Homeschoolers Embrace Evolution. Here are a few excerpts from the article:

Take Erinn Cameron Warton, an evangelical Christian who homeschools her children. Warton, a scientist, says she was horrified when she opened a homeschool science textbook and found a picture of Adam and Eve putting a saddle on a dinosaur. “I nearly choked,” says the mother of three. “When researching homeschooling curricula, I found that the majority of Christian homeschool textbooks are written from this ridiculous perspective. Once I saw this, I vowed never to use them.”

———————————

The assertion that anyone who believes in evolution “disregards” the Bible offends many evangelicals who want their children to be well-versed in modern science. Jen Baird Seurkamp, an evangelical who homeschools her children, avoids textbooks that discredit evolution. “Our science curriculum is one currently used in public schools,” she says. “We want our children to be educated, not sheltered from things we are afraid of them learning.”

———————————

Meanwhile, professors at evangelical colleges that attract homeschoolers often have to deal with objections from Young Earth proponents. “We do have to address some one-sided perspectives in biological science that some of our freshman biology majors come pre-loaded with,” says Jeffrey Duerr, a biology professor at George Fox University, a Christian university in Oregon. “But we do this by first addressing why science and Christian faith are compatible and then by teaching biology to them.”

I think that at present  finding an appropriate homeschool curriculum for middle school or high school Earth Science would be a real challenge. The choice seems to be between selecting a secular textbook that is not very homeschool-friendly, and one of several YEC textbooks that are homeschool-friendly but contain numerous scientific inaccuracies and questionable biblical interpretations.

My experience from teaching in Christian schools is that it is far easier to undo any shortcomings in secular textbooks (the shortcomings were not all that many) than it was to undo the bad science and questionable biblical interpretations I saw in Christian textbooks. But I was able to do this based on a solid education in geology and secondary education and years of thinking about Bible-science issues. Most homeschool parents don’t have that background.

What is the solution? What are some good curriculum options for Christians who want to give their middle school or high school students a semester or year of Earth Science?

Grace and Peace

HT: Martin Lack

March 10, 2013 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Evolution, Geology, Science Education, Young-Earth creationism | , | 20 Comments

Jesus is for geologists (and other scientists)

I’ve always known that Jesus is for geologists, as well as for biologists, chemists, physicists, archeologists, astronomers, and all other sorts of scientists.

There are, of course, many Christians who are scientists, and many scientists who are Christians. As a graduate student in geology, I found rich fellowship with a half dozen Christian geologists-in-training, and there was a Christian on the faculty of the department as well.

Davis Young, a Christian geology professor (retired), and author of The Bible, Rocks and Time, Christianity and the Age of the Earth, and Mind over Magma: the Story of Igneous Petrology, has written what he considers to be his most important book: Good News for Science: Why Scientific Minds Need God.

The summary on Barnes & Noble reads:

Bridging the fields of natural science and religion, Good News for Science: Why Scientific Minds Need God invites members of the professional scientific community, graduate, undergraduate, and high school science students, science teachers, and members of the general public who are interested in the natural sciences to embrace the Christian faith personally. Employing the theme of good news, this book challenges readers to ponder the question of life after death as a gateway to the overall claim that Christianity, at its best and most consistent, bears good news for both science and the scientist. On the one hand, Christianity, far from being antithetical to science, supplies the rational foundation that makes the scientific enterprise possible. On the other hand, the central message of Christianity brings a firm hope to scientists as individual persons in meeting their deepest needs and desires for genuine significance, purpose, goodness, forgiveness, justice, and relationship with the Creator. In presenting his case, the author eschews pseudo-science and treats with great respect the discoveries of contemporary mainstream natural science, including an ancient universe and Earth, biological evolution, and the standard model of cosmology. The text adopts an informal, personal, conversational style. Good News for Science will be of interest not only to the general scientific community but also to Christians who are seeking a resource to use in presenting Christian faith to scientifically knowledgeable individuals.

As the review says, this would be a great book for

  • Professional scientists
  • Students of science, at either the undergraduate or graduate levels
  • High school teachers and students
  • Members of the general public.

Buy this book at Barnes & Noble or Amazon.

Grace and Peace

October 15, 2012 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Apologetics, Archeology, Astrobiology, Astronomy, Atheism, Biology, Chemistry, Christianity, Evolution, Geology, Origins, Physics, Science Education, Theistic evolution | , , , | 2 Comments

Learning science

“The world looks so different after learning science.

For example, trees are made of air, primarily. When they are burned, they go back to air, and in the flaming heat is released the flaming heat of the sun which was bound in to convert the air into tree. [A]nd in the ash is the small remnant of the part which did not come from air, that came from the solid earth, instead.

These are beautiful things, and the content of science is wonderfully full of them. They are very inspiring, and they can be used to inspire others.”

—Richard Feynman

from National Science Education Standards, 1996

June 24, 2012 Posted by | Science Education | Leave a comment

Geology and the scientific method

The following item was originally posted in February 2007. I have added it to my blog recycling program. Because I have new readers of The GeoChristian, I will occasionally go back and re-use some of my favorite blog entries (sometimes with a little editing).

We often hear about “the scientific method.” It would be better to talk about “scientific methods,” because not all scientific problems can be approached in the same way.

Here’s a quote from geologist John D. Winter on how geologists think as they go about their scientific investigations:

Geology is often plagued by the problem of inaccessibility. Geological observers really see only a tiny fraction of the rocks that compose the Earth. Uplift and erosion exposes some deep-seated rocks, whereas others are delivered as xenoliths in magma, but their exact place of origin is vague at best. As a result, a large proportion of our information about the Earth is indirect, coming from melts of subsurface material, geophysical studies, or experiments conducted at elevated temperatures and pressures.

The problem of inaccessibility has a temporal aspect as well. Most Earth processes are exceedingly slow. As a result, we seldom are blessed with the opportunity of observing even surface processes at rates that lend themselves to ready interpretation (volcanism is a rare exception for petrologists). In most other sciences, theories can be tested by experiment. In geology, as a rule, our experiment has run to its present state and is impossible to reproduce. Our common technique is to observe the results and infer what the experiment was. Most of our work is thus inferential and deductive. Rather than being repulsed by this aspect of our work, I believe most geologists are attracted by it.

Winter, J.D., 2001, An Introduction to Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology, p. xvii. (bold emphasis added)

My thoughts:

  • There is not just one “scientific method.” Even in the experimental sciences, not everything is done in the strict order of Observation — Hypothesis — Experiment — Conclusion. Geologists do experiments, but these are done to give insights into how the world works so we can better understand both the past and the present.
  • The scientific method as practiced by geologists is often more like the work done by a forensic detective, trial lawyer, or historian. We have pieces of evidence, and we try to put together a coherent story about what has happened in the past.
  • This does not mean that geologists aren’t scientists. It just means that there are different sets of rules when one is investigating past, non-repeatable occurrences.
  • Almost all high school science textbooks have a section about the “scientific method” in the introductory chapter, presenting the standard Observation — Hypothesis — Experiment — Conclusion outline. This might be acceptable (though not completely accurate) in a chemistry or physics book, but it is downright misleading in an earth science textbook. I have not seen a single high school earth science textbook that points out these important differences in methodology.
  • This distinction comes into play in discussions about origins. When one is talking about earth history, evolution, or the origin of life, much of the discussion revolves around questions that can only be addressed by the historical scientific method rather than the experimental scientific method. This doesn’t make origins studies less scientific.

Grace and Peace

February 28, 2011 Posted by | Blog Recycling, Geology, Science Education | , | 5 Comments

Creationism, home schooling, and falling away from the Christian faith

Warning: the following statement is anecdotal and not the result of any sort of formal research: Christian kids who are home schooled all the way from pre-school through high school are only about fifty percent likely to retain their Christian faith once they finish high school.

As I said, this “statistic” is not the result of a survey. Of the dozen or so kids I know who were home schooled K-12, roughly half of them still consider themselves to be Christians.

I know, that is a very small sample size. I would be interested in seeing some real numbers based on careful research.

All of these children were raised using young-Earth creationist materials. For their science curricula they used Bob Jones, Abeka, Apologia, or other young-Earth curricula. They watched AIG, ICR, and Dr. Dino videos. And despite this heavy dose of “creation apologetics,” they wandered from the faith. This is heartbreaking for the parents, of course, who have poured their lives into their children, with very mixed results.

The publishers of young-Earth curricula present glowing testimonies from families’ success stories. Billy and Suzy used Curriculum X and Billy got a 99th percentile on the ACT science portion and Suzy has been accepted to an Ivy League medical school.

The parents who somehow “failed” in their home schooling, on the other hand, are likely to keep to themselves and wonder what they did wrong.

I know that this is a complex issue, but perhaps part of the problem is with the science curricula. If young Earth creationism doesn’t work scientifically (and it doesn’t), then we are giving our youth a poor foundation for their faith. If it isn’t necessary Biblically (and it isn’t), then we are telling them that the Bible’s trustworthiness hinges on something that isn’t required by a careful reading of the text. The results in the lives of our children, whether they get their creationism from a home school, a Christian school, or from Sunday school, is tragic.

May God in his grace draw these dear children to himself.

Grace and Peace

P.S. I write this with great respect for many, many home schoolers. We home schooled through fourth grade with some of our children, and I appreciate the dedication I see in home school families. This is not an attack on home schooling. I do question the dominance of young-Earth creationism in the Christian home school community.

February 15, 2011 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Apologetics, Christianity, Origins, Science Education, Young-Earth creationism | , , , , | 13 Comments

U-Haul trucks — geological billboards

Here’s the side of our U-Haul truck from our Colorado to Missouri move last month:

Like many U-Haul trucks, this one had a geological theme depicted on its side:

Did you know… Strange flora, previously unknown to science, were discovered in the hidden Ketona Dolomite Glades, an area often referred to as a “botanical lost world.” Why do these mysterious rare plants grow only over this unique Cambrian rock?

A further description of the plants that grow on the Ketona Dolomite, and how the composition of this dolomite affects the plants, can be found at www.uhaul.com/supergraphics/.

Thanks, U-Haul, for your contribution to Earth science education.

Grace and Peace

January 3, 2010 Posted by | Biology, Geology, Science Education | , | 5 Comments

Science without experiments?

From Times Online: School lab health and safety rules ‘could stop future scientists’:

It is a scientific fact, tested and proven by generations of pupils, that experiments in school laboratories win young people to the cause of science. White coats, goggles and the chance to set fire to things foster a passion for chemistry that even years of examinations do not extinguish.

But government advisers and eminent scientists are warning of a disturbing development that could endanger generations of future scientists: pupils are no longer allowed to experiment.

Health and safety concerns are preventing students — including those taking A levels — from performing vital and exciting investigations into what happens when one sets fire to magnesium ribbon, or drops a small glob of sodium into a dish of water.

——————————–

The comments follow an Ofsted report warning that the national curriculum and testing regime led to boring science lessons. Schools spent too much time drilling students for tests, it said.

Jane Lees, head of Hindley High School in Wigan, and a former head of science, agreed that health and safety had put an end to a number of “whiz-bang” experiments. “But we’re moving on to different ways of teaching science — with videos, and on the web with virtual learning environments which are quite as interesting. It’s a different way of learning but it should still be able to turn them on. What you need is inspirational teachers.”

———————————

Experiments at risk

Ammonium dichromate volcano Make a pile of ammonium dichromate and set the tip alight using a magnesium fuse. The result is a tiny volcano, complete with ash, steam and nitrogen gas

The thermite reaction Mix metal powder with metal-oxide to create thermite and set it alight. The mix will burn at an exceptionally high temperature

Potassium in water The classic school experiment. Drop potassium into water and it reacts violently, making hydrogen, which then ignites in a small fireball

Safety is very important, but these demonstrations can be done safely with the proper training and setup.

I still remember demonstrations from middle school physical science and high school chemistry (a long long time ago), such as sodium in water, and (gasp) actually handling mercury (do students today ever even see mercury?).

Grace and Peace

October 5, 2009 Posted by | Chemistry, Science Education | 2 Comments

PDF periodic table

Here is a PDF of the periodic table I used when I taught chemistry at Bucharest Christian Academy, updated to include copernicium (element 112, Cp). Feel free to copy and distribute this table.

The GeoChristian Periodic Table of the Elements

Here’s what it looks like:

GeoChristianPeriodicTable

July 19, 2009 Posted by | Chemistry, Science Education | , | Leave a comment

Evolution in Texas

From Christianity Today: Darwin Divides — Christian college professors split on Texas science standards.

The state of Texas is working on revising its science education standards, and one of the proposals is to remove a requirement that teachers include weaknesses in the theory of evolution.

Christian biology/science professors in the state are divided on this one. Some Christian professors support the teaching of evolution without restrictions:

“I hope to reach others on the weightier matters of the Resurrection, hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven while I work out how evolution does not have to conflict with Christianity,” said Daniel Brannan, a biology professor at Abilene Christian University.

Brannan joined hundreds of scientists in signing a 21st Century Science Coalition petition that supports new curriculum standards for the state’s 4.7 million public-school students. The petition states that “evolution is an easily observable phenomenon that has been documented beyond any reasonable doubt.”

Others—proponents of ID—are in favor of retaining standards that require teaching weaknesses of evolution:

“We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged,” declared the hundreds of dissenters, including biology professors from Baylor, Lubbock Christian, LeTourneau, and other Christian universities.

Still others haven’t taken a side:

Nichols [professor of biology at Abilene Christian] said[,] “I suspect [the curriculum debate] is really more of a political/religious showcase than something that will really affect public education. “I and many others live relatively comfortably in both camps and tire from attacks from both sides,” he added. “With all the real problems in the world, this is a serious waste of energy to keep beating on this topic.”

I suspect that whatever the state standards say, high school biology teachers will continue to teach what they want to teach. Teachers who completely embrace evolution won’t teach that there is evidence against evolution. They may bring in some state-mandated evidences against evolution, only to tear them apart. Biology teachers who accept some of the ID arguments (this would actually be a substantial number of teachers, though certainly not a majority) will bring anti-evolutionary concepts into the classroom even if the statement regarding problems with evolution is removed from the standards.

Grace and Peace

March 7, 2009 Posted by | Biology, Geology, Origins, Science Education | | Leave a comment

YEC B.S. in geology program

Cedarville University of Cedarville, Ohio has added a Bachelor of Science in Geology program. From the Cedarville announcement:

Cedarville University’s Board of Trustees recently approved the formation of the Bachelor of Science in geology degree, set to begin in fall 2009.

Faculty will equip students for lifelong scientific leadership in career fields such as hydrogeology, environmental geology, petroleum geology and numerous other areas of expertise.

“The degree will offer a whole host of new opportunities for graduates,” shares Dr. John Whitmore, associate professor of geology. “Geologists help us find clean drinking water, petroleum, natural gas, coal and valuable minerals.”

The program will be unique in that no other Christian school, that holds to a literal six-day account of Genesis offers geology as a major for undergraduates. The course of study will be taught from both naturalistic and young-earth paradigms of earth history.

[emphasis added]

This was discussed by e-mail exchanges a week or two ago in a group of Christian geologists I am part of. Most of them were rather skeptical of the the final statement about teaching “both sides” of the age of the Earth and evolution debates.

I wish them well, and I hope the program evolves over time. One question: will they produce geologists who can get jobs in industry or go on to graduate school?

Grace and Peace

P.S. One can also get a B.S. in geology from the following Evangelical Christian schools: Wheaton College, Calvin College, Olivet Nazarene. These schools all have a commitment to the truthfulness (some use the word inerrancy) of Scriptures, and yet see no conflict between the Bible and acceptance of an old Earth.

P.P.S. Why are all of these schools in the Midwest (Illinois, Ohio, Michigan)? Sure, there is some interesting geology there, but not a whole lot in the way of structure or lithologic diversity.

P.P.P.S. How will the science department handle a student who either 1. accepts an old Earth, 2. accepts evolution, or 3. loses his/her faith? How many of the students in this program will have a crisis of faith when they see that young-Earth creationism doesn’t work?

P.P.P.P.S. The Cedarville science department has only one geologist. John Whitmore has an M.S. in geology from the Intitute for Creation Research, and a PhD in biology. This isn’t much of a foundation to build a geology major on.

February 18, 2009 Posted by | Geology, Science Education, Young-Earth creationism | | 4 Comments