Caught between pastors and professors: A new community college class in Texas with Generation Z


(josh abraham) #1

I am now teaching the end of the Millenial generation and the first wave of Generation Z students. My classes in a lower middle class area of the creationism Bible belt of Dallas are 60% female and 46% Latino.

That means I am likely seeing a lot of nominal Catholics. The greatest chasm in this place is the wide gap between pastors across the street—young earth creationist Baptists—and the science departments at the college.

I have an opportunity to tell the story of the relationship between science and religion because the history department gave me a shot at a special topics class.

If anyone has any thoughts about my approach to this, here is my general trajectory

  1. Greek science…Aristrachus’ heliocentric model, Aristotle…nonsupernatural explanations for natural phenomena for the first time in human history
  2. Special revelation from Israel; Constantine and Augustine, and the subsuming of Greek thought as the handmaiden of theology till Copernicus (?)
  3. Aquinas and the relationship of revelation and reason
  4. Copernicus and Galileo making the Pope feel mocked
  5. Newton’s somewhat religious worldview…the beginnings of the Enlightenment and the clockwork universe. Mathematics enshrined in opposition to special revelation about nature
  6. The Enlightenment and the design question; Voltaire and Kant, Thomas Reid’s common sense
  7. Lyell and Darwin and TH Huxley’s breaking away science from church oversight once and for all

7a. German higher criticism and the German model of academic freedom and tenure spreads to America

  1. Nietzsche and World War I; the Leuba study that showed students were losing their faith by going to college; WJ Bryan’s horror about both the war and Leuba, as related to Darwinism; the Scopes trial

  2. Evangelicalism and Darwinism are both removed from the headlines until the 1940s and the Neo-Darwinian synthesis and the rise of Billy Graham

  3. Sputnik and Henry Morris’ reaction to the re-introduction of Darwinism into science textbooks to catch up to the Soviets

  4. The Arkansas Balanced Treatment trial that brought Stephen Jay Gould, Norman Geisler, and George Marsden to Little Rock

  5. Edwards v Aguillard and the idea of teaching alternative theories as allowed by the Court

  6. Intelligent design proponents jumping on the opening given by the Court; Bill Nye the Science Guy and the nationwide popularization of science by atheists and agnostics such as Nye and Richard Dawkins and Neil Degrasse Tyson via media such as PBS

  7. Dover trial and Bill Nye-Ken Ham debate at the Creation Museum

I plan to tell my own story and journey on YouTube to kick off the class. Your thoughts are appreciated, and I don’t know where else in the country this class is being attempted. I doubt it is happening elsewhere in the community colleges of Texas.


(Mervin Bitikofer) #2

…As in, you have (are creating) a youtube video about your personal journey? If so, I’d be interested in seeing it too if you are willing.

That looks like a great syllabus in development! At the risk of sounding self-serving, I’ll suggest that Francis Collins and the rise of Biologos also deserves a mention – at least in parallel with Nye or Ham as a recent unfolding chapter.

And around point 7 or so, you might also mention the rise of fundamentalism since you mention some of the motivating circumstances for it.


(Chris Falter) #3

Hi Josh,

I think your students are in for a real treat! I wish I could take the course.

Since you asked for feedback: the topics seem to be focused exclusively on conflict between religious and scientific opinion. But there is also a history of synthesis and dialogue that is worth exploring. Lemaitre (father of the big bang theory), Charles Lyell, and B B Warfield are just some of the names that are worth mentioning. In addition to Francis Collins, of course.

Godspeed on this journey, Josh!


(Stephen Matheson) #4

Asa Gray was one of my heroes.


(Mary) #5

Looks like a great curriculum. You might want to mention that this is the history in the US. In other countries such as the UK, YEC thinking is not the norm. A vague form of ID or OED is probably what most adhere to, without really thinking it through. Scientists are left to think it through for themselves in general and most end up being ECs.


(Jay Johnson) #6

@TedDavis might have some valuable advice and/or feedback.


(Dr. Ted Davis) #7

Lyell seems the odd man out here, since he was a Unitarian. Of course, his quasi-eternalistic steady-state model reflected his theological commitments, and perhaps that’s why you put him into this mix? Later on, Lord Kelvin showed in a very short, but devastating, article (“The ‘Doctrine of Uniformity’ in Geology, Briefly Refuted”), that what we now call the second law of thermodynamics made Lyellian uniformity literally impossible. See https://zapatopi.net/kelvin/papers/the_doctrine_of_uniformity_in_geology_briefly_refuted.html


(josh abraham) #8

Thank you for the names of people involved in this story.