Opinions on Earth age and evolution related

Posted By Ian Randall on 11th March 2010

Students who recognise the Earth as being 4.5 billion years old are more likely to appreciate the concept of human evolution, research has revealed. The study by the University of Minnesota, published in this months’ issue of Evolution, could lead to the formation of a new approach to biology in US schools.

Protoplanetry disks or an act of God? - How you view the Earth's formation and age might affect how you understand evolution. Image credits - NASA & Jan Bruegel the Younger

The survey, which was a joint effort between Minnesota’s College of Biological Sciences and Office of Information Technology covered 400 students who attended an introductory biology course for non-majors. Voluntary participants were asked questions about evolution, their religious and political views, as well as whether they were taught creationism or evolution in school.

Analysis of the results showed that students with conservative views tended to believe the Earth was relatively young (less than 20,000 years old) and knew less about human evolution; while more liberally minded students were seen to accept the geological age of the Earth and appeared more familiar with evolutionary theory.

“The role of the Earth’s age is a key variable that we can use to improve education about evolution, which is important because it is the unifying principle of biology,” said Sehoya Cotner, the lead author on the paper.

The percentages of students taught creationism and evolution in US schools, based on studies done by Cotner and her team.

“About one in four high school biology teachers in the upper Midwest are giving students the impression that creationism is a viable explanation for the origins of life on Earth,” Cotner said, adding: “That’s just not acceptable. The Constitution prohibits teaching creationism in schools.”

Based on this research, consideration may be given towards teaching about the Earth’s origins in biology classes, in order to improve understanding of the theory of human evolution. Traditionally, the age of the earth is taught in physical science lessons.


2 Responses to “Opinions on Earth age and evolution related”

  1. Sean says:

    In other news, the Pope is a Catholic and bears shit in the woods.

  2. Paul says:

    On a hitchhiking trip through the US and Central American in the 1980s, I found myself sitting in a Texas diner with a fascinating group of truckers. It wasn't the statements they made that were so interesting, but the questions. I remember one asking whether it was true that Canada was "run by the Queen". I'd barely dispensed with that when another asked if Canada had ever (EVER?) had any famous people. After trotting out the usual Hollywood stars and politicians, I thought I'd try a scientist and hit them with John Tuzo Wilson, who coined the term "plates" to describe the bits of the Earth's surface that move around (I'd experienced my first tremor a couple of weeks earlier in El Salvador so tectonics was on my mind). This was obviously a new concept to the drivers and I spent a while explaining what happens when two plates bump into each other. After a while, the de facto leader, who had been shaking his head more and more vigorously, hit me with his killer question. "That must take an awfully long time," he said. "How long do you figure?" Millions of years, I answered. "No," he declared, to general approbation. "That's not possible. The world's only 4,500 years old"…. It took me another 12 hours to find a trucker willing to give me a lift north.

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