Theses and Dissertations, 2000-2009

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  • Displaying Controversy : Evolution, Creation, and Museums by Julie Homchick. Dissertation (Ph.D.), Department of Communication, University of Washington. iv, 222 p.
    This work explores the role of museum exhibits in the creationist/evolutionist controversy and how different museums make appeals to the public using material objects, including scientific artifacts, images, and the space of museum exhibits. Four different exhibits are included in this study: the Institute for Creation Research's Museum of Creation and Earth History in Santee, California; the Creation Museum in Kentucky; the American Museum of Natural History's newly redesigned Hall of Human Biology and Evolution; and the University of Nebraska State Museum's "Explore Evolution" exhibit. Using rhetorical criticism, I perform an intertextual analysis of the words and images, objects, and spaces of each exhibit, and public responses to them. For the creation science museums, I show how the curators use the rhetorical concepts of arrangement, imitation, and dissociation to convince the public of the truth of creation science. For the evolution exhibits, I look at how the curators use arrangement and prolepsis to convince visitors of the truth of evolutionary theory. Each exhibit employs these rhetorical concepts to create an experiential rhetoric in the space of the museum, to imply both narratives of progress and regress, and to deploy the persuasive power of objects, things, and artifacts in these spaces. Overall, this research illuminates the role of museum exhibits in contemporary American public controversies over evolutionary theory, explores how the public space of a museum exhibit defines and challenges scientific knowledge, and illustrates how space and material objects can function persuasively within the museum context.
  • Faith Displayed as Science : The Role of the 'Creation Museum' in the Modern American Creationist Movement by Julie A. Duncan. Thesis (A.B., Honors in History of Science), History of Science Department, Harvard University. 152 p. .pdf of thesis
    Since the 1960s, the U.S. has seen a remarkable resurgence of the belief in the literal truth of the Bible, especially in a "young" (less than 10,000 years old) Earth. Somewhat paradoxically, this new biblical literalism has been accompanied by an increased emphasis on scientific legitimacy among creationists. The most recent tool in young-Earth creationists’ quest for scientific legitimacy is the "creation museum." This thesis analyzes and compares the purposes and methods of four creation museums; discusses their repercussions for science as a discipline; and explains their significance for the larger creationist movement.
  • Science in the Science Museum: Representations of Science for the Public by Gregory James Schneider. Dissertation (Ph.D.), Department of Communication Studies, University of Minnesota. 222 p.
    Science museums remain integral sites for the communication and production of scientific knowledge for and amongst the public. Whether entertaining, socially oriented, educational, or all three, museums continue to draw audiences and present science in innovative ways. More recently they have begun to challenge traditional views of science by encouraging increased social engagement from their audiences. In this vein, public understanding of science is not simply about conveying information; it is about understanding the nature of science and its place in our world. Ranging in topic and type, three exhibits from the Science Museum of Minnesota (Disease Detectives, Mysteries of Catalhoyuk, and Race: Are we so different?) all demonstrate how a modern science museum constructs and mobilizes science for the public. This project carries out a case study of each of these exhibits by drawing on semiotic and rhetorical frameworks to study of how they communicate particular scientific knowledge (microbiology, archaeology, and genetics and anthropology). It also explores how exhibits construct the broader picture of science as a discipline as well as how they engage visitors as social actors. This case study helps to open up the museum as a rhetorical space and provide a richer understanding of the ways in which modern museum exhibits continue to function as critical texts in the public sphere.

    NOTE: Listed here because of the passing reference to "...the rhetorical nature of exhibits is demonstrated by the controversial existence of museums like the Discovery Institute's (sic) Creation Museum in Kentucky..." The Discovery Institute is a different and unrelated organization based in Seattle, Washington. Answers in Genesis operates the Creation Museum, based in Petersburg, Kentucky.


  • Young-Earth Creationism and the Logic of Fundamentalism by Matthew S. Cooper. Dissertation (Ph.D.), Arizona State University. 125 p.
  • Another Brick in the Wall : The Rhetoric of Creationism, Science and Education by Matthew R. McNair. Thesis (Masters), University of Arkansas--Fayetteville. 191 p.
  • Creationism at the Grass Roots : A Study of a Local Creationist Institution by Paul J. Wendel. Dissertation (Ph.D.), Education, Health, and Human Services, Kent State University. 393 p.
    Relying on the book of Genesis as a source text, young-earth creationists or "creation scientists" claim to find physical evidence that the earth was created in six 24-hour periods less than ten thousand years ago and that most of the geologic column was laid down in a year-long worldwide flood. Unsurprisingly, these claims lead to a boundary dispute over the definition of science, in which mainstream scientists impugn the validity of creation science and creation scientists respond in kind. Although young-earth creationism is a growing movement, little is known about it. In particular, little is known about how creationists view the relationship between creationism and science or how the rhetoric of moral, cultural, environmental, and/or biological decline informs creationist practice. In order to investigate these issues, I studied the Fossil Museum (pseudonym), a local young-earth creationist institution, through a combination of naturalistic inquiry and visitor interviews. With respect to the rhetoric of decline, I found that cultural, environmental, and biological decline appear to function independently of one another in Fossil Museum rhetoric. With respect to views of the relationship between creationism and science, I found that despite having limited training or experience in science and despite committing numerous scientific errors, Fossil Museum associates respect and emulate science. Believing that physical evidence mediated by honest science will vindicate young-earth creationism, Fossil Museum associates speak of science in highly Baconian terms, invoking the ideal of assumption-free data and privileging observation over inference. They also accept the notion that science should be falsifiable and they suggest that on this criterion, mainstream science is not scientific. Yet because of their belief that physical evidence can vindicate their position, they openly discuss counter evidence to young-earth creationism, regarding such counter evidence as anomalies for future resolution rather than occasions for crisis. I conclude that because of Fossil Museum associates' honest approach to physical data and their belief that science can resolve disputes, productive dialogue is possible and desirable between mainstream scientists and some young-earth creationists, but such dialogue will be useful only if it is aimed at mutual understanding rather than mutual conversion.


  • Biblical Worldview Integretation for Effective Ministry by John H. Hembree. Thesis (M.Div.), Doctor of Ministry Department, Assemblies of God Theological Seminary. 162 p.
    This project developed an easily useable planning guide for local church ministry leaders to implement an integrated biblical worldview into the local church. The project identified two critical problems for many ministries. The first critical problem is a too narrow focus on behavior modification. With this inadequate goal of seeking external behavioral modifications, ministries fail to facilitate spiritual growth in constituents thus precipitates declining statistical growth, weak leadership development, excessive attrition rates among long-established adherents, and diminished satisfaction among existing leadership. Ministries that move beyond a behavioral modification focus to address underlying value systems provide greater continuity, but lasting ministry results and spiritual maturity only follow implementation of an integrated biblical worldview.

    The project identified a second critical problem for many ministries. Although several generations of research in worldview concepts, construction, and application have produced myriad materials of varying quality, many resources exhibit an overly technical focus that requires knowledge and training outside of worldview studies. Materials developed for educational ministries often contain information and references that require formal training in teaching theory. Some materials are philosophically based providing rich resource for academically trained researchers but little practical application for local church ministries. Several push forward agendas and perspectives that limit usefulness to those willing to accommodate ingrained presuppositions. A clear example of this last technical issue is found in an excessive political influence in many worldview materials.

    The seminar training developed for this project distilled technical materials into an easily useable guide providing direction for local church ministry leaders to implement an effective, integrated biblical worldview using existing curricular materials. The intended goal for this project was to facilitate implementation of an integrated biblical worldview into any local church ministry while using materials that the ministry's leadership already retained. The results of the Biblical Worldview Integration for Effective Ministry seminar processed through this project indicate initial success and a continued need for extensive application.
  • Acceptance of Evolution and Knowledge of Related Scientific Tenets: A Survey of Science Center Visitors by Dustin Growick. Thesis (M.A.), Department of Anthropology, Stony Brook University. 69 p.
    In the United States, routine public polling of American adults has shown that there is a general lack of acceptance of evolutionary theory and related scientific constructs. This problem effects educational policy and implementation in the arenas of both formal and informal education. Only very recently have surveys and studies begun to be enacted specifically at centers of informal education (science & technology centers and museums of natural history). Exclusively conducted at COSI Columbus (Ohio), over 600 museum guests independently completed a questionnaire that was designed to gauge visitors’ understanding and acceptance of evolution, as well as their readiness to approach related topics. On the whole, COSI visitors were both more accepting of evolution and more knowledgeable of associated scientific themes. Additionally, even those visitors who subscribed to a creationist doctrine were not ignorant of the principals of natural selection. The areas displaying the highest levels of misinformation–both for creationists and those who accept evolution–were that of the timescale of biological change and the age of the earth. The findings of this study suggest that demographically similar sites of informal education should not shy away from presenting or exhibiting evolutionarily related content, as their visitors are more knowledgeable and more accepting of the theory than the general American public.
  • Henry M. Morris and Creationism by D. Andrew Hollingsworth. Thesis (Masters), Dallas Theological Seminary. 83 p.


  • Intelligent Design and Evolutionary Theory : Legal Battles and Classroom Relevance For School Leadership by Larry R. Plank. Thesis (Masters), University of South Florida. 45 p.


  • Social, Moral, and Temporal Qualities: Pre-Service Teachers' Considerations of Evolution and Creation by Deirdre Hahn. Dissertation (Ph.D.), Department of Education, Arizona State University. 134 p.
    The introduction of the theories of evolution into public education has created a history of misinterpretation and uncertainty about its application to understanding deep time and human origins. Conceptions about negative social and moral outcomes of evolution itself along with cognitive temporal constraints may be difficult for many individuals to uncouple from the scientific theory, serving to provoke the ongoing debate about the treatment of evolution in science education. This debate about teaching evolution is strongly influenced by groups who strive to add creationism to the science curriculum for a balanced treatment of human origins and to mediate implied negative social and moral outcomes of evolution. Individual conceptualization of evolution and creation may influence the choice of college students to teach science. This study is designed to examine if pre-service teachers' conceptualize an evolutionary and creationist process of human development using certain social, moral or temporal patterns; and if the patterns follow a negative conceptual theme.

    The pilot study explored 21 pre-service teachers' conceptual representation of an evolutionary process through personal narratives. Participants tended to link evolutionary changes with negative social and moral consequences and seemed to have difficulty envisioning change over time. The pilot study was expanded to include a quantitative examination of attribute patterns of an evolutionary and creationist developmental process. Seventy-three pre-service teachers participated in the second experiment and tended to fall evenly along a continuum of creationist and evolutionist beliefs about life. Using a chi-square and principle components analysis, participants were found to map concepts of evolution and creation onto each other using troubling attributes of development to distinguish negative change over time. A strong negative social and moral pattern of human development was found in the creation condition, though only a vague negative human developmental process was found for the evolution condition. Based on these results, pre-service teachers may not use evolution as a viable explanation of human origins, which may serve to contribute to evolution theory debates and discourage pre-service teachers' choice of being science instructors.
  • The Decline, Fall and Re-Emergence of the Biblical Creationist Movement in American Culture by Peter G. Drakey. Thesis (Masters), California State University--Dominguez Hills. 76 p.


  • The Current Setting of the Evolution/Creation Debate in American Public Schools by Bradley Doyle Reynolds. Dissertation (Ph.D.), School of Education, The College of William and Mary. 165 p.
    The history of public education in the United States is replete with attempts to secularize public education as well as attempts to sanctify public education. The legal battle between these two opposing concepts of public education has been long and tenacious, and is far from over. One front upon which this philosophical, political, and legal battle has been fought is the teaching of origins in biology classes of public schools. This study sought to address the question of the current status of the creation/evolution debate. Through content analysis of court cases, the study provided a legal framework concerning the teaching of origins in public schools. The study also provided a political/philosophical understanding of the current status through a content analysis of press articles. Further, the study provided an understanding of how current biology textbooks deal with the issue of origins. The findings reveal that the creation/evolution debate is current: however, the theory of Intelligent Design has now entered the foray. Finally, the findings reveal that the debate is taking place in courtrooms, legislative halls, and newspapers, but not in classrooms.
  • Creationism in the American Context : An Intellectual History For A Cultural War by Robert J. Golden. Dissertation (Ph.D.), Florida State University. 300 p.


  • An Analysis of Factors Influencing the Teaching of Evolution and Creation by Arizona High School Biology Teachers by Susan Jorstad. Dissertation (Ph.D.), Department of Anthropology, University of Arizona. 185 p.
    This study examined the amount of emphasis given by Arizona high school biology teachers to the topics of evolutionary theory and special creation, as explanations for the origin and diversity of life on earth. A questionnaire was mailed to all Arizona public high school biology teachers in March of 2000, to gather data on teachers' classroom practices and attitudes towards evolution and creation, information on teachers' educational and professional backgrounds, their religious preferences, and any perceptions of pressure regarding the teaching of evolution or creation from outside sources.


  • Aroused From Dogmatic Slumber : A Rhetorical History of Intelligent Design by Thomas E. Woodward. Dissertation (Ph.D.), University of South Florida. 386 p.

Additional Theses and Dissertations