Theses and Dissertations, 2010-2019

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2017

  • Love To Tell the Stor(ies): Narrative Construction in the Christian Right by James G. Filmore V. Dissertation (Ph.D.), Department of Communication, University of Maryland. 470 p.
    What is the Christian Right? Who are the members of the movement? What does it mean when we refer to the Christian Right? Is membership in the Christian Right adherence to a certain set of policy positions or starting points—that the nuclear family should be normative, or that abortion should be illegal, or that homosexuality, bisexuality, and alternative gender identities should be discriminated against, discouraged, or punished by law? This would explain some of the movement’s voting activities, but it does not explain the movement’s continual expression through an electoral process: putting more conservative Republicans in office who have thus far not only failed to enact their agenda, but have in fact allowed it to be pushed even further back. Further, the Christian Right's policy positions on family, abortion, and LGBT liberation are not uniquely Christian; the Christian Right shares those policy prescriptions with conservative Muslims worldwide, but nobody would suggest that the Christian Right and conservative Muslims are political allies in the United States.

2016

  • Evolutionists and Creationists: The Causes and Consequences of Evolution Education in Tennessee, 2009-2012 by Michael Robert Kohut. Dissertation (Ph.D.), Department of Anthropology, Vanderbilt University. 235 p.
    The following dissertation concerns a topic that has mostly evaded anthropological scrutiny until recently—the controversy over teaching evolution in public schools. Verily, this topic is anything but neglected in the media, where it attracts a great deal of interest, and in other disciplines such as science education research and history, not to mention philosophy and theology. Indeed, so much has been written about controversies surrounding the teaching of evolution in schools that the reader is justified in asking what, if anything, anthropology has to add. I believe that it offers a great deal. Most of what has been written on evolution and creation has been focused on ideas and beliefs, taking the social situation as background to what people believe and whether those beliefs are compatible. I am trained as a cognitive anthropologist, heir to a sub-discipline that has focused on what people think since the middle of the 20th Century. My perspective on this issue does not entirely ignore ideas and beliefs, but it does look beyond them to activities. As an anthropologist, I can also draw on a rich history of insights about what people do, based on more than a century of ethnographic research carried out throughout the world.
  • In Six Days: The Creation Study Committee and the PCA’s Struggle for Consensus on Anti-Darwinism by Michael C. Wilkerson. Thesis (B.A.), Department of History, University of Mississippi. 123 p.
    This thesis explores the historic struggle and development of the American Evangelical community to form a unified front against naturalistic evolution during the twentieth century: focusing on the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) as a microcosm in the battle for a general consensus. Conservative six-day creationists who felt threatened by more liberal views within the denomination over the issue pressured the 1998 PCA General Assembly to appoint a special Creation Study Committee. The outcome of the work of the committee only broadened acceptable views within the denomination, much to the chagrin of the conservative elders who pushed for the Committee’s formation. The central argument of this thesis is that the resolution of the PCA Creation Study Committee findings both mirrored national trends in the ongoing creation and evolution debate, but also highlighted the struggles of a young denomination seeking its own public and private identity within the boundaries of Reformed distinctive. The secondary sources employed for the national movement include Ronald Numbers The Creationists (1992) and Michael Ruse’s But Is It Science? (1988). Primary material include interviews with Dr. C. John Collins and Mr. Samuel Duncan, chairman of the Committee. Further research was conducted through various General Assembly and Presbytery Minutes, as well as the responses to the decisions reached in these Minutes.
  • Technology: How God Created Dinosaurs and People by Larissa Soares Carneiro. Dissertation (Ph.D.), Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media, North Carolina State University. 367 p.
    Almost one century after Lippmann’s prediction, a Pew Research Center analysis (2013) concluded that one-third (33%) of Americans reject the idea of evolution and believe that “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.” On February 4, 2014, at the Creation Museum in Kentucky, Ken Ham, president of Answer in Genesis, and Bill Nye, popularly known as the “science guy,” debated the question “Is Creation a Viable Model of Origins?” The encounter was billed as a contemporary version of the famous (infamous, for Creationists) debate between Bryan and Darrow at the Scopes Trial. Mediated by Tom Foreman, a journalist from CNN, the Ham/Nye debate received all kinds of media attention. On his Facebook page on January 6, Ham apologized “Sorry, all tickets for the debate with Bill Nye sold out within minutes!” Those unable to attend could follow it live on Internet. HuffPost Religion affirmed that the “widely-publicized” television debate “was handily dominated by Nye, most agree. But Ken Ham may have the last laugh” (HuffPost Religion, 2014). This time, ironically, the collateral effect of the media attention worked in favor of the Creationists, calling attention to their cause and even stimulating fundraising required to help build a life-size replica of the mythical Noah’s Ark. The Fundamentalist movement in the United States – and one of its most important branches, Creationism – doesn’t show any sign of disappearing. On the contrary, at present, Creationists continue to be significant actors in the American political agenda. Indeed, those who have been tracking their efforts insist they are actually stronger now than ever (Carpenter, 1997; Numbers, 2002; Lienesch, 2007).

2015

  • The New Pulpit: Museums, Authority, and the Cultural Reproduction of Young-Earth Creationism by Lindsay Marie Barone. Dissertation (Ph.D.), Department of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. 222 p.
    Since the mid-twentieth century there has been increasing concern among evangelical Christians over the depiction of human origins in American education. For young-Earth creationists, it has been a priority to replace scientific information which contradicts the six-day origin story reported in Genesis 1 with evidence they claim scientifically reinforces their narrative. As this has failed in public education, creationists have switched tactics, moving from “teach creationism” to “teach the controversy”. The struggle over evolution education in the classroom is well-documented, but less attention has been paid to how young-Earth creationists push their agenda in informal educational venues such as museums. Given the authoritative nature of museums and the ubiquity of these institutions in American life, museums have become targets for the creation message. This project was undertaken to critically analyze the use of the museum form as an authoritative source which facilitates the cultural reproduction of young-Earth creationism. I propose a tripartite model of authority and museums is the best way to understand the relationship between young-Earth creationism and American museums, with the creation, contestation, and subversion of authority all acting as critical components of the bid for cultural reproduction. Assessing the utility of this model requires visiting both creation museums alongside mainstream natural history, science, and anthropology museums. Drawing from staff interviews, survey data, museum visits, and the collection of creation-based literature for secular museums, these sources combine to create a comprehensive picture of the relationship between young-Earth creationism and museums in the United States today.
  • “Other-Words”: Connecting Integrity, Respect, and Responsible Disagreement about Science by Miles C. Coleman. Dissertation (Ph.D.), Department of Communication, University of Washington. 165 p.
    In this dissertation, using an assemblage of contemporary moral philosophy, and classical and modern-day rhetorical theory I examine “responsible disagreement” in historical and current contexts of science. Analyzing such texts as Newton’s Light and Colors, Darwin’s Origin of Species, Kepler’s Harmices Mundi, Copernicus’ De Revolutionibus, Galileo’s Dialogue, and a recent controversial technical scientific manuscript, published in open-access journal PLoS ONE, I explore what it means to disagree and argue about science, with respect and integrity. Such terms as dissoi logoi, doxa, parrēsia, andreia, and hyperbaton are applied to incommensurable views of optics, evolutionary biology, heliocentric astronomy, and anti-vaccination in order to construct a theory for practicing ethical rhetorics of science, which I call the “other-words” approach. Implications for producers and analysts of scientific argument in both online and offline, and public and technical, contexts are discussed.

2014

  • From Scopes to Reagan : Presbyterians and the Persistence of Antievolution by Joshua Baiju Abraham. Dissertation (Ph.D.), Department of History, University of Florida. 512 p.
    Creationism in America as a protest about evolution in the public schools erupted three times—in 1925 with the Scopes trial in Dayton, Tennessee, in 1981 with the call for equal time for young-earth creationism in Arkansas schools, and in 2005 with the Dover, Pennsylvania battle that resulted in the legal system categorizing “intelligent design” theory as a variant of creationism. While George Marsden’s history of evangelicalism and fundamentalism, Ronald Numbers’s history of creationist institutions, and Edward Larson’s history of legal developments surrounding creationism are important foundational works, the three eruptions still appear hard to discern as part of a larger pattern. Among the various entities that comprised the body known as the “Religious Right” in the 1970s, there was one stream that provided the articulation for this pattern—conservative Presbyterians beginning with the story of J. Gresham Machen in the 1920s and leading up to the story of Francis Schaeffer in the 1970s. Their concern that Enlightenment thought was overtaking the legacy of the Protestant Reformation in America through the changes in the federal judiciary and sociological upheaval involving interest-group politics demonstrated that the three eruptions of creationism were clear evidence that bursts of antievolutionist sentiment were not haphazard events. Instead, they were manifestations of constant Protestant fear and resentment through the twentieth century of the growth of federal power in relation to the states.
  • An Analysis of the Arguments for Intelligent Design Creationism to be Taught in Science Classes, in the Public Education System of the United States by Paul Godden. Thesis (M.Ed), Department of Education, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada. 175 p.
    Teaching creationism, also called creation science and intelligent design—an inherently religious doctrine (Superfine,2009)—is illegal in U.S. public schools, violating the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution (Kitzmiller v. Dover, 2005). Nevertheless many U.S. science teachers present creationist doctrine as part of an undocumented, or hidden, curriculum (Berkman & Plutzer, 2011; Moore, 2000, 2004).

    This study argues that creationism—as opposed to evolution—cannot be defined as science, and poses the following questions:

    (1) What arguments have been put forward by advocates of creationism, to make the case for creationist ideology in U.S.public school science curricula?

    (2) What impact have the arguments of proponents of creationism had on American public education policy and the law?

    Data has been analysed from almost 5000 pages of judicial opinion, expert and lay witness testimony, extracted from precedent-setting U.S. Supreme Court documentation. Such publicly available documentation acts as a method for improving research validity and provides access to data that might otherwise pose a challenge to collection (Berg, 2001; Hodder, 2000; Yin, 1994). Documentation was coded using ATLAS.ti qualitative data analysis (QDA).

    Expert testimony and judicial opinion has been analysed using a content and context analytic approach (Miller & Alvarado, 2005), assessing arguments with regard to scientific rigour, honesty and empirical reasoning, and how this has influenced U.S. law and government education policy.

    This research provides a summative analysis of the arguments presented for creationist doctrine to be taught in U.S. public science classes, and the counter arguments which have consistently prevented its inclusion in official science curricula. In doing so, it provides a detailed baseline to which future argument can be compared to highlight new—or simply recycled—points in the debate, and identifies potential strategies for alleviating this on-going and costly dispute.
  • A Historical Analysis of the Relationship of Faith and Science and its Significance within Education by John G. Yegge. Dissertation (Ph.D.), College of Education, Walden University. 560 p.
    Science curriculum and pedagogy are at the center of a centuries-long debate concerning the appropriate relationship of faith and science. The difficulties that science educators face seem to be based in misinformation about the historical roots of this conflict. To address that conflict, the goals of this research were to separate myth from reality and to provide a necessary context to the current tensions that are disrupting science pedagogy and curriculum content within American public schools. Working within a theoretical framework of historical literacy, this qualitative, historical analysis was a comprehensive examination of the relationship of faith and science from ancient times through the Renascence to the emergence and development of Darwinism. The historical approach methodology was utilized as a means to document the systematic examination of past events, in order to illuminate and interpret the meaning of those events. The historical record revealed that science and religion are not necessarily incompatible and that the early Christian religion provided a fertile environment in which modern science could emerge. Also noted were many instances where the record was inconsistent with what educators have commonly taught as historical fact. Finally, the complex sources of tension between modern fundamentalist Christianity and Darwinism, which has appeared as a flashpoint in public discourse within science education, were examined in depth. Based on this analysis, the study includes recommendations for educators in their approach to addressing these challenges and teaching science. This analysis can produce positive social change for educators and their students, as this information is advanced as a means to enhance historical literacy among educators and their students.
  • Mobilizing Epistemic Conflict : the Creation Museum and the Creationist Social Movement by Kathleen Curry Oberlin. Dissertation (Ph.D.), Department of Sociology, Indiana University. 343 p. Author's research page.
    I shift the analysis of longstanding controversies surrounding creationism from courtroom battles and textbook-adoption squabbles to a new setting: a natural history museum. But, why did Answers in Genesis (AiG) focus their ambitions exclusively on constructing a museum, which took over twelve years to complete, instead of adopting more conventional political tactics such as persuading political elites or launching policy initiatives in public schools? The answer, in part, is found in AiG’s strategy: to reach the popular masses rather than institutional insiders. While political debates and school board scuffles may garner some attention, a social movement organization (SMO) building a large-scale museum is precisely the kind of ‘unusual’ social movement event positioned to attract sustained attention from a broader public.
  • An Analysis of the Creation Museum : Hermeneutics, Language, and Information Theory by Steven Mark Watkins. Dissertation (Ph.D.), Department of Humanities, University of Louisville. 315 p.
    This dissertation analyzes the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky with respect to hermeneutic, linguistic, and information theories. The popularity of the CM, with an excess of 1.6 million visitors to date and future plans to build a one-hundred million dollar theme park, raises concerns among religious and non-religious people. The CM has drawn the attention of all the major news networks and has been reported on extensively in print media. The number of visitors and money raised by the CM dwarfs other museums in the area with large federal endowments. This dissertation draws the interest of popular educated audiences as well as scholars.

2013

  • Creationism vs. Evolution : a Study of the Opinions of Georgia Biology Teachers by William Harvey Nye, Jr. Thesis (Ph.D.), Department of Mathematics and Science Education, University of Georgia. xi, 105 p.
    This study surveyed Georgia public high school biology teachers for opinions regarding the teaching of creationism and analyzed respondents' opinions regarding attitudinal and biographical variables, and compared current opinions to 1983 Georgia science teachers. Additionally, the study intended to document reasons for the teaching of creationism and evolution and evaluate respondents' opinion regarding if the inclusion of evolution in State standards and exams influenced teaching. Of the educators responding, 92% stated they were familiar with the term creationism, 17% claim to teach creationism and evolution, 3.4% to teach creationism without mention of evolution and 1.4% claim to teach neither. Biology teachers' approvals of teaching creationism were related to the teacher's familiarity with creationism, self-view on religiosity, conservatism in religion and age. Consistent with a 1983 Georgia study, teachers more familiar with the creationist movement and teachers of conservative religious beliefs were more likely to approve of teaching creationism. Since the inclusion of evolution in Georgia standards, this study revealed more than 20% of respondents continue to include instruction on creationism demonstrating no effective change since 1983; meanwhile, respondents claiming to teach evolution increased from 39% to 78% and those teaching neither decreased from 31% to 1.4% in the same time period. The study revealed nearly a 50% increase in teachers reporting to frequently have students troubled by the conflict between evolution and religious beliefs. Although Georgia biology teachers generally disapprove of teaching creationism, responses revealed some teachers do not believe evolution necessary to biology curriculum while others do not understand evolution and creationism are irreconcilable for creationists. This dissertation argues that policy matters. Although teachers' personal beliefs are major contributors to classroom practices regarding the teaching of evolution and creationism, data indicate that state standards, in part, have influenced the teaching of evolution. This dissertation reasons administrative policy providing guidance and strategies to science teachers directing the manner in which creationism is introduced during the teaching of evolution may limit the wide range of creation teaching practices occurring currently and increase student understanding of scientific practices through the development of emotional and deductive reasoning.
  • Evolution vs. Kreation by Lars Ottosen. Thesis (Ph.D.), Roskilde University. 33 p.
    This project compares the evolution/creationism controversy as it unfolds in USA and Europe. It determines and discusses the primary differences and similarities on the two continents with the intention of determining whether the vast American experience in this field can be successfully applied in the countries of Europe. It concludes that there are several important differences with regard to the political and educational systems as well as in the various populations accept of the evolution theory. It is furthermore noted that creationist movements attempts to ensure Creation Science/Intelligent Design in the school curriculum is different in USA and Europe. In the former it is currently attempts with subtly crafted Academic Freedom Bills that strives to sneak creationism past detection and in by the backdoor while it, in the latter, is a combination of stealthy Intelligent Design and openly declared young earth creationism that can originate from the Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and Greek-orthodox church. The most prominent common feature of the debate is apparent in a contrived dualism which dictates that the origin of life must either be a matter of evolution or a matter of creation. The inherent logic is that if one of the theories are disproved the other will win by default so an argument against evolution will effectively serve as an argument for creation. It is also concluded that it may be impossible to convince the most fundamentalist creationist groups about the validity of the evolution theory, because they see the controversy as a matter of good vs. evil rather than a question about scientific truth. Another – and less fundamentalist – group is vulnerable to creationist rhetoric that transforms the subject from evolution vs. creationism to evolution vs. God. Another angle that may sway this group towards accepting creationism is the two-step approach which establishes evolution as a controversial topic within the scientific community followed by an appeal to democratic traditions of hearing all sides before making a decision. Lastly it is concluded that the American experience from the Academic Freedom Bills is likely to be of great value in Europe.
  • 'Go Ahead Touch this Dinosaur Fossil': The Rhetoric of Interactivity in Museum Culture by Steffanie Golliher. Thesis (M.A.), Department of English, Clemson University. 47 p.
    In this essay, I will problematize the narrative housed within the Creation Museum in order to question the function of interactive exhibits and sensation in the museum space. The Creation Museum, like many science centers, utilizes displays with sensory triggers under the guise of visitor empowerment, yet their exhibits are sensational rather than interactive. Playing on conventions of science centers and the supposed visitor agency permitted by interactive exhibits, the Creation Museum asserts a narrative informed by the Bible and fueled by sensory stimulation. My analysis of the Creation Museum reveals the degree to which sensation for AiG is not a conduit for visitor agency, but rather a rhetorical strategy for imposing creationist ideologies upon visitors. Although other science centers likely intend the type of empowerment disallowed by AiG, these institutions likewise preclude visitor experimentation and agency by providing answers to the scientific questions raised and proposing ideological narratives based upon institutional notions of scientific theory and progress.

2012

  • A Penguin in the Garden: The Theological Implications of Young Earth Creationism -- Why They Are Winning by Eric C. Marrapodi. Thesis (M.A.), School of Continuing Studies, Georgetown University. 115 p.
    This thesis explores the rise of Young Earth Creationism from its infancy to the present day, its theological implications, and what is next for the movement. First, this paper explores the framework for the argument by delving into the history of the movement by exploring the interpretation of the book of Genesis, and the rise of the Creation movement as the result of Darwinism taking hold as a scientific theory. Then, it explores the movement and strategies of contemporary Young Earth Creationists up to and including the Creation Museum and includes first person interviews with key players in the movement today. Finally, this paper includes a discussion about the future of the movement and who is winning the creation versus evolution battle in American culture.

    This thesis finds Young Earth Creationism is winning the war of creation versus evolution. They have the energy, the numbers, and the financial backing to continue on and bring about what they say could be a second reformation with Christians taking the Bible literally and "nailing Genesis 1-11 to the doors of churches, colleges, and seminaries." By examining this topic, this thesis will bring academic research and exposure to the key ideas of a religious movement that has been largely dismissed by many Americans. It will show the influence Young Earth Creationists are having on the American Christian landscape.
  • Scientific Controversies and Boundary Disputes: the Intelligent Design Movement Network by Jared Scott Coopersmith. Dissertation (Ph.D.), School of Arts and Sciences, University of Pittsburgh. 282 p.
    Although anti-evolutionism has existed for well over a century, recent evolutionary critics have used non-theistic arguments to attempt to show that Darwinian evolution could not have produced some examples of biological complexity. Called “intelligent design” (ID) theory this movement claims to present genuine scientific facts that prove the inability of evolution to produce most biological structures, thus necessitating the infusion of ‘intelligently-designed’ structure or information into biological life. Despite claims of scientific legitimacy by the ID movement, evolutionary scientists, professional scientific associations, and scientific proponents have widely dismissed ID arguments as non-scientific reasoning dressed up in the terminology of science. Using Gieryn’s theory of boundary-work together with Frickel and Gross’ theory of scientific/intellectual movements (SIM), I examined the institutional relationship, if any, between science and the ID movement, using the inter-organizational network of ties between ID organizations and organizations representing other fields. I used several network theoretic measures to examine the extent of ties between the ID, creation science,and science fields. I found very sparse connections between ID and science, indicating strong institutional boundary work by scientists. While there was some overlap between ID and creation science, I found considerable evidence that these two movements have distinct intellectual cultures. My findings suggest that, regardless of their origins, the intelligent design and creation science movements are two independent organizational communities.
  • Six Days of Twenty Four Hours : The Scopes Trial, Anti-Evolutionism, and the Last Crusade of William Jennings Bryan by Kari Edwards. Dissertation (Ph.D.), Department of Southern Studies, University of Mississippi. 109 p.
    The academic study of the Scopes Trial has always been approached from a traditional legal interpretation. This project seeks to reframe the conventional arguments surrounding the trial, treating it instead as a significant religious event, one which not only altered the course of Christian Fundamentalism and the Creationist movement, but also perpetuated Southern religious stereotypes through the intense, and largely negative, nationwide publicity it attracted. Prosecutor William Jennings Bryan's crucial role is also redefined, with his denial of a strictly literal interpretation of Genesis during the trial serving as the impetus for the shift toward ultraconservatism and young-earth Creationism within the movement after 1925. The impact of the Scopes Trial’s location in the rural East Tennessee town of Dayton is further analyzed in order to present a local religious and cultural history of its origins, as well as its immediate and long-term effects on Tennessee and the entire region of the South.

2011

  • Are Creationism-Intelligent Design Writings Scientific? by David J. White. Thesis (Masters), University of South Dakota. 93 p.
  • The Creation Museum : Opening a Parachurch Ethos by Kevin S. Heston. Thesis (M.A.), Wake Forest University.
    This thesis investigates how the Creation Museum of Petersburg, Kentucky means to sympathetic visitors. It finds that the museum's structure and deployment open an ethos within the American pathos. It then discloses aspects of the museum's functionality by examining selections of the museum's deployment and augmentation of verbal, visual, aural, and material elements of American Protestantism, and popular culture. As a parachurch organization, the museum is independent of specific ecclesiastical traditions, and therefore, free to fashion a new ethos. The museum's particular selection of issues, from among the broad selection available in the general pathos, discloses as it acknowledges the sympathetic visitor already present in the American pathos.
  • Evolution/Creationism Controversy : Analysis of Past and Current Policies In Public Schools by Jacquelyn H. Speake. Dissertation (Ph.D.), University of South Florida. 306 p.
  • Fruit: Contested Policy Change, Organizational Resources, and the Teaching of Evolution in Public Schools by Angelo James Gonzales. Dissertation (Ph.D.), Political Science, University of California--Berkeley. 160 p.
    For over a century, American religious organizations have waged a battle against scientists and their allies over the idea of human evolution. What began as a dispute about the scientific theory of evolution by natural selection has, over time, developed into a long-running policy conflict over the teaching of evolution and creationism in public schools. At the heart of the matter is a puzzle: Despite a nationwide shift in the policy status quo favoring evolution and two U.S. Supreme Court decisions that placed creationists at a severe institutional and political disadvantage relative to their opponents, what accounts for the ability of creationists to keep the dispute alive and to continue to score policy victories; and conversely, why have scientists and their allies failed to end the conflict? This outcome, called “contested policy change,” raises big questions about policy sustainability and the relationship of political and non-political actors to the policy process. Specifically, how can a new policy grow stronger over time, while the winners who advocated for the policy change get weaker, and the losers actually manage to get stronger?

2010

  • Angels, Apes, and Pandas : An Analysis of the Intelligent Design Movement by John Bell. Thesis (Masters), State University of New York--Buffalo. 40 p.
  • Evolution and the End of a World by David Edward Long. Dissertation (Ph.D.), College of Education, University of Kentucky. 269 p.
    This dissertation examines college student understanding and attitudes toward biological evolution. In ethnographic work, I followed a cohort of 31 students through their required introductory biology class. In interviews, students discuss their life history with the concept - in school, at home, at church, and in their communities. For some Creationist students, confronting evolution in class has meant confronting existential issues regarding both the basis of science and the basis of faith. For other Creationist students, claims of evolution's theoretical strength are eschewed for its direct challenge to their worldview. For most students, science holds minimal interest against other values in their lives. Faculty and policy makers decry this as poor American science literacy which demands change. This work illustrates the gap between "ideal science literacy", and the everyday practices which result in half of Americans rejecting evolution as sound science.

Additional Theses and Dissertations