Theses and Dissertations, 2010-2019

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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.

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

  • 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

  • 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.
  • Are Creationism-Intelligent Design Writings Scientific? by David J. White. Thesis (Masters), University of South Dakota. 93 p

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.


Additional Theses and Dissertations