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Toward teaching science as theory: A look at secondary and college students' personal beliefs of the origin of life in light of conflicting configurations of evolution and creation

1 December 1991


Conflicting configurations may be created when different institutions teach opposing view points as fact. In this naturalistic study, which included classroom observation, college and high school students who had been exposed to both evolution and creation were interviewed about their personal beliefs of the origins of life. The purpose of the paper is to argue the benefits of teaching science as theory in an attempt to avoid creating dissonant configurations. The responses were used to interpret the following: (1) What do students develop as a personal theory of the origins of life?; (2) Do students' personal theories tend to show whether the public schools, or the church and family, are considered as the critical instrument for learning?; (3) How do the personal theories contribute to Kuhn's idea that science is constructed by society? It was determined that not all of the students were taught creation and evolution as conflicting configurations. The high school students were taught evolution as a theory. All of the students personal beliefs of the origins of life indicated a belief in a divine power. The critical instrument in education appeared to be the church and the family. The responses contributed to Kuhn's idea of science being constructed by society but instead modeling their beliefs after evolution, the students seemed to cling to their paradigm of creation and only half of the students interviewed incorporated the notion of evolution. It is suggested that teaching science as theory would enable more students to accept ideas contrary to their own. iii


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