A Comparison of Students Studying the Origin of Life from a Two-Model Approach Vs. Those Studying from a Single-Model Approach
by Richard Bliss, Ph.D.
The purpose of study reported in this article was to determine whether students gained more understanding of scientific principles when taught from a two-model approach to origins (evolution and creation) than when taught evolution only. That is, from the standpoint of good science education and good instructional practices, is this a better approach than teaching evolution only?
In the last twenty years a significant number of scientists have become disenchanted with the evolutionary model as an explanation for the origin and development of all things. Many such scientists now are convinced that creation is the better model. "The creation model postulates that all the basic systems of nature, including elements, stars, planets, life, and the major kinds of organisms, including man, were created fully developed, by supernatural creative processes.…" (Morris, 1975, p. 9). Special groups of scientists, the Creation Research Society and the Institute for Creation Research, in particular, have been formed to search for new data and re-evaluate old data from a point of view that would include this model.
In contrast to the creation model, the evolution model explains the origin and development of all things by natural laws and processes that are in operation at this time. Evolutionists, as strictly defined, reject the concept of a world view based upon special creation by a supernatural Creator. In the main, evolutionists reject creationism on the basis that it is a religion, maintaining that evolution is the only scientific theory. Creationist scientist, however, have emphasized the lack of evidence supporting the evolution model and the preponderance of scientific evidence supporting that of creation.
This question, therefore, has not yet been resolved in the minds of scientists. In the year 1975 alone over 60 college and university campuses, not to mention numerous public schools, hosted creation lectures and creation/evolution debates. In addition to this, special seminars, workshops and Summer Institutes are constantly being held to teach and research the scientific data supporting both the evolution and creation models. Hundreds of teachers have taken advantage of these institutes and many are questioning past classroom practices in this regard.
The purpose of this paper, however, is not to compare the two models scientifically, but rather to examine the pedagogical reasons for teaching them. In the first place, many public opinion polls have shown that parents and citizens in general overwhelmingly desire both models to be taught in the public schools, rather than the present practice of teaching only evolution. For example, in 1973, in Del Norte County Unified District (California) the following data were compiled in a random survey of 1,346 homes:
"Should evolution be taught in the public schools?" 58% yes 34% no 8% undecided
"Should creation be taught in the public schools?" 89% yes 8% no 3% undecided
In Cupertino Union School District (California) these data were compiled in a statistically-sound random survey of 1,995 homes:
A continuing random telephone survey is being conducted in many cities by the Institute for Creation Research Midwest Center. The central question in this survey is:
"Should evolution only, creation only, both evolution and creation or neither evolution or creation be taught in the public schools?"
Results compiled to date yield the following data:
While these data are limited, they nevertheless provide a good sampling of what adults feel is fair and proper for public schools.
Legal support for teaching creation as an alternative nonsectarian model is very clear. A thorough research of this issue was given in the January, 1978 issue of the Yale Law Journal. The subject was treated in the law review note on "Freedom of Religion and Science Instruction in Public Schools." (Bird, 1978)
"Neutralization by means of instruction in scientific creationism also would not necessarily have a legislative purpose of furthering religious rather than secular concerns that would contravene the establishment clause ... Similarly, addition of scientific creationism to a biology course that exclusively teaches the general theory has the secular legislative purpose of presenting more than one nonreligious explanation of the origin of the world and life. Even Clarence Darrow of the Scopes Trial fame remarked that it is ‘bigotry for public schools to teach only one theory of origins’."
This particular study was undertaken to determine the statistical relationships between students studying the origin of living things when they had two models to choose from—creation and evolution—as opposed to students who studied evolution only. The study was designed to study whether there were any statistical differences in effectiveness between the two methods of teaching among students in high school biology classes. The research design chosen for this study is known among educators as the "Pre-test, Post-test, Control Group" design. Internal control was maintained over the processes of data collection through computer assigned classes (random program), and all teachers involved in the experimental classes had been thoroughly instructed in how to use a two-model approach to the question of origins. They were equally divided in personal preference between evolution and creation. The subject matter guidelines were derived from Origins: Two Models, Evolution/Creation by R. Bliss. The control group was taught the normal traditional material from the basic text, Biology: Living Systems by Oram, Hummer and Smoot. The instructor for the control group did not receive training in a two-model approach but had many hours of study in BSCS biology and inquiry techniques.
The pre-test (test prior to the course) and post-test (test after the course) consisted of a criterion-referenced test involving concepts and mechanisms related to origins of life, as well as a so-called Likert preference scale showing student preference before instruction and again after instruction.
The initial data from this study consisted entirely of the responses of students to the pre- and post-criterion referenced test and the pre- and post-Likert performance type inventory. In addition to this, many other parameters were separated for scrutiny such as high IQ, low IQ, medium IQ, etc.
It was important to this study to note that there was no significant difference between the two groups on the criterion pre-test and the Likert preference. Thus both groups had basically the same beginning level. On the post-test, it was clear that a significant gain was made by the experimental (two-model) approach group. In fact, the experimental group gain was at the .001 level and this is very significant. Tables I and II summarize the statistical measures that were used to determine the effectiveness of learning achieved under the two methods.
Experimental and Control Group Achievement Means
A Comparison of Experimental and Control Group Achievement Means
A very interesting development showed up when the sub-test scores on evolution items came in. The statistical t-value showed that those in the experimental group (those studying both models) did better in learning even the evolutionary data and arguments than did the students studying evolution only. This was unexpected. See Table III. Of course, those in the experimental group also did better on
Results of Sub-test Scores on Evolution Model Items
creation sub-test items than did those that studied evolution only. This of course, was expected. The data from the Likert scale showed that those students in the experimental group in the middle and high IQ range showed a significant increase in preference toward the creation model after they had examined all of the data. In other words, they became more creationistic in their point of view and less evolutionary.
In conclusion, this study shows that students seem to be more highly motivated and to learn more effectively when studying science from a two-model approach. They seem to have a better grasp of the data surrounding origins and they seem to be open minded and willing to change their views when new data arrive. The experimental group seemed to develop more critical thinking habits than those who studied origins from an evolutionary model only. It would seem, then, that it would be unconscionable from a pedagogical and scientific point of view, to teach only evolution to students in the public high schools. It is therefore recommended, from the standpoint both of good science and good instructional practice, that every public school should teach origins from a two-model approach.
Bird, Wendell, "Freedom of Religion and Science Instruction in Public Schools," Yale Law Journal, Vol. 87, No. 3, pp. 515-570, Jan., 1978.
Bliss, Richard B., "Origins: A Two-Model Approach—A Curriculum Imperative," speech to: (Evolution Section) American Institute of Biological Science, Detroit, 1970. (Available from Institute for Creation Research, 2716 Madison Avenue, San Diego, CA 92116).
Bliss, Richard B., Origins: Two Models—Evolution and Creation, Institute for Creation Research, Creation-Life Publishers, San Diego, CA, 1976.
Cupertino Union School District, Del Norte County Unified School District, by Louis Goodgame, for State Board of Education, State of California, 1976.
Institute for Creation Research Midwest Center, (Box 75, Wheaton, Ill., 60187) Fourteen- State Survey, 1976-78.
Morris, Henry M., "Scientific Creationism," Creation Life Publishers, San Diego, CA, 1975.
Troost, John C., "An Analysis of Factors Influencing the Teaching of Evolution in the Secondary Schools of Indiana," Doctoral Dissertation, Indiana University, 1966.
* Former Director of Science Education, Unified School District #1, Racine, Wisconsin. Former Director of ICR's Curriculum Development
Cite this article: Richard Bliss, Ph.D. 1978. A Comparison of Students Studying the Origin of Life from a Two-Model Approach Vs. Those Studying from a Single-Model Approach. Acts & Facts. 7 (6).