Real-Life Drama about People and Their Ideas

by Craig Rusbult, Ph.D.

This page contains excerpts from an 8-part Introductory FAQ about Drama and Perspectives:

In this FAQ you'll see the raw material for an exciting drama of real people and their ideas.  The drama is produced by encounters between people with contrasting ideas.  Too often, unfortunately, each of the differing ideas is held with a confident passion by individuals and groups who behave as if they think people with other views are enemies who must be fought and conquered.  But the ideas do have important implications and applications, especially in education.

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      Drama you can Imagine
      Earlier, I describe the "exciting drama of real people and their ideas."  You can get a feeling for what often happens in real life by using your imagination to visualize the ideas and feelings in five common situations where we see dramatic conflict;  one is below, and four are later when we look at evolution & design and education.   These stories illustrate conflicts — internal and external, within people and between people — that commonly occur in real life.  Imagine that:
      • your pastor confidently declares, "the Bible says the earth is young, so you should believe it."  But at another church you've been attending a Sunday School class because it's taught by a close friend, who has explained (as an expert geologist) why science shows the earth is old, and (as a theologically conservative Christian who has studied the Bible carefully) why Genesis does not teach a young earth.  You're not a scientist and neither is your pastor, but when you ask him about this he loans you a book by young-earth scientists, and their arguments seem to make sense.  Your pastor wonders why the pastor of the other church lets your friend teach, and you have questions.


      Now [in Section 5] our focus shifts from WHEN to HOW.  You can get a feeling for the drama of "people and their ideas (in Sections 5-7)" by imagining that:
      • you're a flexible agnostic, uncertain about God but willing to search for truth.  You hear Richard Dawkins declare that evolution did happen, so God isn't necessary, and smart people don't believe in God.  But another respected scientist explains why evolution (astronomical and biological) is possible only because the universe was intelligently designed with the detailed fine-tuning that is necessary for life.  And another explains how evidence for "intelligent design" is evidence against a totally natural evolution.  You're confused, wondering whether Intelligent Design claims that evolution did or didn't occur.  And is design scientific?  Some scientists claim that design — but which one (trying to explain evolution or challenge it) — is scientific, while others claim it's religious and it has no basis in science.  These scientists disagree, but all of their arguments seem logical, so you're baffled, wondering "what is science" and "what is (probably) true" and "what should we teach" and you have questions.


      The questions in Sections 1-7 often produce uncertainties and conflicts within a person.  But when we make decisions about education, internal personal questions can become external interpersonal tensions, and conflicts become visible and vocal.  To get a feeling for the drama of people and their ideas, and the effects on teachers and students, imagine that:
      • you are a science teacher in a private Christian school, and last year several parents didn't like what you said about the "when and how" of creation, about the evidence for an old earth with creation occurring over a long period of time, not in 144 hours.  They removed their children from your school and began a campaign in local churches, encouraging other parents to also boycott your school.  Now your principal is blaming you for the school's damaged reputation and financial problems, and is saying "if you want to keep your job, you will change the way you teach science."
      • you're a public school teacher who is wondering what to teach about origins:  Is there any scientifically justifiable controversy about the "how" of origins?  If you think "maybe there is" and you explain why in class, will you get in trouble with school administrators who fear the threat of an expensive lawsuit?  But if you don't, will you get in trouble with parents?  What is the best way to survive and thrive in the current climate of controversy?
      • you are the friend of a student who is a Christian, who has been taught by her parents (and by her pastor and all of the teachers in his church-run school, which is the only school she ever attended) that the earth is 6000 years old, and that evolution is scientifically proposterous and is an evil idea invented by atheists who hate God.  She is very smart, has excelled in learning science and is enthusiastic about it, and will soon enter college.   /   How do you think she will respond — and what will happen with her interest in science, her views about creation, and the quality of her faith — in each of these situations:  A) she attends a private college that teaches the same ideas as in her K-12 school, but then she leaves this safe haven for a graduate school where conventional old-earth science is assumed;  B) she goes to a public college where her first science teacher is an aggressive atheist who ridicules Christians and tries to destroy their faith;  C) in her public college most of the science teachers (for astronomy, geology, and biology, plus chemistry and physics) just "teach the conventional science" with no apparent worldview bias;  D) same as C, but her geology teacher is a devout Christian who hosts a Bible study for college students in his home, and is a respected elder at her new church in the college town; or  E) she attends a private college where the teachers, who are all devout Christians, think there is no conflict between their faith and the old-earth science they teach, and are sensitive and thoughtful in their interactions with students who have other views.

Introductory FAQ for Drama and Perspectives 
Origins Education (for Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design) 

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Copyright © 2007 by Craig Rusbult, all rights reserved