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Science & Education

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 37–50 | Cite as

Object-Based Epistemology at a Creationist Museum

  • Paul J. Wendel
Article

Abstract

In a regional young-earth creationist museum, objects are presented as if they speak for themselves, purportedly embodying proof that the earth is less than 10,000 years old, that humans have lived on earth throughout its history, and that dinosaurs and humans lived simultaneously. In public lectures, tours, and displays, museum associates emphasize direct observation over inference or theory. These emphases resonate closely with the “object-based epistemology” of the late nineteenth century described in Steven Conn’s Museums and American Intellectual Life, 18761926. In Conn’s description, museum objects, artfully arranged and displayed, were intended to speak for themselves, and observation and categorization were valued over experiment and theory. The regional young-earth creationist museum is observed to partly succeed and partly fail in implementing an object-based epistemology. Although object-based epistemology represents a nineteenth-century approach to knowledge and museum display, it is compatible with an inductive approach to biblical interpretation and it confers various rhetorical advantages to creationist arguments. It is concluded that a focus on the theory-laden nature of data would likely strengthen nature-of-science education efforts to increase public acceptance of evolution.

Keywords

Science Teacher Inductive Approach Tour Guide Museum Visitor Biblical Literalism 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Chemistry and Physics, Grant Science CenterMansfield UniversityMansfieldUSA

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