The Universe in the Classroom

An Ancient Universe: How Astronomers Know the Vast Scale of Cosmic Time

Appendix One
Creationism Versus Evolution: An Astronomical Perspective
A Resource Guide for Teachers

The list below offers two kinds of resources: First, some examples of readings that explain how scientists determine the antiquity of the solar system, the stars, and the universe as a whole. And second, guides to creationist claims and the responses scientists make to them.

1. The Age and Evolution of the Cosmos and its Contents

a. General Readings

The Oct. 1994 issue of Scientific American magazine was devoted to "Life in the Universe" and has articles on the evolution of the universe, the Earth, and life.

Zimmer, C. "How Old Is It?" in National Geographic, Sept. 2001, p. 78. An excellent, up-to-date, profusely-illustrated resource.

Any modern textbook in astronomy can give you a good introduction to how we measure ages and how we view cosmic evolution. A list of currently available textbooks (and their web sites) is kept at:

b. The Age and Evolution of the Solar System

Dalrymple, G. Brent The Age of the Earth. 1991, Stanford U. Press. A discussion of how we measure the ages of objects in our solar system.

Hartmann, William "Piecing Together Earth's Early History" in Astronomy, June 1989, p. 24.

Wood, John "Forging the Planets" in Sky & Telescope, Jan. 1999, p. 36.

Wood, John "The Origin of the Solar System" in Beatty, J., et al., eds. The New Solar System, 4th ed. 1999, Sky Publishing/Cambridge U. Press.

c. The Age and Evolution of the Universe

Chown, Marcus The Magic Furnace: The Search for the Origin of Atoms. 2001, Free Press/Simon & Schuster. Readable history of the discovery of atomic structure and how stars build up atoms over time.

Davies, Paul "Everyone's Guide to Cosmology" in Sky & Telescope, March 1991, p. 250.
Ferris, Timothy The Whole Shebang. 1997, Simon & Schuster. See especially Chapter 7 on "Cosmic Evolution."

Glanz, James "On Becoming the Material World" in Astronomy, Feb. 1998, p. 44. On how the elements were made in the universe.

Roth, Joshua "Dating the Cosmos: A Progress Report" in Sky & Telescope, Oct. 1997, p. 42.

d. Measuring Cosmic Distances

Eicher, D. "Candles to Light the Night" in Astronomy, Sep. 1994, p. 33. On ways we use cosmic objects that have a standard brightness to measure distances.

Ferguson, Kitty Measuring the Universe: Our Historic Quest to Chart the Horizons of Space and Time.1999, Walker.

Reddy, F. "How Far are the Stars?" in Astronomy, June 1983, p. 6.

2. Responding to Creationist Claims

The literature examining this controversy is enormous; the list below is merely a representative sampling.


Berra, T. Evolution and the Myth of Creationism: A Basic Guide to the Facts in the Evolution Debate. 1990, Stanford U. Press.

Futuyma, D. Science on Trial: The Case for Evolution. 1983, Pantheon. A leading evolutionary biologist explains the case for evolution that the creationists seek to deny.

Godfrey, L., ed. Scientists Confront Creationism. 1982, Norton. A useful collection of articles.

Kitcher, P. Abusing Science: The Case Against Creationism. 1982, MIT Press. A philosopher takes a critical look at the claims against evolution and illuminates the issues involved.

McGowan, C. In the Beginning: A Scientist Shows Why the Creationists are Wrong. 1984, Prometheus Books. A Canadian zoologist examines and refutes creationist arguments.

National Academy of Science. Teaching about Evolution and the Nature of Science. 1998, National Academy Press. A guide for teachers.

Ruse, M., ed. But Is It Science? 1996, Prometheus. A collection of articles about the creationism/evolution controversy, by scientists, philosophers, etc.

Strahler, A. Science and Earth History: The Evolution / Creation Controversy. 1987, Prometheus Books. A discussion from the geologist's point of view, with lots of information about dating the Earth's rocks.

Tuomey, C. God's Own Scientists: Creationists in a Secular World. 1994, Rutgers U. Press. An anthropologist examines the culture of creationism as if he were looking at far-away tribe.

Wilson, D., ed. Did the Devil Make Darwin Do It? Modern Perspectives on the Creation-Evolution Controversy. 1983, Iowa State U. Press. Interesting collection of essays, by historians, scientists, and educators, laying out the history of the controversy and the perspectives of the sciences.

Gould, Stephen Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life. 1999, Library of Contemporary Thought. A well-known scientist and popularizer looks at the relationship between science and religion.


Abell, G. "The Ages of the Earth and the Universe" in Godfrey, Laurie, ed. Scientists Confront Creationism. 1983, Norton.

Asimov, I. "The Threat of Creationism" in the New York Times Magazine, June 14, 1981, p. 90.

Bobrowsky, M. "Teaching Evolutionary Processes to Skeptical Students" in The Physics Teacher, Dec. 2000, vol. 38, p. 565. Includes an astronomer's responses to creationist arguments.

Dutch, S. "A Critique of Creationist Cosmology" in Journal of Geological Education, 1982, vol. 30, p. 27.

Larson, E. & Witham, L. "Scientists and Religion in America" in Scientific American, Sept. 1999, p. 88. Deals with the range of scientists' religious views, and contains some useful insights on the issue of evolution.

Scott, E. "Antievolution and Creationism in the U.S." Annual Reviews of Anthropology, 1997, vol. 26, p. 263. A leading pro-evolution educator summarizes the issues.

Rusk, J. "Answers to Creationism" in The Planetarian (Journal of the International Planetarium Society), Sep. 1988, vol. 17, No. 3.

Magazines that Follow the Controversy

Reports of the National Center for Science Education, P.O. Box 9477, Berkeley, CA 94709. The center works to oppose the efforts of creationists and to assist educators who want to present the evolutionary perspective.

Skeptical Inquirer Magazine, CSICOP, P.O. Box 703, Amherst, NY 14226. The official magazine of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, the leading skeptical group in the world; it seeks to educate teachers and the public about fantastic claims and how to test them.

A Few Helpful Websites:

National Center for Science Education [] is the key organization working to oppose the efforts of creationists and to assist educators who want to present the evolutionary perspective. The site is full of excellent information and links.

Science and Creationism [] is a short booklet from the National Academy of Sciences, with a fine summary of the scientific perspective on evolution.

Teaching about Evolution and the Nature of Science [ OR] is a short book from the National Academy with hints and resources for teachers.

Talk.Origins Archive [] contains articles, essays, and discussion about all aspects of the creation/evolution controversy.

Questions and Answers about Creationism/Evolution: [] A nicely organized summary of creationist arguments and scientific responses.

Voyages through Time [] is a curriculum for a one-year high school integrated science course centered on the unifying theme of evolution, being developed by the SETI Institute and others.

A Few Resources on Science and Religion:

The American Scientific Affiliation ( is an organization of professional scientists who are Christians. This group has written a handbook for teachers: "Teaching Science in a Climate of Controversy" (, which includes activities for students, and teaching strategies. It emphasizes the remaining open questions in biological and cosmic evolution, as well as the solid evidence for the parts that we do understand.

There is also a web site and email list of professional astronomers who are Christians: Many religions other than Christian, of course, may be represented among your students. The web site contains a thoughtful article, by science teacher Dr. Douglas Hayhoe, about some possible relationships between science and religion.


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An Ancient Universe - Table of Contents

Home | Introduction | The Universe: An Overview | The Process of Science | The Ancient Universe - The Age of the Expanding Universe - The Age of the Oldest Stars - The Age of Light From Distant Galaxies - The Age of the Chemical Elements | The Changing Universe - Changes in the Solar System - Changes in Stars - Changes in the Universe | Science and Religion | Resource Guide | Activities

© Copyright 2001, American Astronomical Society. Permission to reproduce in its entirety for any non-profit, educational purpose is hereby granted. For all other uses contact the publisher: Astronomical Society of the Pacific, 390 Ashton Ave., San Francisco, CA 94112.

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