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How Should We Deal with Evolution?

By Rob and Cyndy Shearer
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #3, 1993.

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Rob and Cyndy Shearer

What do you do about the evolutionary preface included in most world history texts?

Is Evolution science or history or what?

Will our children need to know about cave men and woolly mammoths for the standardized tests?

In this column, we want to continue our discussion about some of the unique issues that arise when we teach ancient history to our children. In the last column we talked about the issues surrounding mythology and whether we should teach anything about Greek and Roman myths to our children. Evolution is a closely related topic. Indeed, in some very significant ways, it is the same topic.

Many books about ancient cultures that would otherwise be acceptable open with a chapter describing the evolution of man from hunter-gatherer to farmer occurring over hundreds of thousands (or sometimes millions) of years. What should Christians do? How do we deal with evolution with our children, especially young children in grades K-4? Do we attempt to introduce our children to the basic tenets of evolutionary theory, or do we avoid the topic altogether?

To begin with, we don’t think that the question should be dodged or avoided (much as we are tempted to). If all truth is God’s truth, then we have nothing to fear from honest inquiry . . . and there are dangers in avoiding the “tough” questions. Both of us suffered as college students a deplorable lack of confidence in God’s word because we had avoided wrestling with the question of evolution. And because we lacked confidence, it was hard for us to summon the courage to approach the issue—a vicious circle.

As Christian college students, we both arrived on campus convinced that the Genesis account of man’s beginnings was truth—not a spiritualized mixture of fact and symbol, but truth. But because we knew very little of the details of evolutionary theory, we felt very insecure about our abilities to debate the issue. Many of our Christian classmates were in similar situations. We accepted Genesis and rejected evolution—but got very quiet when the subject came up. Some of us were certain that there were THINGS out there that everyone else knew—things that would blow our little “Sunday school” arguments to smithereens. Lack of understanding bred lack of confidence either in our own abilities or in Scriptures ability to stand close scrutiny. As a result, we were woefully embarrassed at our inability to give a “ready defense.”

As homeschooling parents, we are convinced (along with Francis Schaeffer) that all truth is God’s truth. The Word of God can indeed stand against the arguments of men. There is no need to shelter it from the really tough questions. We have nothing to fear from honest inquiry—God is big enough to handle it. We are also convinced that we want our children to have the confidence we lacked. We don’t want them to go through life fearing that one kernel of unknown information that will leave their faith in shambles. For this reason, we feel strongly that dodging or avoiding hard questions (tempting as that may be) is a very bad example to set. Our children sense our panic—and are infected by it. Likewise, our confidence is contagious. So that when we encounter an author’s full-blown enthusiasm for things evolutionary, it is important to welcome that opportunity and use it to accurately and confidently discuss the issues. Who is man? How did he get here? How does a person’s thinking about his own origins influence him? Does an evolutionary world view really conflict all that much with a Biblical world view?

Part of our difficulty tackling the subject stems from a misunderstanding of the nature of the argument. Because evolution is permeated with scientific vocabulary, we tend to buy into our culture’s insistence that it is, indeed, scientific. Who are we to question the experts? At this point it is helpful to consider the function evolution serves.

First and foremost, evolutionary theory is an attempt to explain the creation of the world and the origin of man. Further, it attempts to describe the progress of man’s self-consciousness—what was early man like and how much like him are we? In this scheme, the progression moves us from primitive to sophisticated. We are told that man’s evolution has not been only physical—but that his very way of thinking, of viewing the world around him has also evolved. His understanding of spiritual matters has also followed the same pattern. Man, the evolutionists would tell us, began with a primitive understanding of religion. He worshipped anything he did not understand—he worshipped everything. As man became more sophisticated, as he stood more erect he realized that there were not many gods, but few gods. As his knuckles rose further and further from the ground, he realized that his belief in more that one god was a backwards thing, and so he embraced monotheism. As we said in the last discussion of mythology, there is an unstated progression here—from many to few to one . . . to none. In the evolutionary scheme, man has no need of a deity. Man is self-sufficient. Man needs no creator. Man was not created. Evolution therefore, is an attempt to explain how something can exist without benefit of creation. It is simply the current age’s expression of what man in every age has done. As C.S. Lewis observed, “Every age gets the science it wants.”

Evolution functions then, as modern man’s mythology. Although it clothes itself in the vocabulary of science, it’s not really science. It’s a myth. And it functions in all other respects just like every other culture’s creation myth. It is believed and defended just like every other culture’s creation myth.

To label evolution as a myth is not just a flippant exercise in name-calling. When we name a thing accurately, we are better able to understand and analyze it. Evolution may function perfectly well as mythology—it is widely accepted and provides comfortable answers to those troubling questions that children always want to know. A person’s status and position in a culture are affected by his own acceptance of the myths taught by the dominant culture. Thus Christians today find themselves in the same position Socrates of Athens found himself in. Socrates questioned the myths accepted by the dominant Greek culture. He pointed out the folly of the generally accepted mythology. The gods’ conduct, he pointed out, was morally flawed and inconsistent. For these observations, Socrates was charged with corrupting the youth of Athens and sentenced to death. The dominant culture still reacts quite vigorously when anyone questions its cherished notions.

So why does our society fight so strongly to keep its teachings in front of our culture’s children? Because—once you begin to unravel evolution, you begin to unravel all that modern man wants so desperately to believe about himself—that he is creator-less and self-sufficient. Once man is forced to admit even the possibility of a creator, he must then consider the personality of that Creator and ultimately his own relationship and responsibility to that Creator. He doesn’t have to go far down that road to see that his cherished status as ultimate authority is at stake. As long as his mythological scheme is in place, modern man can avoid all such unpleasantness.

If we have based our children’s education on a Biblical foundation, giving them a full grasp of the Truth, of God’s place as the God of History, neither we nor they have anything to fear from exposure to the subject of evolution. Practically, they cannot avoid exposure to it. Its influence permeates everything they will touch in our culture, yet its influence is often very subtle. They need to be able to recognize its many forms and expressions. To ignore its influence is to do them a great disservice. We need to prepare them to look to the center of things—to cut through the peripheral issues to the marrow, trusting that the Word of God is not a flawed weapon. When we merely assert that the Bible is right and the evolutionists are wrong, but do not give our children the tools they will need to stand against error, we, however unwittingly, foster a spirit of fear. We need instead to build into our children the power, the love, the disciplined thinking.

When we, as homeschooling parents, encounter a full-blown version of the evolutionary myth we should not panic. Rather, we should welcome the opportunity to discuss the issues involved and to clarify the true nature of modern man’s creation myth.

Above all we should help our children to recognize that evolution is bad science and bad history. Science is the study of observable and reproducible phenomena. Evolution is neither. History is the reconstruction of the past from documentary sources, eyewitness accounts, and to a very limited extent, archeological evidence. Evolution lacks the first two elements and does a poor job of interpreting the third. Why is it so pervasive in children’s textbooks then? Because it’s not really science or history; it’s modern man’s mythical answer to the question of how we got here that provides a “safe” alternative to the distasteful prospect of dealing with the Creator.

Homeschoolers of the world, unite! We have nothing to fear from the truth. We have nothing to lose but the chains of a misleading myth.

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