‘Creation evangelism’ in the public school classroom
Editor’s note: Here is a fascinating email exchange between a Christian family (daughter and father) and a science teacher in a USA public school. We think it will be enlightening about the nature of the battle that undoubtedly plays itself out many times each day in government-run schools in the Western world.
Father’s preface: My daughter Deborah was entering her junior year. She has been an excellent student, and is usually fairly outspoken when it comes to defending her faith when ‘religious’ issues arise in class.
The biology teacher, whom my daughter really enjoys for her challenging teaching, is also outspoken when it comes to taking ‘pot shots’ at Christianity in the classroom.
An assignment was given to the class where two individuals (lab partners) had to work together to produce a paper on how the cheetah would have attained its ability to sprint so rapidly by the Darwinian mechanism of evolution. Deborah came to me and expressed some concern since she did not agree with Darwinian evolution. I explained to her that the question she was being asked was indeed legitimate, and that her answering of it according to what she had been taught in class did not in any way imply she agreed with it.
I then challenged her to submit a second paper, on her own and not for a grade, that explained why she disagreed with the explanation she provided for the assignment. Deborah did so. She and her lab partner received the original assignment back with an A grade. Several days later the rebuttal paper was returned to Deborah in ‘decorated fashion.’ (See the tri-colored responses from the teacher—at right.)
Deborah felt somewhat overwhelmed and asked for my assistance. I drafted a response that I felt was brief, to the point and would offer a degree of challenge to the teacher. The teacher later responded to my letter with a cordial yet dissenting letter of her own.
The overall experience was enlightening to say the least. I am very proud of Deborah for the stands she has taken.
Ron’s letter to the teacher:
Dear Ms. _____________:
Let me start by saying that I certainly appreciate all of you teachers. Your hard work and dedication to our children’s education is to be highly commended.
The intent of this letter is to clarify a couple of issues, which you expressed in your comments on a recently graded paper, which was submitted by my daughter Deborah. Deborah is feeling somewhat overwhelmed by your comments and has requested my assistance.
You seem to indicate that ‘religious’ individuals will always interpret data in ways that are incorrect due to their religious bias. However, have you ever considered that a committed philosophical naturalist is capable of the same error? You seem to suggest scientists, especially those committed to the Darwinian view of origins, are 100% unbiased and objective in their opinions. The Piltdown Hoax, Nebraska Man misclassification, Haeckel’s faked embryo drawings, and the Miller-Urey experiments persistence in textbooks are but a few of the myriad of examples of the mistakes (and sometimes dishonesty) resulting from an a priori commitment to Darwinian evolution.
My point is that bias exists on both sides of the issue. The questions have been and always will be whose bias best fits the data derived from true experimental science?
The example cited by you, as proof of beneficial mutations (of bacterial resistance to antibiotics) is irrelevant to the Darwinian explanation of the transmutation of species. No new structures of any kind were added to the organism.
We find fossils of bacteria in Cambrian rocks, which are virtually identical to modern-day bacteria. Darwinian evolution postulates that something like a bacterium (simple cell) changed over time to a multi-celled organism. Fossils from the ‘Cambrian explosion’ fail to lend any support to this postulate. The changes occurring in the bacteria example cited by you are mainly a reshuffling of already existing genetic material. No new genetic information was added to the organism.
I challenge you to find even one book, journal or paper anywhere that explains the origin of the genetic information in a step-by-step fashion that would have been necessary to produce the blood-clotting mechanism, biochemistry of vision, or the transformation of the reptilian lung into the avian respiratory system. These are but a few examples out of hundreds that the Darwinian mechanism has absolutely NO answer for at present.
To insist that the aforementioned systems occurred by the Darwinian postulate is strictly a matter of faith ‘at this time’ and is not based in hard science.
Ms. _____________, I’ve been studying this issue for the past twenty years. I have an extensive library of books from both sides. Deborah has been exposed to both arguments. I wholeheartedly agree that evolution should be taught in your class; however, the weaknesses of Darwin’s theory are seldom if ever discussed. In fact, they are often ignored and [the theory is] taught dogmatically without critical analysis. A true open-minded approach welcomes challenges and changes as scientific discovery dictates. Darwinism is failing miserably in recent years in academic circles and I am encouraging Deborah to study the arguments as to why.
The response from the evolutionary biology instructor:
Thank you for your letter. I have seldom read such an informed and rational critique of the evolution issue. Your twenty years of educating yourself on this subject has obviously paid off. It is also evident that you have managed to maintain a degree of neutrality which is rare for anyone on either side of the debate. It is wonderful that you are interested in and involved with your daughter’s education. You are an excellent role model due to your continued academic interests. I certainly appreciate your taking the time to write.
Debi is, of course, doing exceptionally well in AP biology. As you are aware the AP curriculum, as established by the College Board, is centered on evolutionary theory. I actually expected this to be more of a problem than it has turned out to be. In the past I have had students who essentially refused to study evolution. Debi has demonstrated a willingness to do everything I have asked of the class. As I said in the note to her, I am confident that she will continue to excel in the course and do well on the national exam in May.
I don’t see the tremendous weaknesses in Darwinian theory that you do. You state that it has ‘failed miserably’ whereas I see its ever-greater usefulness in explaining and synthesizing all areas of biological inquiry. We can agree to disagree on this. I don’t doubt, as you pointed out, that my training and background has perhaps produced a bias towards my viewpoint just as religious education may lead to an anti-evolution bias.
The well-documented hoaxes you referred to were aberrations. Some scientists certainly have created and published faked data. No profession is without its share of charlatans. This certainly does not call into question the integrity of all academic research. The fact is that the truth was uncovered and the frauds exposed. Only the handful of individuals involved, not all of evolutionary biology, bear responsibility for those events.
Please feel free to contact me again with any concerns. I hope that Debi continues to feel comfortable doing the same.
We certainly applaud this young lady—and her father—for taking such a stand in this public school classroom regarding evolutionary dogmatism, teaching that is prevalent in almost all such schools in the United States (and no doubt in government-run schools throughout the Western world).
We are encouraged to know that Deborah and Ron have been equipped with biblically sound, scientifically accurate materials. At the same time, we acknowledge that many young people who have grown up in a Christian home have not been properly trained to defend their faith, and sadly, many of them leave the church after they have been immersed in an evolution-based, humanistic world of secular education.
It is incumbent on Christian families to ensure the godly, biblical education of their young people. While some parents cannot afford to send their children to a good Christian school or do not have the means to educate them at home (for whatever reasons), those parents who send their children to a public school system—with curricula that is largely anti-Bible—need materials that can help confirm their children in their faith, and to provide them with answers. Equipped with these resources, young people like Deborah can then gently confront their evolutionary instructors (potentially opening the door for sharing the gospel).