Creation teaching makes a difference
by David A. DeWitt, Ph.D., instructor at Liberty University, Lynchburg, Virginia, USA and occasional guest lecturer
Evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr was described by the late Stephen Jay Gould as ‘The world’s greatest living evolutionary biologist and a writer of extraordinary insight and clarity.’1 Mayr, who recently turned 100 years old, reflected on 80 years of studying evolutionary biology in an article in Science.2
‘Curiously, I cannot pinpoint the age at which I became an evolutionist. I received all of my education in Germany, where evolution was not really controversial. In the gymnasium (equivalent to a U.S. high school), my biology teacher took evolution for granted. So, I am quite certain, did my parents—who, to interest their three teenage sons, subscribed to a popular natural history journal that accepted evolution as a fact. Indeed, in Germany at that time there was no Protestant fundamentalism. And after I had entered university, no one raised any questions about evolution, either in my medical curriculum or in my preparations for the Ph.D. Those who were unable to adopt creation as a plausible solution for biological diversity concluded that evolution was the only rational explanation for the living world.’
Apparently, Mayr grew up in an environment where evolution was the ruling paradigm and no one ever bothered to question its validity. Evolution was taken for granted, a popular natural history journal accepted evolution as a fact, and no teachers in high school, college or graduate school ever raised questions about evolution. It is no wonder that such an environment would produce staunch evolutionists. Unfortunately, the widespread acceptance of Darwinism in Germany during the early twentieth century had other disastrous consequences. (The link between the acceptance of Darwinism and the Nazi holocaust has been discussed previously in Darwinism and the Nazi race Holocaust.)
In Proverbs 18:17 ‘The first to present his case seems right till another comes forward and questions him.’ Students who are only ever exposed to evolutionary theory may assume that it is correct and might not even know how to question it. Fortunately, today there are resources available on the internet, Creation Magazine, and numerous books supporting creation. Materials that question evolution are even more widely available than they were just twenty years ago. And it is making a difference.
Steve Deckard and I have been conducting research on the creation worldviews of Christian college students and the changes that result following a course on creation.3-6 This ongoing study at Liberty University assesses demographic data and the creation worldview of students taking CRST 290, a required course on the creation/evolution controversy. Among the results we have obtained:
- Attending a creation course, seminar or presentation was a predictor of a stronger creation worldview.
- Students in the creation course at Liberty University who attended Christian high schools or were home schooled had a much stronger creation worldview than those with public school backgrounds.
- Following the creation course, students have a much stronger and more consistent creationist worldview.
Interestingly, while virtually all of the incoming students believe in a Creator, too many of them have conflicting beliefs especially in regards to the age of the earth and six day creation. As this is a particular focus of the course, we see significant shifts toward stronger belief in young earth creation at the end of the class.
Such research, along with personal testimonies and anecdotes, demonstrates that creationist teaching and materials do have a significant impact on the beliefs of people.
Perhaps if someone had helped Ernst Mayr to question evolution in school, he might have been described as ‘the greatest living creationist biologist’.
- Flyleaf quote on ‘What Evolution IS’, Ernst Mayr 2001 Basic Books New York.
- Mayr, Ernst ‘80 years of Watching the Evolutionary Scenery’ Science 305:46-47 July 2, 2004.
- Deckard, S., DeWitt, D. A., and Cargo, S. Effects of a YEC Apologetics Class on Student Worldview. 5th Int'l Conf. Creationism. pp. 529-537 2003.
- Deckard, S. Berndt, C., Filakourdis, M., Iverson, T., and DeWitt D.A., Role of educational factors on college students’ creation worldview Journal of Creation 17:70-72 2003.
- Henderson, T., Deckard, S., and DeWitt, D.A., Impact of a YEC Apologetics Course on Student Creation Worldview. Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal 17:111-116 2003.
- Deckard, S.W. and DeWitt, D.A., Worldview Studies Book 1: Developing a Creator Centered Worldview, Vision Publishing, Ramona, California, 2003. ISBN 1-931178-83-6