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Four steps for surviving evolution classes at high school

Published: 4 July 2015 (GMT+10)

Today’s feedback comes from RL of Australia, asking about how to deal with their classes on evolution at High School.

iStockphoto classroom-hands

We are learning evolution in school (year 10 science), and I would like some handy get-to-the-point questions I can ask my science teacher to make him/her think. We are currently learning about adaptations, genes and DNA. Perhaps some questions about the animals that have structural and functional body parts which help them survive in their environment. My teacher has also mentioned ‘natural selection’ and I’m not quite sure how to answer that. He also believes that all animals evolved from sea animals. He asked us why we thought they decided to come on to the land. He is also mentioning the shape of all the animals and how this helps them survive.

CMI’s responds.

Dear RL,

One of my granddaughters also had to learn about evolution in year 10 science. Actually, evolutionary ideas are taught from a much younger age, and they are not always obvious. When young people first encounter these new ideas, it can come as a shock and be quite upsetting. I gave my granddaughter four points to help her survive and thrive in her studies. I’ll mention these to you, too.

1. Remind yourself that they are just telling you a story

When your teacher is saying things like, “All animals evolved from sea animals” you just have to remind yourself that he/she is telling you a story. Don’t let it upset you. Remember that science is based on observation, and these stories were not observed. This is something to tell yourself; so you don’t get upset, stressed, or confused.

Remember that there are two basic stories to explain how this world and everything else came into being.

The first is in the historical record of the Bible. An outline of the events is:

  • Creation in six days about 6,000 years ago,
  • the Fall,
  • the Flood about 4,500 years ago,
  • the Tower of Babel about 200 years after the Flood,
  • the call of Abraham and the history of Israel,
  • the coming of Christ,
  • the birth and growth of the church, leading up to where we are now.
Outline of main events of biblical history

A key point is that the events recorded in the Bible are historical, which means they are based on eyewitness accounts of people who were present and saw them happen.

The second story, which is taught at your high school, is evolution. An outline of the main events is:

  • Big bang followed by cosmic evolution beginning ~14 billion years ago
  • Formation of the earth about 4,500 million years ago and its subsequent geological evolution
  • Origin of life some 3,500+ million years ago
  • Biological evolution: fish to amphibians to reptiles to mammals to apes to humans.
  • Human evolution: apes to humans
  • Cultural evolution: humans as hunters, farmers, builders, artists, invention of religion, civilization
Outline of main events of big-picture evolution story

The key point about this story is that these events were not observed. No one saw these things happen. Every part of this story was invented by people who were not there. And the purpose of the story is to explain things by natural processes. God and the Bible are banned from the story.

So when your teacher or the textbook tells you that all land animals came from marine animals, etc., just remind yourself that they are telling you a story. And the reason they are telling the story in this way is because they have to explain the animals without God. That means the land animals had to evolve with very small changes from other animals over millions of years. And since, according to their thinking, the first living cell could not have arisen on the land, it had to originate in the ocean. So they conclude that life must have evolved in the ocean and eventually come out on to the land.

It’s all just a story fitted together by human logic, assuming the Bible is not true and there is no God.

2. Don’t feel that you have to prove that creation is true

Another way of saying this is, “Don’t take on yourself the burden of proof”. This will take all the stress out of your life. You don’t have to feel responsible to do something that you don’t feel you are equipped to do.

You don’t have to prove them wrong. You don’t have to prove you are right.

Put the burden of proof on to them, and make them try to prove it to you, which they won’t be able to do.

Consider the situation when your teacher says, “All animals evolved from marine animals.” It’s not a good idea to say, “I don’t believe that because I believe the Bible.” He/she will dismiss you as being religious. Then, he/she will humiliate you by saying that evolution is based on facts and evidence, but your religion is based on faith. So, don’t say you don’t accept evolution because you believe the Bible.1

Instead, focus on the evidence. Just keep saying things like: “Can you give me any evidence for that?” or “I don’t want to accept these claims on faith”, or “That does not make sense to me”, or “I don’t find that convincing”.

And when they do try to give you evidence, think about what they have said and ask them more questions about the evidence, as discussed under Point 3 in the next section.

These are the sorts of questions that you asked about in your email—handy get-to-the-point questions you can ask your science teacher to make him/her think. You see, when you engage the subject like this, your teacher will be impressed that you are thinking about and understand the subject, and this may be the first time he/she has been asked to present evidence.

So, develop the practice of asking questions about the evidence and about the interpretations presented to you by your teacher and the textbooks. This will put you in the driver’s seat.

3. Ask yourself, “What did they actually see?”

You need to think about what is being presented in class, and be careful not to dismiss automatically everything your teacher and textbooks say. Although they will present you a lot of evolutionary nonsense, they will also present plenty of good information. You need to learn how to sort out fact from belief.

You sort out fact from speculation by asking, “What did they actually see?” Another way of putting that question is, “What is the actual evidence for that?” Science is all about observation, and so you are just asking for the scientific evidence. In a science class, who can criticize you for that? You can ask the question of yourself as you read your textbook, or when the teacher presents some information. This will clarify the issue in your mind. Or you can ask it of your teacher or your fellow students. This question will empower you to sort out the confusing information you are presented with.

The teacher might show you a picture of a fossil fish with long fins and say it lived 300 million years ago and evolved into land animals because it walked on its long fins.

You ask yourself, “What did they actually see?”

  • They saw the fish. They can tell you where they found it. They observed what the fish looked like, and the shape of its fins.
  • But the fish did not have a label on it saying “300 million years old”. So you can know that the date they quote is not based on observation but on their beliefs.
  • Neither did they see the fish walking on its fins, so that is also speculation.
  • Nor did they see it come out on to the land, so that is an invention too.

This question is powerful and will help you understand what is factual and what is guesswork. It’s a question that you can use in your discussions with your teacher and your friends.

4. Keep learning and keep getting informed

When you first encounter evolution in your class you will probably know very little about it. Your teacher will be much more knowledgeable and experienced than you. However, by using the above strategies you will be able to survive and be confident. But you need to grow and develop. There will always be new issues and questions that you will encounter, which means you will need to keep learning. You will find creation.com very helpful. It has a great search engine where you can investigate the claims from your teacher and your textbooks.

You can easily find articles by searching for keywords, which in your case would be: adaptations, genes, DNA, natural selection, animal similarities, etc. In a discussion, if you do not know the answer, you can always say, “I’ll do some research about that and get back to you.” Then you will almost certainly find the issue answered on creation.com, which you can print out and later give to the person to whom you are talking.

A helpful book is Refuting Evolution by Jonathan Sarfati, which can be bought from the online store. It is aimed exactly at what they are teaching you at high school. It’s also available free online.

If you are not already subscribed you will find the email newsletter useful in helping you become informed. You can connect from the front page of the website. Also, if you do not receive Creation magazine, that is a great resource for ongoing learning.

As far as your year 10 course is concerned, the articles “They are teaching lies to our kids” and “They’re teaching racism to our kids” deal with some of the specific material in your textbooks. The articles deal with many topics and provide links to other articles for more in-depth information.

Concerning your comment on animal shape, the article “Are look-alikes related?” answers that question. Especially check out the similarities between placental and marsupial animals listed in the table in this article because they provide a powerful argument for design and against evolution.

Thanks for your email. I wish you all the best with your studies.

Scientist, writer, speaker

References and notes

  1. It’s true that we don’t believe in evolution because it contradicts the Bible. However, it is also true that evolution is contradicted by the scientific evidence. By not mentioning the Bible you are not being sneaky because their belief in evolution is also driven by their beliefs about the Bible. That is, they believe in evolution because they do not believe the Bible. It will be easier for you to avoid the philosophical issues involved here. First, they probably will not understand them, and second, they may latch on to any chance to dismiss you. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

Readers’ comments

Rev Ian C.
I always tell my young people that there is another story besides the one they are fed in school.
When they are going to University I tell them never to accept at face value what they are told; always ask yourself, 'How do we know that', and then apply the research tools you are being taught.
Brian M.
A helpful article & comments following, thank you. I like the direct question 'What did people see?' and was a little puzzled why the word 'observed' was not included in the alternative question for evidence or measurement?
Tas Walker
That is one way of saying it. The word observation is used in that section.
C. H.
These are excellent ways of helping a student to navigate high school and Uni science. I used similar strategies when I studied geography at Uni and was forced to regurgitate 'billions of years' textbook answers.

(As a mum of 6, though, I often tell people that if evolution was real then women would have evolved a zipper in their lower abdomen & uterus for easy birthing, an extra two arms, and eyes in the back of the head.)
Brad W.
> what does the student answer to test questions which demand an evolutionary answer?

I ran into this when I was in college. I had already been respectfully asking clarifying questions during the course up to that point, so I'd laid a foundation of mutual respect, not confrontation. I was the only one, out of 150 in the class, that he knew by name. When we got to the test, I went to his office and asked him how he wanted me to handle it. "What do you mean?" I gave an example of a question for which I doubted that the correct answer would be one of the multiple choices. I was clear that I was under his authority in this class and was willing to take any approach he wanted.
His novel solution was for me to answer the ones I could and leave the others blank. Then to hand it in separately, not in the stack with all the others. I marked in the margin the textbook answers to the other questions, to show I had been paying attention. He gave me an A even though I only answered half the questions.
Frank G.
I am a little uneasy criticizing "evolution" since, in conversation, most people associate with the data and science that supports variation and adaption - which both Darwinists and Creationists are in broad agreement!
The point of difference that makes the point for me is the question of the number of common ancestors - ie one or many.
Thus the conversation turns to the relevant evidences and processes or lack thereof.
It also invokes the philosophical problem of the beginning - was it God, or did nothing miraculously become something - either way, a "super-natural" process.
Tas Walker
You can make a lot of progress just by asking for evidence, things that can be observed and measured. You don't have to cricticise when they can't provide the evidence.
Sherwin D.
I have written questions to evolutionist with never a reply.
I asked them when man or an animal evolved , what came first. Was it an arm? A head? Maybe a gall bladder. How about a heart.
My point was, the brain,heart ,lungs,veins,and all organs and bacteria etc must be there at the same time to be able to live. Did animals hop on one leg first? Or maybe in a million years we will have a 3rd arm which will be helpful. The evolutionist is not even worth debating. Makes more sense to debate a flat earth ideology!!!
Burnie J.
I would like to recommend Jonathan Sarfati By Design it is a bit complicated but some stuff is easy to understand
R. R.
I followed much the same strategy to survive studying theology at a theological faculty where humanistic philosophy formed the basis of what was taught. It worked, but was still extremely unsettling to survive emotionally when the truth of God's Word is blatantly undermined. Your good work is highly appreciated!
Louis G.
In this article, the Big Bang is presented as the non-Biblical version of the origin of our world. Do not many Christian scientists believe in the Big Bang because of the evidence from background radiation, the expanding universe, etc. ? They say that it proves Creation, as it shows that the universe has a beginning. Do you reject this evidence for Creation? Did not many turn towards religion once realizing that the previous steady state theory was disproved and the beginning (Genesis) was proved from the Big Bang? Do you say that the steady state theory is still not scientifically disproven? How else can one explain the measured background radiation that so many Christians say proves Creation?
Tas Walker
There are a couple of aspects of the big bang scenario that provide support for creation: 1. it has a beginning which suggests the need for a creator to begin it, 2. it requires finely-tuned parameters which point to a designer. However, the details of the big bang do not agree with biblical history as illustrated in the first diagram above. Just make the comparison yourself between the two scenarios. You don't have to take anyone else's word for it.
Further, the so-called 'proofs' of the big bang, such as the background radiation, turn out not to be proofs at all. Search 'big bang' in creation.com searchbox and you will find many articles, such as Exploding the big bang and Did God use the big bang?
Cowboy Bob S.
Every once in a while, I am asked about how Christian students should prepare for evolution storytime. Dr. Walker made some excellent points here, and I am looking forward to not only sharing this, but keeping it handy for future reference.

'Ask yourself, “What did they actually see?”' is very important, because they will take observed facts and then tack on arbitrary assertions to praise evolution. Two creatures have some resemblance, here are some actual facts, therefore, EvolutionDidIt. Wrong.

The final point is one I've made as well, and people are surprised. But people do need to know the prevailing viewpoint even though it is false, so they can learn the truth and remain undeceived through critical thinking as well as Scripture.
Hans G.
Those are tips how to ask questions during teaching but what does the student answer to test questions which demand an evolutionary answer?
Tas Walker
Those are tips about surviving at college and school. The big danger is that a person will fall for the deception being presented in class, and these tips are about how to personally survive and thrive.
With exams it's easy for essay type exams. The student just prefaces their answer with words like, "According to the concpept of natural selection ...", or "Modern evolutionary theory holds that ...". The student is demonstrating that they know the material taught, but they are not saying that they believe it.
For multi-choice questions there will usually not be a suitable option. In this case I think the student just selects the answer that the lecturers want.
Christine D.
Thank you for this clear and simple set of guides that are "spot-on". I will be reviewing them with my daughter who has started High School this year and is already being exposed to the "goo to you" storytelling in her science classes.
Chris W.
I think there needs to be another point inserted so as to make 5, because the teacher will fall back on ''we know that'' or ''we can test and measure that'', and then go on to talk about radiometric dating. The student then needs to be able to lucidly mention about the assumptions made when radiometric dating takes place.
Tas Walker
Yes, it is helpful to understand the way radioactive dating works, and that is covered in Point 4 to keep learning. In the meantime, for someone with limited experience Point 3 would help them through. Asking what they actually saw can help a person survive when something entirely new is introduced that the student has not heard about before. In the examples you mentioned they simply need to ask the questions: "How do you know that?" and "What did they actually measure?" to appreciate that they are not actually measuring the age of something.
Jack M.
It always puzzles me when the Bible is described as 'based on eyewitness accounts of people who were present and saw them happen.'

Take, for example, the first 26 verses of Genesis and ask yourself the question 'What did they actually see?'
Tas Walker
The first human witness were present on the sixth day of Creation Week. Before that God was present and it is not unreasonable to assume He discussed this with Adam prior to the Fall during the sorts of fellowship times suggested by Genesis 3:8–9.
Steve S.
Generally most will agree that life is amazingly well designed (operational)—just beware of the homage to the false god of evolution (history of deep time and death), as they conclude it was "evolved."
Warren C.
I've recently retired as a general primary school teacher in the public system, and I used similar recommendations to my my older students (particularly over the last one or two decades as evolution became popularly accepted as truth rather than a very wobbly theory). It was often a surprise to hear how stridently young children would resist any questioning of their very firmly formed opinions/beliefs about evolution. Presentations by David Attenborough in particular seem to be swallowed hook, line & sinker without question, and used as a point of reference in several discussions and lessons.
God bless your faithful persistence in this crucial area of education!
Ashley M.
Fantastic advice. I really appreciated the encouragement to respect teachers. Not everything they say is nonsense. Very refreshing read.
Dean R.
Yes amen to scientific models & world views that challenge the mathematical consensus of goo to you, often unexplained but often inferred without ever giving the other side of the story.

Let there be light in education & science, freedom to grow & learn about God's wonderful creation & powerful redemption.

H. S.
My son is in Grade 10 too. Thank you for sharing advice for our students in a clear and helpful manner.
Don H.
How ingenious. I think that this has to be one of the best recommendations I have read. I work at a Christian College and the teachers there are wonderful..... and Christian. This article will be going to my secular family and their children.
God has certainly blessed your work.

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