Telling Kids About Evolution, Faith
Wednesday - September 23, 2009
So what should we tell our schoolchildren about evolution, creationism and intelligent design?
If I were in charge, the answer would be simple. Anybody who has studied biology at a decent university knows that Earth is about 4.5 billion years old and the fossil record clearly shows evidence of evolution from simple ocean creatures to man - with many gaps.
But the gaps provide ammo for those who believe some Supreme Being created everything. Irish Bishop James Ussher in his Annales veteris testamenti claimed to determine mathematically that God created the Earth and all its life over six days starting at exactly 9 a.m. on April 23, 4004 B.C.
But if that’s the case, does that mean that God the Creator playfully caused that moon-crash on Mars that wiped out its atmosphere and any life that was on it? If so, why?
Intelligent design is ridiculous, but I can’t prove that or even seriously dent dogged belief in it with the scientific evidence. So what do we tell our open-minded schoolchildren?
Well, I’d say tell them that the science to date (biological and astronomical) does-n’t support a Supreme Being or anything other than evolution of creatures, but our telescopes have only seen out near the edge of our 13 billion- to 14 billion-year-old universe, and it’s possible that new evidence could put holes in our theory of evolution, too.
Tell them what theory is. It’s the best evidence available, put to many tests to look for contradictions, but just that - theory. If we find a nearly intact skeleton of a 10 million-year-old Homo sapien somewhere, there goes the evolution theory. But that’s not likely in light of what we’ve found so far.
Tell kids frankly about the people who prefer to repudiate science and go with their personal beliefs - that man and dinosaurs once lived together. Explain that the fossil record disputes that, but that some people choose to dispute the fossil record.
I think kids are smart, and when everything is laid out, most of them will go with the science but also will say they are open to any new evidence that challenges theory. Some who come from homes of extreme religious belief will stick with their home theology. That will damage them as they move into college, but we’re all entitled to damage ourselves. I suspect that those creationists and intelligent designers who do get into top colleges will find their core beliefs under serious fire.
It strikes me as a mistake for secondary schools to say we’ll teach evolution and totally ignore the non-scientific arguments of the anti-evolutionists. I think it’s been a mistake for scientists to say they won’t debate creationists or intelligent designers at school board meetings because they won’t engage in things that aren’t science. Faith is very much a part of the fabric of our communities, and we ignore that at great peril.
So teach the science but mention the faith - and anything else various mainstream folks might come up with as an explanation of how we got here.
Down the line, the science is bound to win out because all the evidence so far points in the scientific direction.We just have to wait for faith-based thinking to catch up. We can’t rush it.
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