It’s back to school time, and this video from Genesis Apologetics has been making the rounds of… well… I don’t really know where it’s making the rounds. Maybe Christian home schools? Videos like these are pretty typically posted on Facebook by evangelical/fundamentalist parents so school kids can be warned in case high school science teachers try to “propagandize” about evolution. Something I’m pretty skeptical of actually happening; at least according to my grandkids, and my daughter who is a school teacher (2nd grade).
According to this report there isn’t much danger of “evolution propaganda”:
A recent survey of 926 public high school biology teachers has revealed that nearly three out of four are not aggressively endorsing evolution. According to the survey, only about 28 percent of biology teachers are strong advocates for evolution and “consistently implement the major recommendations and conclusions of the National Research Council.” Thirteen percent are just the opposite, and explicitly advocate creationism or intelligent design. Most teachers, called the “cautious 60 percent,” told interviewers that they are “neither strong advocates for evolutionary biology nor explicit endorsers of nonscientific alternatives.”
In fact, the problem may be that the science isn’t taught much at all. The report goes on to say:
Frustrated by these numbers, many biologists are opening up, says Louise Mead, education director for the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action, which is headquartered at Michigan State University.
“Evolutionary biologists used to just put a hand up whenever people brought up the evolution controversy,” she said. “But there’s been a realization that we have to address the misconceptions. There has been a renewed focus on how we teach evolution and renewed outreach.”
Jim Stump, Vice President at BioLogos, has a response you can read here. I agree with Jim right down the line in this response. The main problem with sweet Kayla’s rant is that it is total bullshit completely counterproductive to the aim of the video: to provide “answers” to counter evolution. Because each of her points has been thoroughly debunked by actual science, the Christian student “armed” with those talking points will be quickly and utterly disillusioned when they reach college and come into contact with the rebuttals. That disillusionment can lead to an actual loss of faith when the student realizes they were “propagandized” instead of told the truth by their so-called faith leaders. As Jim says in the BioLogos article:
Narratives like the one in this video are attractive because they pit the plucky, faithful underdog from our tribe against an external threat. We’re wired to respond positively to that. But unfortunately the video only perpetuates echochamber thinking. It reinforces a stereotype that true Christian faith is bundled with a rejection of evolutionary science. For too many kids today, once they get out of the echochamber and find the science actually holds up, they feel they have to abandon faith too.
So, quick recap of the bad arguments:
“Life cannot come from non-life…”
This confuses origin of life research with the theory of evolution. Evolution is an explanation for the diversification of life on Earth, not for the origin of life on Earth. Despite what we know about the state of the Earth 3–4 billion years ago and the complexity of the building blocks of life—DNA, RNA, amino acids, sugars—no entirely plausible scientific explanation for the spontaneous origin of life has been found. How life came from non-life, or abiogenesis, is still largely a scientific mystery. Nevertheless, as I noted in this post: A Review of “A World From Dust- How the Periodic Table Shaped Life” by Ben McFarland, there are tantalizing clues from chemistry and physics that the laws of physics constrain the universe so that stars would form, that elements would be created in those stars (like carbon), and that the end life of those stars would spread those elements throughout the universe. The laws of chemistry constrain the randomness of the evolutionary process so that life can form. As RJS, the PhD chemistry professor who blogs at Jesus Creed said, the evolutionary process is an efficient search algorithm optimizing for specific functions.
“Mutation only loses information…”
As one commentator to Jim’s article said, “There is abundant evidence that mutation can generate significant, functional information at a rate far higher than required by evolution. One form of evidence can be found in your own body. You possess DNA that codes for hundreds (at least) of antibodies, each precisely tuned to match a protein on a specific pathogen that you have encountered in your lifetime. You were not born with any of those antibodies or with the DNA that codes for them. The DNA – and the information needed to produce those specific antibodies – was generated from a simple template by a process of random mutation and selection; part of the process is known as ‘somatic hypermutation’.”
If evolution is true, then “we’d have millions of in-between creatures running around…”
Did the teacher in the video seriously not have an answer for this? It is just a misunderstanding of evolutionary theory. Evolution does not claim that currently existing creatures have evolved into other currently existing creatures. Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort thought they debunked evolution by holding up a picture of a crocoduck and asking why we don’t find any of these half crocodile, half duck creatures. But evolution claims that for any two organisms today, you could go back in time and find common ancestors of them. For crocodiles and ducks, that’s about 245 million years ago, and those common ancestors were neither crocodiles nor ducks. The “in-between” creatures aren’t running around today, but they were back before the two lineages diverged (but probably didn’t look like Cameron and Comfort’s picture!).
“All of the in-between fossils could fit in the back of my Prius…”
Creationists love to quote-mine the late Stephen J. Gould, Harvard paleontologist, who said, “The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology.” [Evolution’s Erratic Pace – “Natural History,” May, 1977]”
The problem for creationists is an enormous catalog of transitional forms have been found since the time 42 years ago when Gould wrote his book. Since Gould’s long, long ago retirement from the field, paleontologists have discovered:
- the long series from Pakicetus to blue whales
- intermediate forms such as Tiktaalik in the transition from fish to amphibians.
- a long series of transitional forms from dinosaurs to birds
- a long series of transitional forms from early hominids to humans.
Finally, the student’s speech both begins and ends with the oft-repeated claim: “It takes a lot more faith to believe in evolution…”
Jim’s answer is OK here, but what really bothers me about the answer is the pitting of faith vs. faith. You know, your faith is in fallible men, but my faith is in the infallible God. The implication is the Christian’s faith is in the God of the universe, who cannot lie and would never mislead anyone, and the Bible, which is the very WORD of God, inerrant and infallible, and can never be misinterpreted… if the plain reading is taken. But Biblicism is just the opposite side of the coin as scientism. They are both ideologies, subject to the mirror-image problems of fundamentalist mindset. Besides, the theory of evolution is a scientific theory, it doesn’t require any faith at all. It is a provisional explanation of the biologic diversity we observe throughout the planet’s history. You, the scientism ideologue, says it explains away the need for God to have created the universe, and shows belief in God to be delusional. Well, guess what, you just stopped doing science and are now in engaged in metaphysical speculation. And you, the Biblicist ideologue, says that if evolution is true then the Bible can’t be true. That’s like saying if embryology is true then it can’t be true that God “knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13), or if meteorology is true then it can’t be true that the Father “sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45).
As Christians, we can, and should, really do better by our kids.