One subject I have been overdue to write on is the issue of evolution, specifically regarding public education and the indoctrination of the youth.
I received my undergraduate degree in secondary English education. I was very excited to become a public educator until the opportunity to be a pastor presented itself.
Although I did not enter education, it has been, and always will be, an area of passion and concern of mine.
One of the many controversies the public, specifically the religious sector of the public, gets up in arms about is the issue of evolution and it being taught in the classroom.
Religious parents will often get very upset about this. There is often a demand that creationism or intelligent design be taught along side it, and sometimes there are opportunities for students to opt out of those lessons in more conservative school districts.
What may surprise many is that I do not get very upset about evolution being taught in the public schools. Although I believe Darwinian Evolution to be a fundamental attack against the Christian faith, and that it is neither true nor scientific, I take no issue with it being taught in the public schools. Why do I, a Christian pastor with an education background, care so little about evolution being taught in the public schools? Why do I not petition for a change in the curriculum?
Before I answer that question, let me first address the issue of how public evolution is not truly being taught in the public school system at all.
Who Teaches Evolution?
The idea that evolution is actually taught in any school in America is hard to believe. Evolution is not taught in any public school, or at least, it is not taught in full.
No school actually teaches evolution as a whole, nor do they practice it as being true in any real sense. The natural consequences of evolution are not taught in school, and most alarmingly, the schools do not practice or live evolutionary ideas out consistently.
Basic concepts and history of the evolutionary worldview are taught in the science classrooms, but the teachers and administration will steal from the Christian worldview everywhere else. Here is one example from my personal history.
While student teaching, a young high school girl came into my classroom during a plan period of mine crying profusely. She allowed me to stay in the room, but she felt much more comfortable talking to my female mentor teacher, as she had a stronger relationship with her (I was new.) She began to tell a story about how some of the girls on her athletic team had been saying ugly things about her physical appearance. My mentor teacher responded as any parent would hope (she is a wonderful teacher).
She said many things she ought to have said. She affirmed for this young girl that she was in fact very beautiful. She told her that her worth and value are not found in the opinions of others. She told her that she was an amazing girl. Good stuff, right? The problem is every element of her words of comfort are basic denials of everything this sobbing girl was taught about evolution in biology.
The English teachers apparently do not believe in evolution, and even teach in direct contradiction to it. After all, if the world we lived in truly had the genesis story naturalists claim, and if evolution and natural processes were the closest thing to a sovereign God, that girl is worthless and ugly.
Evolution cannot produce an intrinsic value to cling on to for that girl. She cannot be unique, objectively valuable, and precious. She is simply accidentally developed pond-scum which managed to crawl its way out the primordial goo. She is stardust. Just like frogs, fish, bananas, feces, maggots, and everything else we touch and smell. There is nothing intrinsically unique or objectively valuable about her. No one accidental, random concatenation of atoms has the authority to pronounce such things over another biological bag of meat and bones, whose ancestors were also fish. Who on earth, according to this worldview, did my mentor teacher think she was speaking such objective and intrinsic language over that girl?
The closest the evolutionary worldview can get to any meaningful objective definition of value and purpose is procreation. The entire goal of evolutionary beings is offspring. Thus, worth and meaning are completely derived from the opinions of us from those within our species. Until that young girl finds a human to give her children, she is worthless. And physical union for our particular species initially begins with attraction and desire. Thus, women are defined by what others think of them, specifically, sexually. If boys and girls find her ugly, she is. If the boys don’t want to procreate with her, she is useless.
This goes for the boys too. Until a fertile woman decides to lay with them, they have no meaning or purpose. They can make one up, but it is not objective or real.
As a Christian, I can consistently say what was said to that girl. I have an objective basis and authority for declaring her valuable and precious regardless of the contrary opinions of sixteen-year-olds. It’s called the image of God. I can tell her she is beautiful and special without blowing any smoke.
Take another scenario I (fortunately) never had to experience: school shootings. Do public schools handle these like Darwinism logically requires? No, they handle them much more like Christians would (although not entirely). In the denunciation of these acts, what are the arguments against? Are they pragmatic or intrinsic?
In other words, what’s the reasoning for not allowing a disturbed kid to shoot up the school? Why is this not just a “the survival of the fittest” scenario at work? Where’s our natural selection in all this? A kid needs to blow off steam, who is to tell him that’s not the right way to do it?
Notice, the arguments schools actually give are intrinsic. The argument is never presented the only way an evolutionist could present an argument:
“School shootings are wrong because they disrupt learning.”
It is true that a school shooting disrupts learning. It’s hard to take a math test with that going on in the hallways. But that argument crosses the mind of no one. You’ll never hear a representative of a school victimized by this, nor any politician addressing the issue speak that way. Why? Because school shootings are opposed on an objectively moral and intrinsic basis, not a pragmatic one. However, evolution cannot provide a semblance of an objective moral or intrinsic worth.
School shootings are evil because children matter. People have divine meaning and divine rights. That is why they are so horrible. That is why a student shooting another student is far more horrific than the same student cheating off another student’s test. Both are wrong, but Christians can consistently say why shootings are worse.
If the public school finds the students objectively valuable, and treats them with worth, that school may present aspects of Darwinism in biology, but the school is not teaching evolution. It is actually teaching theft. It steals from the Christian worldview while refusing to acknowledge the Christian worldview.
By way of a side, this seems to me to be the plausible reason why so many secularists have such a hard time understanding the Christian argument about morality. Whenever I introduce an inexperienced, aspiring pagan-apologist to the argument of morality, they often misinterpreted me to be accusing them of having no morals. I have to go to great lengths to get them to see the argument is about justifying and grounding ethics, not having or practicing them.
It makes sense though, because the contradictory worldview presented in secularism simply hands them the two elements of the religion, one foundational the other stolen, and these kids just grow up in it. They go to school where two things are taught:
- People matter, so be kind to others.
They are indoctrinated into these two things. Evolution is true, and be a good person. They are never taught to examine whether these things can coexist, whether they can truly cohabitate consistently in a worldview together. They just believe in both elements as they were both the part of the lesson of the catechism class they had third period.
The examples of human value and objective ethics prior are just a couple examples among many that could be mentioned about the nasty and illogical consequences of evolution which are inescapable yet ignored.
Along with the practical denial of evolution, the academic side of the public presentation is still not accurate either. Greg Bahnsen lays this out in his essay. The fact of the matter remains that the historical worldview foundations which led up to the theory of evolution are ignored entirely. And when those are examined, as Bahnsen points out, it is clear that evolution, as Darwin promoted it, was nothing new, and it operated before Darwin as a worldview with far reaching religious implications. It was not, and is not, a raw scientific theory.
Where Evolution Belongs
To get to the point, the reason that I fight so little against the teaching of Darwinian evolution in the public schools is because I actually believe it belongs in public schools.
Suppose you sent your child to a private Roman Catholic school. Would you be surprised to find Roman Catholic theology espoused? Suppose you sent your child to a Muslim education center. Would you be outraged if the teachers there taught Islamic doctrine? Or would it not be expected that the Quran would be used to teach mankind’s origin? Likewise, when we send our children to secular schools, the only thing that belongs there is secular education. If disagree with me, you likely do not see secularism for what it truly is: a religion.
During my undergraduate degree, I took a class which combined all of the different disciplines (English, Science, Math, etc.) One of the future science teachers asked our professor about how she would handle teaching evolution, knowing religious students will be offended. The professor answered by saying something very close to,
“You have to tell them that outside of the classroom they can wear their ‘religious hat.’ But once they step foot inside the classroom they must take off that hat and put on their ‘science hat.’ They can go ahead and wear their religious hat outside the classroom, but not in the classroom.”
Is this actually what’s going on? Is it possible to remove our religious hats in any area of life? And if we can, is there truly a “science” hat out there to be worn?
The Bible regularly presents dichotomies to us. People are either on the narrow path, or the path to destruction, but there is no middle path (Matthew 7:13). People are either for Jesus, or against Him, there is no open-mindedness (Matthew 12:30). People are either righteous or sinners, there is not a middle position (Matthew 25:33).
Biblically, there is no approach to education which is neutral to Christianity. It is either for or against. Thus, Secularism is simply another worldview option competing with Christ. Public education is not a neutral space for raw facts to be openly investigated. The minds of the students are not blank sponges not being guided in their investigations by desires and biases. The educators are not religiously neutral teachers with no worldview dictating what information they teach and how the teach it. The curriculum is not designed by objective researchers without worldview commitments influencing their work. As Douglas Wilson pointed out,
“If the world is created, then it becomes necessary to follow the manufacturer’s instructions-which goes a long way in explaining why a number of people would find the existence of a Creator God more than a little inconvenient… So the debate over creation is not a debate being conducted by disinterested scholars in a glorious vacuum of scientific disinterestedness and objectivity. It is not as though the issue of evolution has no practical or ethical ramifications” (Father Hunger, 136).
The common understanding of public education is that it’s a neutral environment. This is why so many Christians find it so outrageous that evolution alone remains the standard curriculum for school. Most bring to the table the idea that public education should teach a multiplicity of ideas. Even if this were the case, were it the obligation of public education to do this, we have simply changed from one anti-Christian curriculum to another. To move from secularism to pluralism (what the Bible would refer to as polytheism) is simply exchanging one idol for another. When Jonah called Nineveh to repent, they were not being called to adopt a new religion with even more gods, a polytheistic religion, but they were called to worship the one true God.
The fact remains though that public education is simply not required to teach everything everyone believes. That could not even be done. Thus, there must be a standard for what, and how they teach. What is the basis then for curriculum standards?
The presupposition held by most is that facts are neutral and are interpreted in a vacuum. Thus, public education seeks to present raw, unbiased, facts. Facts of math, facts of history, facts of science etc. are allegedly all able to be taught and interpreted independently from any overriding worldview apparatus.
In other words, in order for public education to be truly public the Bible must be false. For the idea that no man is neutral, and that there are noetic effects of sin, and that everyone knows the truth but suppresses it unrighteousness, those things cannot be true in order for public education to be truly public. Public education, to be what it is designed to be, requires an understanding of mankind in complete contradiction to biblical anthropology.
This means that public education begins with a religious understanding of man and education, not a neutral one. This fact ought to be made clearly by examining the fruit, as we are always called to do.
Public education across the country has taken hard stances in extreme opposition to Christian teaching on the most important social issues of our day. Outside of uniquely conservative districts things like transgenderism, homosexuality, and premarital sex, are presented in a positive, affirming light among faculty and curriculum alike. This is the fruit of the system never being truly “neutral” in the first place.
To bring this all to its point, in a non-Christian religious school, the creation myth of that religion is what I would expect to be there. I would not expect to see the scientific evidence interpreted and taught in such a way as to affirm Scripture, when the foundations of the institution are built on denying the truth of Scripture.
That is why I say evolution belongs in the public school. Evolution is the creation myth of Agnosticism and Atheism alike. Therefore, in a school where no God is allowed to be promoted, or, where all gods must be, that school will naturally teach its own Genesis story. An element among the curriculum of public education that I see as validating my point is the popular alternative to evolution.
Were you a parent upset by the teaching of Darwin in science, and were you to speak to the school board about curriculum standards, what would you suggest replacing Darwinism? Which genesis story belongs in public schools if not evolution? The leading rival to Darwin to me seems to be Intelligent Design (ID). The reason this is important is because ID is explicitly not creationism. Many are tempted to see them as the same, but they are inherently distinct. What is the difference? The national ID organization publicly states it this way:
The theory of intelligent design is simply an effort to empirically detect whether the “apparent design” in nature acknowledged by virtually all biologists is genuine design (the product of an intelligent cause) or is simply the product of an undirected process such as natural selection acting on random variations. Creationism typically starts with a religious text and tries to see how the findings of science can be reconciled to it. Intelligent design starts with the empirical evidence of nature and seeks to ascertain what inferences can be drawn from that evidence. Unlike creationism, the scientific theory of intelligent design does not claim that modern biology can identify whether the intelligent cause detected through science is supernatural.
ID then becomes more of a negative statement than a positive one. It’s more a denial of Darwinism than it is an affirmation of an alternative view. ID is far more a statement on the error of Darwinism than it is an answer to biological questions in regards to nature’s genesis.
The problem with ID is the assumption that any approach to the scientific evidence can not start with a “religious text.” ID makes the same mistake (assuming neutrality) that its opponents make.
“Intelligent design starts with the empirical evidence of nature and seeks to ascertain what inferences can be drawn from that evidence.”
ID thinks it is unique from Creationism is that it is not starting with a specific God and then trying to interpret in light of that religious assumption. However, that is exactly what every scientific approach is doing. We are all interpreting the evidence from a religious starting point.
Some texts are invisible, some are not canonized with nice leather-bound covers, but all scientists are beginning with a text.
“Intelligent design starts with the empirical evidence of nature and seeks to ascertain what inferences can be drawn from that evidence.”
Furthermore, the issue then becomes this issue of ascertaining drawn inferences. In other words, the dilemma of ID is now exposed. The ID design crowd wants to claim that the science classroom should just present the raw facts and evidences of nature because their evolutionary opponents are already claiming that for themselves. Thus, the issue becomes, not one of evidence, but of interpretation of evidence.
The error of ID is the assumption that when we begin to “ascertain what inferences can be drawn from that evidence,” we can do so without an interpretative grid guiding us. Ironically, the evolutionists think the same thing. So, why are we not drawing the same inferences?
To present ID to a school board is essentially to say your teachers should interpret the evidence this way and not that way. But the Darwinian teacher can just as arbitrarily say the same thing for his position. As can the Muslim. As can the Mormon.
At the end of the day, we are all advocating for the god of our system to guide our curriculum. To think we can find a neutral education facility where no god is being advocated falls flat. There is always a god of the system.
The question naturally then before us then is not, “Should public schools teach creationism or evolution?” That is as silly a question as, “Should Christian schools teach Christian or Buddhist doctrine?” The question before us really becomes, “Should education be public?” Meaning, should Jesus be recognized as the God and authority over any school, or should we pick a different god?
That is the question, and those are the only options. Thankfully, I know what Jesus’ opinion on that is: Matthew 28: 18,
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
I was nearly a public school teacher. Three of the women in my life closest to me are public educators. Many good and faithful Christians in my current and previous church are public educators.
The purpose of this post was not to paint all public teachers as evil secularists teaching garbage material to children with evil agenda’s behind all they do.
There are many good schools and good teachers. There are even entire districts doing great work.
My post is specifically addressed to the philosophy of public education, and the larger education trends I see nationwide. Some concepts require a broad brush.
What are you to do with this post? I am not telling you to pull your kids from public school. That is a decision for you, for you to make with prayer and the counsel of the church leadership.
I am not telling you you’re in sin if you’re involved with the public school. However, I am calling you, either as a parent or a potential parent, to be heavily involved in your child’s education. You must instill a biblical worldview with them, help them see everything through the Bible, and challenge the falsehoods they are hearing. The Bible gives the role of education to parents. It is your duty to raise them in the Christian faith. Whether you put them in public, private, or home-school environments, your duty remains the same. They will hear false doctrine eventually. Prepare them.