Researchers at Penn State University and the National Center for Science Education report that teaching human evolution in public schools has doubled since 2007. The study shows that the percentage of public school science teachers who teach evolution as established science has grown from 51% in 2007 to 67% in 2019. Simultaneously, the percentage of science teachers who discuss intelligent design has dropped from 23% to 14%.
The problem with data like this is that terminology is not defined. There is a difference between teaching human evolution according to neo-Darwinian theory and teaching the fact that living things can change. Nobody denies that new breeds of dogs, roses, corn, cattle, and fish have come into existence within recorded human history. There is also no doubt that racial variations of humans are happening as we watch. The Bible even describes evolutionary change as we read about what Jacob did with Laban’s flocks in Genesis 30:31-43. It is difficult to imagine a competent biology teacher not explaining how these changes come about, and how we can use them to solve the problems of hunger and disease today.
This ministry is based on the belief that science and faith in God are symbiotic. They support each other. It is bad science to teach theory as fact. It is also wrong to be selective in what valid data we use to make decisions about what we teach children. As a science teacher in public schools for 41 years, I know the pressure that teachers face. But avoiding bad science and bad theology is the answer to the evolution/creation controversy. The current pandemic may offer parents and teachers a unique opportunity to improve the education of our students and reduce the tension between science and faith in America today.
February 12 is Darwin Day to mark the birthday of Charles Darwin. There is an organization which exists to encourage encourages schools, museums, churches, and universities through the registry of the Darwin Day Celebration website. The stated purpose is to “honor the life and work of Charles Darwin.” The National Center for Science Education is the major supporter of the celebration.
Leading up to Darwin Day, February 8-10 this year is designated as Evolution Weekend. Michael Zimmerman who initiated this event says, “Evolution Weekend is an opportunity for serious discussion and reflection on the relationship between science and religion.” He goes on to say, “Those claiming that people must choose between religion and science are creating a false dichotomy.” According to Zimmerman, 202 congregations in 45 states and five foreign countries are holding Evolution Weekend events. Several large denominations are a part of this effort.
We agree that we do not have to choose between science and faith. We have posted many articles pointing out that evolution is not the issue. Change certainly happens in living things, and the Bible talks about specific examples of evolution such as what Jacob did with Laban’s flocks. The issue is Naturalism, based on common descent from one-celled life to human beings.
February 12 has been designated as Darwin Day by the U.S. government with Senate Resolution 374 and House Resolution 699 both being pushed by the American Humanist Association. The stated goal is “..support of designating February 12, 2018, as Darwin Day and recognition of Charles Darwin as a worthy symbol of scientific advancement on which to focus and around which to build a global celebration of science and humanity intended to promote a common bond among all of Earth’s people.” With Darwin Day comes the return of Evolution Weekend in which various churches use the weekend of February 9-11 to promote their view that “evolution is sound science and poses no problems for their faith.” The Clergy Letter which Michael Zimmerman circulates among denominational congregations states that “Evolution Weekend makes it clear that those claiming that people must choose between religion and science are creating a false dichotomy.”
All of this is a strange mix of good ideas and bad ideas along with fact and opinion. It is also replete with attacks on the Bible and denigration of those who claim that bad science is involved. The stated goals are wonderful. The failure to define what is meant by evolution and accurately present what Charles Darwin actually discovered dilutes the value of the weekend and of Darwin Day itself.
It would be wonderful if Darwin Day not only commemorated the birth of Charles Darwin but presented his primary discovery. What Darwin discovered was that living things are designed so that they can change and adapt to environmental conditions and changes humans make to improve crops and animal husbandry. Unfortunately, atheists attempt to add the writings of those who oppose the idea that humans are special. Instead, they suggest that all of life has equal value because they deny the spiritual dimension of humans.