As a child, I thought Bill Nye, The Science Guy, was wonderful. I used to love watching him blow things up and turn solids to gas and do all sorts of wonderful things. No doubt, some of the random science trivia knocking around in my brain came from his show.
Last night, I got an email from Huffington Post, regarding a controversial video that Bill Nye had released. In it, he’s asking parents to stop teaching Creationism to their children.
“I say, to the grownups, ‘If you want to deny evolution and live in your world that’s completely inconsistent with everything we’ve observed in the universe that’s fine. But don’t make your kids do it.”
So Huffington Post says they want me to be a part of a discussion on the appropriateness of teaching your children Creationism.
It took me a long time to reply to the email. I am honored that my humble little blog is “on the radar” over at the Goliath of H.P. But that is a huge topic.
Frankly, I’ve often just stuck my head in the sand when it comes to talking about it, up to this point. Why? Well… I tend to avoid huge controversy and this is about as big as it gets. According to multiple polls, nearly HALF of all Americans believe that the earth was miraculously created by God some time in the past 10,000 years. That’s a lot of young-earth creationism! Obviously, the other half believe the exact opposite.
Finally, I agreed. I enjoyed being on HuffPost Live last time (even though I’m not crazy about talking in front of people and thought I might have some kind of gastrointestinal breakdown before it was all over). And, while this topic is controversial and certain to get some harsh comments from those watching the live stream, I do think it’s important.
It’s important because it’s part of the ever-present conflict Christians are faced with in being “in the world, but not of it.”
Here’s where I’m coming from, so that you know the foundation I’m basing my stance upon.
I am NOT a scientist.
I did well in high school, I managed in college. I got through all the requisite science classes.
My high school biology teacher was a staunch creationist who only taught evolution because the state required it of him. He told us that. Frequently.
My college biology professor was a devout evolutionist who refused to even discuss creationism.
Wrap your mind around the fact that I went to a public high school and a very conservative Christian college and you’ll see how weird that is.
In Michigan, third grade is when you first cover the subject of the origins of our species so, when we decided to take our daughter out of public school and keep her home for this, her third grade, year, I read approximately 4, 642, 912 different science curriculum books. I never did find one I felt good about purchasing.
So, I’m not a scientist, but I’d like to think I’m not a total ignoramus on the subject either.
I am a Christian. I believe the Bible is true and “all scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
So that’s who I am.
I’m going to skip the whole monstrously huge topic of public school curriculum and separation of church and state because Bill Nye wasn’t talking about that. He was talking about what parents say to their own children. So this isn’t about one group “forcing” another group to listen to their beliefs. This is the conversation that happens at the dinner table.
It is my understanding that the vast majority of scientists accept the evolution of species as fact. Through various methods, some of which I understand and some of which are quite beyond me, they agree that the evidence points very strongly in that direction. This is true, even of most scientists who are devout Christians. GeoChristian is a great website, created by Christian scientists (the biologist kind, not the Tom Cruise kind).
That said, not all young-earth creationists are drooling idiots. These are educated people with a heart to understand the world that they believe was a gift from God. The most die-hard young-earther I know is a dear friend with twice the education I have. He’s not an unreasonable man. He is not the kind of guy who would withhold medical treatment from his kids on the grounds that “God’s will be done.” He has done a lot of research on this topic and he has drawn his conclusions.
If you’d like to see some of the science of a young earth for yourself, Creation.com offers 101 evidences for a young earth and universe.
should parents teach creation to their children?
I think, first and foremost, parents have a moral obligation to teach their faith to their children. If you believe that you know the truth about God (or gods, or the lack of a God), then why in the world wouldn’t you share your knowledge with those nearest to your heart?! You wouldn’t send your kid into the world and say, “they need to figure out math for themselves.” You teach them! Likewise, children need some sort of philosophical foundation in life and, as parents, it is our duty to provide that.
Second, I think that Christians who believe that the earth is young, and have no ear to hear the reasoning offered by scientists who believe otherwise, should keep in mind that, in the past, the church executed, in the name of God, those who said the earth was round and the sun was in the middle of the solar system. Whoops. Awkward!
Third, I think that those who believe, with a near-religious fervor, that evolution is true “as proven by the facts,” should keep in mind that scientists told us, not so long ago, that smoking tobacco was a road to healing for asthmatics and tubercular patients. There was a day when science “conclusively proved” that the earth was flat. Our understanding of science is in its infancy and, already, the theory of evolution has changed a great deal from Darwin’s original thesis on the subject.
What do I teach my child on this subject?
I teach her that the Bible tells us that God created the whole universe and everything in it, and it tells us that she is created, a special, unique person and she is loved by God (and her family).
I teach her that, as Augustine* said, all truth is God’s truth. Therefore, if science shows us something with great certainty (ie. the earth is round and moves in orbit around the sun), that’s the way God made it and we have nothing to fear from discovering the wonders of God’s universe.
I teach her that science uses the evidence at hand to draw conclusions, and sometimes, when new evidence presents itself, those conclusions change. (Remember the good old days, when Pluto was a planet and Oleo was good for you?)
And, yes, (sorry if this offends you) I teach her that, at this time, all evidence points toward the idea of a very old universe, with an extraordinary precision of design.
Above all else, I teach her that she has a good, strong, beautiful brain and she should never, ever, EVER stop asking questions. Only in questioning EVERYTHING does science ever move forward. Consider if quantum theorists had never questioned Newtonian physics. Half of what we accept as fact these days would have been nothing more than voodoo.
And I think that’s where the problem with this whole debate lay. Not in the fact that half the people believe one thing and half believe something else. The problem is that each half is terrified of the other half questioning their belief system.
If what you know is truth… relax.
“As the Americans say, ‘Truth will out!'”
(Arthur Weasley, in Harry Potter)
* As a little side note, Saint Augustine was outspoken in his belief that the Genesis “days” were NOT literal 24 hour periods some 1,400 years before Darwin wrote The Origin of Species. This is not a new debate.
So, that’s where I’m coming from. I feel better having written it all down. One of the things I love about blogging is the opportunity to proof-read myself and make sure that I’m saying what I mean. I don’t get that chance when I’m speaking live, which is why it makes me dreadfully nervous. But at least now, even if I drool like an idiot today on live (internet) TV, a few of you will know what I was TRYING to say.
If you’d like to see the conversation and/or join in the streaming discussion, check it out at: http://live.huffingtonpost.com/r/segment/503d9f522b8c2a0c5e0003c8
You can watch it live around 11:40am (eastern time) Friday, or watch the video any time after that by clicking the link. If you choose to comment, feel free to disagree with me, but please be nice. If I totally freak out and vomit on live TV (internet) please don’t comment.