19

What I Teach My Kids About Evolution

caterpillarPeople ask me what I teach my kids about evolution. The answer is, “I teach the science, but not the ideology.” The Evolutionists say, “You are failing your kids as an educator!” No, I’m teaching my children to keep a view of reality firmly in place, the very first thing a scientist ought to do. The Creationists say, “You are not instructing them in the faith!” Yes I am, but just like we don’t practice our faith only on Sundays, neither do we teach it only in religion class. Our first Kindergarten science lesson is titled, “God Made Everything.”

I forfeit the controversy over teaching evolution because the adults on the ends of the spectrum seem more committed to their views than concerned for children. The immense resources dedicated to this non-issue are perplexing, and I wonder if the controversy itself does more harm to education than good. Anger and antagonism are indications of insecurity. Those emotions distract resources from real solutions, which is another issue.

Our secular science books have beautiful chapters about fossils, dinosaurs, archaeologists, species endangerment, extinction, mitosis, meiosis, reproduction, ecosystems, classification, cross-breeding, genetics, and so on. Those are matters of exact science—physics, chemistry, and biology. That offspring differ from their parents, and as such, sometimes respond to environments differently can be observed and quantified. The change in populations over time can be measured, and is the basis of evolutionary science.

The controversy is not about science though. It is about ideology. Why would I teach my kids exactly how to scientifically interpret Genesis, when it is not known? Why would I teach them that the universe is a cosmic cycle and man a mere part of that machine, when modern science did not develop in any such materialistic or pantheistic cultural psychologies? Modern science emerged in a Christian culture, under a realistic mindset that rejected long-standing assumptions that contradicted the Christian Creed. Why instill a failed psychology in budding scientists?

It’s better to teach kids to make distinctions between what is known and what is not known, which is not easy even for adults, and to humbly admit where knowledge is lacking. That’s how you teach children to guard against blind attachments to prideful fictions. That’s how you teach them to search for truth—to use reason as far as it will go, but to see science as a gift from God that should be guided by faith.

Fundamentally, I teach my kids that there is no conflict between science and faith, for the claim of such conflict is a myth, and I don’t base their education on lies.


Stacy Trasancos is a mother of seven, joyful convert to Catholicism with a Ph.D. in Chemistry and a M.A. in Dogmatic Theology. She is Editor-in-Chief of Catholic Stand and author of Science Was Born of Christianity: The Teaching of Fr. Stanley L. Jaki. She writes from her tiny office in a 100-year-old restored Adirondack mountain lodge that overlooks a small spring-fed lake. More about her here. Find her on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter. Contact her by email


Filed under: » »
  • Christopher Fish

    Many great points. I guess the problems come in when you start delving into the details though.

    For instances what are the theological affects if you accept the multiple parent theory.

    i.e. do we need to revise or eliminate the doctrine of original sin ? Is that even possible ?

    Do we reject that theory solely on a reading of genesis?

    There are many possible theories but there can be only one truth.

    In relation to genesis when and how did the ensoulment of man happen?

    was it homo sepias that was ensouled or was neaderthal included?

    Did evolution occure after the gensis occount? were adam and eve modern humans?
    Lot’s of questions with no answers or how answers may impact theology, but where and when do you allow the two to intersect.

    • Good points. I’d like to address them.

      Multiple parent theory? Not possible; it contradicts dogma.

      Mitochondrial Eve/Y-Chromosomal Adam? Interesting science, let’s see what it reveals.

      Revise or eliminate doctrine of original sin? Not possible.

      When and how did ensoulment happen? Science can never measure that. It is a matter of revealed religion, dogma.

      Did neanderthals have rational souls? That question, again, cannot be answered by science. If neanderthals were men, then they had rational souls.

      Does man evolve? Yes. Will man evolve to another species? We don’t know. Are we guiding our own evolution? That is a matter of opinion, but remains to be seen.

      Like I said, sometimes the most you can do is to separate what is known from what is unknown–including what can never be known–and remain unchained to fictions.

      • Soliloquized

        Never thought I’d live to see the day, so you are saying that the female Neanderthals weren’t rational. That throws the entire theory of evolution to the dogs, it’s conclusive proof that things don’t evolve. LOL

        Just kidding, but I couldn’t let that one go 😉

        • To borrow the example of a conditional proposition that St. Thomas gave, “If man is an ass, he is irrational.” Even though the antecedent is impossible, the statement is still true. The same applies for women and Neanderthals. 🙂

          (Woops, Summa Contra Gentiles, Book One, Chapter 13, #7 http://dhspriory.org/thomas/ContraGentiles1.htm)

  • Randall Ward

    I am sorry you accept evolution as a scientific fact. It is anything but a scientific fact and has a growing list of problems that point to there being no truth in the neo-darwinian theory. The more scientists learn the further the theory of darwin fades into the past.

    • “I teach the science, not the ideology.” Evolution is a scientific fact, otherwise every member of a species would be genetically identical to each other, and all I have to do is look at my husband and children to know that is false.

      • Randall Ward

        Stacy, evolution is far from a fact, it is a myth. Do you realize that body parts like the heart, arms, legs, eyes, liver, wings, ears, etc. are not defined by DNA? Scientists have no idea what causes the body parts to form. They know for sure that DNA does not cause them to be formed. DNA only has the design for proteins, but does not tell the proteins where to go and assemble. The more scientists find out the more of a joke evolution becomes. Evolution is a political construct that was dreamed up 2,000 years ago. When I was reading the writtings of Calvin (written about 1550) he talked about how the “scientists” believed that man made himself through the passage of time in gradual ways. A good science book that talks about such things is “Darwins Doubt”; it is not an easy read but it is well worth reading if you are interested in how God designed us.

        • That’s not what scientific evolution is. Evolutionary science is not about how organs are defined or formed. It is the study of genetic changes in populations, and the corresponding changes in phenotypes, over time.

          The conclusion that all diversity of life sprang from a single ancestor is ideology, something imagined, not something that was observed and measured.Therefore, that idea is not a scientific conclusion. If you want to refute the false ideology of Darwinism, you have to first, in my opinion, stop calling it science when it isn’t. By doing that, you give people who want to overlay their ideologies onto science undo power. Refute the ideology, and let it stand on its own reasoned legs. You don’t need to call it science to make your point.

          • Christopher Fish

            So you made me look up phenotype and genotype.Is the word species not very useful in modern biology ( it seems doesn’t have a good fit with phenotype and genotype).

          • It is useful for classification, but I personally (I’m a chemist not a biologist though) think people make too much of speciation. It refers to groups becoming so genetically different they cannot breed, but even that is fuzzy. The “end” members of a ring species (Chihuahua and Great Dane, for example) cannot breed but are the same species, while there are “ligers” a cross between a tiger and a lion, the parents are the same genus but different species. To say one species arises from others really isn’t that problematic, in my opinion.

        • Christopher Fish

          What makes you think all the information to form a heart or a liver etc. Isn’t defined within DNA?
          There is not full knowledge about how this happens but lack of knowledge doesn’t make a good argument either for or against a proposition. What has been established and is provable in a labratory so far is that the information stored via DNA within the chromosome of a cell is enough to allow every type of cell in the body, Brain, heart, liver, mussel ect. to grow from other cell containing identical DNA. Which cells grow is controlled by which hormones are presented. The only missing information to grow a heart in a labratory is what causes the different hormones (proteins) to be produced at the right times.

      • Soliloquized

        Evolution is a fact, from the perspective of modern man at least. Things do evolve. Bacteria successfully increase their resistance to antibiotics by replicating so quickly and undergoing change. Something (a mutation) that increases the chance for an organism to survive may live on to be replicated in future generations. If six fingers (not an uncommon mutation) enabled mankind to survive better than 5, we may all have 6 fingers now.

        That’s pertinent to extant living creatures, I do not assert that mankind nor all of God’s creatures ultimately evolved, but after their creation, I believe that evolution is irrefutable. IMHO.

        Regards.

        • Christopher Fish

          This is a good discussion as hopefully it will help all those involved broden thier knowledge in a Catholic sense and a scientific one as well. I’m on my phone and hopefully will be able to be more involved later.

          The first thing i noticed is that some of the commenters don’t appear to know the difference between micro and macro evolution. There really is no dispute about micro evaluation. It is the natural process that humans exploit when breeding plants and animals. Their really can be no argument that a given species can change markedly over time if a certain character of various individual prevents those individuals from breeding.

          Macro evolution_ the idea that two species can come from one and that the diversity of all life on the planet comes fron the continued diversification of species a single species is a proposition which on the surface looks simple but is problematic on multiple points.

          Stacy – which dogma does multiple parent theory contradict? I have don’t think it has been explicitly declared by the church. I do tend to take what the scriptures say as literal until there is proof otherwise, but i would not go as far as to say thier are no allowable interpretations of scipture that could accommodate that, should overwhelming evidence be gathered and presented for it.

          The bigger problem that i see from a theological level revolves around original sin. Were adam and eve fully human? Did they interbreed with ‘animals’. Think where did canes wife come from?

          Of course i’m still not sure what the definition of species is. In fact it varies some. Or more so what it means for a species to diverge. Which seems again a merky and poorly understood science. If it can be proven to happen at all.

          Do you plan to teach your children about the divergence of species? How do you expect that realates to modern man? What is scientifically provable about speciation?

          • About dogma, I refer you to #63-64.

            http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/cti_documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20040723_communion-stewardship_en.html

            The scientific and theological origins of man have not been reconciled, and I’m of the opinion (I like to give that qualifier) that it will never be because it doesn’t need to be reconciled.

            That document acknowledges a “humanoid” population in #63, but it also states (quoting):

            Mainly concerned with evolution as it “involves the question of man,” however, Pope John Paul’s message is specifically critical of materialistic theories of human origins and insists on the relevance of philosophy and theology for an adequate understanding of the “ontological leap” to the human which cannot be explained in purely scientific terms. The Church’s interest in evolution thus focuses particularly on “the conception of man” who, as created in the image of God, “cannot be subordinated as a pure means or instrument either to the species or to society.”

            (Please note, this is not dogmatic, it’s a statement from the ITC, approved by then Cardinal Ratzinger.)

            To answer you question though, to say that Adam was a population of men and Eve was a population of women would deny original sin.

            Some theologians opine that a soul was infused in a non-human body, making it human. I don’t agree with that. Some theologians opine that Adam and Eve are not literal, but allegorical. I don’t agree with that. Some opine that man created Adam and Eve out of nothing, a special creation, while other living things do evolve in bodily form. I think I’m more inclined to this opinion.

            Trying to answer your questions, sorry so long.

            My children? Yes, they’ve asked about Cane’s wife. They’ve asked about species and breeding. I tell them how to think with the Church, to try to define what we do know and don’t know, can know and cannot know, and sometimes that as far as we can go, for now anyway. Had some interesting discussions about aliens. 🙂

        • Christopher Fish

          You have defined micro evaluation as opposed to macro Evolution. If that helps.

    • Christopher Fish

      I don’t think anyone here accept darwanism as scientific fact. There is however a body of completely scientific information in the biological sciences, that involves micro evaluation ( aka animal breeding) and its affects and implications on the definition and Genisis of various species. If you want to know more about it i can take the time to explain, do you want me too? If you are only interested in arguing i probably wouldn’t be doing you any favors and don’t have the time. If you are serious about wanting to understand the sci-fi nce part I’m willing to try and help. The reason i ask is because the phrase “i’m sorry you believe” followed by an accusation that stacy believes something that it is pretty obvious from the article she doesn’t, doesn’t make you seem too interested in actual discussion.

      • Randall Ward

        Thanks for talking to me about evolution, but I have studied it for the last 20 years and I have my mind made up, unless new information comes up to change my mind. There is no body of science that proves anything at all about the neo-darwin evolution. It is a complete sham. No one knows for sure how we got here, but I believe God did what ever was done. I think the idea of ID is a good idea and should be followed by scientists. Of course ID is not every exciting to scientists because it takes away their godhood.

        • Christopher Fish

          I agree with you about neo-darwin evolution I don’t think that was the point of the article. In general , and this is something I’ve been trying to study harder, because I have small children and home school as well as teach RE. What should be taught as ‘known fact’ about Genesis and biological science to children in an age appropriate fashion. How does our understanding of science impact our interpretation of the Genesis account. For instance I assume that the 7 days of the account are symbolic. I don’t think anyone disagrees that natural selection can cause morphic changes in animals in the same way animal breeding does by artificial selection.

          I think from a christian perspective we have to acknowledge that at a min God is the one who controls the selectors. God is in control of all randomness.

          What does it mean to say Genesis as part of the bible is ‘inspired’ and ‘inerrant’, which is a dogma of the catholic church.

        • Christopher Fish