Is Your Grandmother a Fish?

by Dr. Georgia Purdom on July 10, 2014

According to a soon-to-be published book for young children, a fish and many other animals are your “grandmothers.” The subtitle for the book is “a child’s first book of Evolution.” While the author and illustrator do a good job of simplifying evolution through words and pictures and using terminology that is kid-friendly, it is exactly those points that make the book so deceptive.

Starting with the Familiar

Rather than starting at the beginning of the evolutionary tree of life with a single-celled organism, the author starts with a fish likely because this would be more familiar to young children. The author chose not to use the terminology of “millions of years” but rather states “a long, long, long, long, long time ago” probably because young children don’t have a good understanding of time. In addition, the author uses the term “grandmother” to refer to each animal (i.e., grandmother fish, reptile, mammal) since children would know what a grandmother is but not an ancestor.

Confusing the Issue of Intelligent Behavior

The book compares animal behavior to human behavior for each of the animal grandmothers. This seduces children into thinking because they can do the same types of things they must be related to the animals. For example, “She [Grandmother Fish] could wiggle and swim fast. Can you wiggle?” Well, certainly children can wiggle (every parent can attest to this!), but that doesn’t mean humans are related to fish. It’s no secret that humans and animals have some similar behaviors, but as we have reported many, many times before this isn’t because of shared ancestry. Instead, God designed animals to be intelligent, but their intelligence pales in comparison to that of humans who are made in the image of God.

Missing Evolutionary Transitions

Following the comparative animal-human behaviors for each “grandmother,” children are presented with a small evolutionary tree showing lines connecting that grandmother to the next one. The book connects fish to reptiles, reptiles to mammals, mammals to apes, and, of course, apes to humans. While visually simple, it discounts the millions of mutations that would have to occur by random chance for these transitions to be possible (and the fact that transitional fossils between these organisms are absent).

Following the conclusion of the book is a parent’s guide giving more detailed information about each evolutionary transition presented in the book. For example, grandmother mammal is said to cuddle and parents are told, “They evolved cuddling as part of nursing our young. Both of these behaviors are governed by the ‘cuddle hormone,’ oxytocin.” It seems the author didn’t stop with simplifying evolution for kids; he also wanted to absurdly simplify it for their parents as well.

How Evolution Supposedly Happens

Also in the parent’s guide are explanations of three major points related to evolution: descent with modification, artificial selection, and natural selection. Dogs are used for artificial selection to show that people have bred dogs to achieve dogs with specific traits (of course, traits that already existed in dogs). They conclude this section with, “All the different kinds of dogs come from one kind of dog that lived a long time ago.” Finally, something I can agree with in the book! All dogs did come from the original dog kind created by God on Day Six of Creation Week, approximately 6,000 years ago. I found it interesting that their point about artificial selection is that it results in variation within a certain group of animals (dogs) and yet somehow a similar type of mechanism (natural selection) is supposed to achieve molecules-to-man evolution with one kind of animal evolving into a completely different kind of animal! I honestly hope parents reading the guide will see the obvious problem this creates for evolution and how natural selection cannot be a mechanism.

As with many books on evolution, time is presented as the key. Evolution can do anything and everything with enough time. But it is this simplification presented to both children and parents in this book that is so problematic. As a professional geneticist, I can attest to the fact that time is not the key but rather what is needed is a genetic mechanism that adds new and novel information so that organisms can evolve from fish to humans. The problem is that with all the thousands of papers published on mutations, no such mechanism has ever been observed. Mutations only alter (and many times detrimentally) genetic information that is already present—they don’t add new and novel information of the type that will change one kind of organism into another. All the time in the world is useless if there is no genetic mechanism to add what is needed for molecules-to-man evolution.

Teaching Our Kids the Truth About Our Origins

With its engaging text and illustrations, I’m sure this book will find its way into many public libraries and even school libraries. I challenge parents and others to suggest to their local librarian an alternative book from AiG’s vast resources for children. One of my personal favorites is Dinosaurs for Kids. I always say it should be called “Dinosaurs for Everyone,” because it is a book that will keep the attention of both children and parents and equip them to answer common questions about dinosaurs. Also, be sure to visit the Creation Museum and take advantage of our “Kids Free in 2014.”

While it is sad to see evolutionary resources like this book for children, it is very encouraging to see the many children’s resources (including Answers Bible Curriculum and Answers VBS) available through AiG that help us teach our kids that the truth about our origins can only be found in the truth of God’s Word.

Keep fighting the good fight of the faith!


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