Evolving Tactics for Teaching Evolution

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“Why doesn’t everyone believe in evolution? It’s a fact!” A recent article from the University of Pennsylvania, “Following in Darwin’s Footsteps to Teach the Public about Evolution,” highlights this confounding problem for secularists.1 According to a recent national survey conducted by the university, approximately 25% of those surveyed were some form of creationist. How could this be?

A lot of people have no idea what evolution is.

Penn researchers Michael Weisberg, professor and chair of the philosophy department, and Deena Weisberg, a senior fellow in the psychology department, decided to look into the issue in search of a solution. They recruited a team of undergraduates who conducted interviews with the general public. The goal was to determine the “misunderstandings” of evolution deniers. Their broad conclusion? “A lot of people have no idea what evolution is.”

So how to fix this problem? Well, the tone of the article would seem to suggest that since the evidence for evolution is overwhelming and since any rational person would believe evolution if they really understood it, the flaw must be in the way evolution is being taught. And since Michael Weisberg and Deena Weisberg are scientists who study how people learn, this is a problem right up their alley.

The next step was to have their research team watch dozens of nature documentaries from the past 30 years to pinpoint what really worked to bring evolutionary enlightenment. The documentaries fell into three basic categories: traditional narrator, cinema verité (attempts to make the viewers feel as if they are there), and behind the scenes (the “making of”). Each one was determined to have its own strengths and weaknesses.

From there they followed Darwin’s steps and traveled to the Galápagos Islands to create “a documentary series about evolution, the aim of which is to grasp how much people really know about this subject and the best way to teach it.” They shot a lot of footage that will be spliced together to form three different documentaries on the same subject of evolution. Like the documentaries the Weisbergs studied, each documentary will be a different style: traditional narrator, cinema verité, and behind the scenes (the “making of”).

Following the completion of the documentaries, the team will assess the success of each by testing viewers before and after screening. Whichever one is most convincing will be crowned the winner. Michael Weisberg concludes by saying,

We really hope that projects like this help us understand where the public is, what blocks their ability to accept scientific knowledge, and how we can intervene in useful ways.

The irony here is twofold. One, only the biblical worldview makes “scientific knowledge” possible. Two, real “scientific knowledge” repudiates evolutionary dogma and provides powerful confirmation of the Bible’s recorded history. The problem for the evolutionist is not one of teaching methods but of foundational assumptions.

But as a teacher for 13 years and now a speaker for Answers in Genesis, I truly understand their motivation. They have a subject that they’re passionate about and want to find the most effective means of communicating it to others. As a teacher I employed multiple teaching tools—physical activities, teambuilding, journaling, music, videos, stories, jokes, and so on—all with the purpose of engaging as many students as possible to connect them, in a profound way, with the content.

As it turns out, evolutionists are passionate about evolution. Who knew! And they want everyone to see the light, thus the passionate effort to identify the best methods of evolutionary evangelism.

You see, Christians are not the only fishers of men! The secularist, whether he realizes it or not, is suppressing the truth (Romans 1:18–23) and fishing for the father of lies. Evolution is one of the primary baits that has been used to reel people, especially kids, into a secular worldview. Because if evolution is true, the Bible’s history is false. If the Bible’s history is false, why would you trust what it says about marriage, gender, sanctity of life, or eternal salvation? If God’s Word is not the authority on all things, it’s not the authority on anything.

And in a sinister way befitting the devil, he has used many unsuspecting Christians, churches, and Christian institutions to cast the secular bait of evolution and millions of years. That’s why we receive this warning in Colossians 2:8,

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.

Christian—as a disciple, parent, mentor, missionary, leader, pastor, or counselor—it is incumbent upon us to recognize that this is where the blitzkrieg on God’s Word is occurring today. These attacks have grown more and more sophisticated as time, sinfulness, and technology progresses. Over time, as God’s Word is continually shunned in our culture, the arguments for evolution and millions of years have evolved, becoming more aggressive, sleek, strategic, pervasive, and persuasive. With technology advancing by leaps and bounds, the visual aid of computer animation brings the impossible to life. The fairy tale of evolution can now be “seen” in amazing detail, making it a reality in the eyes of so many in a world where seeing is believing. And in this article, we see secularists seeking to make documentaries designed like reality shows in order to harness the power of entertainment media, which is, unfortunately, a dominating influence in the world today.

It is incumbent upon us to recognize that this is where the blitzkrieg on God’s Word is occurring today.

There is little doubt that the tactics for evolutionary indoctrination will continue to evolve. We should expect nothing less from the secularists; they’re simply acting in accord with their worldview. But as they do, it becomes all the more urgent that we have prepared and equipped ourselves and loved ones to defend the faith, answering the skeptical questions of this age by standing unashamedly on the authority of God’s Word. Then we’ll be able to distinguish truth from fiction, no matter the quality of CGI or documentary persuasion, and be ready to give answers with the ultimate purpose of sharing the Answer—Jesus Christ!

Although tactics change, the fundamental argument has not and will not. Whose word is the authority, God’s or man’s? If we rightly say God’s, and indeed we must, let’s make sure that doesn’t change.

For an audience of One,
Bryan

Footnotes

  1. Michele Berger, “Following in Darwin’s Footsteps to Teach the Public about Evolution,” University of Pennsylvania, http://www.upenn.edu/spotlights/following-darwins-footsteps-teach-public-about-evolution.

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