Controversy In the Classroom as Faith and Science Clash

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A lengthy article in the New York Times examines a microcosm of the controversy over evolution education in public school classrooms—and even mentions AiG’s student-aimed bestseller Evolution Exposed.

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The story follows the class of David Campbell, a Jacksonville, Florida, area high school science teacher. Campbell is teaching evolution this year thanks to changes in Florida state education standards—which now require schools to specifically teach evolution. Times reporter Amy Harmon writes,

With a mandate to teach evolution but little guidance as to how, science teachers are contriving their own ways to turn a culture war into a lesson plan. How they fare may bear on whether a new generation of Americans embraces scientific evidence alongside religious belief.

In other words, Harmon is confirming what Answers in Genesis has long emphasized: if students are not amply equipped and educated by their parents, Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, and pastors to understand the truth and importance of the Bible’s account of origins, the indoctrination they receive in public school will overtake them.

For Campbell’s students, a lecture on Mickey Mouse kicks off the discussion of evolution. Campbell uses a series of slides showing Mickey Mouse’s “evolution” over the years to introduce the concept of selection—artificial selection by Walt Disney cartoonists, in this case.

Harmon’s story also follows the development of Bryce Haas, a student of Campbell’s who, at the start of the story, apparently balks at Campbell’s comments such as

Evolution has been the focus of a lot of debate in our state this year. If you read the newspapers, everyone is arguing, “is it a theory, is it not a theory?” The answer is, we can observe it. We can see it happen, just like you can see it in Mickey.

Perhaps Haas would have been happier being taught by Campbell’s colleague Teresa Yancey, a biology teacher just down the hall. Yancey believes that animals do adapt, but (according to Campbell) said, “I don’t think we have this great massive change over time where we go from fish to amphibians, from monkeys to man. We see lizards with different-shaped tails, we don’t see blizzards—the lizard bird.” Campbell cites feathered dinosaurs in response.

He teaches far more than just the basic tenets of evolutionary theory.

One lengthy scene in the article—when Campbell teaches his students about the difference between faith and science—is particularly difficult for a creationist reader to endure. Campbell appears to target Haas as he teaches far more than just the basic tenets of evolutionary theory, presenting his personal view on faith and science as though it is a scientific theory as well. And as Harmon skims over the evidence for evolution that Campbell presents in following weeks, we doubt most of Campbell’s students heard from anyone—certainly not in their classroom—with equivalent authority or information to challenge Campbell.

Harmon later shares that Haas, who was raised reading the Bible for an hour each Sunday (although it was also mentioned he had stopped attending church when he was 16), lost his father last year. Haas told Harmon, “Evolution is telling you that you’re like an animal. That’s why people stand strong with Christianity, because it teaches people to lead a good life and not do wrong.”

Meanwhile, the Times article tries to rouse sympathy for Campbell, whose students, Harmon writes, “were not grasping the basic principles of biological evolution.” Harmon continues,

The discovery that a copy of “Evolution Exposed,” published by the creationist organization Answers in Genesis, was circulating among the class did not raise his flagging spirits. The book lists each reference to evolution in the biology textbook Mr. Campbell uses and offers an explanation for why it is wrong.

Where the textbook states, for example, that “Homo sapiens appeared in Africa 200,000 years ago based on fossil and DNA evidence,” “Exposed” counters that “The fossil evidence of hominids (alleged human ancestors) is extremely limited.” [Read the chapter this passage is from in The Origin of Humans.] A pastor at a local church, Mr. Campbell learned, had given a copy of “Exposed” to every graduating senior the previous year.

We certainly salute the local pastor who distributed copies of Evolution Exposed—presumably taking advantage of our special outreach discount of 75% for cases of 36 books. These cases are designed to maximize the number of students who can easily find a Christian response to what their textbooks teach.

Why would we be afraid of it if God’s Word is Truth?

In a finale of evolutionary proselytizing, Harmon quotes a number of student questions addressed to Campbell during his lecture on human evolution, along with Campbell’s confident and authoritative answers. According to Harmon, while Haas probably was not converted to evolutionary dogma, he did answer a recent test question asking for evidence of evolution—a change from his original refusal to do so.

The close look Harmon’s article takes at evolutionary indoctrination in the classroom is a strong reminder of the battle over the minds of the next generation. With increasing state-granted authority, evolutionists are pursuing the minds of children up to five days a week. How can an untrained Christian youth—even if he or she attends church each week, which is increasingly a rarity—compete with that level of indoctrination? While we encourage our readers to learn about and understand evolution (yes, you heard that right—why would we be afraid of it if God’s Word is Truth?), parents and Christian leaders must commit to teaching and equipping the next generation, and Answers in Genesis is thankful to offer resources to help you do so.

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