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Author Roger Patterson, AiG–U.S., evaluates a public school quiz given to identify what students knew about biologists’ thoughts about evolution.
I was recently contacted by the mother of an eighth-grade student from New York. She was seeking advice on talking to her son’s biology teacher after he had come home with a survey regarding his understanding of evolution. The mother graciously gave me a copy of her son’s survey with the marks made indicating the “correct” answers and offered me permission to share the content of the quiz. I hope that by reviewing this survey you will be better informed about what is being taught in the public schools across America as well as be better equipped to confront the falsehoods being promoted on behalf of the government. Most importantly, I hope you will be equipped to minister to others in the name of Christ and grounded in the authority of His Word.
So much for not allowing a government agency to promote one religious view over another as the First Amendment demands.
Though some items have apparently been rewritten, it seems that this survey is derived almost entirely from a survey published online as a resource for teachers by the Evolution and the Nature of Science Institutes (ENSI).1 This group’s website2 is hosted on the Indiana University website and is sponsored, in part, by the National Science Foundation. The site offers many articles and techniques to teach the naturalistic evolutionary view of the origin and development of life on the earth while directly discrediting biblical creation. An article from Scientific American titled “15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense” is included on the site and helps teachers to indoctrinate students in the naturalistic evolutionary worldview of the religion of humanism. So much for not allowing a government agency to promote one religious view over another as the First Amendment demands.
The intent of the quiz was to see how much the students understood regarding what biologists believe about evolution. But that is where the problems start—the terms in the quiz are a bit vague, especially for an eighth-grade student. I have a bachelor’s degree in biology. I have used that degree to teach public school and private students, participate in field studies, and work on stream reclamation programs in the role of “biologist.” I also have many colleagues who have advanced degrees who would surely qualify as being “biologists.”
On a simple reading of the disclaimer for the quiz, students are asked to identify what biologists think. Since the teacher marked question 1 as true, as well as demonstrating a naturalistic bias in the rest of the answers, I assume that the biologists being referred to are those who believe in a naturalistic view of the world. In fact, there are many biologists who would answer most of these 25 questions in opposite terms to those indicated as correct by the teacher. This gives the students the false impression that all biologists agree with the conclusions of the survey and evolution.
To help demonstrate the bias that is evident in this quiz, I will take a brief look at each of the statements and explain how they misrepresent several scientific ideas while seeking to indoctrinate the students in a naturalistic worldview that ultimately rejects the existence of God. I will insert my comments below and have indicated next to each question whether the teacher expected “true” or “false” as the answer.
READ THIS: VERY IMPORTANT! Please indicate whether each following statement is true or false, in terms of how you think biologists use and understand the term “evolution” today. YOU do NOT necessarily have to AGREE with the statements for it to be “true” as you think biologists see it. Your answers will be confidential, and will not affect your grade. The purpose of this is to determine the level of understanding on this topic in this class, so that misconceptions can be discussed. In every case below, “evolution” means “biological evolution.”
Reading this introduction, it is clear that the teacher is trying to understand where the students are at so that she can teach them more effectively. This is a commendable practice and can lead to more efficient teaching.
The teacher has also indicated that biological evolution is what is in mind, but in a few places I will point out how this idea must extend even to chemical evolution with respect to the origin of life.
Ironically, although this survey gives the impression that all biologists are in agreement with evolution, even the New York education standards use phrases such as “according to many scientists” and “is thought by many scientists” to more accurately reflect that some scientists disagree.
I am also working from the assumption that this teacher is taking her lead from the New York State Education Department’s (NYSED) document that describes the standards for teaching biology. The Living Environment Core Curriculum document3 outlines these standards for grades 9–124 and I will use them in my explanations below. Primarily, Standard 4, Key Idea 3 deals with evolution, and there are several Performance Indicators that refine these ideas further:
Standard 4: Students will understand and apply scientific concepts, principles, and theories pertaining to the physical setting and living environment and recognize the historical development of ideas in science.
Key Idea 3: Individual organisms and species change over time.
On the answer sheet, darken “A” for TRUE, (to biologists). Darken “B” for FALSE, (to biologists).
1. Evolution is a scientific fact. (True)
Most evolutionists believe so thoroughly in the idea that they would likely refer to evolution as factual and answer the question “true” as this teacher did. Evolution is referred to as a fact in many evolutionist writings. However, biological evolution is little more than a broad set of ideas that can never be tested or observed in any repeatable fashion, as demonstrated on the recent Evolution vs. God video. Testability and repeatability are given as the explanation of scientific inquiry in the standards document, so it is inconsistent with their own standards to assume evolution as scientific fact. Another important aspect is the failure to distinguish between historical science, the events of the past including origins, and observational science. We cannot repeat the past, but we can repeat and test observations in the present. Evolution is not scientific fact, but a blind faith in the opinions and guesses of fallible men.
2. Evolution is something you should either believe in, or not believe in. (False)
I trust that the intent of this question is to teach students that evolution is based on facts and studying evidence, so you don’t “believe” in evolution in the same way that you “believe” in Jesus dying for your sins. However, in order to accept that studying rocks, fossils, DNA, and other molecules in the present can help you understand the origins of organisms, you must put your faith in the doctrine of uniformitarianism. So, believing in evolution, which requires millions of years, does require faith in something that you cannot observe (millions of years, for example) and placing your trust in the doctrines of men rather than the truth of the Bible. If you doubt that evolution requires belief, try documenting just one observable biological change of an animal kind to another animal kind (bacteria becoming bacteria is not a valid example of an observable change in kind).
3. Evolution is a process that involved the origin of life. (False)
If we make the distinction between chemical and biological evolution, then this answer is false from an evolutionary view. In general, when people talk of evolution, they are speaking of the process that is supposed to occur after life had already come into existence. So, it is important to define the terms being discussed so that those involved in the discussion are not talking past each other—make sure the terms are defined. However, if a person embraces the philosophy of naturalism or materialism, then there is no other option for the origin of living things on earth than that they evolved from non-living chemicals into living “simple” cells and eventually into the more complex organisms we see today. Based on the standards, the suggestion that God could have been the originator—the only other option available to explain the origin of life—is outside of the realm of science because it does not provide a “natural” explanation, but a supernatural one. Performance Indicator 3.1j states, “Billions of years ago, life on Earth is thought by many scientists to have begun as simple, single-celled organisms. About a billion years ago, increasingly complex multi-cellular organisms began to evolve.” According to the standards this teacher is to be teaching toward, life began billions of years ago on an earth where there was no other life. The only naturalistic evolutionary option is that chemicals combined to form life, so the answer should be “true”! The Bible clearly contradicts this point and describes God as the originator of not only the life on earth, but all of the matter in the universe.
4. Evolution is primarily concerned with the origin of humans. (False)
This is one point where a biblical creationist would agree, but only to a limited degree. Evolution is concerned with the origin of all life on earth. Evolutionists typically speak of a universal common ancestor for all life on earth. The NYSED standards state that “The diversity of life on Earth today is the result of natural selection occurring over a vast amount of geologic time for most organisms” (Key Idea 3). From a biblical perspective, the kinds of creatures mentioned in Genesis 1 and elsewhere help us understand that all life on earth comes from many basic kinds, not a single common ancestor.
5. According to evolution, people came from monkeys a long time ago. (False)
To be fair, evolutionists believe that modern apes and monkeys share a common ancestor with humans that was distinct from modern apes and monkeys. Whenever I hear an evolutionist make the claim that people didn’t evolve from monkeys or apes, I ask, “If the common ancestor of man and chimps didn’t look like an ape, then what did it look like?” They must admit that it was some primate that looked like an ape. So, I can imagine some biologists who accept evolution answering this question as true even if they would make careful distinctions to say it was not a modern monkey or ape. Again, this idea is absolutely impossible from a biblical perspective since God specially created man in His image (Genesis 1:26–2:25).
6. Evolution was first proposed and explained by Charles Darwin. (False)
This one leaves me scratching my head a bit. Biological evolution as it is understood by evolutionary biologists today was originated by Darwin, so it seems inconsistent that the expected answer would be false. Charles Darwin popularized the modern idea of evolution and provided a possible mechanism to explore and evaluate it as a scientific model, although there were others who had the idea of some form of evolutionary processes in the past. Evolution, as it is studied today, was surely a product of Darwin’s writings, though many of Darwin’s ideas have been rejected as more information has come to light. Interestingly, the creationist Edward Blyth was working on explaining natural selection from a biblical perspective before Darwin published Origin of Species. People have been inventing theories, criticizing and changing the Word of God ever since Satan asked “
Has God indeed said” in Genesis 3:1.
7. Evolution is the same as “Natural Selection.” (False)
All biologists, creationist or evolutionist, should agree that this statement is technically false since natural selection is a part of the alleged process of evolution. Biblical creationists demonstrate that natural selection is simply change within the created kinds and not one kind changing into another. Natural selection is an observable process while evolution is believed to happen over vast periods that make it unobservable. However, evolutionists often commit the logical fallacy of equivocation by equating natural selection with particles-to-people evolution in the textbooks.
8. Evolution is something that happened only in the past; it is not happening now. (False)
From a biblical perspective, it seems that the rate of change of organisms may have been much faster in the past, especially in the years following the Flood. In the generic sense of “change over time,” species are adapting to changing environments and we can observe those changes. Likewise, evolutionists believe that creatures continue to change, though they believe this will lead to new kinds of animals we don’t see today over long periods of time.
Editor’s note: Due to the length of this response, we have divided it into two articles. Continue reading to see the second half of this point-by-point commentary.
Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively. We focus on providing answers to questions about the Bible—particularly the book of Genesis—regarding key issues such as creation, evolution, science, and the age of the earth.