Did my 8th grade science teacher fail at teaching evolution?

Warning: this post goes much deeper than the previous, “pork n beans”

What is evolution? I’m not looking for an over the top, science definition, but rather, what are its implications for my life? For our world? You see, I was scolded yesterday for saying to my husband that evolution meant things are constantly adapting and changing to become better. *if you are a real scientist, please forgive my layman’s terms, but you may want to keep reading to understand how this theory has been misrepresented to the rest of us who are not active members in the scientific community.

My husband, a teacher of 8th grade science, informed me that evolution means change, not necessarily for the better or worse. But what about those finches?! And the beaks?! Apparently the beaks did change/evolve to accommodate the birds’ diet, and the birds who had the better beaks suited to eat the food were the ones who survived and reproduced-survival of the fittest. Oooohhhh… Okay…

Now, why care about evolution at all? It really doesn’t affect me daily like, say, gravity, but in a way…it does.

I am a Christian-a follower of Christ whose teachings are found on the bible and oh…now you get it. The long seated debate, no, war, between creationists and evolutionists (or whatever you would like to be called) is a major issue for both parties. I’m sure your skin is crawling right now with conviction. If you took an 8th grade science class like mine, this feud was taught to you more than the theory of evolution itself. You were most likely asked to pick a side and debate/attack the other until blood flowed.

Now, in my adult life, married to a Christian in the scientific community, I am beginning to see this heated struggle as unnecessary and irrelevant.
To me it is like debating my favorite restaurant and what my eye color is-it does not match up. The two are from separate life compartments: one is a faith, one is a theory. One dictates life choices, and the other is a study, a piece of scientific knowledge.

So, why then do we insist on battling each other with contempt, dare I say, hatred? Thank you science teachers who taught us to pick a side, rather than learn the facts.

Many people, like my husband, feel trapped in a no-man’s-land where this subject cannot even be politely offered up for discussion. Just the word “evolution” sparks a fire, for both Christians and scientists alike, both misinformed and strongly opinionated. When did an honest discussion become taboo in two communities where honest discussions are said to be valued so much? Oh sure, we might say, “that’s not me. I wouldn’t attack someone before listening to where they are coming from,” but, really? Check your blood pressure right now and tell me the truth. I can say this because I am just like you. It has bothered me for years that my husband “believes” in evolution – he explained to me it is really not something one “believes” or not. And, I would like to tell you we have patiently resolved this issue, but I won’t lie-it has been a very heated debate.

But, back to the birds’ beaks, you cannot argue that things change/adapt/evolve. And, you cannot scientifically prove a miracle. So, I have arrived at my own theory:
if you are a scientist (or not!), you can agree with the theory of evolution and believe in God and Christ Jesus.

Yes, I said it…


3 thoughts on “Did my 8th grade science teacher fail at teaching evolution?

  1. I’m afraid that I am a bit of a heretic on both sides of the argument: I tell scientists that evolution is unscientific and I tell christians that literal-7-day-creationism is unbiblical.
    EVOLUTION – There are two separate things which people call “evolution”. The first is the “Theory of Evolution” which is used to explain the history of biology and the second is “evolutionism”, the application of this theory as a religion with its own high priests and rituals. You do not have to believe in either to be a scientist. Speaking specifically about the theory of evolution, whilst at Reading University studying Paleontology, the Dean of Science recommended I read John Maynard Smith with the words “I thought I understood evolution until I read Maynard Smith”. He was right. Maynard Smith’s books discuss all the problems with our understanding of evolution so that as scientists we can research them and discover solutions. His opinion was that, as scientists, we should not be afraid of those areas where we do not know. Instead we should enter them because that is why we are scientists. I personally recommend his book “On Evolution” altough any of them make interesting reading. By the way, there is no single theory of evolution. While I was university, there were four distinct systems: Gradual evolution (also called Traditional and/or Darwinistic), Punctuated Equillibrium evolution, Parallel evolution and the then-new Genetic evolution.
    CREATIONISM – This is easier to discuss. Yes, chapter 1 of Genesis clearly states a 7 day creation story where man is created last. The problem for the literalist interpretation is that chapter 2 is a retelling of the same story where it all happens on a single day and man is created before all the other animals. If one is literal, the other has to be a lie. Some creationists try to get around the argument by claiming that where it says “created” in chapter 2, it actually means “had been created earlier”. However, since only one translation has ever tried to make that distinction, I find that dubious. But even if it were justified, the rest of the story still happens in just 1 day. The interesting thing is that many christians insist that the beginning of the bible is literal and yet the ending – the book of revelations – they are more than happy to claim is allegorical or metaphorical.
    Personally, I congratulate you for thinking through your beliefs and coming to a conclusion. Don’t be afraid to have your opinion. And don’t let others on either side of the argument shout you down or laugh at you

    • Thanks for the comment. I agree that scientists should not be afraid of the unknown and be curious (the very essence of the field, if you ask me). I feel the same is true for me as a Christian-I often feel even more in awe of God’s creation when I question and study it, realizing just how vast and complex it really is. I really liked your post about the church leaving behind the stained glass windows to solve the world’s problems. Our pastor always says he believes that the local church is the hope of the world. Check out his book, “Only God” (Dwight Mason) if you’re looking for a good read along those lines.

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