Jesus himself believed we should think for ourselves and avoid literal-mindedness. For our children to be able to think for themselves and avoid literal-mindedness, we should teach them facts. Facts are based on evidence. These are the facts: there is ample evidence for evolution and no real evidence, in spite of creationist claims, to disprove it.
Evolution, although generally proceeding at an incredibly slow rate, has also occurred rapidly and can be observed in nature and measured in the laboratory. It can be observed as new bacteria and viruses evolve resistance to antibiotics. It can be observed in domestic breeding of animals and plants. If you admit variations within a species of animal (like the many different breeds of the domestic dog) then you must admit the possibility that such variations could cause enough changes within a group to make new species.
Genetic science is powerful evidence in support of evolution. Evolution is caused by natural non-mutational variation (like one individual has darker fur and another has lighter fur). Molecular biology has shown that variation in genes within a species is huge and most mutations are small scale and don’t effect evolution of the species. Genetics’ vast evidence of the similarity of our genes to those of other species is powerful evidence that we have ancestors in common with those other organisms.
Modern domestic dogs share similarities with wolves. If you admit that, due to their similar traits, all domestic dogs are related then you must admit that their similarity to wolves might make them related to wolves. They share lesser similarities with other four-legged, furred mammals, so (based on a belief about the relationship between wolves and dogs) they’re distantly related to them. This belief can be extended to all living things.
Claims that evolution is statistically impossible are misleading. Statistics describe the likelihood of something happening, not whether it CAN happen. The chance of a specific result increases with increased chances, but the probability stays the same. Every time you flip a coin the chance is 50/50, but the more times you flip the coin the more tails will turn up. There are statistically impossible things happening every day. An unlikely event is likely to happen because there are so many unlikely events that could happen. It’s the same for evolution. Over millions of years improbable things will happen- often.
Also erroneous is the belief that complex body parts couldn’t evolve in piece-meal fashion because simpler precursors would not be useful. Actually many precursors are of value: like proto-eyes in flatworms and other animals. If something complex couldn’t come from simpler parts then a zygote would never develop into a baby. Also, researchers at Michigan State have created a computer program (available on the internet) of randomly evolving digital organisms called Avida which shows that irreducibly complex things can evolve from simpler precursors.
Intermediary precursors of modern species are extinct because the reason those intermediaries evolved into new species is because they were not adapted as well to survive changes in their environment. There is an abundance of fossil evidence of evolutionary pre-cursor and intermediary species. The age of these fossils can be measured by carbon dating and by their location in layers of bedrock. There are plenty of intermediate forms of human ancestors that have been found in the fossil record.
Of course there will always be “missing links”. Fossilization and other such processes are rare in nature and only happen to certain kinds of living tissue. It’s absurd to expect that examples of all past organisms will have been fossilized and discovered. While radioactive dating of fossils is only accurate to within about a few million years, this is not as alarming a margin of error when you are dating ancient rock strata. For example, a fossil found in rock strata that is 380 million years old, plus or minus a margin of error of three million years, is still definitely at least 377 million years old. Extremes of temperature and pressure do not alter radioactive decay dates.
The prediction of rock ages based on where they are layered has always matched radioactive dating tests of the same rock. Areas where fossils are out of sequence with this fact are caused by geologic events that we are well aware of such as mountain formation and erosion. There is an incomplete record of sedimentary rock, which is where most fossils are found, because sedimentary rock is created by bodies of water depositing sediments. Throughout Earth’s long history (the oldest rock strata identified is around four billion years old- give or take a couple million years) oceans would cover vast areas of land for a long time then retreat and uncover those areas for a long time. When the oceans withdrew those top layers of sediment eroded away, leaving no fossil record. Places the ocean never covered didn’t accumulate any sedimentary rock. So no place on the planet has a complete sedimentary rock record.
Evolution does not violate our understanding of entropy. The law of entropy applies to closed systems- which the Earth is not. Species and their environments are not chaotic systems because chaotic systems are not complex. Chaos theory tells us that complex systems self-organize (the opposite of entropy) until they reach a critical state which causes change to occur. Like sand in an hourglass that creates a perfectly organized pile.
Evolution is a theory. A scientific theory is an explanation of the evidence in the world around us that has not been proven wrong. Gravity is a theory. In fact, since nothing can be proven true, only proven wrong, everything factual is a theory.
Genesis’ account of the creation of the universe may (or may not) have been meant as a story, not to be taken literally. Just because it’s written down doesn’t make the creation story factual. There are many written accounts of many things throughout history but that does not make them true. Stories are not evidence.
In a discussion of what should be taught in school, whether or not the Bible is factual is irrelevant. Public schools represent everyone in the society we live in. Our forefathers created a separation of church and state. They wanted everyone to be, in the words of Ronald Reagan, “free to believe or not believe” and “free to practice a faith or not”.
Schooling exists to impart knowledge, facts, analysis and reasoning (or at least it should). Religion exists to explain things that cannot be explained by knowledge, facts, analysis or reason. The religious story of creation, whether it’s Christian, Hindu, Druid or Native American, has no place in the public school curriculum. Evolution, a theory accepted by the scientific community for over 150 years, does have a place in the public school science curriculum.
Charles Darwin was a former divinity student who didn’t let his beliefs get in the way of his seeing the reality around him. He was able to ask questions and seek answers, just as Jesus encouraged us to. Evolution is not anti-religion; why do some people need religion to be anti-evolution?