I’ve been asked by one of my readers who is attending high school to expand upon a posting for assistance in an evolutionary assignment he got in biology.
“The atheistic worldview says that we had an accidental beginning; we developed through random processes and that there is no ultimate hope for the future. It says that there are no absolutes, no basis for morality or ethics outside of what each person decides is right for themselves.
Atheism vs. theism is sometimes misrepresented as ‘science’ vs. ‘faith’. This is untrue because evolution is a worldview that is also based on faith. In fact, evolutionists and creationists have the exact same scientific facts to examine. There isn’t a scientific observation that a creationist would disagree with an evolutionist about. Creationists disagree with evolutionists conclusions because we do not agree with their starting presuppositions.
The real difference is that of the world history that each group believes in, by faith. Why by faith? Because we cannot travel back in time to see the first life form evolve or observe God create the universe. So our understanding of what happened in the past is ultimately accepted by faith. We can use scientific methods to observe evidence in the present, and then make an assessment of which history is best supported by that evidence.”
It’s strategically wise for Christians to be mindful of Jesus’ advice regarding communication with non-believers (Matthew 7:6 “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you”) . The whole point of secular science is to find naturalistic explanations—ones that do not involve any supernatural intervention. Secular scientists are looking for naturalistic explanations. The key is to understand the framework of thinking that they use. They start with the idea that everything (the universe, the solar system, the earth, the animals and plants and humans) evolved gradually from simple to complex over billions of years. Understand the evolutionary story for the particular topic you are studying. However, realize that the story is a way of thinking and that it drives every explanation they propose. Realize too that even in their minds they do not question their framework.
Read widely about the particular assignment you have been given. You are NOT ONLY looking at what scientists are saying, but trying to understand why they are saying it. Moreover, since you understand the secular scientific mindset you will be able to discern the motivation behind their explanations. You will need to read more broadly. That’s because your textbooks will present the information as if evolution has solved the problem. These days the web is an excellent way of finding information. You will likely find your topic discussed on both creationist and evolutionist sites as well as on academic sites. By reading just a few articles you will quickly understand the key issues involved as well as the arguments for and against.
Once you have an understanding of the topic then search the two premier scientific journals, Science and Nature, on their websites. Try their advanced search engine with different keywords. Abstracts and summaries are usually available. You will discover some of the key papers on the topic. By reading the abstracts you will find out some of the details and issues, and by reading between the lines (understanding that they are trying to fit the data into the evolutionary framework, with which you are now familiar) you will appreciate some of the problems they have encountered.
In your research it is important to recognize the difference between the observed facts and the stories invented to explain the facts within their evolutionary framework. You will be able to discern this because you should understand the way the secular scientist thinks. Keep asking yourself questions such as: ‘What have they observed or measured?’ ‘What are they making up?’ ‘Has anyone observed what they are describing?’ Realize that if the events described were not observed (e.g. if they’re making claims about a time before the researchers were born) then they are telling you a story—an attempt to construct an evolutionary ‘history’ that fits the present evidence. Once you are alert to this you will not be tricked into accepting their evolutionary way of thinking.
As you are writing your assignment, it would be good for you to quote from books and papers on the topic as you set out the problem. Use some of the jargon that they use. Simply discuss the problem in a measured, matter-of-fact way making it clear what criteria would have to be met for a successful explanation. Outline some of the theories that people have put forward trying to explain how this could have happened. Keep in mind the ‘rules of the game’. Secular academics are trying to find a naturalistic explanation that does not require any recourse to any supernatural input or event.
Then discuss the advantages and problems with each of the theories. Especially try to use the criticisms that other secular scientists have leveled at each of the theories. You can cite their secular publications and explain their criticism. If any scientists have proposed different theories to overcome the problems, you can talk about the advantages and disadvantages with those as well. You can also mention some of the problems that creationists have pointed out, being careful to avoid religious or creationist jargon. Whether it is wise to cite creationist literature will depend on your particular lecturer.
Don’t think that you are being timid or compromising by not arguing the creationist view because you will have presented the difficulties for the philosophical framework of naturalism. In fact, you can criticize the existing theories quite severely and conclude that all the theories proposed to date have significant shortcomings in satisfactorily solving the problem.
When you tackle your assignment as described above, you will have made some good points against philosophical naturalism without mentioning God or the Bible. Notice that you have been entirely factual, reporting our current observational knowledge of the problem, and describing the published attempts to solve it within the naturalistic paradigm. While you have been factual, you have not stated your personal position or said that you believe the theories that you are discussing.
Let me know the outcome of the assignment, and thanks for the question.