I hear this all the time: “As soon as kids start learning about evolution, they leave the church.” Certainly this is true for a lot of kids. And well-intended religious parents have reacted by declaring war against schools in an effort to change or eliminate subjects that conflict with their personal beliefs. But children are leaving religion in record numbers.
How can we solve this problem? If you feel threatened by topics like evolution and an earth that’s billions of years old, then here are three things that you need to understand:
1. Science is Seeing
It’s important that we all understand what “science” is. It’s all about the scientific method. Scientists make observations, then they attempt to make predictions about what they observe. Then they perform experiments to prove their predictions. It’s about what can be seen.
And scientists are human. They have personal opinions, beliefs and prejudices that can sway the results. This is why the scientific method also includes a critical step called replication. A prediction or “hypothesis” only becomes a theory when other scientists can repeat, or replicate, the experiments and get the same results. Care is also taken to make sure experiments are as “blind” as possible to prevent the human bias from influencing the test results.
It’s critical to understand this point: science is only about what can be observed. All kinds of machines are built to help scientists see things they couldn’t see before. They build microscopes, telescopes and satellites. They build supercomputers, supercolliders and reactors. Holes are drilled miles into the earth, and machines sent places where humans can’t go. They make these efforts so they can see, because the scientific method can only be applied to what can be seen.
2. Religion is not an Enemy to Science
Science isn’t run by atheists. As mentioned above, a critical step in the scientific method is to replicate the results without being influenced by personal beliefs. It only means science tries hard to remove the influence of people from the results.
Religion is all about a person’s belief system: a God, who established rules, doctrines and traditions that govern personal and collective behavior. Religions can provide a spiritual context, a concept of one’s origin and destination, and guidance in the pursuit of happiness. Religion can enrich lives and improve relationships, and can strengthen families and communities. There is nothing wrong with a person being religious. You might even be surprised to find that most scientists are devoutly religious people.
Religion isn’t an enemy of science; it’s just not part of the scientific method. There is no religion that provides a view of God for scientific observation. There is no experiment to perform, and no hypothesis to prove. God cannot be seen, and science is only about things that can be seen.
Yes, there are scientists who say “there is no God”. But this is not science, because such a statement cannot be proven. However, it is true that no religion has provided a God upon which the scientific method has been successfully applied, so a scientist can correctly claim, “I have not seen any repeatable experiment that proves there is a God.”
Science must simply exclude all personal beliefs and biases for the scientific method to work properly, but it’s okay to be religious.
3. Religion Can’t Hide Science
Everything you enjoy about the Information Age was brought about though the scientific method: things like mobile phones, GPS, advanced medicine, and the Internet. The amount of newly discovered scientific knowledge is growing faster and faster every year. New knowledge continues to support and strengthen scientific theories that have been in place for centuries, and thanks to the Information Age, this knowledge is abundant and easy to see. Remember the phrase abundant and easy to see because this is the most important thing you can learn about science.
For example, a hundred years ago, the test for determining the age of a fossil was disputed. But today there are numerous ways, and they all cross-verify the results of the others. Using these techniques, scientist can dig down anywhere on earth and identify millions of years of geological and biological history, and each layer matches similar layers everywhere else on the earth. The petroleum, gas and coal companies have found this science critical to help locate their valuable deposits. Most importantly, evidence of the earth’s geological and fossil age is abundant and easy to see.
The concept of evolution was also controversial when it was first proposed. It was difficult for people to understand, and evidence was still lacking. But after hundreds of thousands of discoveries, observations and replicated testing, evolution has become the foundation of modern geology, biology and medicine. Evolution is repeatedly observed in natural and artificial settings. An understanding of DNA is helping medicine to predict, prevent and cure disease. The facts of evolution are abundant and easy to see.
And about that phrase, “abundant and easy to see”, remember that science is seeing. Anyone who learns science can also learn to see the same evidence and figure out the same results. Scientists will continue to discover more and more evidence that will continue to confirm and improve these theories.
So who are you going to believe? Me, or your eyes?
Why are the children leaving religion once they start learning about science? It’s simple. Religion keeps trying to convince children that the sky is green, while children can see for themselves that the sky is blue. Which are they going to believe?
Science is not a mystery that’s difficult to understand. Again, the evidence is abundant and easy to see. Someday your child will see what scientists have seen. They will see it for themselves, and they will not doubt their eyes. Instead, they will doubt you, and they will doubt the religion that taught them otherwise.
What should a parent do?
There are four things you should do to keep your children from turning their backs on your religion:
- Stop treating science as the enemy. Science is a giant collection of observations and predictions. That’s all it is. And this giant collection will continue to exist whether you choose to understand it or not. Science is not a religion. Calling it Evolutionism is as ridiculous as calling it Gravitationalism or Chemistryism. And because science is not a religion, it is not a competitor to your religion, either. Science is not trying to get you to stop believing in your religion, so stop treating it as the enemy.
- Stop doubting your religion. Again, science is not a competitor to your religion, so you don’t need to doubt your religion to learn science. Your God created the universe, so don’t you think your God also created science? Stop feeling threatened by what you think is a conflict. Instead, look at them separately. It’s okay that they don’t agree, because they serve different purposes. Science is never going to explain or agree with Adam and Eve, or how the Ark saved people from a flood, or what happens to your spirit when you die. Science isn’t changing how you are supposed to be working toward your salvation. And religion didn’t create the Internet, space travel, computers or cell phones. As you change your attitude toward the coexistence of science and religion, you will find peace in their differences.
- Learn science along with your children. Watch Bill Nye the Science Guy together. Do science experiments together. Go digging for fossils and try to figure out their age. Study the dinosaurs and compare them to birds. Discuss science at the dinner table together. Go check out some science books from your local library and read them together as a family. Nothing prepares children better for success in higher education than an active science education in the home. And children who learn science in a religious home are more likely to continue living their religion.
- Live your religion. It doesn’t help to have Christians filling the news, churches and homes with venomous, hateful speech. Hatred stands in conflict with your religious teachings, and further incentivizes children to explore other sources for peace and spiritual fulfillment. It’s a big conflict for youth to see adult role models failing to do what they claim to believe. If your religion teaches forgiveness, tolerance and unselfish service, then you should forgive, tolerate and give unselfish service. Show your children how you can be happy serving in your church and community.
Do these things, and you will be surprised at how quickly the conflict between science and religion disappears in your home and family. After all, it’s this conflict that is turning children away from religion.