When should you introduce your child to evolution?
That’s the provocative title of a recent piece by NPR, but as it turns out, the article didn’t engage the question as directly as I had hoped. Instead, the article was mostly about a new children’s book for preschoolers that introduces concepts of evolution. You can learn more about that book here.
I’m all for great children’s books that include accurate science, and you can find some of my recommendations of decent ones here on our K12 Education Resources page. But I was more interested in thinking about the question itself: When should you introduce your child to evolution?
Do we ask the same thing about electromagnetism or the early stages of earth’s development or what’s a light-year? Yes and no. If you scan through the Next Generation Science Standards, a document created by experts to serve as a resource for states as they put forth standards for public science education in the U.S., you will find discussion of just that: when to introduce certain scientific topics and what should students be able to do once those topics have been covered.
But in the setting of this NPR article, this question appears to be a nod to the underlying motivation some parents feel that “we better teach this evolution stuff as early as possible so that our kids don’t get the idea that God did it.” It’s a consequence to subscribing to the idea that it’s either science or God when it comes to how life developed -- so we better get to the science and pronto!
Of course, at BioLogos we deny this false dichotomy and happily embrace evolutionary science as describing how God went about developing life. Evolutionary theory is certainly important and foundational and as Christian parents we want to expose our children to great science from a young age. So I can understand wanting to think about when to broach that subject with them. But I contend there’s an even more important question to be thinking about: Am I doing enough to teach my young child that...
- God is the source of all of life and he created and loves me.
- God gives us minds to observe what’s around us and to understand a great deal about how nature works.
- When we learn more about how it all works, God’s awesome power and creativity becomes more real to us and we have more to worship God for.
When they’re super-young, let’s focus on these things. Long before young children can respond to us with their own speech, they’re listening to us as we talk with them and sing with them and play with them. They are picking up morsels of understanding and these morsels are accumulating into concepts about themselves, about us as their parents, about the world, and about God.
What a world of meaning and joy of exploration can be opened up for them as they grasp our love for them, God’s love for them, and the wonderful world that exists around them that they can explore and interact with! They’re free to investigate all of it without fear that it will somehow displace God or distance them from him.
It’s true that communicating with our kids about evolutionary science has its challenges because it touches on things very near to our sense of identity in ways that other areas of science just don’t. We need wisdom to know how and when to talk about it all and we need good resources that will help us communicate accurately and in meaningful ways.
But if from a young age, children hear regularly that God created everything, loves them, and encourages our exploration of the world, then just maybe scientific discoveries they learn along the way will be less likely to become stumbling blocks for their faith or roadblocks to fully engaging God’s creation.