Advice about Christian private school

I came home this weekend and saw that my little sister, who goes to a Christian private school, had made a poster for a school project arguing against evolution. I don’t want my sister to be indoctrinated into these false beliefs, but neither my parents nor my sister know that I accept evolution/universal common ancestry because I’m worried about their response. Does anyone have advice for how I could push back against this indoctrination, if at all?

Here’s what the poster said (it’s a Venn diagram):

Under “Kinds”:
"1. there is variation in a kind but it can never change into another kind
"2. kinds are separate and distinct, they do not ever overlap
“3. kind[s] cannot interbreed, so, say, a fish-bird could not exist, but a liger (cross between female tiger and male lion) could as they are both felines and cat kind”

Under “Evolution”:
"1. one kind can slowly change into another kind
"2. all things stem from a com[m]on ancestor
"3. Evolution was imagined primarily by Charles Darwin
“4. Gradualism is the idea that evolution happens slowly”

In the center of the Venn diagram:
"1. all the kinds observed today exist regardless of creation or evolution
“2. no one witnessed the beginning”

First, It looks like the assignment is specifivally to run-down evolution, so I wouldn’t react specifivally to this poster. Your sister os probably doing exactly what dhe was told to do.

Second, these are tiref old YEC arguments, so whoever is teaching isn’t putting any special effort into this.

This is hard, and you should think this over carefully before foing anything. I don’t know about your family situation, but others have suffered terribly, cast out by family, friends and community for the crime of accepting evolution. Hopefully your situation is not so dramatic, but you will need to judge for yourself.

You moght casually ask your sister what she really thinks about evolution = there’s a good chance sge is not so indoctrinated as that poster would lead you to think.

If you push back, start with your parents. You don’t need to argue science, just point out the the science of evolution works, leading to invebtions, patents, medical treatments, etc… You will want to have a few examples ready, and people here can help you with that.
The bigger topic of discussioin with your parents should be faith, and here I really don’t know hpw to guide you. The main point should be that accepting evolution doesn’t mean giving up faith. (I don’t recall where you stand on that, but if the discussion is about faith then you are doing well.)

The following FB group can also be a good resource for you. A lot of people there have been through rhis same experience before:


Yeah, which makes the situation even more difficult, because if I get her to question what she’s been taught she’ll probably be penalized for it.

I’m a Christian, and I believe that my faith is entirely compatible with evolution. But I don’t think my parents see it the same way.

Thanks for sharing this!


You are definitely in a difficult spot with this. There is so much wrong with the arguments she has been fed and digging someone (e.g., her teacher) out of that kind of pile of myths, misunderstandings, and bad logic is a herculean task. Plus, multiple scientific studies have shown that presenting a pile of evidence against someone’s position [I’m speaking of adults in these studies] will generally cause them to dig-in deeper to their position.

In my experience, it can sometimes be helpful to start with just ONE of the very worst of someone’s arguments—and carefully and gradually pose Socratic questions which lead the person to question that one argument.

Depending upon the age and circumstances of the child, it may also be helpful to simply make them aware that there are lots of God-loving people who disagree on these claims, including many scientists. It won’t change anything now but I think planting just a few seeds now may pay off in the future. Someone raised in a Young Earth Creationist environment, for example, is not changed overnight. (In my case it took years.)


Thanks. She’s got a very inquisitive mind and questions pretty much everything, and she’s especially interested in biology (she wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up), so I have no doubt she’ll eventually come to the correct conclusion, especially if I gently prod her in the right direction. It’s just hard to see her being indoctrinated into YEC when I know firsthand how hard it is to get out of that mindset.


Just this morning there are two new members mentioning similar experiences in a New Member thread.

I have seen countless people joining an atheism community and sharing stories about the family trauma they went through. Not that you wouldn’t be welcome on the “A-Team”, but it’s terrible that anyone should have to go through that experience. Hopefully you can get a little help and encouragement to get you through. Even if you decide not to push back, having some support can’t hurt anything.

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In this situation, I might start with a critique of the YEC interpretation of kind. I posted the following at Biologos - Is Baraminology Even Scriptural? …

While a literal ‘plain’ reading of the Genesis creation and flood accounts might reasonably supply a theological foundation for YEC, such an approach sidelines the applicable ancient near east [ANE] context. I contend here, however, that YEC has gone from Biblically based to what has bloated to an extravagant sanctum of dogma which eclipses and at times conflicts with scripture. Among these unjustified extra-Biblical assertions has established a conception of ‘created kinds’ which would be foreign to the original authors and audience, as well as most of church history.

YEC needed some way to deal with the number of animals in the modern global catalog, which is orders of magnitude larger than what would have been experienced by anyone living in the ANE. This represents a logistics problem for YEC, in terms of stuffing such a menagerie on the ark. The workaround concocted by YEC has been ‘created kinds’, followed by ‘ark kinds’. The notion is that modern species have radiated from a much more restricted number of kinds - a ferocious hyper evolution, although YEC prefers other terms. Scientifically or historically, this is not a serious proposal, but the question here concerns the validity of YEC’s Biblical interpretation.

There are plenty of YEC word studies attempting to adduce support for a taxonomic meaning to Biblical kinds, for example: this paper from Rahel Davidson Schafer , and this article from AiG. What is telling is that this preoccupation with kinds as ancestral seems to have entirely escaped the notice of theologians and thinkers through the history of the church until modern times. YEC castigates scholars who deviated from historic Biblical interpretations to accommodate the relatively recent discovery of geological age, but they have proven as open to novel interpretation of scripture in introducing manifold species as descended from created kinds. On this count, YEC is just as unable to appeal to any historical figure or church father. The whole idea is a recent invention.

I would contend that the Hebrew allows for nothing like created kinds as promulgated by YEC, based on both lexical and cultural considerations. Language expresses concepts germane to a people’s life and thought. Ancient people did not coin words for our benefit; there is no ancient Hebrew for neutrino or wifi. Speciation was outside the domain of their experience; kinds just referred to a bunch of animals that were always there. When they read the command to be fruitful and multiply, the plain reading would be that when horses mate, foals result; and when cattle mate, calves result. When lions mate, the offspring are lions, not leopards, cheetahs, or housecats.

The lion, and not some ark kind, features in Jacob’s patriarchal blessing of Judah in Genesis 49:9

You are a lion’s cub, Judah;
you return from the prey, my son.
Like a lion he crouches and lies down,
like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?

Similarly in the same passage, the donkey is distinguished from the horse, and Benjamin is described as a wolf. The point to this is that, apart from the abundant scientific and historical evidence, from the onset the Bible itself recognizes modern species throughout its entirety, always as distinct animals with Hebrew names. Specifically named creatures which are the same supposed ark kind include lions and leopards; horses and donkeys; foxes, wolves, jackals and dogs; osprey’s, eagles, and falcons; addax and antelope; four species of antelope are distinguished. Even allowing for some looser identifications, it is evident that closely related species are routinely called by name through the Old Testament. And the very opening act of Genesis provides the source of all these animal names as Adam himself.

YEC conveniently brushes off the original Adamic names as probably lost at Babel, so the Bible would not record what Adam called the protocat or other weird creatures which feature in their ark encounter, but the ancient Hebrews were familiar with pre-Babel proper names because their roots are related to common Hebrew words. This goes all the way back - Adam relates to earth, Eve to being the mother of all living, Peleg to divide - even names which are not necessarily relevant to the bearer’s character generally incorporate Hebrew roots. It is doubtful that the ancient Hebrews took these names to be fake, and there is no reason that they would have thought any differently for Adam’s naming of the animals.

YEC likes to claim the plain reading, literal high ground, but if the Hebrews, church fathers, and theologians down the centuries, thought that Adam named all the animals, there goes scriptural impetus for the baramin model. The whole arduous enterprise, with its central place in YEC apologetics, creation journal papers, theorizing on heterozygosity, and routine references like some accepted gospel truth, is all to protect YEC and not burst the ark with animals alive and extinct. It is an extraordinary anachronistic hermeneutic claim, made without any explicit scriptural or historical support.

:grimacing: EDIT sp: foul → foal

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5-yard penaly and a loss of down. :wink:


Another crocoduck argument: “Evolutionists think that when horses mate, fowls result.” sounds like a favorite Kent Hovind straw man fallacy.


Wow, this takes me back to the days when I was completing such assignments myself. I completely understand the desire to intervene, and also the difficulties inherent in doing so.

As such assignments go, to me this one isn’t that bad. It seems like there is some legitimate effort to delineate what distinguishes the two models, and also what they have in common. Sure, “evolution was imagined primarily by Charles Darwin” is loaded in its wording. But there is a kernel here of actual scientific activity; differentiating two models is the first step in working out how to test which better corresponds with observation.

So one possible opportunity provided by the assignment is to push that scientific process a little further. “OK, now that you’ve worked out some of the differences between separate creation and common ancestry, what evidence might we expect to see if one was true and not the other?” Depending on her level of knowledge, maybe she can come up with some ideas or maybe not. You’ll probably need to figure out in advance how much you want to chip in without tipping your hand. Maybe for now it’s sufficient to propose the question for her so she learns a little more about how the scientific method works.

Another possible opportunity is to pose a question about whether this Venn diagram represents everyone’s thinking on the topic. For example, one might add a circle to differentiate old earth and young earth creationism. What goes in the different overlaps and what is unique to each? The point there is to help introduce the idea that there isn’t one Christian perspective and one secular perspective, but that there are multiple Christian perspectives. You don’t even have to go all the way to suggesting that some Christians accept evolution if that’s too much. But she might benefit just from knowing that not every Christian thinks exactly the same way about these issues. (Or maybe she is already familiar because her school or church is more ecumenical than mine was.)


Hi Andrew
The strongest argument against YEC is the age of the earth. Has she been taught that the earth is young?

This is a weak statement as it is trying to prove an absolute. We don’t know that a kind can never change into another kind. We only know the obstacles to change such as the evidence that different species can often not interbreed.

I agree that she will make her own mind up as she learns more. The important thing is she learns critical thinking.

As far a indoctrination goes it exists on both sides of the argument.

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Huh, an uncharacteristically thoughtful and accurate comment coming from you (except for the last sentence).

To answer your question, yes, she is being taught that the earth is only ~6,000 years old. And you’re right that it’s a weak statement to claim that a kind can never change into another, because there’s no explanation of what a “kind” is (apart from a vague account of the biological species concept), and thus no way to tell how a “kind” could or could not change into another “kind.”

The sensitive issue is that I don’t really know how to bring up these objections without tipping my family off to the fact that I’m a so-called “evolutionist.” I’m still financially dependent on my parents and I’m not sure what their response would be. My best bet seems to be just encouraging her critical thinking skills and hoping that she is eventually able to evaluate the data for herself.


Another simple suggestion: Darwin’s key insight to evolution can be expressed in three words, “Selection Happens Naturally”. This idea is so basic that enough YEC accept it. Granted they might might not tell you outright that they accept it, but they generally find some other asprct of evolution to argue about.

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What you need first is to sort out truth in your own mind and move to the middle of the argument to become credible. The ID guys have issues but they are not all wrong.

There are issues on both sides of the arguments and you need to be in a position to discuss them objectively.

This is very tricky because we all have biases and tend to move from one extreme to another. I struggle with this challenge. If you try to come from the position that evolution or universal common descent is fact then you will be vulnerable to losing credibility as there are issues with the theory. The theory can be less than completely factual and still be a very useful part of biological sciences.

Again the real issue is not whether evolution is true or false or somewhere in between, it is making sure she learns to think critically. The problem with the young earth position is it does not take into account that what is consistent with the bible is its theology which can be brought forth with the combination of story and history.

Maybe the place to start the conversation is around imagery in the bible. The serpent in genesis 3:15 appears to be imagery of evil (satan).

If this is true what else could be imagery. A day or Yom in Hebrew can also mean a period of time. Peter said in his letters that a day to God was like a thousand years.

It seems to me that the thread could also be called “Advice about how to be a big brother.” My impression is that you are doing great and could even advise others on how to treat loved ones. And my only advice is that you devote as much time/effort/emotion as you can to encouraging her.


Although I disagree with the rest of your comment, this is the most important part and I agree with you. My sister’s school isn’t teaching her to evaluate the data with a critical eye, as most science classes do (in my experience), it’s teaching her to uncritically accept certain claims as fact, and that’s the most dangerous part.


Bill said something sensible. Rather than focus on evidence against YEC, which could get you in trouble with the family, try helping with critical thinking skills. And perhaps that is best handled in a neutral subject rather than evolution. One might also introduce alternative biblical exegeses, pointing out that YEC is a potentially fallible reading of Genesis, even if scripture is infallible when correctly interpreted. Finally, one might also consider what a scientifically coherent scientific theory of YEC might entail* and whether your sister is being taught such a thing.

*There could be one, but it would very quickly be falsified by the data. There’s a reason YEC proponents don’t frame testable hypotheses.


Your first priority is your own stability. You’ll be better able to help your sister when you’re independent, right now there is a potential risk.

That said, encouraging her to get the information from the other side, instead of just creationist sources and asking generic questions about how each group would explain various things (playing devil’s advocate). But if you think the only way to maintain your financial stability is to do nothing, do nothing.


This is the rest of the comment. Can you comment on what you disagree with?

I think that sometimes the thing to do in these cases is to recognize that the full-on approach is unwelcome and won’t produce the right result. The best policy can be – and this of course depends very much on the personalities involved – to sow cognitive dissonance. When my father fell under the spell of Fox News, there was no point in confronting the nonsense he was learning directly, but it was possible to conditionally agree with parts of it while throwing little bombs into the cracks. “That’s true enough, but what I don’t understand is why the people who believe it don’t act as they would if they did believe it,” or “surely so-and-so wouldn’t draw so much fire from the left if he actually took a conservative position instead of the position he’s actually taking on that issue.”

Critical thinking is of course the goal, but it’s a big project and when you have limited time and opportunity and scope, you may only be able to contribute in limited ways toward that goal. But it’s always worth doing.