Dale Schlundt: Teaching Evolution to Students with Diverse Beliefs

by Dale Schlundt

The majority of us, at least in the beginning of our lives, take on the beliefs of those who largely influenced us. This is typically our parents or someone who has guided us thus far in our journey. That being said, as the demographics in America show we are primarily a Christian nation, the topic of evolution and Darwinism among American families can be a controversial one, to put it lightly. So when discussing natural history, the approach an educator uses typically defines the success or failure of the lesson. This is where I truly believe offering students multiple viewpoints of how we as a species possibly developed, will pay off.  In other words, let us not forget to give both sides of the argument.

Dale Schlundt

Ultimately, the goal in my history class is not to necessarily have the student take on my personal perspective on all topics, but to give them  reasonable and accurate theories on the topic that I am aware of, letting them be their own “analyst” of the information. Why push our views on young adults, when we are trying to teach them to create their own? In terms of Darwinism, I give them this disclaimer right off the bat. Explaining that it makes little difference what I personally believe as an individual or even as an academic.  Yet, as a historian the two sides to the question about where we come from are clear. One being from the biblical text, the story of Adam and Eve, the other through what many natural historians subscribe to, which is evolution from simple organisms to the 21st century version of you and I. Most of us, unfortunately, believe we have to choose sides in this debate.

Throughout my semesters I continuously point out the wealth of evidence lending itself to various forms of natural selection throughout earth’s history and more specifically, the development of our societies in both the Old and New World. Great scholars such as Jared Diamond, Charles Darwin himself, as well as many others, have given evidence that merits evolution’s credibility. These scholars discuss the domestication of large animals for human’s need of energy, providing milk and meat. The question I put to you is why? What provoked us to try domestication? Why did we invent tools to hunt larger prey? These behaviors make sense when examining Darwin’s theory of evolution and natural selection. Researchers have provided the evidence to show we took this path. Darwin’s work has explained to us why. Survival. The examples are without end. Some, which I use in my lectures, range from the desire of humans to continuously seek more resources, to our constant struggle for fame and power in modern society.

What do we get out of it that is essential? The argument being that in acquiring these resources, we have a better chance of long-term survival. This seems to be a consistent and innate behavior in humans.  We see elements of this in almost every aspect of living being’s lives on this earth, therefore how can we not point this out as a possible explanation for our behaviors throughout history. Not a justification, such as Social Darwinism, for the many wrongs committed in humanity, but an explanation for both the pros and the cons of human behavior.

Yet, to ignore the spiritual side of human history is to be lacking in objectivity both as an individual as well as an educator. Once again, as a historian the evidence is too extensive to ignore, leading us to believe that there is a high probability of our God being real. Not to mention, as a Christian I strongly believe in him. So the question remains, how do we approach these conflicting views?

The answer in my class is that perhaps they do not conflict in the way we have always been taught. Why can we not have both? This being a possibility I offer, but do not push onto my students. The argument here should not be focused on Adam and Eve vs. evolution, but that there is substantial evidence for both evolution and spiritualty in our world. In my opinion, the two sides are very complimentary of each other, if we open our mind to their plausibility. There is a need for both sides to admit the legitimacy of each other’s argument. Believing that God made the world; does it change our belief fundamentally if we decide to consider the multitude ways he could have potentially created us? Does the combination of spirituality and an acceptance of evolution negate our chosen faith? Finally, God made us such complex beings with physical, mental, and emotional lives characterized much the same, why could he not have also given us the power to evolve?

Dale Schlundt holds a Master’s Degree in Adult Education with a concentration in American History from the University of Texas at San Antonio and is currently an Adjunct Professor for Palo Alto College. Dale’s new book Education Decoded (A Collection of My Writings) is now available on Amazon in paper back as well as Kindle Edition. 

Dale Schlundt

Dale Schlundt

Dale Schlundt holds a Master’s Degree in Adult Education with a concentration in American History from the University of Texas at San Antonio and is currently an Adjunct Professor for Palo Alto College.