Students ask: “Is evolution ‘just a theory’?”

One of the most common responses that Bible-believing students give to evolutionary teaching at school is, “Evolution is just a theory, so why is it taught as a scientific fact?”


A theory is “A well-tested concept that explains a wide range of observations.” Does evolution fit this description?

In anticipation of this argument, some textbooks, including the 7th grade California Focus on Life Science textbook, have gone out of their way to define ‘theory’ in such a way as to remove students’ doubt about evolution.

“Some words, such as theory…, have different meanings in science and in everyday use.” The everyday meaning of theory given is, “A guess; an idea of how or why something might happen,” while the scientific meaning is defined as, “A well-tested concept that explains a wide range of observations.”1 Defined in this way, it becomes clear that when dissenting students and textbook authors call evolution a ‘theory,’ they aren’t saying the same thing!

So, is evolution really “A well-tested concept that explains a wide range of observations,” among the same ranks with germ theory and gravity theory?

It depends what you mean by ‘evolution.’ Oftentimes, textbooks choose to define ‘evolution’ as merely “change in a species over time.”2 However, this definition does not distinguish between the relatively minor types of variation observed in already existing features of an animal (for example, in the size of finch beaks or color of peppered moths) and the development of all living things, including humans, from a single-celled organism. The latter type of change (molecules-to-man evolution) is what is most-often meant by the word ‘evolution.’ However, this type of change, as admitted by leading evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins, “hasn’t been observed while it’s happening.”3

So, when science textbooks say that evolution is a testable scientific theory, they are using a ‘bait-and-switch’ tactic, by equating ‘change’ with ‘evolution,’ then giving examples of minor changes as supposed ‘proof’ that molecules-to-man evolution is true.

What about the many observations that evolution supposedly explains? The textbook lists several ‘examples,’ including similar patterns of design observed in different creatures, DNA similarities shared by a variety of organisms, and the fossil record.4

However, as we have pointed out in previous blog posts, many of these observations contradict evolution, and biblical creation can explain many of them just as well, often better, than the evolutionary model can. For example, similarity in design points to a Common Designer, similar DNA reflects the similar purposes for which it was programed, and the fossil record is best explained as a result of the Global Flood.

So, if evolution (in its plain sense) is neither testable nor does it exclusively explain features of the living world, what is evolution? According to evolution-defender Dr. Michael Ruse, “Evolution is promoted by its practitioners as more than mere science. Evolution is promulgated as an ideology, a secular religion—a full-fledged alternative to Christianity, with meaning and morality. . . . Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today.”5

Free Resources for Further Learning:

Video: Evolution vs. God

Video: Evolution Refuted

Video: Is Natural Selection the Same Thing as Evolution?

Is Evolution an Observable Fact?

Evolution: Not Even a Theory


1Coolidge-Stoltz, Elizabeth. Focus on California Life Science. Boston, MA: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2008. 220. Print.

2Ibid, 228.

3NOW with Bill Moyers. Transcript. December 3, 2004.

4Coolidge-Stoltz, 234-240.

5Michael Ruse, “Saving Darwinism from the Darwinians,” National Post, May 13, 2000, p. B-3.