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I recently had the chance to talk with Patrick Nurre, owner of Northwest Treasures and the author of three classes on SchoolhouseTeachers.com: Geology: Rocks and Minerals, Geology: The Geology of Our National Parks, and Dinosaurs and the Bible. It was a privilege to listen to him share his passion for helping students grow in confidence as they learn how to spot the fallacies in the evolutionary worldview.
TOS: Let’s start at the beginning. What sparked your interest in dinosaurs?
Patrick: The thing that sparked it the most was discovering a huge chunk of dinosaur bone. I found it coming home from school one day in the alleyway. I recognized it right away, and I was only in second grade. I pawed it loose, picked it up, and took it home. That was kind of my beginning.
TOS: It’s remarkable that at that age, you had obviously already done a lot of reading, if you knew what it was right off.
Patrick: I’m not sure exactly how the interest started other than every kid is interested in rocks and dinosaurs and so on. I remember receiving one of those How and Why Wonder books for Christmas, I think, and the imagination starts. Then my second grade teacher picked up on it, so she encouraged me a lot in that direction. When I found that bone, that was really kind of the beginning of it. There was an older kid in the neighborhood too, who was a much older kid. He’d kind of mentor some of the younger kids, and he’d take me out to different places along the Bighorn River and we’d look for marine fossils and things. We’d come home with our packs loaded with fossils. It’s just kind of hung on ever since.
TOS: How did you come to own a museum?
Patrick: I was beginning to accumulate a lot of stuff because I was starting to do some teaching and leading field trips. The one ingredient I think that is really missing in all of education is that, first of all we take earth science maybe once or twice in our entire school training, and we generally don’t study the specimens themselves. We may have photographs and maybe get to go to a museum and look at the dinosaur displays, where we’re getting a uniformitarian perspective. It dawned on me that the interest kids have is quite prolific and that it is really an opening for us as parents.
It’s not really a museum; it’s more of a learning center. It’s a place where kids can come, handle the rocks, and see the specimens. That puts the pieces together. I think until they can handle specimens and ask questions about them, that it doesn’t really connect with them.
One year, as we were headed to a homeschool convention, we pulled into a rest stop behind this car that had lots of bumper stickers. One sticker stuck out to me. “We have all the fossils; we win.” And I realized that this is where the lack of confidence comes in. Sometimes, when we’re teaching doctrine, we expect the kids to memorize it and know it, but the doctrine is only part of the problem. They’ve got to connect the doctrine with the world around them, and if the secularists are really pushing a totally different world view and the kid says, “Well, you know, I don’t know. I don’t study that stuff. These guys are the ones who study it; they should know.” It is a little intimidating, and it doesn’t do much for instilling confidence that their doctrine is correct. We need to take the Scripture and explain the things we find by the Scripture. We might look at something like Genesis 7:11, with the fountains of the great deep bursting open, as doctrine. We’ve got to connect the doctrine with the world around them.
TOS: Why do you feel the question of origins is so fundamental to faith in general and to our worldview?
Patrick: Jesus came from a long line of history. He was related to a lot of people, including the patriarchs. Now, if those patriarchs are in question, then the whole idea of a promised Messiah from the beginning is just myth. The Old Testament is there to share with us God’s plan to redeem humanity through a descendant of Abraham. So the whole story has got to be right. Not just the New Testament.
If the secularists come along and say there’s no such thing as miracles because they really can’t be verified by science, and science after all has shown us a lot of things, now you’re stuck with believing in spite of the evidence. You are stuck with believing a myth. So the whole story has got to be true, and that begins right at the beginning. If our account of origins is not correct in Genesis, then there is no Messiah, and consequently, there is no resurrection either.
TOS: Have you ever had anything or something totally unexpected happen on a fossil hunting trip or one of your field trips that you take?
Patrick: Well, there’s always exciting finds and things. This last summer one of the families found part of a triceratops horn. I think probably one scary thing that happened when I was leading a field trip to a place out here called Whidbey Island. The side that we go to faces the Pacific, so there are a lot of rocks that wash up on the beach. It’s an excellent place to go rock hunting. I had a pretty good sized field trip, maybe a hundred people there total, with parents and kids. A few of the boys had their fill and went off to play with the kelp and driftwood. Well, down the beach a ways, these boys got together, made a raft out of driftwood and kelp, put a kid on it, and pushed him out. And so, we were all down there yelling at him, “Jump! Jump!” He jumped off, and the water was up to his chest, but had he gone out any further, it may have had a different ending. So after that, I reduced my field trips after that to a maximum of fifty people and made it very, very clear that parents were to watch their kids. I think that was probably the thing that came the closest to giving me a heart attack!
TOS: What is your goal for the ministry of Northwest Treasures?
Patrick: I used to spend a lot of time on college campuses doing open air stuff on creation/evolution, and I found a lot of good conversations with college kids. It was a lot more open environment. But today, I think we’ve lost the college campuses. So I’m really kind of going through a back door. We’ve got to equip workers that can go to college or go out in the workplace who have the confidence to engage in these things they’re going to encounter. We’ve got to pay attention to that next generation.
All of the questions and all of the challenges that we get today in areas of marriage, divorce, homosexuality, gender identity, and this kind of stuff, are all related back to Genesis. If we reject Genesis, there’s really no reason why we can’t drift in our morality, in our stances on some of these things. I don’t believe our kids are really getting equipped in that. I think they are being taught doctrine, and I think they are being taught morality, but not to make the connection of why that is right and to learn how to confront the opposition with their own faith. There’s no science involved in evolution; it’s all philosophy. For kids to really understand that and understand how to confront that, I think it’s something they are not being equipped in today.
Part of it, I think, is being intimidated by all of the so-called science out there. You have a scientist who has a masters degree, and he’s been on various outings or expeditions, and in your mind, he’s five or six steps ahead of you. We are intimidated because we think we don’t know the science. We think, “How do you expect me to confront them?” But really, these scientists are engaged in the realm we should be masters of, which is faith. Evolution is a faith. They’re just simply taking their faith, which is uniformitarianism, and packaging it in scientific terms. We have to help our kids learn how to take that apart.
You don’t have to be a biochemist to spot where they are mixing faith with science. A lot of biochemistry is science, but when you get to talking about the origin of the cell, that’s a faith, because you can’t experiment with that. I think the typical kid can’t see through that without being taught to do. To be able to identify and recognize what part of the statements these people are making are science and what parts are simply philosophy is something they’ve got to be equipped at doing. They can become effective communicators. I think that is my biggest concern and probably my main passion in this whole thing too, is to help kids be effective at that, and that way they won’t feel intimidated. They don’t have to know nuclear physics or biochemistry. All they have to learn is how to recognize what part of the statements that are being made are philosophy and history and what parts of them are actual science.
With fellow geologists, say I go to another scientist. We’ll agree on the science of rocks, right down the line. But when it comes to the origin of those rocks, we have a sharp disagreement. That has nothing to do with science; that has to do with what you’ve chosen to believe about the rocks, and that’s what kids need to be equipped and trained in. I find that to be the hardest part of my teaching with kids is that they can see that. If you learn to spot the faith that’s being exercised and spot the assumptions that are being made that are not based in science, I think you can be a good communicator and hopefully plant the seeds for the Spirit in the future.
If you can get serious and just say, “You say that’s science, but you haven’t told me how science really supports it,” we can get into learning how to challenge them. I think it’s a possibility to plant some seeds of doubt and work with the Spirit. We’ve got to combine the Word with a conscience, and the only way to get at the conscience is to expose some doubt that they really don’t know as much as they say they know. That’s what our kids have really got to be sharp in doing, and I’m not seeing it happen.
TOS: How do you handle the fear that kids, and all of us, have of not having all the answers?
Patrick: Students need to catch themselves before they are bowled over by all the scientific knowledge someone knows and listen for the underwriting assumptions, interpretations, and faiths. The science is not going to be what is going to convince the person. You’re always going to run into somebody who knows more than you. It’s really learning how to handle statements that are made and identifying what part of it is assumption, what part is interpretation, and what part of it is science. That we can know without knowing everything.
Take radiometric dating, for example. Using it, scientists have “proved” that the earth is 4.6 billion years old. You might think you don’t know anything about radiometric dating, chemistry, or physics, but you know enough to say, “Okay, tell me what is it about the science of radiometric dating that shows that rocks are old?” You keep pecking away with questions that get at the interpretation of the evidence, and that’s what’s going on in radiometric dating. They are interpreting the evidence. Because the science is just simply that radioactivity exists. It’s the only science in radiometric dating. We can measure radioactivity and what is going on right now. The assumption is that it’s always acted that way throughout the remote past. Now, there it is, that’s not science at all. That’s a faith.
If students can become sharp at doing that kind of stuff, then I think we’ll be seeing some workers for the future that won’t be afraid because they’ll know that the whole dilemma is over conflicting world views, not over science versus the Bible. That’s what I’m most passionate about.
Earth science is often overlooked when families build curriculum, but the equipping of the world view behind the earth science is what’s not being done, and that really takes more concentration of effort than simply getting a math curriculum does. Kids are an open book, and we have to take the opportunity to give them this foundation now.
TOS: We appreciate you taking your time out of your busy schedule to talk with us today. Thank you so much!
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