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Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education IIc: A Secular Chaser

So, we’ve now endured two Christianist textbooks. Let’s see how a genuine secular earth science textbook compares.

Glencoe Science Earth Science: Geology, the Environment, and the Universe (GEU)  cover.

Glencoe Science Earth Science: Geology, the Environment, and the Universe (GEU)

Well, for one thing, Glencoe Science Earth Science: Geology, the Environment, and the Universe (GEU) is written by a whole lotta actual professional science people, plus National Geographic, plus it relied on a ton of science consultants, and was reviewed and tested by a cadre of teachers. Like science, it was a collaborative effort.

Millions of years, in reference to a rock formation, is front and center in the opening of the Unit Intro. And no qualifications or compromise: evidence sez millions of years, we accept (provisionally, o’ course: this is genuine science, and always has room for revision as new data comes in). There’s an activity right up front to help kids understand scientific communication, and practice communicating accurately. One of the major differences between this book and the Christianist texts is the fact that mistakes and miscommunication aren’t attributed to deception, but presented as unintentional. This book already thinks better of people than fundie Christians do.

All of the books have a section explaining the major areas of earth science, including astronomy – but this is the only one that said flat-out that Earth is 4.6 billion years old. Earth systems – the lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere – are described with an emphasis on the interconnectedness of all things. We humans are acknowledged as part of the biosphere. This is probably what leads creationists to scream “BIAS!” – we’re not set apart as special. But it’s not like the text says we’re nothing, either, so screw that noise.

There’s an extensive explanation of what technology is, and how science has led to so much awesomeness. This segues nicely into a careful explanation of the scientific method, with a note saying the steps can, in fact, vary. The diagram for it is in the form of a puzzle, which is an excellent touch, and captures its complexity better than the other books’ simplistic interpretation. Experiments are explained, including independent and dependent variables. Students get to practice science with a mini lab measuring the effect of sunlight on the temperature of containers filled with soil versus water. Data, we’re informed, must be formatted so it can be studied, and (importantly!), if the data doesn’t match the hypothesis, it’s the hypothesis that’s gotta go. And just to drive the point home, the book once again tells us that the scientific methods aren’t rigid.

Image shows several pictures: Futurama guy with the caption "Observation," troll guy with the caption "Questioning," thoughtful t-rex with the caption "Hypothesis," startled teenager with the caption "Prediction," white cat in glasses in lab with caption "Experiment," and toddler making a victory fist with the caption "Result."

I found GEU’s discussion of measurement far superior to ES4, but SPC actually did a better job here: much more thorough and interesting. But, GEU has lots more applied exercises to show how measuring works. It explains what temperature is, too: the measure of the average vibrations of particles. This was helpful.

Communication gets emphasized again. We’re told that “one important goal of science is to make results available to others.” Lab reports, graphs, and such are discussed. So are research papers. But my gosh, the book somehow fails to mention you can publish in “scientific” journals such as The Creation Research Society Quarterly. Gee whiz, such bias (against journals not accepted as scientific by any actual scientific organization anywhere)!

Models are then discussed. Oddly enough, they do not go on endlessly about how worldview leads to the model. Instead, they talk about how models can change based on the data you’re gathering – like early astronomers finding data that told them the geocentric model was wrong, hence leading them to adopt the heliocentric model. You know, ES4 would’ve told us it was all a matter of worldview. (I wonder if our Christianist texts will end up questioning heliocentrism later? After all, the Bible implies the world’s flat…)

Next, theories and laws are correctly defined. O joyous day! GEU describes the differences and relationships between the words in a manner assures we get how scientist use those terms.

An especial delight is when cubits are mentioned in a geolab sidebar. They’re brought up only to explain they aren’t very useful these days, and to introduce lotsa measuring activities. The chapter concludes with a nice section on how medical imaging technology has allowed us to study dinosaur fossils like Willo and Sue. Fun and interesting!

A lot of differences other than the distinct lack of Bible babble stand out: one of the most obvious to me is that scientists aren’t overwhelmingly referred to as “he.” Pronouns are actually thin on the ground in this book, and the plural seems to be preferred unless discussing a specific named scientist. Kids aren’t dictated to as much. Things don’t feel so rigid, and there’s a hell of a lot more hands-on.

I bloody love this book. It’s so refreshing to get straight-up science after all that Christianist propaganda. And there’s nothing in here to prevent a kid from being religious, even fundamentalist, if they want to be. Well, aside from the overwhelming data against a young Earth. But it’s not science’s fault God was such a crappy creator he couldn’t make that clear, now, is it?

Right. With that reality check, it’s time to plunge back into the whacky world of good Christianist education…

Comments

  1. Al Dente says

    I wonder if our Christianist texts will end up questioning heliocentrism later? After all, the Bible implies the world’s flat…

    There are Christians who are geocentrists.

    The Earth is not rotating…nor is it going around the sun. [ellipsis in original]

    Warning: There is some serious WTF Biblical literalism in that link.

    • Lithified Detritus says

      Not to mention some seriously ugly web design, complete with ALL CAPS, multicolored text, etc. Pretty much unreadable, even leaving aside the WTF factor. What is it with fundies and garish, tasteless webpages?

      • rq says

        God doesn’t care about appearances, he only cares about the content. If it’s wrong enough, he’ll accept it.
        Or maybe the garish colours and bright displays of poor spelling are measures to attract divine attention. Sort of like red, tube-shaped flowers attract hummingbirds. All those caps and sparkles actually attract angels in flocks.

        • Lithified Detritus says

          Or maybe the garish colours and bright displays of poor spelling are measures to attract divine attention. Sort of like red, tube-shaped flowers attract hummingbirds. All those caps and sparkles actually attract angels in flocks.

          Makes sense – that would explain why they seem to go out of their way to make them as hideous as possible.

          • rq says

            Just another reason it’s probably best to go to hell – heaven will be interior-designed by these people. *shudder* Flaming red and charcoal may not be my colours, but if it will keep me away from the hot pink sparkly all-caps signage of heaven, yeah, I’ll take it!

            (By the way, Dana, this was a nice relief from all the other stuff we’ve been suffering through under your tutelage the past few days. ;) So was the ant. It’s good to know you’re still capable of rational thought How’s the vineyard?)

  2. stever says

    I’m not going to try to dredge it up, but I wonder how geocentrists explain Foucault’s pendulum and the fact that long-range airliners flying over the north pole have to correct for the rightward motion of their destinations. They do, I’m sure, because a lunatic can explain anything to his own satisfaction. The truly amazing thing is the number of people who take this crap seriously. But then, the head of at least one sovereign state believes that a thin, tasteless cracker literally turns into Jesus meat when he pronounces a spell over it. Just how long ago was the metaphor invented?

    • Andrew G. says

      They (or at least some of them) appeal to relativity; if the earth is fixed and all of spacetime is revolving around it, all the gravitational effects work out the same. (Which is actually true, but rather nonsensical.)

      • lpetrich says

        That’s essentially selecting a different coordinate system. Coordinate systems are essentially arbitrary. By selecting an appropriate coordinate system, one can make *anything* the center of the Universe.

        What one needs instead is predictions of what’s *observable*. What observable difference is there between geocentrism and heliocentrism?

        • Andrew G. says

          There are various effects that relate to the Earth’s orbit around the Sun which don’t seem to me to be explicable on a geocentric model: stellar parallax and the annual doppler-shift variation in the CMB for example. But no geocentrist has managed to give me a straight answer to these.

          This comment thread is an example of me and others trying to pin down Catholic geocentrist crank Rick DeLano (and one of his fellow cranks from his movie) without any noticable success.