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Mar 25 2014

Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education IVa: Wherein We Enjoy Nearly-Godless Weather

Have I told you lately that A Beka’s graphics are a touch tacky? They are. At the start of the “Earth’s Weather” chapter, there’s a grainy picture of a hurricane from space, and across the bottom are three photos that rather clash. There’s an iceberg inside a snowflake shape, a wispy waterfall surrounded by verdant green inside a raindrop shape, and something like a very red-orange Monument Valley inside a sunburst shape. This is the kind of stuff people with stunted imaginations do when they get their hands on a graphic design program.

At least they didn’t have Jesus up there making all that weather stuff happen. Small mercies, amirite?

Aside from a questionable definition of climate (which implies the climate of a place doesn’t change), the first bits aren’t bad. At least there’s no god-talk. We have to wait until they’ve finished with evaporation before we get any of that. Then we learn how “God designed our bodies” to use evaporation to keep ourselves at the right temperature. What, you didn’t think evilution did that, did you?

They make a rather silly mistake with sublimation. When something sublimates, it goes directly from solid to gas or vapor with no liquid in-between. Dry ice does that, which is why we get the awesome smoke effect. But A Beka thinks frost is formed by water vapor sublimating. They go on and on about sublimation when what’s really happening is the opposite – deposition. Rather annoying mistake, that, but at least they get condensation nuclei right, and god doesn’t show up, so yay-ish. Until they babble about water vapor sublimating into ice crystals. Blah.

Picture shows a bulldog in a bathtub with its front paws on the edge, looking sidewise at  the camera. Caption reads, "If I melt dry ice, can I take a bath without getting wet?"

Cloud types and smog are dealt with without recourse to the supernatural. We’re treated to a perfectly reasonable explanation of air masses. So far, so secular.

When we get to fronts, the authors paint a rousing word-picture of battling air masses. They mention that the term “front” was inspired by WWI: what better word for where air masses clash than one that means the “‘battle line’ along which armies fight.” Fascinating, really, and that led me to spelunk the internet to discover if it’s true. ‘Tis. This is one reason I’ve actually been enjoying my Christianist textbook reading: I learn bits of trivia. You’ve gotta fact-check ‘em, but Christianists are very good at trivia. This seems to be what they do in place of actual science.

I’ll be honest – this section on fronts was great: factual, easy to understand, and rousing. You can’t help but feel the energy as air masses collide like gigantic armies. There are bits of these books, like this one, I’d like to lift and install in secular textbooks.

Alas, our good, clean, secular fun can’t last more than a few pages in SPC. You can almost see the authors going, “Oh, fiddlesticks, we forgot God!” and then trying to make up for the oversight. As they describe where precipitation comes from, they’re keen to inform us that “This movement of water from the sea into the air and then back to the sea, called the water cycle, is the mechanism that God designed to water those portions of the earth located far from the oceans.”

Orly? Did he design it before or after the Flood?

Image shows a kitten with its paws clasped. Caption says, "Dear god, please let it rain cheezburgers."

They follow up with a Bible box for Eccl. 1:7, because it mentions rivers. It amuses me that they shore up their Christianist cred by quoting the most atheistic book in the Bible.

The god-talk takes a back seat during the subsequent discussion of how different types of precipitation form. But when they start talking hail, they have to bring god on for an encore. Cuz, y’know, “God used hail against the enemies of Israel (Joshua 10:11) and predicts that He will do so once more in the future (Rev. 16:21).” That sits plonk in the middle of the info box on the dangers of hail, rather like your sainted aunt at an orgy: out of place, disconcerting, and swiftly avoided.

This next issue probably isn’t caused by being a creationist, although creationism leads to greater ignorance. Still. You’d think they could avoid a numbskull error like saying a storm with a lot of snow is a blizzard – blizzards are defined by winds, not the amount of snowfall. You don’t even need snow to fall at all in a blizzard. We’ll chalk that gaffe up to SPC being from Florida.

I’m very upset that the whole section on thunderstorms never once mentioned Thor, Indra, or Raijin. Teach the controversy, damn it! And how do we go through a whole section on tornadoes and hurricanes without mentioning they happen because god’s punishing people for not hating gays enough? What kinda “Christian Perspective” is this? Sheesh.

Image shows the enormous statue of Jesus in Rio getting struck by lightning. Caption says, "Christ: 0 Thor: 1"

After being bludgeoned with rapid-fire facts about how weather is measured and mapped, we’re finally allowed to apply our brains to a weather map. It’s all rote, though: you don’t really have to think to answer. Just like God wants it.

After a brief bit on forecasting, with some dubious do-it-yourself advice, we end abruptly, sans-god. Not even a verse-inna-box. Damn it, A Beka, you promised me a Christian perspective! You’re not even trying anymore.

I guess the weather really is a safe subject for the godly and godless to natter on about. Bored now.

9 comments

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  1. 1
    rq

    Until they babble about water vapor sublimating into ice crystals.

    I’ll take your word on that, but I learned in science class back in high school that sublimation is gas-to-solid as well as solid-to-gas – there’s the same name for opposing processes, which made it extra confusing. Deposition is when it happens on a surface (like frost).
    Unless these definitions have changed in the meantime, of course. *quick google* I see they have.
    Well, ten to fifteen years or so isn’t too badly out-of-date, at least! :)
    I learn, too.

  2. 2
    Trebuchet

    Christ: 0, Thor: 1?

    Nah. That statue was put up by Catholics, not Christians.

    1. 2.1
      rq

      Heathen. Everyone knows Catholics are the only true Christians, the only ones who practice the Really-Really-True Doctrine as passed down from Simon Peter the Cornerstone himself.

  3. 3
    Pierce R. Butler

    … Eccl. … the most atheistic book in the Bible.

    I dunno – it at least mentions a God, who gets zero ink in the Book of Esther.

    We’ll chalk that gaffe up to SPC being from Florida.

    We have to import our chalk down here, but gaffes are a renowned local industry!

  4. 4
    petemoulton

    Xianists are excellent at trivia. It’s the big stuff they keep screwing up.

  5. 5
    moarscienceplz

    I learned in science class back in high school that sublimation is gas-to-solid as well as solid-to-gas

    Ehhh, I think your teacher just got it wrong. They sometimes do, you know.

  6. 6
    moarscienceplz

    OK, I think I see why the sublime/sublimate/sublimation confusion happened. Sublime and sublimate have many definitions, depending on what part of speech they are used as, and they have many non-chemistry definitions as well. One definition of sublime is to purify a substance by heating it from solid to vapor and then condensing the vapor back to a solid. The product of this process is called the sublimate. I can’t find any definition of these words that entails the vapor-to-solid transition alone, so that usage is not correct, but it is easy to see how people could get confused.

    1. 6.1
      rq

      Well, I did have science in French, which might make the difference, because it wasn’t just the teacher, but the textbook, too – a non-christian, 100% science textbook. But I did find this image. Which proves nothing, really. *shrug*

  7. 7
    busterggi

    But do they explain anywhere in the book where god puts the sun when it goes down at night?

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