God’s Old Earth Curriculum: Introduction

One of the resources I use for our AiCESE articles is a site called Old Earth Ministries. Their tagline is “It’s An Old World After All!” They’re definitely not secular: go to their site, and you’ll see it peppered with Christian apologetics and pleas for you to become a Christian. They represent a variety of old earth creationist viewpoints, and so it’s a bit of a hodgepodge. They describe themselves as mainly “Progressive Creationists,” which will make the biologists scream in frustration:

This view accepts that God created each species of plant and animal as a unique creation, without the use of evolution, and the days of creation refer to a long periods [sic] of time.

Yeah, some folks just can’t stomach evolution. I find it sad that their interpretation of faith allows them to accept most of modern science, but when it comes to evolutionary biology, they fall at the fence. Their God can apparently use allegory for lotsa stuff, but heaven forfend there weren’t a literal Adam and Eve. Unpossible!

Image is a green poster with the British crown and the words "Keep calm and deny evolution."

Image courtesy God of Evolution (CC BY 3.0)

Despite that nonsense, I vastly prefer this type of literalist to young earth creationists. At least they get some science (mostly) right. There are definite blind spots and misinterpretations caused by their determination to make Genesis a science book, but they do a great job exploding young earth creationist crap, and they do it as fervent Christians, which means they can reach an audience I can’t. I believe science should be strictly secular, and absolutely must be taught without religious claptrap in public schools. But I don’t want Christians of the more Biblical literalist bent rejecting science wholesale because they think Jesus won’t love them if they accept the actual age of the earth. I’d rather they accept as much real science as they can. And if sites like this can provide a stepping stone out of the young earth creationist swamp, I’m happy to point them out.

Of course, I have no compunctions about pointing out where they fuck up science, either.

This brings me to the OEM Online Geology Curriculum. The founder of OEM, Greg Neyman, has a geology degree. He and his wife also homeschool. Being a Christian but also a man who accepts actual geology, he wanted a curriculum for his kids that would be Christian-based but not YEC. Alas, the YECs have something of a stranglehold on Christian earth sciences textbooks. So Greg wrote his own curriculum, complete with quizzes and tests, and made it available for free online.

I’m intrigued. So we’re going to go through the thing here and see how science fares. I’m hoping he does a decent job, with a minimum of biblical bullshit, so that I can recommend this course to Christian parents who cannot abide using an icky secular science curriculum, but will accept an old earth. I’d rather students get at least some exposure to solid science, even if it’s not exactly correct. It definitely beats having young earth creationist crap like A Beka or BJU thrust upon them. And let’s face it, just about anything is better than ACE.

So, let us explore the world of old earth creationism as presented to homeschoolers, and see where we end up, shall we?

Image shows a row of cats staring out a window. Caption says, "The People Channel. Airing in your area by checking your local windows."

The More Things Change: Creationists and Their Lying Lists Edition

This is why history is so fascinating to me: I get to learn that creationists have been using the same dishonest tactics for at least 96 years. I’m reading Ronald L. Numbers’s The Creationists, and on page 66, I come across this paragraph from William Louis Poteat, responding to creationist T.T. Martin’s list of “twenty-one really great scientists in the world” supposedly rejecting evolution:

Two do not appear in the biographical dictionaries, five are misrepresented, seven won reputation in other than biological fields, and six have been in their graves more than forty years, two of these having died long before Darwin’s great book was published. One lone biologist is left to support the thesis that the doctrine of evolution is discarded by the science of today. And this man’s position is so peculiar that he is usually mentioned as the single exception to the universal acceptance of evolution by biologists of responsible position.

Ouchies.

Image shows a cat lying in front of a notebook and pen, looking up at someone off-camera. Caption says, "I've reduced your list to reputable evolutionary biologists only. Alas, it is blank."

This is laughably familiar to anyone who’s been following the creation-evolution wars for more than ten seconds. The Discovery Institute, that laughable bunch of assclowns polluting my fair city with their ignorance, likes to put out a list of “scientists” who supposedly “Dissent from Darwinism.”

Cast your mind back to 2001, when DIsco clogged up some major newspapers with a cunning advert trying to convince the public that scientists totes don’t like evolution! See how they spun:

The list consists of 41 biologists (over half of whom are biochemists), 16 chemists, 4 engineers, 2 geologists/geophysicists, 8 mathematicians, 10 medical professionals, 4 social scientists, 15 from physics or astronomy, and 3 whose specialties we were unable to determine. Few were from biological subfields associated with organismic and population-level biology — the divisions of biology most closely associated with the study of evolution. None was recognizable as a prominent contributor to the scientific literature debating the role of natural selection in evolution. (The list published on the review evolution web site, which we analyzed, originally contained 103 names. The ads published in the print media contained 105 names, with the addition of the Center for Renewal of Science and Culture, the creationist arm of the DI, President Stephen Meyer and Fellow Paul Nelson, both of whom hold PhDs in philosophy.)

I’ve highlighted my favorite bit. Also, that’s not all the deception they practiced. Be sure to read up at the source!

They’ve added names as the years passed. In 2004, they had around three hundred. Which would be a possibly impressive number, if Project Steve hadn’t had about 500 scientists named Steve supporting evolution by then, and if so damned many of their signatories hadn’t been useless:

Most of the signators to the DI’s list (about 80%) are not biologists; some are not even scientists. Generally speaking, mathematicians, electrical engineers, philosophers, and so forth are only marginally more qualified to comment on the validity of evolution than the average person on the street.

You can peruse the 2011 state of the list here, where you’ll learned dead people are counted as ardent supporters, nobody likes to mention their affiliation with Cedarville, Liberty, or Oral Roberts universities, and lots of others also seem quite shy about mentioning who they’re currently affiliated with, choosing instead to boost their science cred by saying only who they got their degree from. Also, active researchers are not well represented:

In fact, relatively quick searches reveal that a very large percentage of the signatories have no academic affiliation at all; the number of biologists actively researching biological issues even remotely related to evolution can be counted on one hand.

Oh, my.

Image shows a white cat stretching out one paw, showing all five toes. Caption says, "Count dem on one paw? Dat not very many."

Nope.

For all the exciting ways today’s creationists like to pad their list of scientists, start with this entertaining and educational video. Have blood pressure meds handy.

Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education IV-E: Wherein there is a Climate of Jeer

The Christianist authors of ES4, after achieving a crescendo of kookiness, manage to dial it back down to nearly normal as they explain Short-Term Climate Change. They explain things like ENSO and La Niña in terms befitting a science text. But you can see them slipping when they devote a section to volcanism. All that ash! It cools the world!

Um. Actually. Ash is just a part of what causes cooling due to volcanic eruptions. But BJU writers can’t be bothered with little things like sulfur dioxide. They also claim forest fires and “large regional dust storms” can cool the climate like volcanoes. Forest fires in Northern latitudes may cool it a bit, but not because of ash – it’s because all those lovely dark green conifers are gone, which means snow’s free to reflect the sun’s heat, and it’s not like that’s going to reverse the upward trend in warming. If an area hasn’t got snow, even that bit of cooling is unlikely. And, of course, burning trees releases bunches o’ carbon, which ultimately leads to more warming. As for dust storms, sure, those dust clouds can reduce temps – but that’s neglecting the winds that, in some regions, bring warm air right back in. And if increased dust starts landing on snow, you get an increase in solar radiation absorption, and you’ve warmed stuff right up again.

In other words, they’ve neglected to mention a few things. All that, and we hadn’t even got to the rat-fucking part of their program. But now we’re on to Long-Term Climate Change. Place your bets now on how much they’ll distort the science.

Image is a demotivational poster showing Giles from Buffy, dressed in a sombrero and serape. Caption says, "BETTING. Make sure the bet is worth losing, otherwise you may have to dress like this for the next 30 days."

They begin by calling the abrupt warming we’ve experienced thus far as “a quick but slight increase in worldwide temperature.” A mere smidge over half a degree, Kids, in 50 whole years. And no, we’re not going to say what degree (it’s Celsius. That’s .9°F.) And we’re going to make it sound like NBD while the Earth broils. Whee!

They show the hockey stick graph, because the can’t avoid it, but the caption assures us that “its accuracy is questioned by many scientists.” Because in Creationist math, 3% vs. 97% is “many.” Also, too, didja notice temps have only “increased by about half a degree in the past 50 years”? Pay no mind to that screaming rise since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution!

They go on to explore natural causes of climate change, which gives them problems, because long-term changes caused by things like orbital variations and axial tilt fluctuations are measured in times longer than they think Earth has existed. They handwave the 10s to 100s of thousands of years away with the “secular scientists believe” incantation. Yep, it’s all according to old-earth geologists, and secular scientists, and anyway it’s nothing to do w/ global warming cuz that’s too short, and anyway, we’ve only been collecting data for two centuries, and SQUIRREL!

And then it’s right off the rails again:

A Recovering Earth

The earth has experienced drastic changes that have affected its climate. Young-earth scientists agree that when God flooded the earth to complete judgement on man’s sin, the upheaval triggered a series of climate changes. The warm oceans and cloudy skies that were likely remaining after the Flood plunged Earth into the Ice Age. The Bible is silent about this geologic period of time. But the ice sheets, glaciers, and icebergs remaining today, as well as the geologic evidence of glacial erosion, give testimony to this stage of Earth’s history. And the warming trend we see may be a sign of a world still recovering from the Flood’s effects.

How this belongs in a science text book I don’t even… I mean, this is like reading one of those science-of-some-fictional-world pieces, only without a decent plot or, actually, any science. None of that shit about warm oceans and clouds appears in actual causes suspected by genuine scientists. You’ll hear them talk about declining levels of greenhouse gasses (and, hellooo – water vapor is a greenhouse gas!), the positions of continents, changes in ocean currents, uplift of large areas, Milankovitch cycles, sun cycles… I don’t think there’s one mainstream scientist who puts it down to clouds and hot water. Criminy, can these people not hear themselves?

Next, we’re in to “possible human causes,” where we’re assured for the third time that warming’s only been half a degree in the last 50 years of the 20th century, and there are even some scientists who “question the actual amount of warming, if any.” They do have to admit that even that half-degree (if any), “is a significant jump compared to the previous 1000 years.” I think they may want to have a look at Proverbs 4:24.

The twisting and turning to avoid looking like supreme dipshits while still being in denial over the reality of AGW continues. Scientists think we can increase atmospheric CO2 by doing things that release CO2 and prevent it being taken up by those forests we keep burning down. B-b-but just cuz CO2 seems (their word) to be increasing, and just because we release a crap-ton of CO2, don’t mean those things are in any way related to global warming, no siree! It might be natural (pro-tip: we considered that. It’s not), and anyway, it might not be bad (pro-tip: it’s bad), and this cartoon says that we’ll get eaten by a leopard if we stop making campfires!

Image shows the two ES4 scientists standing in a night-time forest. There are campfires in the background, and a leopard lurking in the tree beside the secular scientist. The secular scientist is saying, "Humans need to stop burning wood to keep this environment pristine." The creation scientist is saying, "Look... they need to cook... it's gonna get cold, and, uh, we may want to get a little closer to those fires!"

Cartoon on page 518. Look, kids! You’ll get eaten by a leopard if you aren’t a creationist!

My fuck, these people are pathetic.

And they are dishonest shits when it comes to graphs.

Image shows a pie chart saying Sources of Greenhouse Gasses. Natural Sources is marked as 4.72%, Human Activities as 0.28%, and Water Vapor as 95%. Caption says, "This pie chart shows the actual contribution humans make to greenhouse gasses. By itself, this graph doesn't tell the whole story about global warming, but it is one factor to keep in mind."

Yeah, that chart doesn’t quite tell the whole story…

Then they whine about it being so haaard to model climate. Yes. Yes, it is. That’s why the things predicted by our models, like the melting of the polar ice and the collapse of ice shelves, are happening much sooner than expected. So when they say

Concerns about catastrophic global warming, melting glaciers, devastating sea-level rise, loss of wildlife, and increased heat deaths are fanned by the worst-case environmentalist views with little scientific evidence to support them.

They’re completely ignoring the fact that reality has already gotten worse than our worst-case. The scientific evidence, the actual empirical bloody facts, the people starving and dying and drowning, the catastrophic loss of polar ice beyond what our best models predicted, mean nothing. Because we can’t build a super computer that can model the burning down to the last molecule of wood, they think we shouldn’t douse the flames. “Think of the water bill!” they cry as the fire races from the kitchen to the living room. “If we call the fire department right now, we’ll go over our cell phone minutes! We can’t possibly until we’re sure the house is burning down.”

They have a fucking text box about how great global warming may be, without sparing a single thought for the massive suffering that will occur as the rest of the previously arable land becomes useless for agriculture. “Melting glaciers and ice caps can bring water to areas that need it.” they say. No. The melting ice caps will not water the Southwest, or the Sahara, or any other region drying out to the point where people will start killing each other for a drop of water. My own fair city depends on meltwater for its needs – when those glaciers finish melting, we’re going to be rather fucked. And we’re getting off easy. What next, do the chickenhawks expect us to annex Canada?

They try to use DDT as a cautionary tale (many people thought protecting bird eggs was more important than saving human lives, is their interpretation). And they scaremonger shamelessly while stuffing straw at a furious rate:

With global warming, scientists and governments are considering a number of really drastic actions… For starters, radical environmentalists believe that there are too many people, and that fact is a major part of the climate change problem. They would like to see the world’s human population reduced to much less than a third of its present size. How would they go about doing that? At the same time, they want modern societies to return to the level of technology that existed before the Industrial Revolution to reduce greenhouse gas production.

Who the fuck are these “radical environmentalists”? Point to a single damned one that has any appreciable influence on public policy. These ass clowns are worse than MRAs. And after that remarkable bit of They’re gonna kill you all and bring you back to the Dark Ages alarmism, they call people who think a modest carbon tax is a fine idea “greedy” and “fallen.” And yes, Virginia, they do roll with the “global warming as a tool to… increase government control over our lives” conspiracy theory.

And after all that well-poisoning, they have the gall to say they’re not denying global warming. Nope, not them. They’re reesonable.

But at this point in time, we really don’t have enough evidence to decide if global warming is really happening, whether humans cause it or not, and whether the earth’s systems can control the change.

But hey, while they’re busy counseling us to sit on our hands, they say it’s totes okay with God to maybe pick up some trash or “explore alternative energies.” Like, no doubt, “clean” coal.

The dingleberry atop this shit sundae is the “Life Connection” that says we can’t possibly draw any conclusions about the status of polar bears because it’s soo haard to track them, and anyway, while the population of eight subspecies of polar bears are declining, “one actually has a growing population!” Then they titter at those silly evolutionists:

They say the history of the polar bear is one of adaptation to cold climates. But if they adapted to the cold, shouldn’t they be able to adapt to warmer climates? Shouldn’t they be able to adjust their behavior to function more like a grizzly bear?

Gosh, aren’t we silly? Those bears just have to decide to evolve to keep up is all!

Image is a demotivational poster showing a polar bear on a knob of ice, surrounded by sea. Caption says, "GLOBAL WARMING. Seriously, I hate you guys. Seriously."

These assholes disgust me. Their smug pride in their own ignorance and their enormous ego in thinking they know better than literally everyone else in the world is beyond belief. And they’re willing to let that population of humans they’re so proud of suffer and die because they can’t be asked to stop bloody pumping carbon everywhere. They shadowbox with caricatures and declare themselves Floyd Mayweather.

And they think they should have dominion over the earth.

If that doesn’t scare the shit out of you, nothing ever will.

Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education IV-d: Wherein there is a Climate of Sneer

If you’re one of those whacky people who thinks the opinion of 97% of scientists counts for something, you may want to grab a stick, wrap it in leather or a leather equivalent, and place it between your teeth. One of those mouth guards for people who grind their teeth in their sleep would also work. A stress ball may also help avoid damage caused by clenching hands. If you’re prone to pounding surfaces when frustrated to the point of apoplexy, please acquire a pillow or punching bag before continuing.

Yep. ES4 is about to present itself as the voice of reason by misrepresenting, misconstruing, misunderstanding, and otherwise manipulating all the data they possibly can. Because God. Brace yourself as you’re told how to “formulate a Christian perspective of climate change.”

Image is a demotivational poster showing a polar bear in a zoo, on its hind legs, with its paws over its eyes. Caption says "GOD DID IT. Lalalalalala..."

They move very quickly to assure us climate has changed in the past. They also pose four questions that look reasonable on their face:

In any discussion of climate change and global warming, we need honest answers to four questions:

1. Is the earth warming?
2. If so, are people causing it to warm?
3. If it’s warming because of human activities, is that bad?
4. Will solutions that politicians and scientists suggest actually fix the problems?

Considering their tendency to put rational, well-evidenced answers to those questions down to “radical environmental bias,” I don’t think we’re going to get honest answers to those questions from this source. Of course, they claim this book can’t answer them. We shall see.

They certainly don’t hesitate with the right-wing speculation: See, for instance, this remarkable bit of Pollyanna thinking in their sidebar on melting polar ice:

The effects of changes in polar ice may surprise you. Many people are concerned that melting glaciers may raise sea levels to dangerous heights. But the results of melting glaciers may not be all bad. In the Arctic, the long-sought Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific north of Canada may actually open up. Icebreakers and merchant ships may be able to steam through Arctic ice in the summer. Around Greenland, oceans that are now ice-free for more of the year than they were before are exposing long-hidden sources of oil.

Unmentioned are several sobering facts which may have served to bolt their unbounded optimism to the floor, if they could be persuaded to accept any such thing as a fact:

Image shows a man in overalls leaning against a ramshackle wooden building, looking dejected. The hill beyond is  eroded into gullies; the whole area looks like a desert.

A farmer gazes at his severely eroded fields. Image courtesy USDA.

This is just a short list of the consequences either already happening or likely to happen as the ice melts away. There’s so much more…

So getting giddy over the prospect of Arctic shipping routes, lotsa drill-baby-drill, and an actually-green Greenland is like celebrating the prospect of celebrity if you should lose your legs in an historic thousand-car pileup on the freeway. Sure, junkyards will see a surge in available stock, and funeral directors will enjoy booming business, and you may have exciting opportunities as an inspirational speaker… but it would be better, on the whole, if the entire wreck was prevented to begin with.

All this wrong, and we’ve barely dented this section. Sigh.

Next we are treated to “A History of Climate Change,” in which we get the worldview bullshit slathered on thick and hot. Both old earthers and young earthers know the climate’s changed dramatically in the past, but the explanations obviously differ. One group explains the evidence by noting “global climate depended on the amount of continental surface area exposed above the ocean surface, the amount of heat received by the sun, volcanic activity, and even the kind of life existing on Earth during a given geologic time-frame.” Why, how silly is that, when every good Xtian knows Goddidit:

A young-earth view of history involves global climate change, too. God created a world completely suited for His purposes. It was a world with a climate ideal for life. But our sin brought God’s curses on the earth and all its processes. The earth’s climate drastically changed because of God’s judgement through the global Flood. We believe that the Flood set up the conditions for a global cooling period that produced a single Ice Age.

Since then, they say, outside of a few assorted mini-Ice Ages, the earth has gotten warmer and warmer. And the Bible sez it’ll keep changing! But don’t worry! Because Genesis 8:22! Here endeth climate history!

At this point, I would like to remind you that this utter poppycock is being presented as actual science to Christianist high school students. Kids who are, in fact, being told they can go to college and earn STEM degrees and become real live scientists after studying this nonsense.

This is nothing short of educational neglect and negligence.

And it’s making our survival as a species much more precarious than it would otherwise be. It’s this fucked-up fundamentalist thinking that’s got the United States shirking its duty on combating global warming, and arguably aggravating the problem. We’ve lost time we can never make up because of these people. And they’re the same ones who will ensure our politicians do nothing to help the people suffering the effects of their ignorance, yet scream like banshees if their own comforts aren’t seen to. They’re the ones sinking the boat, then taking every life jacket for themselves – of which there aren’t enough because they didn’t believe in the need for safety measures to begin with.

Gah. I’m too pissed to finish, and besides that, I have a feeling the BS factor is about to increase exponentially. Until next time…

Adventures in ACE IX: More Senseless about Sedimentary

We left our merry band of Creationists, so ignorant even other YECs can’t stand ‘em, breezily ignoring all the sedimentary rock in previously-frozen wastes. Now we shall continue on while they butcher the rest. I hope you have hair. You’re gonna need some to pull out. If nature has blessed you with a pate that requires no shampoo, you may wish to glue some locks to your noggin. Don’t worry about having to acquire appropriate hair-care products: they won’t be there for long.

Now just imagine having to read this tripe repeatedly…

Image is a polar bear standing against a rock wall with its front paws over its face. Caption says, "Ahhh, the horror! Make it stop."

The ACE folks must have heard a few facts about how rocks can form once, long ago, third-hand, and remembered a few bits. They know heat and pressure come in somewhere. So they just have the Floodwaters pile up “many feet (meters) above the mountains, pushing down on the layers with tremendous force.” A bit of hand waving about the pressure heating the sediment, and by gosh, you’ve got instant rock!

Um.

No.

You can’t just pile a bunch of water on sediment and get rock. Limestone’s happy to lithify pretty quick, sometimes, but your basic sandstones and shales, they need plenty of time. Sure, they need to be compacted, probably, but they’ve also got to get rid of excess water, and some nice chemicals to stick the grains together would be favorite. Also, when it comes to really fine grains, you’ve got more trouble than just the long periods they need to finally settle out. There’s a bigger problem: “Simple loading of other materials on top will not do; trapped water in the muds would cause sudden liquifaction of the entire mass…”

Whoopsies.

Then they have the supposedly-lithified layers of sediment getting up to all sorts of shenanigans “[d]uring and immediately after the Flood.” One would think Noah & Co. would’ve noticed all this snazzy new rock acting like it was suffering from St. Vitus’s dance, especially once they’d landed, but nobody saw fit to mention it in the Bible.

Well, perhaps Noah was just too drunk to remember.

Painting shows Noah passed out drunk and nearly nekkid. His sons surround him, putting a red blanket over him, with a bit already strategically draped over his nads. One of the kids looks disturbingly like he's about to feel daddy up.

Giovanni Bellini’s Drunkennes of Noah, ca 1515. Image courtesy Art Renewal Center.

Set aside the handful of hair you’ve ripped out and grab another: Mr. Wheeler’s about to explain about thrust faults. Ha ha ha psych! There are no thrust faults in fundie-land! All you geologists who’ve found old strata on top of young, and found evidence that the strata was overturned and put out of order by faults – you’re wrong! Science sez!

“Scientific examination shows further that some of these supposedly ‘out-of-order’ strata were smoothly deposited on top of each other, not pushed on top of each other.”

We’re told that it’s totes impossible for ancient limestone to end up on top of feisty young shale in Glacier National Park, because it’s really really big, and “Scientists have demonstrated that sliding such a large layer of rock for such a distance would be physically impossible even if the layers of rock were well lubricated.”

Oh, Mr. Wheeler, I have the oddest feeling you know nothing of lubrication, much as your “scientists” know nothing about thrust faults. There was no smooth deposition of old limestone atop young shale, and certainly not a solid, well-lubed or not, layer measuring “350 miles (560 km) wide, and 6 miles (10 km) thick” sliding up and over all in one go.

When a fault moves (for example during an earthquake) movement does not occur all along the fault, and those parts of the fault that do move are not in motion at the same time. An earthquake originates at a point along a fault, and the deformation caused by the earthquake propagates away from that point along the fault, until it dies out. The deformation also does not occur along the entire length of the fault. These observations are based on records of earthquake motions, such as those associated with the Great Alaskan Earthquake, recorded by seismometers. Similarly an earthquake along the San Andreas fault will not result in motion along the entire fault. The claim that the stresses required to cause movement along a thrust fault are large enough to shatter the rocks is based on the assumption that movement along the fault occurs simultaneously. This assumption is not valid, and any calculations made based on that assumption will be wrong.

My gosh, it’s as if the people putting words in Mr. Wheeler’s mouth know nothing about actual science, innit?

Image is a diagram showing the Lewis Overthrust and the other rocks and ranges of Glacier National Park.

Geologic Cross section of Glacier National Park, Montana, USA. Showing the Lewis overthrust fault and the proterozoic rocks above it. Image and caption courtesy Benutzer:Xavax via Wikimedia Commons.

According to the ACE geniuses, high pressure hardens fishies into fossils. No attempt is made to explain why the Flood did this to some of the animals it buried, but fossilized only hard bits like bone and shell for other animals, and pressured only impressions of some. But don’t be surprised Mr. Wheeler’s puppeteers don’t grok fossilization – these are the same folks who point to tree trunks buried upright and scream triumph when geologists actually do know that, yes, sometimes, different sedimentary layers are deposited quickly enough to preserve perishable things like standing trees. They also have a hard time comprehending things like, oh, say, whales getting fossilized in the horizontal, then tilted along with their layers later. No, their rigid faith in the Bible requires them to believe all this stuff happened practically instantly, so they deliberately misunderstand (or outright lie about) fossils like their beloved Santa Barbara whale. And we know it’s willful ignorance or deliberate deception, because scientists have had such polystrate fossils figured out since the 19th century.

No amount of creationist crap on sedimentary rock would be complete without them babbling about bats buried in flowstone. They get positively giddy at the thought of stalagmites forming quickly. Mr. Wheeler tells us that there’s a particular one growing by at least “2.5 cubic inches (41 cm^3) per year.” I tried and failed to find the origin of this claim. It appears not to have come from proper scientific investigation, but has been extracted whole from a creationist bunghole. They may also be conflating what grows in caves with the stuff that grows from water percolating through concrete or masonry, which is a completely different chemical reaction. As for their precious preserved bat – it’s pure bullshit.

Mr. Wheeler ends by telling us about shale, which was once clay mud hardened by – you guessed it – the Flood. You know, aside from the whole aforementioned liquefaction problem, there’s also the sad fact it takes bloody ages for clay to settle out of still water, and won’t settle well at all in turbulent water – a fact I’m sure all in the audience who made mud puddles and whirlpools with their garden hose can attest to.

It’s at this point that I pause again to marvel at the fact that ACE is a complete inversion of the natural order of textbooks; which always contain some errors, but are in the balance correct. These PACES seem to hail from some Bizzarro World where textbooks are meant to consist of endless errors, with the occasional lonely accurate fact stranded like a pristine kernel of corn in the midst of the sludge.

Next, we shall see how they muck up the metamorphic rocks. I hope all that hair you ripped out grows back rapidly – you’ll be tearing it out again shortly.

Image shows a cat with a shaved body and a disgruntled expression. Caption says, "Wut yoo lookin at?"

New at Rosetta Stones: Stories from Survivors of Creationist “Science” Education

I’m republishing our Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education series over at Rosetta Stones. The posts are essentially the same, but with fewer in-jokes (like the word “Christianist”), and aimed toward an audience whose computers (or brains) have naughty-word filters. There will be places where I’ll add direct invitations to creationist students to really think about what they’re learning. I’m also letting through some creationist comments I’m getting, in case you want to go have fun with their myths, misconceptions, and outright ignorance about science. I’ve already had a dude making the “we only use 10% of our brains” claim – it’s hilarious. I’m still contemplating how much creationist schlock I’ll allow to clog up my comments section, but I actually haven’t gotten much. I’m impressed.

Image shows a priest at left saying, "No question!! God did it!! God wills it!!" and a professor at left holding chalk in front of a chalkboard and saying, "Do you have any questions?" Caption says, "Religion vs. Science. Faith does not give you the answers; it just stops you asking the questions."

And I’ve had a ton of comments from people who fully support robust science education. And then there are my favorites: comments from people who survived that creationist crap and managed to discover what science really is later on. Some of them broke my heart. But all of them give me a lot of hope. At least some of these kids make it out.

Please go read their stories, and if you have a story of your own, I’d absolutely love for you to share it either here or there. All my respect and support to you!

Image shows the Eleventh Doctor, pointing at someone off-camera. Caption says, "Who's awesome? You're awesome!"

Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education IVc: Wherein the Climate Heats Up

Onward, Christianist weather! We’re warming up with some global warming talk today. While SPC was content to devote a mere text box to climate change, basically blowing raspberries at anyone who gives a shit about it and waving off dramatic increases in greenhouse gas emissions by proclaiming hey, plants love carbon dioxide!, BJU’s Earth Science 4th Edition isn’t satisfied with blurting a few facts and moving on. No, there’s a whole chapter on the subject. And, people, they are the totes reasonable ones. They’re right in the middle. Look: they sneer at both sides!

They begin with a very telling couplet of sentences:

You’ve probably heard a lot about climate change. And you’re probably wondering what you should think about it.

This right here encapsulates exactly the attitude shared across all three Christianist curricula: they aren’t here to teach kids how to think. They’re telling them what to think. There’s only one way – God’s way – and they all have the direct line to the Almighty. Never mind they’re all hearing different things when they call. They have the answer (theirs God’s), there’s only one correct way to think about things (theirs God’s), and by God, you will think exactly what they God tells you to think. (Nevermind that God appears to have told the three textbook writers different things. I’m sure it’s just one of those ineffable mystery thingies, or the other two are delusional, or something.)

Image shows a white and orange cat bopping a gray and white tabby on the nose. Caption says, "BJU cat sez, "No, this what bible meanz."

Image courtesy Nathan Vaughn
via Flicker (CC BY 2.0). Caption by moi.

So let’s find out “what you should think,” per BJU’s God.

The first thing is not to think like those Christians.

Some Christians reject the principles of environmentalism because they associate them with the extreme views of people who worship nature and violently protect animal rights. These believers go in the other direction, polluting and consuming Earth’s resources with no concern about conservation. They may think, “God is going to burn up this world some day soon anyway and create a new one. So there’s no need to worry about using the earth and its resources wisely, right? This view is anti-environmentalism.

Well, that sure told them. Are you listening, A Beka and ACE? Herngh??? You’re not thinking right!

Now, I hope you were running low on straw, because ES4’s having a fire sale:

There are also radical environmentalists who view people as nature’s biggest problem. Man’s works are evil. Nature is good. Population growth is bad. Technology consumes Earth’s precious resources and pollutes. “Mother Earth” must be protected at all costs because we came from the earth through evolution.

Ah, how sweet of them to call everyone who thinks we should, maybe, y’know, save the planet we live on from our own predation because hey, we live here “radical environmentalists.” It’s kinda like how all the folks who think hey, mebbe we should stop being so shitty to women are “radical feminists.”

And, like MRAs, they want us to know that we are so wrong, you guys. We’re defying God! Humans are the bestest, He said so! And those other Christians are wrong, too, because we’re stewards! God said so!!

Oh, and the “climate change debate” is “a crusade of extreme environmentalists.”

Oy.

Well, at least they believe saving animals from our own stupidity like oil spills, doing some recycling, and engaging in some energy conservation glorifies God. Baby steps.

Image shows a swimming dog with bulging eyes, getting ready to bite a bottle floating in the pond with him. Caption says, "How many times do I have to tell you that this goes in the recycling bin???"

All that’s the first page of the chapter. Laying it on with a trowel, they are. Fortunately, aside from a not-funny cartoon about a teenage girl using global warming as an excuse to buy a new wardrobe, they dial back to just-the-facts mode. They do a fine job explaining things that affect climate, like latitude, ocean currents, topography, and so forth. No God talk ensues until we turn the page and run smack into a text box about the Canopy Theory. Yes, that canopy. Oh, dear.

We’re told to “imagine the rain pounding on the Ark’s roof,” and where did all that water come from? (And why doesn’t ES4 mention it would’ve been boiling?) We’re treated to vapor canopies and proof texts. There’s an illustration of the vapor canopy that looks like an orange wrapped in a coffee cup sleeve. They fuss over how the Hebrew word raqiya should translate. They dither with Russell Humphrey’s idea that God made a bunch of stuff with two different gobs of water, and hey, even though “we don’t know as a certainty how God actually created the universe,” that totally fits the Bible, right? Only to become shocked – shocked, I tell you – that actually modeling this canopy thing shows either a) Earth was broiling hot like Venus or b) you could hardly get your ankles wet with the rain resulting from the canopy collapse. And the authors conclude that the canopy’s probably a dud, because the dude who came up with the original vapor canopy theory was one of those freaks who believe in an Earth that’s millions of years old. Harrumph.

This would be adorable if it wasn’t in a book claiming to be an actual science textbook.

Following, we have a long section about climate zones, which could use a little more detail on their map, plus someone who knows what a saguaro cactus is (“Towering Sonora cactuses?” *snortle*) Otherwise, it’s not bad, and is a nice introduction to the concept of climate zones.

But we get a hefty dose of OMFG with the “Serving God as a Climatologist” box. They wax nearly lyrical over Lonnie Thompson, who “may have spent more time than anyone else in the world above an elevation above an elevation of 18,000 feet.” He is, they say, “trying to preserve history in the ice.” Now, you may get the impression that Dr. Thompson is a creationist, considering how these creationists are salivating over him. He is not. In fact, he is a pretty important scientist on the climate change front, and so the staff writing ES4 have a shiny-sharp knife for his parka’d back:

Dominion Opportunities

A secular climatologist’s work is impressive and can be difficult, but he is missing something big. His data is valuable and is needed by the climate change debate, but his interpretation is affected by his worldview. What he interprets as annual changes in ice over thousands of years may actually be a record of individual storms over a much shorter period of time. Secular, old earth views of history reject the authority of God’s Word.

Waal, that’s a fine fuck-you to Lonnie, innit?

The current controversy over climate change highlights how this science and the politics it drives can touch our daily lives. We need more Christians in this field to build solid scientific models based on the true history of the earth – the one found in the Bible.

So. These little ratfuckers want to infiltrate scientific fields, shit all over the data scientists like Lonny T have sweated blood and risked their lives to obtain, and force everyone to follow their fairy tales, which basically means allowing the world to broil to death because we can’t see reality for what it is.

I don’t like ‘em and can’t trust ‘em. Nor should anyone who works with one of these voluntarily delusional fuckwads.

I shall let Dr. Thompson have a stern word:

Thompson dismisses skeptics who contend that the current warming trend is due to a natural cycle. “Name one who has ever really studied climate or collected data,” he says. “I bet you can’t.” Glaciers, he adds, “have no political agenda. They don’t care if you’re a Democrat or a Republican. Science is about what is, not what we believe or hope. And it shows that global warming is wiping out invaluable geological archives right before our eyes.”*

Image shows a man wearing a fur hat, sunglasses, an ice-goatee on his beard, and a black jacket with snow on it. He is looking into the camera with a no-nonsense attitude.

Lonnie G. Thompson during an Antarctic Expedition in 1974. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Yeah. Something tells me he’d have zero sympathy for BJU’s “but that’s not what God says” shenanigans.

You’d think, after a post this long, that we’re done with this chapter. But no! There’s a whole ‘nother half devoted specifically to climate change. Buckle in, kids, and be sure to wear your best crash helmets. I have a feeling the next post is gonna get wild and wooly.

 

*I believe that, my darlings, is the rhetorical equipment of bringing a howitzer to a knife fight. Lonnie is awesome.

Adventures in ACE VIII: Senseless About Sedimentary

Please tell me you’ve set up a padded room so you can read these posts in safety. I’d be inconsolable if you did yourself an injury because of these explorations in the whacky world of ACE.

I’m telling you right now: don’t keep reading until you’ve rage-proofed your room.

You know enough Flood “geology” bullshit by now to know that nothing good can come of creationist ignoramuses talking about sedimentary rocks. So let’s ease in by noting some good news: turns out you can be a dentist if you’re a brown person in ACE world, as long as you’ve got the proper equipment. No, not that equipment – I mean the biological stuff. Y’know, the ol’ meat-n-taters. You women are probably too busy squeezing out babies to drill teeth.

Image shows a two-panel comic. First panel shows a dentist's office with the chair and dental equipment. A South Asian or African American dentist is poking in a blond white boy's mouth, asking, "Well now, Happy, what kind of filling would you like in your tooth?" Second panel is a close-up of the boy and the dentist. Happy is saying, "Strawberry! Ha-ha." The dentist says, "Ha-ha!"

Cartoon from ACE PACE 1086.

And what a horrible dental joke has to do with sedimentary rock, I’ll never know. I suppose it’s what happens when you’ve rotted your brain with too much Bible.

Anyway. The spectacularly ignorant Mr. Wheeler will now proceed to explain about sedimentary rocks. He tells us that the ocean floor’s lots like the continents. It’s got “mountains, hills, valleys, and plains as features of [its] surfaces.” He then says that “the ocean floor is covered mainly with sedimentary rock.” Which is a little deceptive. Yeah, the floor’s covered in lots of places with sediments, but those sediments aren’t all lithified, and the floor itself, along with most of the mountains and islands, is overwhelmingly basalt.

He then claims that the sediments on the ocean floor are mostly the same stuff as on the continents, aside from when they were deposited. “Sediment on the ocean floor, such as that shown by our core sample, has been deposited mainly since the Flood, while sediment covering continents was deposited mostly during the Flood.”

So. Much. Wrong.

Firstly: sediments on the continents vs. those on the ocean floor are pretty distinct. You’re not going to find alluvial, aeolian, fluvial, lacustrine, deltaic, tidal, lagoonal, and beach sediments in the deep ocean. Turbedites, reefs, biogenic oozes, and similar aren’t forming on land.

Secondly: while it’s true that sediments on the current ocean floor are young in comparison to most of the sedimentary layers on the continents, they’re still upwards of two hundred million years old in places. Sedimentary rock has been deposited on Earth for billions of years. Land sediments did not all form in one Flood event. They couldn’t have: there are miles-thick layers that could only have formed under the sea, over huge spans of time. Subaerial deposits, evaporites, and paleosols couldn’t have been deposited by Flood water.

Some of the statements this PACE makes are just head-slappingly ludicrous. “Strata of Earth’s sediment can be found even on the tops of the tallest mountains – one more evidence that the Flood once covered the entire Earth.” No, Mr. Wheeler. That notion may not have sounded quite so ignorant in the 19th century*, but plate tectonics has dealt that idea a mortal injury.

But that mountain o’ fail is but a speck as compared to this “explanation” of the Grand Canyon:

The waters of the Flood cut through newly deposited layers of sediment and formed the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River.

FFS. How do I disprove thee? Let me count (a few of) the ways: 1. Meanders. 2. Vertical walls. 3. Single river channel. 4. No slumping. 5. Where are the ginormous canyons carved by the self-same Flood on other continents, hmm? Oh, and let’s not fail to mention: 6. Aeolian sand dunes. 7 Lizard tracks. 8. Karst.

Shall I go on? We could be here for days.

Mr. Wheeler goes on to babble about bent strata. It’s a bit unfortunate that their illustration of bent strata looks more like lithified sand dunes.

Image shows a sandstone cliff. It's supposed to be illustrating bent strata, but looks more like cross-bedded sand dunes.

Bent strata photo from ACE Science PACE 1086.

“This bending and twisting,” we’re told, “was caused by powerful forces inside our Earth.” Do you want to know what those “powerful forces” are? Ha ha, this is ACE, silly. They can’t explain stuff like that, because God did it, and God works in mysterious ways. That’s not actually stated, but one gets the impression this is why they’re so ignorant of this stuff.

They can’t tell us what they are, but they’re certain “those forces were more active during and immediately after the Flood. Most of the major changes in strata were made then.” Fuck the evidence plate tectonics may be as young as 300 million years or as old as 1.6 billion years, amirite? Not to mention the fact a hella large amount of deformation was going on, sans Flood, since the earth cooled enough for magma to begin forming a crust.

Next, Mr. Wheeler gives us a rather risible precís of how things went during the Flood, by way of explaining how sediments become rocks. He cites three sources for all that water: from under the crust, from the vapor canopy, and from the ocean rising. I wonder how the oceans rose – I mean, if they’re a separate source of water, what mechanism caused them to rise? But we can’t expect people ignorant enough to keep on about the vapor canopy, long after their very own YEC pals proved it impossible, to come up with a plausible explanation for rising oceans.

But the real howler is when they claim the Ice Age happened during the Flood. I don’t think any other creationists have been quite this spectacularly stupid:

As the water fell, the warming effect of the canopy was gone, causing Earth’s temperature to fall rapidly also. Giant sheets of ice formed over the poles, Canada, and northern Europe, preventing the depositing of sediments. Animals, such as the wooly mammoth, were trapped and quick-frozen in the ice with their meals still in their mouths and stomachs.

Oy. Once again, I marvel at the astonishing amount of wrong ACE writers manage to stuff into a paragraph. For one thing, creationists have known since 1979 that the canopy would have boiled Earth. They’ve never been able to get around that, aside from ignoring physics completely. And if they fiddle with it to try to bring the temps down, they still run head-on into physics facts: that much water falling that fast from that height woulda become super-heated steam, not freezing rains.

As for glaciers preventing the deposition of sediment… sorry, ACE people, but YEC Michael Oard begs to differ. Let’s see… 20 km of sedimentary rock was laid down in the Jeanne d’Arc Basin near Newfoundland, Canada… Walt Brown sez lotsa debris from all over the world dumped on northern Europe, and Antarctica is lousy with sedimentary rock. Oh, and just to rub some salt in creationist wounds, Tiktaalik, a lovely transitional fossil, was found in the Arctic Circle. In sedimentary rock. Boo-ya.

Photo of Tiktaalik fossil in matrix. Image courtesy Ghedoghedo via Wikimedia Commons (CC 3.0)

Photo of Tiktaalik fossil in matrix. Image courtesy Ghedoghedo via Wikimedia Commons (CC 3.0)

As for the flash-frozen mammoths: pure, unadulterated bullshit. I mean, seriously.

All right, that’s enough sedimentary silliness for now. We’ll finish this nonsense next week. Stay tuned: you’ll be amazed at what they’ve done with stalagmites.

 

*. Even Leonardo da Vinci knew the Flood story was complete bollocks as a scientific explanation – and this was back in the 16th century. So I am being very, very generous.

An Apt Analogy for Varieties of Creationist

I don’t know if any of you read Paul Braterman’s blog, Eat Your Brains Out. No, it’s not a blog about zombies, although occasionally Jesus is mentioned. It’s actually a blog about science and creationism, and I’ve now read it in its entirety. Great stuff within.

And, sometimes, a very funny and apt bit. Paul took on the arguments of mathematician and theologian John Lennox, who rejects this god-of-the-gaps nonsense, yet apparently associates with Douglas Axe, director of the Biologic Institute (part of the Discovery Institute; and Norman Nevin, a biblical literalist and Chairman of the Centre for Intelligent Design. Lennox took Lawrence Krauss to task for words about the Higgs boson being more important than God with a bit of a Ford analogy:

That is as wrong-headed as thinking that an explanation of a Ford car in terms of Henry Ford as inventor and designer competes with an explanation in terms of mechanism and law. God is not a “God of the gaps”,  he is God of the whole show.

And Paul took that analogy and ran with it to places where I’m sure Lennox would have preferred he not gone:

To pursue the Ford analogy further, Lennox believes that the car works because it is well designed, Axe believes that it works because there is a miracle-working mechanic inside the gearbox, and Nevin believes that it was sabotaged by the drivers’ grandparents.

Precisely. I don’t think anyone’s ever summed up the differences between old-school science-accepting theologian/scientists, intelligent design proponents, and Biblical literalists more succinctly. I laughed.

Image shows a blueprint for a Model T engine with God photoshopped in.

“The Engine of God” Original images courtesy Wikimedia Commons, photoshopped poorly by moi.

Ha Ha Ha Whoops. Also: Help Me Keep an Eye on Creationists

I’ve had myself so buried in Christianist textbooks, frantically trying to get this talk pulled together, when I wasn’t compulsively reading about the awful things police in Ferguson are up to now, I haven’t thought to keep an eye on my email… and it turns out that due to unforeseen circumstances, FtBCon’s postponed anyway. We’ll be trying again in a few months. So what does this mean? It means you’ll still get a talk on Why Geology Matters – To Creationists, only it will be a much better talk, because I’ll actually have gotten through these books. Well, at least through all the geology bits of the books. Ye gods, it takes ages to fact-check and debunk this stuff now that we’re in to the portions of Earth science Christianists love to hate.

Image shows an orange kitten sitting in a terra cotta pot, with one paw over an eye. Caption says, "Whew! Close Call!"

Thank you, all of you who helped me calculate mammoth populations! You’re amazing. You’ll also love the resulting post, although it’ll take a while before it comes up in the queue – trying to do this stuff in order.

Now I’m going to ask you all now to do me another favor: over the next few months, would you keep an eye out for any news about creationists and geology? It can be things like creationists infiltrating the American Geophysical Union or Geological Society of America meetings (again), creationists trying to sneak “Flood geology” in or fighting earth science standards, creationists trying to pull the wool over journal editors’ eyes and attempting to slip religion in to science publications, anything like that. You can send tips to dhunterauthor at gmail.

Some of you who are interested may want to join me for a private dry-run of said talk when it’s finished – if you’d like to help me not suck in public, and be one of the elite, exclusive ETEVers who gets to hear it first, let me know. We’ll set up a Google Hangout and do the thing when I’ve got it all written. And, if there’s room on the schedule and you’d be interested in joining me for a panel on Women in the Geosciences, also let me know that.

But wait! There’s More!

For the next few days, I’m preparing the Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education series relaunch, and also hating my uterus, and going to go photograph All The Sea Mammals for your squees and enjoyment. I’ll also have a social justice post up on our fucked-up police state and ways you can help soon. And there’ll be a little something over at Rosetta Stones eventually this week. I have a super-awesome geology comic book I was sent that I’m going to review for you, probably early next week. People, you have no idea how excited I am about it! But you will know. I’ll also be reviewing a book I read the other morning that will give you a whole other look at the Christianist homeschool life. It’s called Homeschool Sex Machine: Babes, Bible Quiz, and the Clinton Years. And yes, it’s as whacked as it sounds.

Also, YES I AM WRITING A BOOK ON MOUNT ST. HELENS I PROMISE. I know you won’t stop asking, and it makes me happy you don’t, but I figured I’d better reassure you. I’ll be jumping back into that series shortly as well. And yes, finishing the Seattle Seahawks rings. SO MANY THINGS TO DO.

There will also be a post coming soon on that awesome bird at Mount Rainier, and muchmuch more. Good times ahead! Now if you’ll excuse me for just a bit, I need to lose the last of my hair to the geology chapters in ES4 and continue arguing with my uterus over paying attention to the pain relievers I’m feeding it…