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…

Help Me Calculate Wooly Mammoth Populations

Ya’ll, I’m sorry, but I need you to put on your calculating hats and help a woman defeat creationists. I have numbers, but no higher math skills to work ‘em out*. Any of you care to calculate?

Here’s what I need to know: how many wooly mammoths can we expect 900 years after the Food?

Let’s give creationists the benefit of the doubt, and pretend Noah kept two wooly mammoths aboard. Let’s further say they were of breeding age when they got off the boat, and there was lots of forage, and they got it on right away. Here are the relevant stats, pulled from their closest living relatives, the Asian elephant.

Breeding age: 10-15 years until around 50-55

Gestation: around 18-22 months

Weaning: around 3 years

Which gives us a birth interval of about 4-5 years.

Life expectancy: roughly 60-70 years.

So, if our wooly mammoths pump out bebbies on the regular, and all is ideal, and we even let ‘em all live to ripe old ages, how many mammoths will we have after 900 years?

Herd of wooly mammoths. Painting by Charles R. Knight, image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Herd of wooly mammoths. Painting by Charles R. Knight, image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

I’ve got plenty of other ways to show that the creationist crap being spouted about wooly mammoths in this textbook is utter bunk, but it would be nice to hoist them by their own petard, while we’re at it. Thanks for your help, my more numerate darlings!

*Gawds, I can’t math. Up until pre-algebra, I was actually pretty good at the stuff, but I got jumped ahead before I had the proper foundation, then had a string of truly awful math teachers and never recovered. I shoulda kept up on the tutorials I was doing back in the early aughts, but I let my skillz atrophy because hey writers don’t need math right?

Let this be a cautionary tale to all aspiring authors: keep your math skills polished. Otherwise, you’ll end up on the intertoobz at three in the ay-em begging your readers to do the math for you and feeling a right nitwit.

Keeping Up With the Creationists Vol. I Issue 6: Cross About Cosmos

Yes, it’s been a while since Cosmos premiered, but the outraged cries of the creationists are always fun to revisit, or just savor for the first time. Make yourselves comfy: it’s going to be an awesome journey into the worlds of those who are really very upset that broadcast television had the audacity to feature real, unabashed science.

Image shows Neil deGrasse Tyson in front of an image of a planetary nebula or similar, holding a microphone. The caption says "Brace Yourself. Knowledge is coming."

Ima let the articles speak for themselves.

Salon – Watch out, “Cosmos”! The Holy Inquisition is not happy with you: “If you are the kind of Christian liable to get upset when scientists deploy their annoying facts to prove crazy stuff like their ‘theories’ that the Earth is older than 6,000 years or that the universe began with a Big Bang, then the resurrection of ‘Cosmos’ must be extremely irritating. First, those damned progressives stopped allowing the Church to burn heretics at the stake; now even Fox is broadcasting ‘science’ documentaries. Truly, to quote the great Erick Erickson, ‘we do live in a fallen, depraved world destined for the fire.’”

Happy Nice Time People – Creationists Watch ‘Cosmos,’ Emit Billions and Billions of Sad Words: “We must be reaching some sort of event horizon where evangelicals will participate in no culture whatsoever and will stop whining about it, right? Please? Today brings us the inevitable news that watching ‘Cosmos’ — a show that is (thank god) aggressively up front about explaining evolution — made creationists and fellow travelers SO MAD.

Science League of America – Cosmos & the Creationists: Why Some People Hate Science on Television: “It’s amazing—and somewhat disturbing—that in 2014 we’re still hearing the same anti-science arguments bandied around after 1980. But this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise; creationists haven’t had many original claims to make since the 1925 Scopes trial.”

The Austringer – “Cosmos” and the Bruno Flap: “Neil deGrasse Tyson’s rebooted ‘Cosmos’ series spent a chunk of time relating a version of the life of Giordano Bruno, including his interactions with the Inquisition of the Roman Catholic Church and subsequent burning at the stake.

This has proven unpopular with the heirs of the Inquisition and other nit-pickers.

Happy Nice Time People – Intelligent Design Proponents Still So Mad at ‘Cosmos,’ Still So Happy They Can Be Mad at ‘Cosmos’: “This week’s sadmad first. We tried — we really did! — to read all the words in the intelligent design shill blog Evolution News review of Cosmos episode two. SPOILER ALERT: They are extra special sugar on top mad about this episode, because Tyson basically said ‘evolution is real, haterz’ and dropped the mic. We even tried to diagram some sentences, because we are a full-service blog. Incompre-fucking-hensible. We did, however, get the gist of the thing, we think, which is that intelligent design IS TOO SCIENCE but also loves Jesus and they are way smarter than Neil Degrasse Tyson ipso facto QED. No matter how hard they try to fling graphs at you, at the end they inevitably circle the Jesus drain.”

Science League of America - Cosmos Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Facts: “Clear explanations of science are precisely what creationists most fear from Neil deGrasse Tyson’s series. They know their spurious arguments wither in the face of any clear presentation of the facts of evolution, especially when such a presentation is made without apology, and in a way everyone can understand.”

Butterflies and Wheels – But by rhetoric and emotion: “Science deniers don’t like the new Cosmos series, Chris Mooney reports in Mother Jones.

Well of course they don’t. That’s because it doesn’t go

God made this.

Then God made this.

Then God made this.

[Repeat until it's time for the commercials]”

Butterflies and Wheels – The infinite table: “The Huffington Post reports that some creationists are demanding ‘equal time.’

Sure. Let’s do that with everything. There’s a documentary about the Holocaust? Give equal time to David Irving. PBS broadcasts Eyes on the Prize again? Give equal time to someone from the KKK. A documentary about the millions killed by Stalin? Give equal time to a Stalinist – if you can find one.”

EvolutionBlog - The Script: “Prior to reading any essay about science and religion, do a search. If the words ‘nuanced’ or ‘complex’ appear then don’t waste your time. You’re about to get the script.”

Science League of America - Cosmos Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Silliness: “It’s remarkable that so many creationists evangelize the virtues of the competitive ‘free market’ except when it comes to what someone else creates, in which case they demand a ‘tax’ of equal time. Expend your effort and risk your fortune to create a science show, and there’s a creationist with his hand in your pocket demanding his share.”

AlterNet – Neil deGrasse Tyson Shows Why Small-Minded Religious Fundamentalists Are Threatened by Wonders of Universe: There have always been those who prefer a small, comprehensible cosmos, with human beings placed firmly at the center. The religious belief systems that posit such a universe were our first, fumbling attempts to explain the origin of the world, and they rarely share power gladly. Those who clash against conventional wisdom, who dare to suggest that the cosmos holds wonders undreamed of in conventional mythology, have always found themselves in grave peril from the gatekeepers of dogma who presume to dictate the thoughts human beings should be permitted to think.

The Raw Story – Neil deGrasse Tyson trolls creationists on ‘Cosmos’ with puny size of biblical universe: “Creationists complained last month that “Cosmos” didn’t even pay lip service to their beliefs and demanded equal time on the Fox program, but this is probably not quite what they meant.”

ThinkProgress – Creationism Is Not Being Ignored On ‘Cosmos’ — It’s Actually The Focus: “Tyson isn’t ignoring creationism. Creationists wish Tyson were ignoring creationism. Tyson is instead standing on creationism’s home turf and playing by their rules. (Every episode we’ve seen so far has contrasted the Church’s approach to these issues with science’s approach. I’ve read some complaints that Cosmos is too much in love with that old story where everything happens in Europe until white people arrive in the Americas and then some stuff gets to happen here too. But I think that complaint also misunderstands that the history of Christianity as its taught to American Christians is, by and large, that story — everything happens in Europe until some stuff starts to happen here). Tyson is taking creationists’ claims deadly seriously, and showing all the ways they’re wrong.”

 

Adventures in Creationist Earth Science Education IVb: Wherein I Forecast a Crisis of Faith

After the desert of Science of the Physical Creation, I’m hoping Earth Science Fourth Edition doesn’t let me down. When I read Christianist textbooks, I expect them to incorporate a bit more God into the instruction, but it seems like no one wants to admit that they think God controls the weather. Sad.

And the beginning of ES4′s chapter on Weather is positively crunchy. It’s all about wind as an alternative to fossil fuels. The authors insist we come up with better, cleaner solutions to humanity’s energy needs. Even the cross-box doesn’t gabble about God – it just wants us to consider the benefits and drawbacks of wind power. That’s… positively sensible.

Oy.

It doesn’t get any godlier as temperature, pressure, and wind are discussed. They even tell us why wind is named for where it’s blowing from rather than the direction it’s going: it’s because weather vanes point in to rather than away from the wind.

Image shows a cat standing on a scratching post, staring intently at something off-camera, with its tail held nearly horizontal. Caption says, "Weather vane kitteh smells tuna from the west."

That would make the wind a westerly, even though it’s headed east.

Thanks to ES4, something formerly nonsensical will now be a breeze to remember. Hur hur hur… sorry.

The chart showing us how to determine wind chill is also a nice touch. Very useful.

A sensible explanation of air pressure, winds, and prevailing wind directions ensues. Alas, they repeat the myth of the horse latitudes. Does no one check their etymology?!

In discussing local winds, they forgot to mention the warming powers of a chinook, but that’s small taters. I just remember it from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Long Winter. Kinda sticks in your mind after it seems like the world will remain frozen forever, and then this lovely wind appears and you hear dripping from the eaves and yay! everybody won’t starve to death in a snow-covered wasteland.

Speaking of wastelands, it sure does feel like we’re in a godless desert. But at last, in the Life Connection section on Winds and Migration, we get a little God!

The ability of many kinds of animals to migrate long distances and around seemingly impassible barriers are truly amazing. We don’t know if animals had to migrate when they were first created [Migration? In Eden? Srsly?! -ed], but if not, God certainly designed in them the ability to develop this essential skill.

Wait wait wait wait wait. So you’re saying here that God either a) created these critters as migratory animals or b) had ‘em programmed for it. Now, option A seems bloody stupid – where the fuck would they be migrating to in the Garden of bloody Eden? Hmmm? And why? No seasons, right? Always lovely? So that means option B. But B means God was setting up his creation to fall. Wot a rat bastard.

You know what? I bloody love that above-quoted paragraph. After pages and pages of basic weather, it sticks out like a burning bush, and I hope it cracks at least a few kids over the noggin with a meaningful knuckle and shouts, “Wakey wakey! Your entire fucking religion makes no damn sense!” It’s this kind of thing that can cause the hairline fracture that eventually causes the whole edifice of faith to shatter.

The god-talk ceases during the bits on humidity, clouds, and precipitation. There’s a wee bit o’ religion in the text box on acid rain, where the author says how we need to reduce pollution to get rid of acid rain:

For those sources under our control, we are obligated to reduce these emissions in order to exercise good and wise dominion in the world (Gen 1:28).

Yes, indeedy. Could you give your fellow Christianists at A Beka a ring and ‘splain this to them? That would be lovely. The jerkwads think they can run around polluting willy-nilly because God promised never to destroy the earth again (until he destroys it again, of course), so they could do with a stern “good and wise dominion” lecture. The environment thanks you.

Image shows a cat on a roof with its back legs extended, toes spread. Caption reads, "Solar collectors activated"

Seriously loving their environmentalism. I just wish their obligation extended to recognizing the actual age of the earth and stuff. Oh, and treating their fellow humans better would be lovely. But I haz a hope. If the idea that the environment is something we should take care of got through, perhaps it’s just a matter of time before the next generation of BJU kids are on about hippie Jesus and cry happy tears at gay weddings.

And, kudos where due, they get the difference between sublimation and deposition right.

Overall, not a bad chapter. A little light de-godding, and it would be fabulous for any secular school, even one with a great big social conscience. Flipping through the next chapter on Storms and Weather Prediction, it seems to be similar. I mean, they even go so far as to admit we may see more maritime Arctic air masses form as the Arctic ice cap melts.

They’ve also got what SPC hasn’t got: a discussion of orographic precipitation and rain shadows, a subject near and dear to the Pacific Northwest’s heart. They also talk about convergence, which is nice. Living in a convergence zone, I can tell you it has a hell of an impact on weather.

Thunder storms, ice storms, and snow storms are very well-described. And – brace yourselves – one of the photos shows a pair of black hands holding the hailstones that shattered a windshield. They actualy acknowledge that people of color exist! This is quite huge for a university that only began admitting some black people in 1975.

The section on tornadoes is lively and informative, with excellent pictures illustrating their power, and the Enhanced Fujita-Pearson Scale is shown and explained. A text box advises kids not to try being storm-chasers themselves, which is very sensible advice. Hurricanes bring on an excess of exclamation points, but aside from that, well done – especially explaining why the same type of storm has different names in different regions (“This policy became standard after studies indicated Asian people didn’t heed warnings of storms with unfamiliar Western names.”). They accept “culturally appropriate” without a quibble. Dominion doesn’t seem to extend to forcing the entire world to revolve around western naming conventions, then. Whether this is because of an acceptance of diversity of the soft bigotry of low expectations, I’m not sure.

They fall at the fence in their little text box about Hurricanes and Global Warming. Well, stumble. They try to play up the whole “we haven’t seen definitive evidence of a link yet” thing and downplay the fact that our climate models are saying but we’re definitely fucked later in the 21st century – the only question is how fucked? Current consensus hovers somewhere around fairly and very, with a possibility of very-very. But since ES4 wants to decrease emissions anyway, I’m content to let them work themselves gradually up to accepting anthropogenic global warming as reality. They’re getting there, and doing some of the right things along the way.

We don’t get god-smacked until the end of the hurricane section. Even then, it’s not “God sends hurricanes to punish us for Gay Pride parades,” but simply saying that “we have a duty both to God and to our neighbors, to understand severe weather so we can prevent loss of life and minimize damage where possible.” They emphasize not sacrificing life for property. It’s wrapped in godly language, but the sentiment is fully in line with humanist goals.

Their Facets of Meteorology box gives advice on staying safe in storms. They give many practical tips. They don’t advise you to pray. The only time they mention God is in the Life Connection bit about animals impacted by hurricanes, and there, they aren’t spewing nonsense about God specifically creating special senses or any of that rot. They’re saying animals suffer in natural disasters, too, and good stewards care for them like God commanded. These are good things to encourage people to do.

The info on weather maps is good and includes how meteorologists can use GIS for predicting weather and how it helps government officials plan their emergency response to major storms. That was very neat.

Now we learn how we can “Serve God as a research meteorologist.” Don’t get excited. God isn’t mentioned once outside of the title. It’s all about what research meteorologists do and how many different ways their research is useful, and what you need to study to become one. Le sigh. I expected more, ES4!

And the book even shows you can be a meteorologist if you’re black. What’s next, showing lady scientists?

(I snark, but I’m pleased. Very pleased. I love it when we’ve progressed so far even BJU’s trotting to catch up. I’m happy to see at least some influential fundies incorporating good ideas like equality and reducing pollution into their worldview. Perhaps someday they’ll catch all the way up.)

They end the chapter with a flourish of God’s commands and dominion and stuff, but it seems here like a formality. Meteorology seems one of those branches of science even creationists can’t fuck up too badly. I love watching the BJU folks get excited over the technology and encouraging kids to learn more. That passion may lead a few of them to delve deeper and discover actual science, which is so much better than most of the crap they get fed. Even if not, at least creationist kids who pursue a career in meteorology have a chance to make a useful contribution to the world. Shame some of them will use their weatherperson cred to prop up ridiculous bullshit in other scientific disciplines.

But if they read their review questions thoroughly, and really think about #10, we may find more of them losing their faith than we might expect:

Why does God permit destructive storms, especially those that result in huge losses of life?

A dangerous question, that, but one they must confront. I encourage them to consider it carefully.

The image shows a Roman mosaic of a skeleton lying on the ground. The caption contains a quote from Epicurus: “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”

Realizing this set me free of the fear of God. Once that bond was loosened, the others unraveled.

 

Oh, Christianist Lab Manual. You Make Me Snicker.

I’m about to bugger off for the weekend – I’m behind on about nine trillion fronts, and every time I try to catch up, life shoves another pile of Overwhelm™ atop me. So I gotta take some time to chill and also read the bajillion (okay, 12) papers I downloaded pertaining to the Oso Mudslide. The cat is also going through her spring uptick in energy, and considering she’s twenty years old, it’s something I’ll put everything else on hold to enjoy.

Everything except the BJU Earth Science 4th Edition Lab Manual.

I thought I might be disappointed by the thing, but the moment I got it and flipped to a random page, and saw “Explain why the Haber-Bosch Process is an example of humans following God’s command in Genesis 1:28,” I knew it would be all I’d hoped it would be.

Then I decided to look at exercise 5a, “Where Do Those Dates Come From?” Had to be sure I was getting your money’s worth (and thank you for that cash, my darlings – it’s allowed me to acquire us yet more fascinating yet horrifying creationist crap). Boy, am I. Because

After completing this lab, you will be able to:

✓construct a chronology using Bible dating information.

✓connect your chronology to a historical date to find the age of the earth.

That, my loves, is the Christianist version of a science lab exercise.

Some of the labs are straightforward and look like quite a bit of fun, like creating a barometer and such. Those things are so bland they didn’t even bother to throw goddidit into some of the exercises. But don’t worry. You’ll get plenty of biblical nonsense when we do labs for stuff like radiometric dating. You can hardly wait, amirite?

Image is a demotivational poster showing a flat earth perched on four pillars, with the rest of the solar system revolving around it. Caption reads, "Biblical Literalism: Getting science wrong for over 2,800 years!"

A Beka’s lab manuals are awaiting me in our apartment office. I may have to break my intended radio silence in order to give you some sneak peeks at those, too.

Alrighty. Must away. I’ll have some great stuff for ye soon!

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.

Adventures in ACE VII: Ignorant About Igneous

You’d think something as basic as the three basic rock types would be hard to screw up. But if there’s one thing the authors of ACE excel at, it’s abject failure to get anything right. I mean, a stray fact here or there sneaks in, but the poor lonely things are isolated, surrounded by vast tracts of utter wrongness. One wonders what they’re doing there.

So. Igneous. After the violence done to volcanoes, I’m sure you can’t wait to see what they do to the related rocks.

If you ever want to make batholiths sound boring, quote ACE. They probably haven’t got a thesaurus in the office, judging from the number of times they use “large.” They say that “large amounts of magma” “may spread out sideways over a large area under Earth’s surface.” And the “largest area in the United States of such spread-out hardened magma is in central Idaho.” They don’t mention what these “layers” are actually called, and they make it seem like a huge sill. I don’t think they realize these are batholiths, that the huge mass of magma they came from is a diapir, and they don’t talk about them slowly cooling. I can guarantee they don’t want to discuss how long it takes for 15,000 square miles (not 16,000, ACE) of magma to freeze.

But it’s not like they understand the massive amounts of heat involved in things like batholiths. This is clear in the next paragraph, where they say “God used the volcanic action of breaking up the fountains of the deep, along with opening the windows of heaven, to bring about the Flood.” You know, a lot of creationists seem to go on about things like epic amounts of volcanic activity and even “runaway subduction” – which is probably a concept too complicated for ACE writers. Not one of the people espousing such extra-biblical claims have dealt with the heat problem. You know, the one that would have boiled Noah & Co.

Image shows a lake with a huge mass of water boiling out of it. Boiling lake in Yellowstone National Park.Once Churning Caldron was a cool spring covered with colorful mats of microorganisms. This all has changed after earthquakes in 1978-79 superheated the water and killed the microbes. This once cool pool now averages 164°F and in 1996, it began throwing water 3-5 feet. Image and caption courtesy Brocken Inaglory via Wikimedia Commons.

Boiling lake in Yellowstone National Park.Once Churning Caldron was a cool spring covered with colorful mats of microorganisms. This all has changed after earthquakes in 1978-79 superheated the water and killed the microbes. This once cool pool now averages 164°F and in 1996, it began throwing water 3-5 feet. Image and caption courtesy Brocken Inaglory via Wikimedia Commons.

ACE goes beyond that: they’re still babbling about the bloody vapor canopy. Creationists David Rush and Larry Vardiman knew by summer 1990 that a vapor canopy would create temperatures far too high for life on earth. Even Answers in Genesis doesn’t spout this shit anymore. But this ACE PACE, revised in 1996, is blissfully oblivious, going on about the wonderful greenhouse the earth was pre-Flood.

Then the numbskulls thoroughly bork their own “theory:”

“Abundant evidence from the past shows us that intense igneous and earth-shifting activity occurred. This evidence indicates that a rapid build-up of intense pressure took place within our earth, causing the walls and ceilings of the conduits to crack, crumble, and then possibly explode as the water in them was turned into steam. Volcanic explosions and eruptions occurring with these disturbances would have caused great quantities of magma from Earth’s mantle to rise, together with vast quantities of hot water and steam.”

This stuff, per their Flood story, happened all over the world. All the volcanism from 4.5 billion to 4,000 years ago supposedly happened all at once. They talk about enormous amounts of volcanic activity unleashing torrents of hot water and steam, and yet it never occurs to them that the ambient temperature within a wooden boat sailing the boiling Flood would cook everything in it. That’s assuming the heat doesn’t melt the caulk and sink the damn ship.

It’s amazing how very good at bad thinking they are.

Image is a demotivational poster showing a derpy-looking kid at a computer. Caption reads, "Ignorance: Opinions with a lack of knowledge."

It gets worse. While they’re vaguely aware of what pumice is, and definitely know it can be used in really powerful soap, awareness is a mere anomaly. Take the very next igneous rock they attempt to describe:

Lava that flows into water cools quickly and hardens to form a second variety of igneous rock – a dense, black, glasslike rock called “obsidian”…. Cliffs of obsidian in Yellowstone National Park are proof that this dry area was once underwater.

Um. No. Obsidian doesn’t form underwater, and the Obsidian Cliff at Yellowstone certainly didn’t. It was a subaerial (under air) flow of thick, hot rhyolite that flowed from an older rhyolite plateau and filled a valley. There may have been a stream it buried, and it was later planed down by a glacier, but it’s never in its life been completely underwater. Also, it’s around 180,000 years old, which is about 172,000 years older than the earth according to creationists. Rhyolite flows are generally subaerial features, so no, the pumice and obsidian formed from them are not “convincing pieces of evidence that God used subterranean forces of the inner Earth to overthrow the world because of man’s sin.”

Jeez.

They then go on to proclaim Mt. Ararat to be a volcano “formed early during the Flood.” Their evidence? They say there’s pillow lava upon it, and pillow lava forms underwater, ergo gigantic Flood. Checkmate, atheists! There’s a few problems with that, even ignoring the age of the rocks. For one thing, the only sources babbling about pillow lava on Ararat are YECs. Quelle surprise. There may indeed be something up there, but I’ll bet you a dollar it’s either a wee patch o’ pillows formed in a lake, or spheroidal weathering.

A discussion of igneous rocks that form underground follows the above nonsense. It consists of a description of granite suitable for 1st graders – in an 8th grade book. They spend more time babbling about the things you can carve out of it than they do discussing what it is. They don’t stop their granite art history at Mount Rushmore, either – they also want us to admire the Confederate leaders carved into Stone Mountain, GA, because treason is totes okay when it’s slave owners entrepreneurs trying to protect their right to own human beings state’s rights. Oh, yeah – Stone Mountain is quartz monzonite, not granite. And it’s not one big boulder, as they claim – it’s a monadnock. A pluton. A big fucking mass o’ magma that cooled underground, not a gigantic 700-foot high boulder. And the ACE people’ve cut it short by 125 feet. See what I mean? They can’t even get the minor details right.

This following bit of dumbassery, however, might cause the geologically-savvy members of this audience to lose the last of their shit. Don’t have anything in your mouth for this next gem o’ wisdom:

Another type of igneous rock formed beneath Earth’s surface when magma cools is basalt.

Image is an ecard showing a person with their face in their hands. Caption says, "Congratulations. Your stupidity has exceeded the limits of my expectations."

Try gabbro, you ignorant gits.

Also, can someone tell me where they’re getting this idea that 3-10 miles of basalt underlies the entire lithosphere, including the continents?

This section ends on a pathetic note, where they say that the basalt “foundation of the Earth is permanent.” I hate to break this to them, but Psalm 104:1,5 is either metaphorical or a lie. There’s this thing called subduction, y’see, that recycles those “permanent” foundations every few hundred million years.

After that mountain range o’ wrong, I’m sure you’re thinking, “It can’t possibly get any worse.”

Oh, it can. Wait ’til you see what they’ve done to sedimentary rocks.

 

Here is a lolcat to soothe your tortured mind. Image is a demotivational poster showing a cat with glowing green eyes staring from a cone of newspaper. Caption says, "Volcano cat. Nowhere is safe."

Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education IIIb: In Which BJU Goes Yellow-Green

After A Beka’s nonsense about humans being able to do anything they want to the earth’s atmosphere because God will save it, it’s a bit of a shock to open to the Earth’s Atmosphere chapter of our BJU ES4 textbook and see, before anything else, a bit about “Killer Air.” Sure, they talk about how God wants to fill the earth right up with people. But they admit air pollution is a problem. They even admit it kills people. And they want their readers to join in fixing it. They don’t leave the whole thing up to God.

Image is a gray cat looking very shocked. Caption says, "I am not often shocked. Right now I am totally flabbergasted."

ZOMG. Is BJU full of environmentalists? (Answer’s “not really,” but we’ll get to that).

Even flipping back a page to see the Unit 5* introduction doesn’t whack us in the face with God. They have a blurb from Michael Oard, Meteorologist, heading up this unit on the atmosphere. I know Oard’s a firm Young Earth Creationist. I’m currently reading an extensive treatise tearing his dumbassery apart. But all he talks about in ES4 is how weather is complicated and we don’t know a lot about it. Unlike SPC, ES4 saves the atmosphere for late in the book, so maybe they figure we know all the featured scientists are YECs by now.

But it’s clear from the beginning that, unlike A Beka, they’re keeping their indoctrination hammer in hand at all times, despite this rather mild start.

The first thing you notice when you get into the meat of the chapter is that whoever’s writing it has a much more informal, engaging style. In comparing our atmosphere to Jupiter, the author says, “Have fun trying to get a breath of fresh air there!” Shame about the “God created our Earth to be inhabited” schlock harshing the mellow towards the end. But the mellow’s unharshed by the next paragraph, which sounds like it was written by a leftist. I mean, they’re going on about reducing emissions and getting away from fossil fuels! I thought that was heresy.

They have my full and unstinting support right there. I can absolutely get behind the reduce-emissions-and-get-away-from-fossil-fuels agenda, and I’m thrilled to see it here, where I least expected it. More, please!

It’s BJU, so of course there’s a little cross-box trashing the Urey-Miller experiment, but the main text goes on to present “The Old-Earth Story.” They pollute the atmosphere a wee bit by saying secular scientists think everything is “pure chance” and “coincidence,” but then they do an honestly great job presenting the secular science understanding of Earth’s history, complete with bacteria evolving and pumping the atmosphere full of oxygen. Not a distortion, sneer, or smear throughout.

Nice. I hope that lodges in some young brains and gets the old synapses firing.

Next, “The Young-Earth Story” is told. It’s simpler, they say, and then go on to say they “don’t know when God created the atmosphere because it is not mentioned in the Creation story in the Bible.” They go on to assume God got round to it during all that firmament-forming, because plants would “need carbon dioxide and water vapor to live,” not to mention animals and humans definitely needing air to breathe the rest of Creation Week. And, of course, the atmosphere was “very good.” So good that “the Fall probably didn’t noticeably change the atmosphere very much.” But man, all that volcanic activity and changing oceans stuff during the Flood sure did! “We can still see the effects of these changes today,” but even though the Flood mucked it up, it’s still a pretty great exhibit of God’s design.

I invite you to compare and contrast Old vs. Young, and decide for yourselves which has got actual science in it.

Image shows a praying person on the left, and the Large Hadron Collider on the right. Caption says, "Questions about the nature of the Universe? Religion prays for answers... Science builds a 17 mile long, $5bn machine and gets them."

You know what’s totally sciencey, though? The imaginary space elevator we’ll be exploring the atmosphere in! But don’t jump in just yet – first, we have to learn about atmospheric chemistry, how it was discovered by several 18th century scientists, and that the abundance of nitrogen is all down to God. Nitrogen has a purpose, people: it’s there to dilute the oxygen so we don’t all burn to death. EVIDENCE!!!

The cross-box sidebar presents the vapor-canopy idea and points us to Chapter 21, where problems with it will be discussed. They’re not having any of that foolishness. Very refreshing.

They settle down to a sober discussion of the homo- and heterospheres. But to make up for three whole paragraphs without god, they have a big ol’ box on Larry Vardiman, who nearly lost his faith studying for a PhD in atmospheric science. Those pesky science facts and their refusal to conform to the Bible! But he chose the Bible, to hell with actual science, and went on to become COO for the Institute for Creation Research. Alas for him, he has a modicum of scientific integrity left, and so he’s had to accept that the vapor canopy is impossible due to the fact the earth would’ve boiled under it. ES4 is totally down with booting the canopy. (They’re more reticent about his admission that the YEC helium argument is total bullshit.)

But the real spit-take moment comes in the final paragraph of the blurb:

Our culture constantly attacks the Bible and its teachings. If you are ever in a situation that makes you question God’s Word, do what Larry Vardiman did. The Bible is rock-solid, worthy of your faith and belief!

And this, class, is why biblical literalists can never be actual scientists. This book is trying to ensure the poor kids reading it will never have a full and rewarding career doing genuine scientific research. They’ll never be complete, competent researchers if they take this advice. They’ll end up like Larry Vardiman, puttering around finding out that fables aren’t science but refusing to admit it at the Institution for Creation Research. It makes me sad.

Image is a cat lying down with its ears flat and looking rather depressed. Caption says, "You make kitty sad"

After that steaming pile, we go back to riding the space elevator (on a carbon nanotube tether!) through the various bits of the atmosphere distinguished by temperature. In fact, it’s all facts for this next section, which is about how atmospheric carbon and nitrogen get into living things. God gets a tiny incidental mention in a sidebar about fertilizer, but is otherwise absent. They make up for the lack at the beginning of the “Special Zones in the Atmosphere” part. We’re told those special zones “help improve our ability to put dominion into practice.” And since they’re there, God probably designed them. O-kay.

Amazingly, unlike A Beka’s SPC, ES4 admits the ozone layer not only had a hole in it, but was thinning, and this was no bueno. They even admit CFCs cause ozone to break down. But they stop just short of saying that banning CFCs was necessary. “Time will tell,” they say, “whether this was good and wise dominion or just scientists using an incomplete scientific model.” And they want us to hem and haw and play 20,000 Questions before we get crack-a-lackin’ on dealing with climate change.

It’s so very hard for these poor fools to accept overwhelming scientific consensus, innit?

Next, we learn that Christian missionary radio stations can use the ionosphere rather than communications satellites to spread their noxious bullshit. Joy. Also, God designed the magnetosphere to shield Earth and its passengers from intense solar radiation. Never mind that lifeless planets have got magnetospheres and Van Allen belts! They’re not exactly the same as Earth’s! We’re special, damn it!

Like SPC, ES4 acknowledges that most of the energy at the surface of the earth comes from the sun. Hello! Not a closed system!! Look, you guys just admitted the sun sustains “virtually all life on Earth”! That means there’s energy coming in from outside Earth, which powers this order from disorder thingy, which means you can stop babbling about the Second Law of Thermodynamics now. Wakey wakey!

Oh, who am I kidding? They’ll never admit their own facts contradict their thermodynamic nonsense.

They have a little info-box about the amount of solar energy reaching the earth’s surface. Unfortunately, they completely bugger the facts about the Krakatau eruption: yes, surface solar illumination was reduced, but not as drastically as they claim. Also, 1883-4 wasn’t the “year without a summer.” Wrong volcano, numpties.

The end of this chapter is a sad display of cognitive dissonance. On the one hand, the greenhouse effect is real. Thank God that God designed such a great atmosphere, which gives us sunny days without frying us in daytime and freezing us solid at night. That’s Gods Love, that is! And we’ve got to protect that atmosphere. But not so fast on the linking CO2 to global warming! What about water vapor, huh? Why don’t the scientists talk about that? (Um – perhaps because humans are pumping enormous amounts of CO2, not H2O, into the atmosphere?). And. And:

Living things need carbon from carbon dioxide. Efforts to reduce carbon dioxide into [sic] the atmosphere may actually be harmful, not helpful.

Image is a demotivational poster showing a forest canopy. Caption reads, "Al Gore Hates Trees. Carbon dioxide is plant food. Without it, plants die! With more CO2, plants grow faster! Being too "Green" isn't Green!

Apparently, they haven’t read SPC, which assures us nature pumps plenty of delicious CO2 into the atmosphere without us. So it’s okay, ES4 authors. We don’t need to spend the next several decades studying the effects of CO2 while the planet fries. We can reduce our emissions without starving plants, I promise.

Whelp, that was quite the odd mix. At least it appears environmental science is finally beginning to penetrate BJU brains. That’s far more than I could have hoped for.

Now if we could just wean them off the literal interpretation of Genesis…

 

*We’re going to be skipping round a bit so that we’re comparing topics. All the books have things in a different order from each other, but they’ve got the same basic stuff, and I thought it best to follow topics rather than chapters. Makes the differences and similarities between them all stark and stuff.

Adventures in ACE VI: Vacuous About Volcanoes

People, it took me days to fact-check the 31 (thirty-one) pages of Science PACE 1086. I’m boggled. I have no idea how they manage to get so much wrong. It doesn’t even make sense – I mean, there are several creationist canards, and I know why those are there, but they fail at facts that even Answers in Genesis gets right. It’s like they got their information about rocks from a source translated from French, which was translated from Tagalog, which was translated from a paper written in Pig Latin by someone who’d never seen a rock in their life, but heard something about them once.

Image is a demotivational poster of a derpy looking cat. Caption says, "SMRT. I am so smrt, s-m-r-t."

Take their inability to get famous volcanoes right. Not to mention their myths about medicine.

Like many people, they use erupting volcanoes as a metaphor for holding things in until you explode. Racer relates the story of how a boy at school offended him once, and he said nothing, but brooded. He worked himself into such a lather that he didn’t turn the other cheek when the boy offended him a second time. Don’t worry – there was forgiveness all round afterward, even from God hisownself! Racer’s dad, apparently a true believer in folktales about disease, solemnly informs him that holding in anger causes diseases like toxic goiter (nope), and ulcers (wrongo), and heart problems (well, I suppose one outta three ain’t bad). Then he equates the damage angry people cause with the devastation caused by volcanoes. Like Tambora. Which he then proceeds to bork.

Tambora’s eruption was huge, yes, but not 150 km³ of material big. Upper estimates are 50 km³ – some put the total as low as 30 km³. The caldera (not crater!) it left is big, but not 11 km – try 6-7 km wide. Weirdly, after exaggerating everything else, they get the height too short by nearly 1000 feet: Tambora lost 4921 feet off its top, not 4000.

As far as their claim that “A tremendous amount of pressure, over 46,000,000 pounds per square inch (3,000,000 kg/cm2), caused the Tambora eruption,” they seem to have pulled this from their asses. I can’t find that figure anywhere, not even on creationist sites. I’d march into their offices and demand they show me their sources, but I’m not willing to inspect some dude’s sphincter.

Mr. Wheeler, who knows bupkiss about ocean floor sediments, then chimes in to tell us that “Subterranean magma is under tremendous pressure because of the heat coming up from Earth’s mantle.” Yes, he doesn’t seem to realize magma is under pressure from the confining strata and dissolved gasses. It’s not mantle heat forcing it upward: it’s bloody molten rock, it’s plenty hot enough on its own, and it migrates upward due because of its lower density. Being all hot and molten means it’s more buoyant than the cold, dense country rock around it.

He’s also confused about the anatomy of a volcano: magma isn’t traveling up a pipe, it’s going through a conduit to a vent on the surface. Basic stuff any volcano diagram explains – and, oddly, the ACE writer putting wooden exposition in Mr. Wheeler’s mouth knows the terminology for dikes, veins, and sills, so I know they’re capable of looking this stuff up.

Volcano diagram courtesy USGS. Image is an erupting strato volcano with all the bits properly labeled, including the conduit and vent.

Volcano diagram courtesy USGS.

Of course, they can parrot a few facts they found somewhere, but they don’t seem to know what this stuff actually looks like in the real world. Dikes, they tell us, “resemble a thick tree trunk sticking up out of the ground” when the surrounding sediments are worn away. They actually look more like walls – it’s volcanic necks that may sorta-kinda look like tree trunks if you close one eye and squint real hard.

All this, of course, gives Mr. Loyalton a biblical tingle in his trousers, and he informs us such talk reminds him of Paul’s thorn-in-the-flesh, which God refused to remove. (II Cor. 12:8,9). Racer proves he’s becoming a perfect little godbot by finishing Daddy’s dubious comparison: “Just as the magma formed a hard igneous rock when it cooled in the weak places in earth’s crust, God sometimes allows things to happen in the weak areas of our lives to show His strength.” That’s right, Racer: your god is a sadistic fucker who likes to torment people at their most vulnerable. Exactly right.

Before we end this little sermon and pass on to yet more nonsense about Mount St. Helens, let us explore the ways in which their further “Facts From Science” are not actually factual. For instance, in the Etna box, we’re informed that “valuable fertilizers such as potassium nitrate and various phosphates are found in the volcanic ash that is blown out of the volcano.” I’d love to see the scientific paper that gem came from, because I couldn’t find a single source that says Etna’s ash contains any such things. I did learn a bit about those two salts. Potassium nitrate is the mineral niter, which seems to mostly occur as an evaporate deposit on cave walls. Phosphate in the form of apatite can be present in volcanic ash, granted – but most soils derived from ash need some time and modification to be productive. The volcano isn’t erupting ready-made free fertilizer, as this “fact” box implies. It’s not bloody Miracle-Gro.

ACE’s fact box about Mauna Loa would have us believe it erupts every 3.5 years. The actual average is about every 6, but it varies depending on which timespan you select. I have no idea why they think the average is 1 eruption per 3.5 years since 1950. Including the 1950 eruption and concluding with the first publication of this PACE in 1986, it’s only erupted 3 times in 36 years. That’s an actual average of every 12 years. I guess their average is an example of creationist math.

Not content to get the facts of the May 18, 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens completely wrong, they return to spew further ignorance. This is just – what is this I don’t even:

Mr. Wheeler, I read in our weekly science newsletter that scientists are watching the crater of Mount St. Helens very carefully,” said Racer. “The article stated that a blister, or dome, forms in the bottom of the crater each time the volcano quits erupting. If this dome in the crater begins to grow, scientists know that the volcano is about to erupt again.”

So. Much. Wrong.

First: it’s not a blister. “Dome” in this case doesn’t mean something hollow inside like the Tacoma Dome – this is a ginormous mound of solid lava. It doesn’t form after the volcano stops erupting: it’s part of the eruption. And, let me put this in a form creationists may understand:

IF THE DOME IS GROWING, THE VOLCANO IS ERUPTING. It is actively erupting. That is why the dome is growing. DOMES DO NOT GROW IF THE VOLCANO ISN’T ACTUALLY ERUPTING.

Gah.

Don’t make me talk about the fact they illustrated the concept of a dome by showing a drawing of a volcanic neck. Okay? We’ll get to the remainder of their ignorance about igneous next week. Right now, I am D-U-N done.

Image shows a volcanic diagram. Captioning reads: "WHAT Makes A Volcano Explode? 3 key elements combine inside the earth." The magma chamber is labeled "red food coloring," the cone is labeled "baking soda," and the lava erupting from the vent is labeled "vinegar."

This diagram is actually more scientifically accurate than Science PACE 1086.