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…

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."