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.

Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education IIIa: In Which A Certain Atmosphere is Created

After the absurdities of ACE and the travesty that is Bob Jones University’s idea of the earth sciences, it is almost with relief that I turn back to SPC. Oh, granted, it is also full of creationist crap – but there were some useful, even educational, bits, and I hope to find more.

Alas, my hopes are dealt a blow by the introduction to Unit I: Meteorology and Oceanography. Beneath the facing photo of sailboats, Psalm 115:16 sez God gave humans the earth, and the first sentence of the chapter is, “God created the earth’s atmosphere…”

Let us pause here to observe just how such a statement can send you haring off in the wrong direction.

We’re assured that the atmosphere’s got all the right stuff for people and animals and plants. Inquiry shuts down here: you’re left with nothing to do but describe what that right stuff is. You don’t ask the critical questions that can lead to so much discovery: why is it the right stuff? Was it always this way? Could it have been another?

Nope. God made it this way because it’s the right stuff for the living things he made. That’s the way he made it, and of course it wasn’t ever different. Turn off the lights and lock up the lab: we’re done here.

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

Many true facts about the atmosphere are hurled at us. Creationists love facts: they feel all sciencey when they recite them. After lotsa facts, we’re told, “Oxygen and carbon dioxide are kept in balance through God’s provision,” which probably isn’t a testable hypothesis. (However, if we can determine what the proper balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide are, we can certainly find out if they are in balance, and if they are not, we know either that there is no God or he’s a lazy SOB who doesn’t do his job.)

SPC manages to avoid god-talk for several paragraphs while describing the troposphere and stratosphere, but loses its restraint when it comes time to talk about the ozone layer. That’s the shield God gave us to protect us from UV, you see. Also, apparently, doctors only recommend that people at lower latitudes wear sunscreen.

I hope the poor fools have more sensible doctors in real life. I may disagree with nearly everything they teach and believe, I think their views are toxic, and I want to see their numbers dwindle, but by figuring out fundamentalism is a crock and leaving it for happier worldviews, not because they’re all dying of skin cancer.

The next several pages, which describe the rest of the atmosphere, are factual and god-free. It’s about what you’d expect from a secular textbook – I kept having flashbacks to my Physical Geography class, although that was college level and had Jim Bennett to make it more interesting.

Section 2.2, Heat and the Atmosphere, begins well – the first paragraph in which we’re told “large hurricanes release the energy of 400,000 atomic bombs in a single day” grabs the old attention. But since they conclude that all this fantastic energy comes from the sun, I’m left with a question: how the fuck do creationists not get that Earth isn’t a closed system? I mean, seriously. The proof that it isn’t is right there in their own book.

They even understand the greenhouse effect. They manage to describe all about insolation and perihelion vs. apehelion and the greenhouse effect, including some of the primary greenhouse gasses like CO2, without going goddy once. Then they go completely off the rails in their “Global Warming: Fact or Fancy?” special segment. Seriously. They hit all the AGW Denier/Fundie Christian high points, like Nature contributes lots more CO2 than humans do! And freakouts over national sovereignty, and temperatures fluctuate anyway, so there! They even hit the senatorial dumbshit high point by declaring that more CO2 is just awesome for the plants! Then they finish with this jaw-dropping statement:

As Christians, we can rest in God’s promise that “while the earth abideth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” (Gen. 8:22) While it is our responsibility to do all within our power to protect the world God has given us, we must always remember that the fate of the earth rests in the hands of its Creator.

You know, I peeked ahead in our BJU book, and guess what? They’re actually somewhat sensible about this shit. They don’t exactly admit that we’re fucking our shit up, but they’re all about the getting off the fossil fuels, cleaning up the environment, and keeping the pollution down to a minimum, because that’s what sensible and responsible stewards should do. I don’t want to give too much away here, but let’s just say I can see myself having a sensible, practical conversation with a BJU ES4 student about ways we can reduce our impact on the environment, even though we agree on virtually nothing else. But SPC students?

Image is split: top half shows a kitten with its mouth open, looking like it's laughing. Bottom shows the same kitten with its mouth closed. Caption reads, "Haha... No."

SPC’s no more than I expected. I’m finding it interesting, though, that in this chapter, most of the God crap has been corralled off to the side. The main text sounds like it was written by a sensible secularist. We’re treated to a reasonable description of how heat is distributed around the planet, and general atmospheric circulation. After a long and helpful description of how high and low pressure regions and the Coriolis effect, they seem to remember they’re a Christian textbook and pop a little box with Eccl. 1:6 in it, but it’s easily ignored. The only bit that’s a bit off in all the talk of winds is that they get the etymology of the horse latitudes sorta wrong, repeating the folk notion that it was about actual dead horses, when the more likely explanation is a bit more bizarre. But really, it’s of critical importance only to people who care deeply about etymology, so I can give that a pass (sorry, etymologists!).

And… that’s it. Wot an anticlimax. This is practically public school education, if you skip the goddy bits at the beginning, and avoid the special sections on the ozone layer and global warming. I feel cheated. I didn’t even have to abuse my liver to survive this!

But I’m also glad the kiddies are getting a bit of good, useful instruction on how the world works with only a few spots of right-wing indoctrination. Hopefully, enough of a solid foundation will be laid for some of them to go on to get a real science education later, complete with the truth about ozone layers and AGW.

Or maybe we’re just being lulled into a false sense of security before being hit with the indoctrination hammer…

Keeping Up With the Creationists Vol. I Issue 5: Freedom to Impose Your Religion on Everyone Else

My, the religious right frothers have been busy lately. It’s not enough for them to reduce women to the status of walking incubators: now they’re trying to define religious freedom as the freedom to impose their bigotry on anyone they suspect might not use their genitals in the Fundamentalist-Approved Way™.

My old home state of Arizona certainly made a ginormous jackass of itself, passing a right-to-discriminate bill that would basically turn anyone they suspect of being homosexual, queer, transgender, or any other type of person they hate into an outcast. Businesses would have been allowed to turn anyone they wished away. This would have been a nightmare for everyone, but especially those poor folks living in one of Arizona’s middle-of-nowhere communities, where finding someone willing to serve you might require several hours’ worth of driving. Even some of the fuckwads pushing that bill realized after the fact that it might be a horrific mistake – one suspects they figured out their language was so broad that Good Christians™ like themselves would’ve found themselves targeted, too. Not to mention the impact it was having on business and tourism in the state. So Jan Brewer vetoed it. We won’t see its like again for, oh, I’d imagine at least a whole week. And Arizona’s just one of the worst offenders – there are plenty of states trying to turn the LGBTQ community into untouchables.

Image is a drawing of a waiter talking to a diner. Caption says, "Congratulations to gay Arizonans on still being allowed to eat where people hate you."

Let’s see what other ridiculous nonsense Christianists in government are trying to foist upon us.

Alabama’s trying to pass two noxious laws: one to require at least fifteen minutes’ worth of prayer in school every day (but it’s totes history because teachers will be reading prayers used in Congress, yo), and one to allow students to force their religion on others in class. A majority of the House Education Policy voted against it, which by the bizarre rules that govern Alabama’s statehouse, means the bill passed. Oy.

Alaska’s contemplating amending its constitution so that taxpayers can be forced to fund religious schools. Because having the state sponsor religion is in no way problematic, amirite? I’m pretty sure their constitution will be amended again roughly five minutes later, when they discover that this means Muslim schools can line up for a bucket or dozen from the taxpayer well.

As some states swing hard Christian right, some hard Christian right states are starting to consider that maybe, perhaps, looking like fundie fools and having legislation on the books that helps ensure kids get a sub-standard education isn’t such a terrific idea. Some of the more reasonable Louisiana legislators are putting forth an effort to not only repeal the mostly-dead-but-still-on-the-books law that the Supreme Court skewered in Edwards vs. Aguillard, but also get rid of that asinine Science Education Act that allowed Louisiana schools to teach creationism. It’s Louisiana, so I’ll only believe they’ll kill those laws dead when the laws are burning on the funeral pyre.

One of Oklahoma’s mis-education bills has died a quiet death. One left to slay.

Those who don’t believe that Young Earth Creationism has any real impact on the real world is invited to watch this Rachel Maddow segment, in which we see that YECs do terrible things to public safety and fill governments with dumbshits who believe oil is continuously created in exploitable quantities. Yes, their beliefs do real, measurable harm. Yes, absolutely, we should continue to fight those ideas and refuse to let them into our schools.

Additionally: No, creationism is not compatible with science. Really, not compatible.

Also: people listen to asswads like Tony Perkins, whose relationship with science can only be described as hostile and uncomprehending.

People who listen to asswads like Tony Perkins go on to poison their classrooms with videos by creationist felon Kent Hovind.

The Pope and the Jehovah’s Witnesses are equally deluded about a book spliced together from the writings of ancient goat herders and third-rate visionaries.

And this shit that they teach has a horrifying effect on children, up to and including persuading them that suicide is an awesome option, because then they’ll get to see their dead grandparents.

People can go on about how bloody great religion is, but I ain’t buying it. Especially when you’ve got pastors making it abundantly clear that “open-mindedness and inquiry are enemies of faith.”

Image is a man with his fingers in his ears and eyes screwed shut. Caption says, "Creationists. 'I'm right, you're wrong. La-la-la-la-la, I can't hear you!'"

So no, you’ll not easily persuade me this is a live-and-let-live situation. Their beliefs aren’t harmless, they’re not restricted to the private sphere, and they’re not just wrong, but dangerously wrong.

After that heavy note, it’s nice to be able to lighten things up a bit. Have you ever wondered just how absolutely awful ACE is? Even young-earth creationists think ACE is an affront to education.

Jonny Scaramanga has two great guest posts this week: there’s an interview with him wherein we learn some of the horrible details of his time in that awful ACE school. He also gives us the inside scoop on what that school, and others like it, teach about atheists. You’ll rage-laugh.

In case you were in any doubt, no, Copernicus was no friend to creationists. At all.

Remember all the sex scandals rocking the Christianist school world? Well, you’ll be amazed to learn that Christian conventions don’t need harassment policies like us icky atheists do because they’d never ever do anything inappropriate. Also, you’ll be astonished to discover that Christianist school leaders lie.

Haven’t had enough of a rage-laugh today? Here’s another: lessons you can learn from the extreme fundie Advanced Training Institute.

And, for those who love to get down in the weeds and play with data, here’s a preview of New Trends in Earth Science Outreach and Engagement. You’ve also got the Evolution in Science and Engineering Indicators 2014 and Climate in Science and Engineering Indicators to enjoy.

Finally, I hope you remember I’m not the only one fisking Christianist textbooks. Be sure to drop by Doktor Zoom’s to catch up on all the shenanigans going on in those Good Christian™ history books.

Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education IIc: A Secular Chaser

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adventures in ACE V: Senseless About St. Helens

We have arrived at the section of Science PACE 1086 wherein someone who knows bugger-all about rocks will proceed to explain rock types. There is so much wrong we’ll have to split it into groups, and even then, I’m not sure the posts will be short enough to prevent acute creationist crap poisoning. I do know I just spent the better part of five hours dealing with just the errors in the opening paragraphs.

I recommend padding all hard spaces within a 12-block radius before we begin.

Mr. Wheeler, the ocean floor driller, is the narrator. It is apparent the instant he opens his mouth that the writer is not competent to write from the POV of a supposed expert, even a creationist one. “Igneous rock,” he pontificates, “is formed by heat.”

Um.

Actually.

Metamorphic rock can be formed by heat, too, so that definition is worse than useless. Let’s see how real geologists define igneous:

Rock formed when molten rock (magma) that has cooled and solidified (crystallized). See intrusive (plutonic) and extrusive (volcanic) igneous rock.

I’m afraid to check his other two definitions. We shall skip lightly past them singing “la la-la la-la” and continue with his slaughter of all things created by magma.

Image is a thin stream of lava descending a volcano. Caption says, "You make volcano cry."

Volcanoes are likened to squeezed tubes of capped toothpaste, with no nod towards those that erupt rather more gently than St. Helens and Etna. Mr. Wheeler would also like us to believe that magma is formed “when subterranean igneous rock is heated to such high temperatures that it melts.” In creationist world, then, it appears sedimentary and metamorphic rocks never melt. Geologists actually define magma as

Molten rock. Magma may be completely liquid or a mixture of liquid rock, dissolved gases and crystals. Molten rock that flows out onto the Earth’s surface is called lava.

Mercifully, the ACE writers understand that magma becomes lava when it gets to the surface.

We’re told that volcanoes erupt because lava forms a cap over the magma and the pressure builds until the volcano (which is never actually defined) spews. We’re not told why the pressure builds. Perhaps they want us to think God’s squeezing the magma chamber, trying to get that Lava™ brand toothpaste out, half-asleep and not realizing the cap’s still on until splurt – lava’s spewed everywhere. But I suspect it’s mostly because they have no fucking clue why volcanoes actually erupt.

Take their “Facts From Science” Mount St. Helens sidebar. There are 8 sentences. 5 of them contain egregious errors. Let us dissect them.

Mount St. Helens in Washington State erupted on May 18, 1980, causing a tremendous explosion and earthquake.

No. The earthquake caused the explosion. Criminy, you’d think they’d at least be able to get the order right. It’s bloody everywhere. Even other creationists know this. Don’t they get Acts & Facts? FFS.

Okay. Deep breath.

The force of the explosion was as great as that of 400 million tons (400 megatons) of TNT, a high explosive.”

*CLONK* *ow* Fuck, I forgot to pad my desk.

It took me a long time to trace that figure – creationists cream their shorts over it, but I couldn’t find it cited in any papers by actual scientists. It seems to have come from this 1981 Scientific American article. And yes, the authors are indeed estimating the energy at 400 megatons – for the entire eruption. The lateral blast, or “explosion”? A mere 24.

At 8:32 am, the earthquake broke loose about one-half cubic mile (2 km3) of rock and ice, allowing liquid water inside the mountain to flash into steam.

Ah, finally, an essentially-correct – if extremely simplified – set of facts. Bravo.

Releasing 20 megatons of energy within six minutes, the northward-directed steam blast leveled 150 square miles (390 km²) of prime forest.

Sigh. 24 (Twenty-four) megatons, we knew that even in 1980, you have no damn excuse – and what happened to your 400, hmm? Also, no paper I’ve seen gives a 6 minute figure for the time that energy was expended, and I’ve read the paper that 24 megaton estimate came from several times. Additionally, it was 250 square miles (650 km²). And it wasn’t a “steam blast” – it was a pyroclastic density current full of burning-hot gasses, ash, rock, tree bits, and whatever else it picked up and hurled along the way.

Also, the avalanche violently disturbed the water of Spirit Lake, rolling a wave 860 feet (260m) high upon the lake’s northern shore.

Close enough to reality, I suppose.

This enormous wave stripped trees and soil from slopes and returned it to its basin with thousands of floating logs, forming a large floating log mat.

You sorta kinda forgot to mention that the debris avalanche had raised the lake bed by around 200 feet, but whatever.

The soil from the slopes caused mudflows in six major rivers, resulting in great destruction, and the upheaval formed sixteen new lakes in the area.

One clause in that sentence is all you got right. Were you trying to win the prize for the World’s Most Ignorant Sentence, ACE writer?

  1. The soil from the slopes did not cause the mudflows. Water from melting ice and snow, buried streams, and pre-existing lakes mixed with debris avalanche and pyroclastic deposits to form the mudflows.
  2. Six major rivers, eh? Name ‘em. Yeah, you padded that number, jumping a couple of forks and a small river up to “major” status. Really, at most, it was three “major” rivers: the Toutle, the Cowlitz, and the Columbia.
  3. 16 new lakes, eh? Name ‘em. There were two: Coldwater and Castle. The rest of what you’re counting are probably ponds.

I know you’re allergic to real science, but honestly, it wouldn’t kill you to look at the USGS page, would it?

In addition, increased water erosion disfigured enormous pumice and landslide deposits.

After the eruption, yes. And don’t think I don’t see what you’re doing there. You’re trying to claim Mount St. Helens proves the Flood or whatever bullshit it is. It won’t work. Dramatic as Mount St. Helens seemed, it was a tiny blip in the vast sweep of geologic history. It’s a mere bit of dust the planet brushes off, an instant’s incident, barely of note.

All that, and we’re only a few paragraphs in. Sigh. We haven’t even gotten to how Racer is like a volcano, and their extraordinary inability to understand any volcano ever. I shall leave you breathless with anticipation…

Image is a kitten emerging from the top of a conical lampshade. Caption says "Oh noes! Volcano cat is erupting!!1"

 

Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education IIb-2: In Which We Reclaim Earth Science for God’s Glory

Remember how awful the first half of this ES4 introductory chapter was? It gets worse. Find something to clench while screaming, “Dana, you did this to me!”

I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. But this is what kids in Christianist schools and homeschools are getting taught.

We’ve reached 1B, “A Christian Approach to Earth Science,” and I believe it is a measure of the trauma caused by the previous section that I am hopeful that a section with a title such as this will contain some actual science, even if by accident. But the beginning is not encouraging, as it states it’s not what we look at, but how we look at it, that’s important. Ken Ham said it best when he said

We’re treated to a hypothetical discussion between two scientists about the Grand Canyon: a secular one, and a biblical Christian, who

will describe how God created a very good earth and everything in it from nothing about 7,000 years ago. He notes that man’s sin brought God’s judgement on the world through a global flood. That flood probably formed the layers of rock, and the retreating flood-waters gouged out the canyon. And seeing this canyon reminds us that God judges sin.

Which worldview is right? The worldview that accepts the Word of God is the right perspective.

And these people have the unmitigated gall to talk about bias.

Finally, in 1.5’s opening description of scientific models, we get a brief bit of honest, actual science. But by the 3rd paragraph, they’re back to harping on worldviews. They accuse secular scientists of deliberately using models to disprove the Bible. Any notion that the models disagree with the Bible because reality does, and it’s reality that secular scientists are exploring, is dismissed. They’ve got their Bible goggles firmly on and Bible plugs in their ears. And they say straight up that biology and earth science are where “the models created in the two worldviews” differ drastically. This, my dear geologists, should warn you about the violence biblical literalists do to your beloved discipline.

There’s a charming sidebar laughing at those silly secular scientists and their ridiculous “big bang theory.” It’s totally unpossible! Where’d the matter come from, huh? There wasn’t enough gravity to compress everything into the singularity, but if there was, it was too much to let it expand, but if it could expand, there’s now way it could’ve clumped into stars, because “debris from explosions keep [sic] moving farther away.” Duh. Checkmate, atheists!

Remarkably enough, the description of scientific models and so forth isn’t completely awful. They even very nearly define “theory” correctly, in a limited fashion (“models that scientists use as frameworks to explain their observations”). However, the sidebar illustration showing the progression from worldview to models shows they’re just being sneaky. Define all this science stuff as various kinds of models, stamp models as coming from yer worldview, and boom – you can do violence to theories such as evolution while being able to usurp the authority of the word “theory” for your own creationist purposes. Also, scientific laws “are our imperfect attempts to describe the laws known only to God by which He governs the universe.” All Ur Science R Belong to Us.

At this point, I turn weeping to the adorable photo of a diver holding a clipboard and chucking a curious manatee under the chin, and burble, “Why? Why must I go on?”

Because the earth science community needs to know what violence is being done to it.

Section 1.7 is a mercy, a discussion of data and its uses that doesn’t mention god once. O sweet relief!

But then we read the question that heads 1.8 with dread: “So, What is Science?” Science, according to ES4, is all about collecting data and stuff for God. We are introduced to a new term: dominion science, “science done to accomplish the work of biblical dominion…”

They’re not scientists. They’re the Christian version of the Borg.

Image is a Borg cube with a cross, with the caption "Resistance is futile." Via AtheismResource.com

At the end of 1.8, we are treated to a sidebar about The Gap Theory, wherein we are told we must completely and totally believe the Bible, which means believing the earth is 7,000 years old (where are they getting that figure? I thought it was 6,000!). We also learn that the Christians who believe things like the Gap Theory in order to account for the ancient age of the earth are dangerously wrong.

So glad we cleared that up.

After all that, it’s jarring to get to section 1C and find a decent description of the scientific process, wherein it is admitted science isn’t a checklist. They can’t resist inserting a plug for biblical dominion in there, of course, but otherwise it’s reasonably good. We learn about forming scientific questions, doing initial research, stating our hypothesis complete with explanations we can test, and collecting data. Here, they even admit experiments aren’t the be-all and end-all of data collection. Amazing. Maybe Ken Ham didn’t read this far. They even resist burbling about god during the steps about analyzing data and making models, probably trusting we remember the relationship between worldviews and models. There’s not another headdesk moment until we get to the final step: publication in a scientific journal – such as the Creation Research Society Quarterly.

Image is a kitten with its face tucked in its paws on a table. Caption says "head-desk"

And their photo of scientific journals includes the Answers Research Journal. As in, the Answers in Genesis cheap imitation of a scientific journal.

Image is a demotivational poster of a crowd of people face-palming. Caption says, "Epic facepalm. You fail that much."

Let us raise our bruised and bloodied foreheads and gaze ahead to 1.10, wherein we learn “What Scientists Do.” Now, here’s where it’s useful to have become wise in the ways of creationists, because we see a term that looks all sciency: “operational* science.” This, I’m afraid, is not a real real science term. It’s bullshit. It’s meant to distinguish between “real” (as per creationists) science and that fake sorta stuff Darwinists do. Which is a problem for creation earth scientists, because they, too, have to rely on “historical science,” which isn’t as real as real science. And so worldview is called upon, because historical science done with a biblical worldview is totes okay.

I wonder if they’ll revise this section in light of the spanking Bill Nye delivered Ken Ham over just this sort of inanity….

Nah.

They give a very terse, narrow definition of the principle of uniformity: “assumes that the world operates in a reliable and unvarying way.” One suspects groundwork is being laid for future fuckery.

A prosaic section describing various branches of earth science lulls us into a false sense of security, from which we are rudely jolted by this chapter’s parthian shot:

Tragically, many earth scientists have an atheistic, secular worldview. True dominion science needs people with a biblical worldview to take up careers in earth science as their calling in life. We need to reclaim earth science for God’s glory and for good and wise dominion. Who knows how God can use you in the future.

Pay attention, people. This is what kids are being taught in fundamentalist Christian schools and homeschools. They’re being turned out thinking this is what science really is. They’re being taught to take dominion over the earth, including secular science.

You should bloody well be concerned by now.

 

 

*Ken Ham calls it “observational” science. It’s all the same creationist bullshit.

An Offensive Strategy for Dealing With Creationist Attacks on Science

I’ve been doing quite a lot of reading about the failures of creationist geology. Many people have come before me, tearing this nonsense down bit-by-bit. It’s an extraordinary amount of work, and leaves Flood geology scrambling for ever more bizarre ways to overcome the laws of science.

But maybe we don’t do quite enough. We defend science, we present the reality, we knock down bits of their structure, but there may be an easier way to deal with the creationists and Intelligent Design proponents attempting to force their nonsense into science class, and hanging round the fringes of our professional meetings hoping some credibility will rub off on them. I quite like Donald Wise’s proposals:

If such activities are to be opposed effectively, a first step is to learn the ideas, history, and underlying assumptions of their proponents. A second step is to devise an effective counter strategy. To date, the scientific community has been woefully inadequate in the Creationist battle on both counts. This paper is an attempt to focus our opposition, (1) by providing some readily accessible information on the Creationists, (2) by making a proposal for an offensive rather than defensive strategy, and (3) by giving some background facts to implement the strategy. In public forums, the Creationists should be challenged to defend their total model of earth history, difficulties and all, and to give their supporting “evidence” on an item-by-item basis. Again and again, we should force the point that extraordinary claims require extraordinary levels of proof. Such public confrontations with Creationists may have only the scientific depth of disputes between three-year olds, but at least the proposed strategy will force those fights to occur with their toys in their sandbox rather than ours. [emphasis added]

Yep.

And this strategy is gorgeous for two reasons:

1. It shows up creation science for the incoherent farce that it is,
2. If by some miracle the buggers turn out to be right, it forces them to do the hard work of good science and provide the kind of overwhelming proof it would take to revolutionize science.

So keep after them, when you get chances to confront them in public, or even just casually. Demand the mountains of rock-solid data. Demand the models that explain and predict more elegantly than our current ones. Demand they confront and solve the major problems with their models. Demand the peer-reviewed papers that specifically back up their claims, and if they haven’t got them, demand they write up and submit their work to the reputable professional journals. Settle for nothing less than valid science of such quality that it can win majority support amongst the professionals. If they can’t provide that, too bad for them. They’ll have to come back when they can.

Image is a cat with narrowed eyes. Caption says, "Skeptic Cat demands proof."

This doesn’t mean we don’t stop crushing their arguments. It’s fun and valuable work, and like we saw in the Kitzmiller trial, not to mention the Nye-Ham debate, shooting this stuff down can be a fantastic opportunity to teach real science to the public. But we need to make sure we’re putting the creationists on the defensive at the same time.

They want their version of science accepted? They’ll have to do the hard work, and provide the kind of undeniable evidence it takes to change well-supported scientific paradigms. Until then, they have no place in our scientific spaces.

Adventures in ACE IV: When Creationists Drill the Ocean

I’m assured by Jonny that Science PACE 1086 is something special in the bizarreness department. I can see this is true by all the crosses on the cover. The impression given is that they’re so threatened by the implications of a man standing on the moon that they have to spray the scene with god symbols, sort of like a dog dehydrating itself in order to advise other dogs that this is definitely its territory. So there!

The Table of Contents doesn’t give much away. We’re going to learn about “The Foundations of the World,” which seem to be the basics of geology: the crust-mantle-core stuff, rock types, and topography. One wonders how they’re going to spray god everywhere. I’m confident they’ll find a way.

We’re also going to learn to be dependable, and our verse is I Timothy 6:20:

O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called…

I feel a disturbance in the Force. Avoid “oppositions of science so-called,” eh? Could we be about to trash secular science? (For those wondering, the word “science” here means “knowledge,” without implying the scientific method and what we’ve come to call science. It didn’t, of course, have the same meaning then as it does now.)

The facing comic depicts Racer and his dad going to Guatemala to inspect sample cores brought up from ocean drilling. It begins with them choosing suitcases. I think they’re shopping – most people don’t have shelves full of luggage rather than books – but as we only get a glimpse of a fraction of what might be a sales lady, it’s hard to tell. She and the back of an elderly woman’s head on the plane are the only women. We spend so long in airplanes and helicopters that we’re out of room for anything but greetings when we finally arrive at the drilling platform. I think it’s supposed to get us all pumped about learning about the earth’s insides, but it just makes me reflect on the absurdity of people who don’t know how to do science zooming around self-importantly on sophisticated aircraft, using expensive equipment to pretend they’re actually scientists.

We turn to a page headed by a cartoon of South America and Africa waving goodbye to each other, with the factoid that these continents are drifting apart and the South Atlantic expanding by 2 inches (5 cm) per year. I can’t wait to see them explain the math, which by my calculations makes the Atlantic 56,073,600 years old at the very least. (This map of seafloor ages shows it’s actually older.)

The vocabulary words are slightly more on-topic this go-round. I didn’t see anything overtly religious. I do wonder what “toxic goiter” and “ulcer” have got to do with the earth sciences, but I suppose we’ll find out.

Right, then: onward to the Foundations of the World.
Dramatic Hamster

We run aground on creationist crap the instant we set sail. Mr. Ed Wheeler (hwē lər)* is explaining the core sample, and sez,

At the present rate of sedimentation (the settling of sediment), about four thousand years would be required to deposit the amount of sediment found today on the ocean’s floor. This means that sediment began to be deposited onto a clean ocean floor just after the Flood and has been building up ever since.

Ha ha ha ha no.

No, Mr. Hwē lər, it has not. In fact, let’s have a look at what we really discovered when actual scientists drilled into the ocean floor in the Guatemala Basin, about where this book places its fictional pseudoscientists. Hmmm. Ocean crust formed 11-13 million years ago at the Galapagos hotspot… 446 meters of pelagic sediment on to of the crust, which dates from the late Miocene to the Pleistocene, which is only about, oh, from 11 million to 2 million years ago. Never mind there’s no uniform rate of sedimentation across the entire ocean: the data in this location alone leaves them dead in the water.

Image is an e-card with a drawing of a professional woman writing in a notepad and removing her glasses. Caption says, "Sorry, creationists! Science says you're full of shit."

This is one of those things creationists have to lie about. If the ocean floors have ancient sediments upon them, the Flood didn’t happen and creationism fails. Ergo, when they drill up cores of deep-sea sediments, they assume they’re all post-Flood no matter what eleventy-billion other lines of evidence say.

And this, kids, is why we shouldn’t let creationists play with expensive scientific equipment.

They stay reasonably close to the realm of fact when discussing the thickness of the crust. They give a mostly-okay – if terribly over-simplified – description of the Moho, and really, it might’ve been nice if they’d graced Mr. Andrija Mohorovičić‘s name with the proper accent marks. And saying he’s from Yugoslavia when it’s more like he was from Croatia is a bit silly, but these things haven’t been revised since seven years after the Cold War ended and Yugoslavia broke up, so okay.

After some bland, factual blabber about the mantle and core and how it’s like a baseball and it’s really hard to drill through to the Moho because of dense rock etc. etc., we get hit from absolutely nowhere by Racer’s dad babbling biblical nonsense:

Mr. Loyalton said, “God promised to preserve Israel as a nation for Himself forever. The prophet Jeremiah used the difficulty of measuring the foundations of Earth to show the sureness of this promise. He declared, ‘Thus saith the LORD; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done…’ (Jeremiah 31:37).”

Which is why, he sez, thoroughly investigating the earth’s foundations is impossible. Yep. Because God.

And these people are allowed to operate heavy machinery. Lord, have mercy.

I begin to see why Jonny was promising me such fundalicious fuckery. I also see they’re on about volcanoes next, with a special focus on Mount St. Helens. Spoiler alert: it’s drastically wrong. We’ll take this PACE slowly, then, with frequent pauses to replenish our outraged howling reserves.

 

 

* Yes, they thought it necessary to tell 8th graders how to pronounce “wheeler.” It’s that bloody sad.

 

Christianist Textbooks Revealed

Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education IIb-1: In Which I Advise You to Buy Shares in Columbia Valley Vineyards

What could be worse than ACE, amirite? After that fuckery, BJU’s Earth Science Fourth Edition will be a breath of fresh air. I mean, A Beka’s Science of the Physical Creation wasn’t unmitigated horror, and Bob Jones University’s history books aren’t as frothing fundie as them, so this might not be utterly awful. One may even begin to believe this can be got through without undue damage to the liver.

Until we open to the first chapter.

And begin to wonder if the products of one vineyard will be enough.

I’m afraid this will be long, even though I’m splitting this chapter in two. Get comfy. Find a stress ball to squeeze and something to bite down on. Ready? Let’s go meet the BJU Science Dudes.

Image is a cartoon of two bearded white men standing at a table scattered with equipment for doing geology in the field. The secular scientist is tilting something on the table to get a good look at it. The creationist is just standing deep in thought.

Our BJU cartoon scientists. I’d like to point out that the secular scientist is the only one in the photo actively doing stuff. This was a Freudian slip I’m not sure they intended to make. The black splotch on the creationist’s face is supposed to be a beard.

Yes, my darlings, in the ES4 universe, science is only done by bearded white dudes. And they haven’t got names. The guy in green, we are told, is a scientist. We’ll call him Mr. Green. He’s the secular scientist, who accepts the actual age of the earth. His, um, buddy in red – we’ll call him Mr. Red – is a scientist, too.

He loves God and the Bible, which he holds to be the only absolutely reliable source of truth. And because of this, he also loves what he does. He believes praising God through his discoveries and helping people to live better lives are his highest callings. He is certain the world is “young” and a special place because the Bible teaches us these things.

Oh, right. A “scientist.”

We are then informed that “people’s views affect how they see and study the world and the universe,” followed by a cartoon of Mr. Green and Mr. Red looking at Earth from orbit, and variously marveling how it’s a product of random chance/design. All of you who heard Ken Ham and company spew know where this is going.

Image is a sign at the Creation Museum. There are two columns of conclusions about dinosaurs. On the left is one headed "Starting with Human Reason" and containing mostly facts.  The right is headed "Starting with God's Word" and contains creationist crap about how this Utahraptor died in the Great Flood.

Image of this ridiculous Creation Museum propaganda sign shamelessly filched from PZ.

We’re four paragraphs in, and I advise you now to buy stock in Columbia Valley vineyards specializing in Riesling grapes. You should also invest in the companies who make Captain Morgan and Malibu. This is going to take oceans of alcohol to endure.

Right. As we read more about what this book’s got in store, we learn that we’ll learn “how the earth was really designed for life.” Goody. We’re warned repeatedly to “stay on the path.” Don’t stray, kiddies – thar be atheists! They’ve “organized different kinds of information in special boxes,” which seems to be a fundie specialty. One bright spot is the promise to include the etymology of words “so that you can learn to decode similar words using common roots, prefixes, and suffixes.” That’s actually quite helpful. But they go and kill my buzz by having little boxes with a Bible icon “that give you practice explaining something from a biblical viewpoint.” And there will be info boxes on the climate change “debate.” I see we’re busy churning out far-right Godbots, then. Blatantly.

It turns out that review questions that “really challenge your thinking” or “require outside research to answer” are optional. Of course. Mustn’t encourage the kiddies to look too diligently for answers.

And, after hoping “that your faith in God’s truths will be greatly strengthened when you come to the end,” it’s on to Unit 1, which is introduced by “Dr. Jonathan Sarfati, Chemist and Creationist.” Who tells us all about logic, reason, and the Bible (“the Christian’s final authority,” doncha know). And how it just makes sense to accept the Bible as absolute truth. Also, the Earth is young. And we know Dr. Jonathan Sarfati is a really-real scientist because he is a bearded white dude, so we can trust him.

Is anyone else wondering if Ken Ham lifted his entire side of the Nye-Ham debate from this book?

Take a drink. Another drink. Turn the page…

For two refreshing paragraphs, we are not pounded over the head with God. We meet a little girl who saved people from the Boxing Day Tsunami by remembering a geography lesson about tsunamis and getting people to high ground at the first sign of this one. Cling to this. It is the last bit of God-neutral stuff for a long while.

We learn next that we should learn Earth science because Genesis (dominion over the earth and all that): the Creation Mandate. Also, made in God’s image. And, flat-out:

“So we need to engage in dominion in a way that helps other people because people are important to God, and they should be to us, too.”

Jesus said so (Mark 12:30, Deut. 6:5, Mark 12:31, Lev. 19:18). Four paragraphs in to Unit 1, and we already have six times the Bible citations as SPC.

Then we’re told we do science to declare God’s Glory (Rom. 11:36), too.

So how can humans declare God’s glory in earth science?

Discovery and imitation. Earth science is a wonderful tool of discovery. As we study cave formations, lightning, ocean currents, and nebulas, we learn about God through what He’s created. This gives us a sense of awe and wonder that helps us glorify Him.

This isn’t the introduction to an Earth science textbook. It’s a bloody sermon.

Then they babble on about how when we make stuff, we’re imitating God, and how all this is totes worshiping God, which has very nearly put me off doing anything ever again. Talk about laying it on thick. And every single caption on this page is full of more of the same. F’rinstance, on a photo of a street devastated by an earthquake, we’re told earthquakes “remind us that we live in a fallen, dangerous world.” Section 1.3 expands on that, moaning that dominion ain’t easy in this fallen world. Because Adam fucked it all up, “everything you will study this year is cursed and broken.” We’re born sinners, baby, and “can’t see the earth as it should have been.” But, baby, there’s God’s redemption. And we “should see earth science as part of God’s ongoing work of redemption – restoring people to the work of biblical dominion.”

It’s now that I flip back a page to confirm this chapter is, indeed, called “The World of Earth Science” and not “Pastor Bob’s Searing Sermon on Bible Stuff, With a Few Nods to the Notion of Earth Science, Cuz It Sounds All Smart That Way.”

We next learn about all the preaching and healing Jesus’s disciples did, and how Christianity spread over the whole world, and how earth science lets us be just like ‘em. But you don’t help people by predicting tsunamis and providing clean water just because it’s the right thing to do, nossir. It’s because

If Christians do this with love and concern, they can show others – the people they work with or the people who benefit from their labors – that Christianity is no storybook fable. It is real. Jesus has redeemed their lives, and He wants to redeem the lives of many other people, too.

It’s starting to feel like a punch card that’ll get Jesus a free coffee after so many people redeemed, or one of those green stamps we used to get with our grocery purchase, that we could paste to little cards and redeem for housewares when we had so many cards filled. Earth science, I’m not feeling.

Image is a loyalty card with ten smiley faces with haloes, and a star with the word FORGIVEN!. Bottom of card says, "Redeem 10 Souls, Get 1 Sin Free! (Restrictions apply - see Bible for details)

Soul punch card wot I made. You can filch it freely.

Then we’re on to Redeeming the Mind, in which we are told God “redeems people from a guilty conscience (Heb. 10:22) and a sinful way of life (1 Pet. 1:18). But He also redeems His people from wrong thinking.” We’ve gotta “think the way Christ would have” us think. And, we’re told, “Wrong thinking is easy to spot in earth science.” Check out the chica in fig 1-7, who foolishly thinks the fossil she’s working on “is many millions of years old. But does her belief agree with God’s thoughts?”

Z.O.M.G.

Yeah, that was totes earth science. And I’m the Queen of Atlantis. It’s true. Send me cash money.

Next week, we will be told how we’re supposed to approach earth science as Christians. Will my liver survive? Will my brain explode before the end of the chapter? Stay tuned!

 

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