Keeping Up With the Creationists Issue I, Vol. 4: College Sexual Assault Scandal Edition

I think we like to think that what happens inside of fundamentalist subcultures doesn’t really matter to the wider world. But there are people trapped, suffering, inside, and they need folks to pay attention, raise a fuss, shine a light so that they can achieve some measure of justice, and so that other people never become victims at all.

Bob Jones University needs a lot of public condemnation right now. They started out trying to appear they were doing the right thing, and hired an independent group to investigate the way they handle sexual assault reports on their campus. But when it became clear they wouldn’t be able to keep on keeping on as they have been, and whitewash the problems, they fired GRACE. Our own Libby Anne, who will always be ours although Patheos stole her, reports on their nefarious assholery, and there’s a scorching open letter to BJU you really shouldn’t miss. As for BJU trying to play the “Other people fired GRACE, too!” card, keep in mind the other fundie fuckwads who fired GRACE like to have tween girls who’ve been repeatedly sexually assaulted by 60 year-old men confess to adultery. For being assaulted. Yep. [Read more…]

Adventures in ACE III: In Which We Are Sorely Tested

ACE is famous for asinine questions. You may remember some of the greatest hits from Jonny’s blog. In this edition of AiACE (pronounced Ay-ace, with ay being that syllable you utter when something has pained you), we shall deep-dive the Science 1085 Activity PAC, and ascertain just how inane it is. [Read more…]

Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education IIa: In Which We Are Told About Science!

The best thing about being an adult is that I get to read textbooks by choice*, something my younger self would find fairly horrifying. The other best thing is that I don’t have to read them sober.

When it comes to Christianist educational materials, it’s best to be slightly sloshed. Less painful that way. Novocaine for the brain. So, let us lift our trusty glasses of whatever aids our concentration, and find out What Science Is.

In our A Beka Book, Science of the Physical Creation (SPC), we learn that physical science is “the systematic study of God’s physical creation and how it works.” Ah. Not even a paragraph into the book, and it’s got God all over it.

The subsequent section on mathematics as the language of science isn’t bad, and I like the clear and simple explanation of how equations work. However, comma, we then come to “Limitations of Mathematics,” which goes all on about how “people are not bound by the laws of the universe to act a certain way,” which seems kinda inappropriate in a straight-up science textbook: free will belongs in philosophy class. SPC also wants to assure us mathematics can’t “prove or disprove the existence of God.” Glad we got that cleared up. We’re then treated to several paragraphs about how scientists can make mistakes (egads, stop the presses!), are “subject to the sin of pride,” and can totes use math and data “to deceive people or distort the truth.”

Certain information may be purposely or erroneously omitted from a presentation of data, or it may be presented in a way that appears to favor the viewpoint of the one presenting it.

And after pounding on this point for a bit, they finish with this flourish:

Sometimes an error occurs because of false assumptions made by a scientist who is attempting to solve a problem. In geology, for instance, there are a great number of scientists who assume that evolution is a fact and that it has actually occurred. This assumption often leads to erroneous conclusions about the earth’s crust and its history.

Image is of a squinting white kitten with its mouth open is a sort of grimace. Caption reads, "You hurt my brain."

Whelp. That well is well and truly poisoned. And we’ve only just finished section 1.1. Oy.

In 1.2, “Science and Measurement,” we learn that “Measurements must be precise because God’s physical creation and the Laws He established to govern it are precise.” Nothing to do with not being sloppy because you’ll get wrong answers, right? And it’s right back in to banging the “scientists are fallible” drum from there. Methinks they wish us to think scientists are a bunch of silly bastards who are nefarious and almost always wrong.

Accuracy and precision are illustrated by several rifle targets wot have been shot at. I wish I was kidding.

The discussion of scientific notation seemed fairly standard, but things get mildly interesting again with Systems of Measurement, which goes on for half a page about cubits and short people cheating tall people in the measurement department. One gets the sense that A Beka writers don’t see the human glass as half-full. It’s more like they see a half-empty glass and are convinced some evil sinner’s been stealing their tea.

I’m a history nerd, so the discussion of the… dare I say, evolution, ah-ha-ha… of the foot-pound-second system was fascinating, and, as far as I can tell, accurate. And their discussion of the metric system’s origin and uses was surprisingly sensible – I guess I’d expected a dig at the atheists in the French revolution who came up with it, but it was free of that sort of sniping and completely helpful. I loved that section – right up until the final paragraph, where they just had to slip firearms into a discussion of the places where the metric system has become standard. Gun nuts, much?

Image is Jesus sitting with an assault rifle held in one hand, its butt resting on his thigh. Caption says, "Let's arm every person with a firearm. Just like Jesus wanted.When talking about measuring mass, they did an excellent job showing the difference between mass and weight. And when it came to measuring time, they said atomic clocks “are accurate to within one second every six million years” without flinching. We don’t, in fact, see anything that makes us blink until we get to temperature, and they just have to emphasize that Lord Kelvin was a Christian physicist, thanks ever-so-much. But that’s it. I’ll give ‘em this section. It’s actually quite good. Hat tipped.

But of course, the good times can’t last. Brace yerselves: we’re on to the scientific method.

They’ve got the basic observation → hypothesis → experiment thing down, but don’t admit science isn’t quite that rigid. And they completely bork the difference between a theory and a law. Observe:

When a hypothesis passes the test of many experiments and has the support of other scientists, it is referred to as a theory.

Um. No. NCSE, help us out here: what’s a theory?

In science, a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses.

So, yeah. SPC’s definition is so limited as to be useless. But it gets worse:

If a theory is verified by enough observations and experiments, it may become accepted as a scientific law.

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."

Take it away, NCSE:

Law: A descriptive generalization about how some aspect of the natural world behaves under stated circumstances.

So kids being slow-poisoned by this textbook are going to emerge thinking hypothesis begets theory begets law, and that’s just remarkably wrong. But of course they have to muck up the definition of what a theory is, or their running about shrieking “Evolution is only a theory!” would fail and their kids might start calling chimpanzees “Cousin!”

SPC then proceeds to engage in a bit more well-poisoning by diverting into a discussion about how Johann Bode was totes wrong†, by way of getting kids to distrust successful science predictions.

And then they pile on a heaping helping o’ God:

One of the most basic of all scientific assumptions is that the universe is lawful, orderly, and operates according to physical laws. We cannot prove this assumption: however, everything we do in science is based upon it. As Christians, we have the utmost confidence in the validity of this scientific assumption because it agrees completely with what the Bible tells us about the universe and God, its Creator.

Whal o-kay then. Guess I’ll just sit in the corner here with my assumption that the universe is lawful etc. because it’s never proved to be otherwise, then.

You’ll love the concluding special section on “Mathematical Patterns in Creation.” After a long fap over “golden numbers,” “golden spirals,” and “the golden ratio,” SPC would like you to know scientists can’t explain that. “Nevertheless, their appearance in the world of nature reveals that God is a God of order and mathematical precision as well as a God of variety and beauty.” He totes created the universe this way on purpose, and here’s the Bible verse to prove it. Checkmate, atheists!

And just think: our BJU textbook promises to be even moar God-soaked. We shall tackle it next…

 

*Okay, maybe not the best thing. There’s being able to drive and buy stuff and have sex and not do what my parents tell me. But reading textbooks for fun and profit is right up there.

†He wasn’t actually completely wrong. His “law” did successfully predict Uranus, after all, and this Cornell source sez it works well for moons. Funny how scientists are almost never as wrong as the Christianists claim they are.

 

Christianist Textbooks Revealed

Adventures in ACE II: In Which We Inherit the Earth

All right, then, my darlings: time to start acing ACE. We’re right at the beginning of our 8th grade-ish* science edimicashun. What has Science PACE 1085 got to teach us?

  • “Earth and Its Neighbors,” in which we learn the earth is our inheritance. Just like the Bible says!
  • “To learn to be willing to work or dwell with others in unity – to be cooperative.” M-kay.
  • “To memorize and say Psalm 133:1.” Oh, yes, very sciencey.

This is a very… interesting… table of contents for a science text.

Image is a white and brown kitty looking upward, caption says, "LOL WUT"

Right, let’s move on. Page (two) 2 has a cartoon wherein creepy-looking boys in identical clothes, Reginald and Pudge, tell us how interesting our current PACE will be. Pudge is skeptical at first, the little devil, but is soon won over by Reginald’s Facts. Many facts. Like the geochemistry terms “sial” and “sima,” which I did not know, because in all my time palling around with geologists, I’ve never seen them use them. Hooray, facts! I’m amazed I’ve learned some actual ones from an ACE PACE.

Let’s see what else we can learn about God’s world. [Read more…]

Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education I: In Which First Impressions Are Made

Welcome to the first installment of our down-to-earth analysis of Christianist earth science textbooks*, in which we learn what good Christians™ are teaching the kids these days.

Let’s take a moment to acquaint ourselves with our three texts. Two are for Christian schools; the third is a secular control. At first glance, it’s quite easy to spot one of the Christianist books. Try for yourself! [Read more…]

Keeping Up With the Creationists Vol. I Issue 2: Busy, Busy

My, but these creationist buggers are prolific. There’s a second let’s-fuck-up-science-education worming its way through the Missouri legislature right now. This one likes to make its intentions known by intentionally singling out evolution as “controversial.” That’s a mighty thin fig leaf you’ve got there, Mr. HB 1587.

Our own Ed Brayton has a nice synopsis of the silliness that is HB 1472, HB 1587’s elder sibling. Poor creationists, wanting to pull their kiddies out of school so they don’t hear about that awful evolution. Actually, I think this may end up being a good idea. Educational contraband, man. You know many of those kids will be curious about this Forbidden Knowledge. It’s kinda like when your parents don’t want to know about certain magazines…

South Dakota, engaged in a game of mine’s-bigger-than-yours, has introduced SB 112, which gives a giant fuck-you finger to the Supreme Court and Kitzmiller by stating, sans fig leaf, “[n]o school board or school administrator may prohibit a teacher in public or nonpublic school from providing instruction on intelligent design or other related topics.” I do hope they love throwing away millions of dollars in legal fees, because that’s precisely what they’ll do if this nonsense passes.

Catching up with our old friend Virgina HB 207: our own Callan Bentley has torn it to shreds. I’m going to unrepentantly filch the picture he made because it sums everything up nicely: [Read more…]

FtBCon2’s Religion and Homeschooling Panel Shows Why Secular Folk Need to Pay Attention

We all know neglecting to feed your kids is wrong, right? Neglecting to give them shelter, or medical attention (unless you’re religious in some states – a blind spot in the law we need to fix), or any other basic necessity of life is illegal. You might even get popped for emotional neglect. But in some states, you’re legally allowed to steal a child’s future. Extremist homeschool parents and their allies call it a right. They decide what their children get to learn, or if they get to learn at all. Educational neglect, to them, is their right. A child’s right to the future an education can give them is beneath their consideration.

If you get a chance, and you care about educating children, you should spare an hour for this video. It will horrify you. [Read more…]

ACE Revealed by Its Own Cartoons

Jonny sent me this rather eye-popping critique of several ACE cartoons. It’s got a jaunty little title – Life According to the Christian Education Curriculum, in Cartoons! – but don’t be fooled into thinking you can read this if your stomach is in an easily-nauseated condition right now. Fortify yourself before clicking.*

You’ll have to let me know which your favorites are. So far, I can’t decide between ACE’s Evil Atheist With Great Hair vs Lil Godbot, or Who Will Feed Me Now That Mommy’s a Feminist?! I do know the winner in the creep category for me, though:

Cartoon is two panels. The first shows a family in a living room. The dad is reading the Bible, saying, "'Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.' Racer, God is pleased when you obey your parents." The second panel shows Racer sitting on his bed in his PJs and robe, reading his Bible. Thought bubble reads, "I will listen and obey my parents."

Image courtesy Jonny Scaramanga.

To the people who write this stuff, this apparently isn’t horrifically creepy indoctrination – it’s just a good education. Show a kid evidence for evolution, on the other hand…

And to think I’ve signed on to read a whole grade of this shit. Including the tests. And those terrible cartoons. I’d ask you to save spare change for the Replace Dana’s Liver fund, but you’re probably going to need that money for your own transplant. I’m so, so sorry.

 

*If the pics don’t show, just click where they should be – they’ve been temperamental.

Adventures in ACE I: In Which Oddities Are Explored

I recently spent an instructive few months reading Jonny Scaramanga’s blog, where I learned just how screwed up Accelerated Christian Education is. Imagine a room full of young kids stuffed in study carrels (“offices,” in ACE parlance), sitting silent on hard plastic chairs while they’re taught truly-true Christian things from thin newsprint booklets. As they grind through their science lessons, they answer review questions such as:

Christ’s shed blood is the _______ of our salvation. (Science PACE 1085)

Welcome to the whacky world of ACE, where until recently kids were taught that the Loch Ness Monster exists (and is a plesiosaur – checkmate, atheists!). Considering this is an “education” produced by (virtually) the same company that supplies the supposedly secular Responsive Ed curriculum, and is taught to far too many kids in Christian private and home schools worldwide, we should pay close attention to their shenanigans.*

Let us investigate the violence done to the earth sciences, shall we? [Read more…]

Teaching Geosciences in a Religious Country: A Discussion

Ron Schott, who is the geoblogosphere’s Bora Zivkovic, hosts Geology Office Hours on Google+ every Monday and Thursday. It’s a time for geo professionals and the geocurious to get together, chat about whatever topic comes to mind, and sometimes show off our rocks. Anybody with a webcam and a G+ account can get in on the fun.

I’m not as good a talker as writer, so don’t join one of the Monday sessions expecting especial brilliance. I’m mostly there to eavesdrop. Didn’t really expect to do so today – I had a ton of stuff I should be doing, and I hadn’t even got out of my pjs, but I’d just got done shooting the cat with some particularly lovely little hand samples, and jumped on to see what Ron thought of them. You know how that goes. You’re all like, “Hey, I’m not really dressed, but quick, look at the pretty rock!” and the next thing you know, a lot of people you admire particularly (like Chris Rowan and Harold Asmis) have joined the conversation, and they get on the topic of geologic timescales and religious students, and you suddenly forget you’re sitting there in your jammies with a head of hair that might frighten small children.

[Read more…]