Taking Liberties: A Book We Need Right Now

So you may have noticed lately that the right-wing ratfuckers in state governments are busy trying to roll us back to the Dark Ages. Women aren’t people, they’re “hosts” to those precious babies that will be cherished so long as they’re in the womb; once they’re out, both host and infant will be despised as social parasites if they have the audacity to be unmarried and/or poor. Some jackass is trying to slip prayer into schools by forcing teachers to read congressional prayers. In my former home state of Arizona, the frothing fundies boiled over, and decided to give religious people the right to discriminate against gays, because apparently, refusing to let them patronize your business is an act of worship. Other states have jumped on that horrible bandwagon. And let’s not forget the Russia-envy they’ve got going on. They’ve got a stiffy for totalitarian shitlords who hate on the same groups they do.

Outraged? Good. Here’s a book that will help you channel that rage more productively: Robert Boston’s Taking Liberties: Why Religious Freedom Doesn’t Give You the Right to Tell Other People What to Do.

Taking Liberties Cover

This is the sort of book you pointedly give to the fuckwads in your family who insist their religious beliefs and practices be made mandatory for everyone, because freedom. It won’t scare them away by mentioning atheists right up front, either.

Robert Boston’s thesis is simple: “Religion is not the problem. Fundamentalist religion that seeks to merge with political power and impose its dogma on the unwilling is the problem. I have a big one with anyone who considers the raw power of government an appropriate vehicle for evangelism.”

Preach it, Brother Boston!

We see that religious freedom at this country’s founding meant government out of religion, full stop. Baptists were especially keen to separate church from state, with no room left for declaring this a Christian nation. These fire-and-brimstone Baptists were all about freedom, genuine freedom, of religion – and that included Jews, Muslims, polytheists, and atheists. They were better men than the ones preaching hate in the name of religion from the Statehouse floor these days.

Robert shows how court cases placed certain restrictions on religious practice, of necessity: “You have the right to believe whatever you want, but… your ability to act on those beliefs may be subject to certain restrictions.” And he boils the balance between faith and freedom to this: “Does the private choice of another person prevent you from attending the house of worship of your choice? Does it stop you from joining your co-religionists in prayer and worship? Does it require you to bow before an alien god?” No? Then cease being an overbearing asshat.

He highlights church interference in health care, education, civil rights, and politics. “In this country where the right of conscience is precious, all religious groups have the right to be heard – but none have the right to be obeyed.” Can I get a hell yes?

Robert boils it down to a power grab. These churches want our money, and our obedience, and if we want to remain the secular nation that’s always been a beacon of religious and political freedom in the world, we need to remove the theocrats from power. We need to oppose their agenda. Our fellow Americans need to realize that religious freedom does not mean that the people with the theocratic ideals and barbaric notions about women, LGBTQ folk, sex, science, and education get to have everything their way. Just because you’re religious doesn’t mean what you’re doing is right. And those 18th century clerics would be the first to fight the merging of government and church.

This book goes a long way toward ensuring we have the awareness and ability to stop and reverse this trend toward theocracy.

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.

How Religion Targets the Vulnerable: Beyond Belief

Give me a genie and three wishes, and I’d probably ask for the following: an end to poverty worldwide, give people the desire and ability to protect and restore the environment, and an end to religion.

Religion is at the root of much of what’s wrong with the world. When we go chasing after invisible gods, all of our worst human tendencies remain, but are given God’s stamp of approval. I’m sure you’ve noticed how what God wants so often matches the desires and prejudices of the person saying what God wants. That, or they’re parroting what the people who wish to retain power over them tell them God wants. Either way, the desires always track back to people.

Image is the cover of Beyond Belief

And in Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions, we see just how destructive and devious religion can be. This book is full of slices of fundamentalist life from a broad range of faiths. The editors, Susan Tive and Cami Ostman, wanted to explore the commonalities between women who found themselves sucked (or born) in to extremely restrictive religions. They weren’t intending “to refute or belittle religion.”

They didn’t have to. The religions do that quite well all by themselves.

One common theme I noticed, and that infuriated me, was the way all of these sects, from Judaism to fundie Christian to Jehovah’s Witnesses to Islam and more, preyed on vulnerability.

Within hours of the Twin Towers falling, members of a cult were at a vigil on a college campus only a few miles away. They weren’t praying for the victims so much as seeking people whose world had just come crashing down, and preying on them. Spreading Jesus was more important than rendering aid.

Another cult used a young woman’s intense desire to heal her mentally ill brother to suck her in, turning her into another money-collecting drone for the cult.

Women searching for clear, simple rules to navigate complicated lives. Women trying to overcome anxiety and depression. Women trying their best to be what pastors, parents, prophets and parishioners want. Women needing to feel loved and safe and whole. Religions descended on them like hyenas, tore them apart while promising to put them together, and spit out the pieces. Taught them to fear the wrath of God and hell so viscerally that they would do anything for salvation. Taught them they were worthless and damned if they strayed from that incredibly narrow path.

The stories these women tell grab you by the gray matter and demand you pay attention, no matter how awful they become. We sit in a mortuary chapel with Naomi Williams, surrounded by the stench of decayed human bodies, as the pastor conducts the congregation’s regular service and the parents lie.

Why couldn’t these people, who had not the slightest hesitation about telling their children that they would burn forever in hell when they died, be honest about the real-world manifestations of death? Here, surely, was the real “end” of man – dead, breaking down into volatile organic compounds, a mortician’s project. Talk about a powerful object lesson. But all we got by way of explanation was dead fish.”

We kneel on the carpet in a pastor’s office with Pamela Helberg, as her father and pastor pray “the demons of homosexuality” away.

If life begins with the splitting of a cell, my lesbian life began that night in Pastor Gary’s study. I was not made free from my burdens, but I split into two selves. My inner and outer being were forced to separate, setting me on a long and arduous path to rediscover what would make me whole again.”

We stand in Leila Khan’s room as she rejects an arranged marriage, and faces her mother’s wrath:

You have disappointed us so much. If you refuse to marry Amir, I will curse you so that you never succeed in life. You will fail and fail, and when you come crawling back to me, begging for forgiveness, you know what I will do to you that day?” She stared at me with unblinking eyes. “I will kick you so hard in your face, you will never be able to get up.”

These women all overcame their indoctrination and have gone on to live rich, fulfilling lives. These glimpses into their lives before freedom are infuriating, inspiring, and always riveting. They’ve given me a deeper understanding of life within the confines of a constricting religion. That little piece of them will always be with me.

Brand-New Blogger, Y’all

You may have noticed the list of blogs got one longer. We were lucky enough to snag Kaveh Mousavi, and his blog On the Margin of Error is absolutely fascinating. You know an atheist in Iran has got stories to tell. He’s got insights only a person living under a theocracy can have. Head on over, say howdy, and help me encourage him to post lots.

On the Margin of Error blog header.

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!

 

Christianist Textbooks Revealed