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.

Our vocabulary words from our Science PACE include: awesome, eraser, handiwork, meek, and pencil. Meek has a particular definition in ACE: “Obeying God in everything without thought for self.” Did I mention this is the science PACE? 8th grade? Jus’ checkin’.

Now we begin our lesson in earnest. It’s in the form of a story about Pudge and other students being instructed by Mr. Friendson. By the end of the third paragraph, you’ll be marveling at the complex storytelling demonstrated in Dick and Jane books, and admire the superior dialogue skills of George Lucas. That’s how terrible it is. But at least we find out why they think “meek” is a science word. It’s because of the “meek shall inherit the earth” stuff. But not if they’re irresponsible meek people who don’t learn the stuff in their Science PACE – which so far hasn’t got much science in it.

But now we learn what earth science is: considering the earth as a unique planet wot was created by God exactly like it says in Genesis 1:1-10. Geologists learn about God’s handiwork, like Job 38:4 says. Job 38:34‘s all about meteorologists, apparently, since God says about clouds. Minerals are “substances obtained by mining,” and a mineralogist specializes in stuff like the precious stones referenced in the first sentence of Revelation 21:19. (The mineralogist is helpfully illustrated by a cowboy-hatted cartoon miner, as no real mineralogists could be found, apparently). And you map-making cartographers got a shout-out from God in Job 38:5. If you’re a geographer, “your specialty would be geography,” just like the stuff in Psalm 65:13. Oceanographers: your specialty is oceanography, studying things in Psalm 93:4. And seismologists (who study seismology, in case you were wondering): your verse is Psalm 60:2. Those are the main fields. I suppose there might be others, but the writers got tired of looking up tangentially-related Bible verses.

All of the scientists pictured, live and cartoon, are white males.

Next we explore all of the ways earth science is important to other branches of science. This is where we learn we’d plump for physical science if we “should want to study the effects of the Flood upon Earth.”

Riiiight.

I do have to admit: there’s a nice moment of secularity where the two characters are marveling at how “earth science is so important to many other sciences.” There’s even a nod to ecology that acknowledges people care about preserving the earth’s biodiversity and people’s impact on the environment. That was quite refreshing, considering many fundies either think Jesus is coming so soon it doesn’t matter if we wreck the planet, or God won’t let us wreck it in the first place because he totes promised he’d never do it again. The authors of ACE apparently realize that a) dude never said when he’d get here and b) only said the whole Earth wouldn’t be destroyed by a global flood again – never said nothing about global warming or nuclear holocaust or any other damn fool thing people can think up.

That was quite refreshing.

The bit on the earth’s motion through space isn’t terrible.There are cringe-worthy moments where the Christian-inanity shines through: God keeping the earth moving; circadian rhythms because God planned for us to rest at night, that wort o’ thing. But it’s a relief to see the sun orbiting the earth in ACE-world. And good news for Pluto-lovers: it’s still a planet in ACE.

They have a nice blurb about Eratosthenes, who calculated the circumference of the earth. Same the cartoonist didn’t know the quill pen wasn’t invented until around 700 AD

Eratosthenes beavering away at his nice desk with a quill pen that won't be invented for another thousand years.

Eratosthenes beavering away at his nice desk with a quill pen that won’t be invented for another thousand years.

According to the planetarium dude delivering the lecture that is Section Two, Venus has to do with our Lord’s glory (Revelation 22:16b). In ACE-world, everyone’s a fundamentalist Christian, including the public science-presenter peopleβ.

They’re very behind the times on moons with atmospheres, saying Titan’s probably the only one. There are, in fact, no fewer than (seven) 7 moons with atmospheres. And for some reason, they skim Uranus, not even giving it a photo-op – afraid of “Ur-anus!” jokes, mebbe? Pluto is also not pictured. But we can look forward to it once again being the furthest planet from the sun in 1991! Oh, wait…

And, of course, the tour of the planets must end with our supposed planetarium guy concluding that bit on planets with a little homily on Earth’s uniqueness. No, really super-duper-God-made-it-just-for-us unique! Of course, the others are also unique, but God didn’t make them for life. Oh, and if God “break[s] the hold of solar gravity,” we’ll fly off into space like an untethered tetherball. True fact.

I see they very carefully note that Copernicus, Galileo, and Keplar had ideas that “were not readily received.” We’re not told that good old Nick C. was too shit-scared to publish for years, going to far as to write a cringing apology of a dedication to the Pope, and that Galileo was nearly barbequed by the Church dudes for the terrible crime of accurately describing the natural world. Bruno gets no mention at all. Nope, nothin’ to do with religion at all! Nosir, it’s just that real scientists with real science ideas sometimes aren’t accepted by, like, people, y’know… the ground thus being laid for the implication that the creation scientists are just like these brilliant actual scientist guys wot everybody believes now.

Isaac Newton, of course, is given a loving tongue-bath for being a Christian who believed in God, and knew God created the universe all orderly-like, and did we mention he was a Christian?

But all of that is just appetizers, my darlings. Now comes the real creationist howler:

“The sun is getting smaller for two reasons. First, the sun is consuming its own fuel to give off light and heat energy. Second, the sun is composed largely of hydrogen gas under great pressure due to gravity. Gravity causes the sun to contract at the rate of 5 feet (1.5 m) per hour. Due to the way in which the sun is consuming its own fuel and contracting, many scientists agree that the sun can only be a few thousand years old.”

No. Not even close to reality. The sun’s not shrinking. It’s not a few thousand years old. The only scientists who think so are creationist gits. The authors of ACE are either completely ignorant dupes, or liars for Jesus. Not sure which yet, but I know one thing they’re definitely not: science educators.

After we’ve stopped twitching, we encounter Moar Great Christian Science via the kids at lunch. Ace (isn’t that clever?) delivers his own little sermon: we’ve only got one sun, ergo, one God, and one Jesus, because reasons, and also I Timothy 2:5. “The sun also shows us that God is no respecter of persons,” cuz even the non-Christian nations get sunlight, like it says in Matthew 5:45. Also sez so in Acts 10:34, don’t it? God’s always awake because the sun and Psalm 121:4. He definitely prevails over the powers of darkness cuz the sun’s bright, also I John 1:5.

Then we’re given a little light comic relief with a toaster joke before moving on to things like eclipses. The children (all boys, of course) continue to hurl long chunks of exposition at each other. We even get a treatise on the moon’s phases – including the, um, fact, that they “illustrate Christ’s life and ministry.” See?

Jesus and the Moon's Phases, a totally scientific set of illustrations. There are little cartoons with the phase of the moon and the coresponding phase of Jesus's life: New Moon = Christ in Eternity; Waxing Crescent = Birth of Christ; First Quarter = Early years of Christ; and Waxing Gibbous = Christ's popularity growing.

Jesus and the Moon’s Phases, a totally scientific set of illustrations.

After pages relating the phases of the moon to Jesus, the kiddies wax eloquent on the fact that life is short, as per James 4:14, Job 8:9, and John 9:4. They babble about lunar calendars (props for mentioning Islam without nattering on about false religion, boys!), and then about how the moon reflecting sunlight is Just Like Jesus. And Jesus is just like the moon also because tides. One day y’all are going to recognize this fact. Sez so in Philippians 2:10-11.

Oh, and the planets teach us about unity and obedience, Just to, y’know, achieve that goal about cooperation.

And there we have Science PACE 1085. Of all the Christianist texts I’ve got, this one is easily the worst. (Strangely not as terrifying as Earth Science 4th Edition, though.)

But wait. We’ve not done the activities yet….

Lemme go get drunk first.

 

*ACE is self-paced. If a child wants to escape the torture early and had a titanium stomach, they can work ahead.

Not their word.

No guide to pronunciation of his name, although they’ve told us how to pronounce Arizona, and will later tell us how to say Nicolaus Copernicus, Johannes Kepler, New Orleans, and Atlanta.

β Okay, technically, there are non-fundies, but they’re bad, bad people. All the good people are Bible-believin’ Christians.

Congratulations! You’re Going to Hell! 2. Just What the Hell is Hell?

No one can even agree on what Hell is. They’re happy to threaten you with it, but they’re all over the place when it comes to explaining it. You know, a real place usually has a pretty consistent description. Take Chicago. We know where it is. Right there in Illinois, can’t miss it.

(Where is Hell? Can anyone reliably tell you where it’s located? Nope.)

Sure, we may disagree about what Chicago’s like: I think it’s the best damned city in the Midwest, other people think it’s a shithole. But we can all agree it’s got nice areas and run-down ones. It’s got a dazzling downtown. And everybody can agree on what’s there. You don’t have arguments over whether, say, it’s got a library or not. You can verify.

The Chicago Public Library. One of the most awesome buildings I have ever seen - I love it muchly. Image courtesy steveblane via Flickr.

The Chicago Public Library. One of the most awesome buildings I have ever seen – I love it muchly. Image courtesy steveblane via Flickr.

So what is hell?

Hmm. Hot place where fire’s are unquenchable, worm dieth not, wailing and gnashing of teeth, etc. Yuck.

No, it’s got all these levels, and where you end up depends on how bad you were.

Wait, no, those aren’t levels, they’re circles!

Hell is eternal torment! No, wait, you’re just there for a while, then destroyed forever. No, wait, you’re not destroyed, you go to Heaven afterward!

Hell is the presence of God! No, wait, it’s the absence of God!

Hell is a real place! No, wait, it’s just a state of being!

Hell is other people (and Second Empire furniture)! No, wait, Hell is being alone!

Hell is Satan’s domain! No, wait, it belongs to God!

Okay, no, really, this is what Hell is: it’s exactly like Heaven. Everyone’s at this absolutely incredible feast. Only they’ve got forks three feet long strapped to their hands, so they can’t feed themselves (No, wait, it was chopsticks! Or maybe spoons!). In Heaven, the people feed each other. In Hell, everybody starves because they don’t.

No, wait, that’s backwards: the Libertarians know Hell is where people feed each other (which is hideous icky socialism and lets the moochers take advantage of the producers). Heaven is where you feed yourself, because it’s right that everyone should do for themselves.

Who goes there?

Everyone who doesn’t worship God the right way!

No, wait, just bad people like homosexuals and liberals.

No, wait, just really horrid people like serial killers and politicians.

No, wait, nobody goes because God’s a big ol’ softie and would never ever create such an awful place.

Etc. etc. Peter Cetera etc. But that’s quite enough of that. No one can agree on where and what Hell is and who made it, who runs it, how long you’re there, what it’s for, and who ends up there, if anyone. All evidence people are making this shit up.

But they believe it.

Yes.

But they say it’s God’s word. They heard, they saw, they got it from the Almighty.

Yes.

They’re so detailed! Convincing.

Yes, indeedy. But you know what? I can do that. Let me consult one of my fictional characters, say, one of the Eternal – having been here since the beginning, they should know Hell, right? People, I can hear their voice! I can see what they saw! I can describe it all down to the last detail, down to the exact temperature of the Lake of Fire (5,869°F or 3243°C), the color of the buttons on Satan’s shirt (a deep reddish-black, nearly the exact color of a large clot of dried blood), and the name and address of his tailor (Guillermo Sarto, Via dei Condotti 61, Rome, Italy. Likes to keep his look updated, our Satan). I can point out the location of the place if you give me a map of the universe. I can tell you who’s going there, and why, and how.

“Hungry Devil.” Image courtesy Martin SoulStealer via Flickr.

But it’s totes not me making things up! I’m getting it from an authority, and if you lie awake tonight and picture that being and beg for an audience, you’ll be able to consult the very same source. Trust but verify, amirite? Fuck, I could pass a polygraph, because I believe.

I’m (sometimes) a fiction writer, folks. I know how to put myself in that headspace. I’ve been convinced I’m not the one creating those details, because it feels so damned much like I’m just taking dictation. And yes, I’m so very good at it that I’ve convinced others my story people are really real, to the point where they can describe them to the cut of their coat without me saying a thing about their appearance. But when all is said and done, I will be placing my novels in the Science Fiction section, because I made this shit up.

That gun that was pointed at your head? The one that was so real you could hear the safety click off and feel the cold circle of steel touch your temple and smell the metal and a trace of oil, that gun never existed. That’s why the people who’ve aimed it at you over the years can’t agree on it’s color and caliber, the make and model, whether the clip is full or not, what kind of bullets are in it, how much damage it can do… it doesn’t exist, but they swear it does, because it feels so very real.

Do you know what Hell really is?

It’s a story. A work of fiction. An empty threat. Myth, legend, fantasy, product of the human imagination. That’s all. That’s all it ever was. A story.

You don’t have to fear it. Not now. Not ever again.

What Do You Think – Did Bill Nye Smoke Some Ham?

I only got to watch bits of the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham, and caught the gist of it from the Pharyngula live blog and comments there. It was enough to realize that I’m going to be able to debate that little shit just as soon as I finish with these Christianist textbooks, because he’s regurgitating most of the same bullshit I’m finding there. I’ll be watching the debate later and going over the geology bits in some detail. Well, as much as I can stand – I don’t think I’ll be able to take much of that pompous windbag at a time. Which means, actually, I won’t be able to debate him, ever – I’d end up pouncing on him, slapping duct tape over his cake socket whilst screaming “The Bible is not science you dipshit!”

Y’all would pay to see that, and then pay to get me out of jail, right?

Anyway, if you wish to torture yourselves, the debate is supposed to be available here for a short time. Let me know about any bits you want me to pay particular attention to. I want my Ham smoked, cured, and sliced. Heh.

While you wait for me to get crack-a-lackin’, feel free to suggest captions for this excellent image Hemant caught:

Image is Bill giving Ken a profound WTF stare as Ken arranges something on his podium without meeting Bill's eyes.

[Your Caption Here]

Oh, and Bill?

Learn some bloody geology. Sheesh. From what I understand, that’s the topic he flubbed the worst, and it’s ridiculous – doesn’t everyone realize geology is the creationists’ favorite target just after evolution? I know folks kinda disregard the earth sciences whilst lusting after physics and biology, but for fuck’s sake…

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.

Kim Rippere and Elsa Roberts from Secular Woman, Vyckie Garrison from No Longer Quivering, and M.A. (Marian) Melby from Sinmantyx discussed the reality and effects of religious homeschooling. Note that the problem isn’t with homeschooling per se – Marian talks about the fact that most of the homeschool kids she sees in her university classes are well-educated and do well. But she points out that the subset of homeschoolers being discussed are not ones likely to end up at a state university.

Vyckie, having been the homeschool mom at one point, provides insight into homeschooling for fundamentalist religious reasons. She pointed out that the enormous emphasis on gender roles meant that girls often weren’t educated at the same rate or quality as boys. They were being prepared to become homemakers, mothers, helpmeets – why prepare girls for a career? Even if parents are well-intentioned at first, the size of the families in the sects that emphasize a “quiver full” of children means older girls end up becoming stand-in moms to the younger kids. The chores involved with feeding, cleaning, and clothing so many kids means that education is often sacrificed. Elsa experienced this firsthand: raised in a relatively small family of four kids, she was in charge of all the meals by the age of 11. For a while, her family lived in a house with no electricity. The kids had to haul water up from the creek, do laundry by hand – those tasks took a long time, with little left for education. So girls’ educations could slide. They would learn what they needed as they went along; they could learn fractions when they cooked.

Parents rationalize the educational neglect of their children by telling themselves it’s far more important to inculcate character and Biblical/Godly principles than reading, writing and arithmetic.

There’s also the fact that children are being taught by parents who aren’t qualified to teach. Elsa’s parents were creationists who taught her creationism instead of science, and that only for a scattershot few months. Because she loved science, she ended up teaching herself all she could from a thrift store biology textbook and a few popular science magazines. Her father told her she couldn’t become a doctor – it would place her in authority over men, and that wasn’t allowed. By the time she reached college, she had wide gaps in her education. She didn’t know what a beaker was. She couldn’t follow lab procedure. It was hard to overcome the deficiencies in her knowledge, and some gaps she will never be able to fill. You can tell she’s angry about it: it rings out loud and harshly clear in her voice. And she’s not alone in that. Many kids who have suffered educational neglect are angry, and using the activism their parents taught them to press for reform to educational laws and regulations, much to the horror of the parents who thought they were turning them in to soldiers for God.

And the isolation these kids experience leads to abuse. They think what they’re experiencing is normal. Marian, who grew up in a family that was liberal for the area they lived in, and went to a public school that wasn’t shy about blurring the lines between church and state, was so under-exposed to other types of families that she found the idea of atheist families strange. We all have those sorts of blind spots.

Now imagine being raised in a subculture like Elsa’s. She was surrounded by the fundamentalist idea that women must have a submissive spirit, which left them ripe for abuse. You could end up believing abuse was love. When her parents beat her, that was what she thought. She and Vyckie went over the rituals of punishment in those cultures thoroughly. It begins with disrespect – and disrespect can be something like not having a cheerful enough expression. Before disciplining you, your parents would make you pray, asking them and God for forgiveness. You were then spanked (Elsa used the word beaten) until your will was broken, after which you were expected to engage in reconciliation with the people who had just beaten you. If you didn’t reconcile to their satisfaction, you would be beaten again.

And this is considered Godly.

There’s far more. All of it will be familiar to people who follow Love, Joy, Feminism and No Longer Quivering. Most of it is horrifying. You can find plenty of information and links at Secular Woman’s Religion and Homeschooling page. I encourage you to arm yourself with some knowledge, and when bills come up in your state requiring better education standards and regulations, support them. There are kids who are being robbed of a future, because freedom of religion means freedom from education for some parents.

We need to do better for those kids.

Sad child by Axel via Flickr. Image is of a small, dark-haired child sitting on grass with his head in his arms, looking very forlorn.

Sad child by Axel via Flickr.

 

 

 

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 (“office,” 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 Lock 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?

I had the dubious pleasure of opening a packet of PACEs this evening. Yes, my 8th grade science curriculum makes quite the stack. And I’m going to attempt them stone-sober. We’ll see if my brain makes it past first impressions without crying for the solace of demon rum.

Image shows a stack of PACES, with 1085 on top.

Mah stack o’ ACE

If you’re looking for slick, glossy Christianist science education, you won’t find it here. Each book is thin, stapled newsprint, much like the instruction booklets mailed out by the IRS, only less useful to civilization. The covers, recycled from previous PACEs, often have little to nothing to do with the content within, and haven’t been updated for decades to boot. The first booklet has got the word “science” all over it, along with photos of people looking at things potentially related to science. The clothes and hairstyles are trés late-70s – early-80s. I feel we’ve reached the cutting edge already.

The next PACE, showing an astronaut and the American flag on the moon, the Earth shining full overhead, has got red crosses all over it.

A quick flip through the pile shows a few booklets aren’t in color. These are the Activity PACs. I think they’re included to ensure a child’s will is thoroughly broken. The Science 1087 PAC, for instance, has us fill in the blanks for questions such as, “God designed the hydrologic ________ to prevent the ________ from overflowing.”

Now, lest you fall prey to the idea that these activity books may, somewhere within, contain any activities that may prove the slightest bit fun, let me just advice there is nothing of that worldly sort. We have science vocabulary words (like “hymn”), fill-in-the-blank exercises, Bible verse memorization…. and that’s it. I know, the excitement could positively overwhelm a kid.

The contents of each PACE include goals we’re to learn about, such as “Purpose of Earth’s Creation.” Then there’s a homily sort of thing, and a little snippet of what appears to be the lyrics of a good Christian song or hymn. Finally, there’s the Bible verse to memorize. As I imagined myself in an “office,” opening to the Table of Contents in my Science PACE 1085, I could feel my will to live drain like a glacial lake that has just floated its ice dam.

At the bottom, we see the copyright date, which informs us that the most recent revision of this PACE was 1998. A quick gallop through the rest show a few were revised in 2002; some haven’t been touched since 1986. I guess there aren’t that many updates needed when the answer to everything is “God did it.”

On the page facing the contents, there is a cartoon. It looks like something created by someone who once had a comic described and that kids love ‘em, so thought this would be a great way to make the PACEs exciting. This person, not knowing how panels in comics work, has drawn helpful arrows for us to follow. Which is good, because otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to blindly follow the right path. Happily, he (and I’m positive it’s a he) dispenses with those in subsequent issues, where he seems to have concluded that left-to-right was the only Godly way to draw comic panels. There’s not a single character of color – we don’t see any people of color until the last booklet, and they’re just random folk in the photographs the cartoon heroes are pasted upon. Women appear occasionally – we see the back of one’s head in the second cartoon, for instance. When they’re not just part of the background, they’re moms who are never seen stepping a single toe over the housewife line, silly little sisters, or crotchety old women arguing about how God reveals the weather. There’s a grand total of 1 (one) professional woman – a stewardess. It just wouldn’t do to give the people with excessive melanin and/or lady parts the idea science is something they can do, too.

Yep.

There’s another oddity in the way the pages are numbered: 1 (one). Every page, they spell it out in parentheses. I have no idea why. Perhaps they don’t trust their own curriculum to have imparted the knowledge of the relationship between the numeral and the word for the number.

Having flipped through most of the books, I think I can manage these as long as I have a hard surface to slam my head in to on occasion.

This cat is showing how much I will love the brick wall that helps me cope with these books. Photo is of a tortoise-shell cat resting its cheek against a brick wall with its eyes blissfully closed.Image courtesy David Joyce via Flickr.

This cat is showing how much I will love the brick wall that helps me cope with these books. Image courtesy David Joyce via Flickr.

I also can sum up the curriculum thusly: “Hello, boys! Here’s a stick. You will use it to ram misinformation and strict fundamentalist Christian schlock into your brain. You will then insert the stick elsewhere, to keep you upright and uptight like a good Christian should be. Do not deviate from this course, or we will use the stick to beat your bottom. Don’t even think of having an independent thought. And what are you girl-children and dark people doing here?”

Gah. I might need coma-inducing amounts of booze after all…

 

*Edited to add “virtually” – as Jonny points out, while they may as well be the same company, technically they are not.

Congratulations! You’re Going to Hell! 1. Hell is an Empty Threat

Hell pisses me off. It took one sick, evil fuck to come up with the concept of believe-or-burn-eternally. Brilliant, though: terrify believers and potential converts with the worst possible fate if they don’t do what you say, then give them relief from that terror by promising heaven if they just follow instructions. And really, it doesn’t take much to convince them, because you catch people while they’re young and/or vulnerable, ensuring those threats of eternal torment grip them and refuse to let go.

Of course, the people making this threat are generally sure they’re saved and have nothing to worry about. Or they’re just parroting what they were taught as children. And they don’t think of the consequences, don’t care, or actually want their listener to cower in mortal terror.

Image is of several people suffering in a pit of lava. Lava pit, Hell, Haw Par Villa, Singapore by Jpatokal / Wikimedia Commons.

Lava pit, Hell, Haw Par Villa, Singapore by Jpatokal / Wikimedia Commons.

Hell is the gun religion holds to your head to ensure you’ll never leave. A thing so awful that you won’t risk questioning, just do your utmost to believe.

People: that gun is empty.

You may be one of those folks whose childhood was tormented by fear. I know people, far too many people, who spent entire nights awake in their beds, frantic, terrified they hadn’t prayed the right way or didn’t believe strongly enough or had made that one fatal mistake that God would never forgive them for. Children who sobbed in the darkness and repeated the Sinner’s Prayer again, again, again, hoping it would save them. Praying again to hedge their bets:

Now I lay me down to sleep… I pray the Lord my soul to take.

I loathe the people who did this to them. Oh, I know many of those folks were convicted Christians, utterly convinced this was the right thing to do for their kids. I know many of them just wanted to make sure their kids were saved. Hey, say these words, and hey Presto! God won’t let Satan burn you forever! Problem solved!

While the children cowered with that gun to their heads, waiting for the trigger to be pulled.

The gun is empty.

And then some of them grew into adults who still lived in fear of hell. Trying to walk the narrow path. Trying not to piss off God. Still lying awake some nights, crying, begging Jesus to save them.

Some of them grew into adults confident in the knowledge they’re saved. And they’re so relieved the gun’s no longer pointed at them that they turn it on others.

The gun is empty.

An unloaded Remington New Army Model 1858. Image and caption courtesy DarkSaturos90 via Wikimedia Commons.

An unloaded Remington New Army Model 1858. Image and caption courtesy DarkSaturos90 via Wikimedia Commons.

Some of those kids grew into adults who gradually, after a long and terrible struggle, had the courage to look for bullets, and discovered that the gun wasn’t loaded. Either they came to believe God was too loving to condemn his children to suffer forever, or they realized there almost certainly is no God who gives a shit what humans do, or they found the evidence pointed overwhelmingly to no gods at all. No gods, no Satan, no hell. All made up. They were lied to.

But that lie is so horrific, the idea of hell so vivid, that some never can stop wondering if there might be a bullet in the gun after all.

People, the gun is empty.

In fact, that gun never even existed. Just a finger pointing from a pocket, an illusion created by a human hand.

Purple ink on notepaper drawing of a hand with two fingers and a thumb making a gun.

“Gun Fingers” by nickoswar / deviantART. Some rights reserved.

Don’t let it threaten you any more.

Wot Your Filthy Atheist Lucre Hath Bought

Oh, my darlings, you have filled my coffers with coinage with which to purchase freaky fundie stuff, and I have filled my shelf.

Creationist crap, plus some books debunking same.

Creationist crap, plus some books debunking same.

Mind you, this is only the beginning, and doesn’t show the books I’ve got on the Kindle. We’ll be busy for quite some time, and by the end of our journey, we will be able to wipe the floor with the Flood Geologist / Christian school graduate / Intelligent Design spewer of our choice.

Should you run across any titles you wish me to add, shoot me the info. We’re gonna have such fun…

Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education: In the Beginning…

For a while, now, I’ve planned a series on the kind of creationists who like to run around calling themselves geologists and invade GSA meetings under false pretenses. People like “Stone Stubborn” Steven Austin, who does real geology only to the extent it gives him a Trojan Horse into professional journals and meetings. These smarmy barstards have a distressing tendency to lie by omission, trying to lure actual geologists into associating with them by pretending they’re legit, and then telling their fundie flocks they’ve presented their work professionally, therefore their creationist crap is SCIENCE – only failing to mention that wasn’t open and avowed creation science they were presenting to the professionals.

But, you know, they’re kinda clownish, and I can just hear people poo-poohing their danger to the scientific community. Nobody outside of a handful of fundie freaks takes these Young Earth Creationist douchebags seriously, right? We’re not at risk like biology is, yo. No one’s boarding school boards trying to muck with the geology curriculum, so let the rabbits wear glasses and Steve Austin play totes legit geologist to the church-addicted crowd.

Um.

Actually, they are mucking with school boards. See what they were doing with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills just a few years ago:

The creationists were prepared with a very long list of amendments to make to the TEKS to water down the presentation of evolution. it was interesting because there was a brand new earth and space science TEKS, basically bringing geology back and planetary science back, and there’s a lot of evolution in there. The guy who wrote it is an NCSE member, good man, and there’s a lot of evolution in the ESS TEKS. They went through those with a fine-toothed comb, and any TEK having to do with radioisotopic dating, with any sort of change through time, paleontology, those had to be tweaked to water down the coverage of evolution, make it more tentative, instead of saying describe the paleontological record for such and such, discuss whether the paleontological record, stuff like that. Unfortunately, our allies on the board didn’t really understand what was going on, and in most cases these weakening amendments were passed.

So yes, they are going after the earth science curriculum. And it’s not just the evolution bits they’re upset about. Creationists may be mostly preoccupied with the biological sciences just now, but geology’s almost as devastating to their worldview, and many of them know that. Don’t be shocked if a phalanx of them mount a sneak attack on the Earth sciences when you’re not looking. They don’t want their kids to know they evolved from apes – they sure as shit don’t like their hearing about 4.5 billion years and a rock record that refutes Noah’s Flood.

They’re already in our professional spaces, earning the credibility and vocabulary they need in order to shit all over the natural sciences and convince people who don’t know any better that they’re the real deal. Imagine how well it will go for the USGS and various state geological surveys when the creationists have enough politicians snowed, and have convinced enough people they’re legitimate scientists.

And they’re raising millions of kids, the future of our nation, to be pig-ignorant of real geology. I’ve got the books to prove it.

Mah three textbooks on me bedside work table, plus a glass of my preferred coping mechanism (a nice, crisp, late-harvest Riesling), with the kitteh in the background looking rather skeptical of this whole idea.

Mah three textbooks on me bedside work table, plus a glass of my preferred coping mechanism (a nice, crisp, late-harvest Riesling), with the kitteh in the background looking rather skeptical of this whole idea.

In my hands are two Christian Earth sciences textbooks: A Beka Book’s Science of the Physical Creation in Christian Perspective, and Bob Jones University’s Earth Science Fourth Edition.* The books are used by countless Christian schools and in innumerable homeschools. This is the creationist parody of geology and the earth sciences which is being taught to children who don’t have any alternative. Conservative Christians whose kids are in the public schools can shovel this shit into their kiddies’ skulls on evenings and weekends, but at least they’re (hopefully) being taught straight-up science during the week. But the kids of conservative Christians stuck in the private and homeschool environments are cut off. They haven’t got anyone to show them any different. So out they’ll come, joining society, with a gaping ignorance of what Earth science actually is.

And they’ll vote for politicians who are as dismally ignorant as they are.

And they’ll design structures and build in geologically-challenging areas with their crippled knowledge.

And they’ll vote on referendums having to do with science.

And they’ll run for public office (like, for instance, positions on the local school board).

And they’ll shovel this shit into their own kiddies’ skulls.

And did I mention? They’ll vote.

So I want to know how bad it really is. I also want you to know how bad it really is. And I want you to know where some of the whacky stuff’s coming from when you encounter one of the products of this mis-education in your classrooms, or at a book club meeting, or in your community, or online.

I want us to know what these texts get wrong, and what they get right.

Above all, I want us to know what’s going on, before we, like biologists, end up mired deep in the culture wars fighting off repeated attacks, and not realizing what the creationists on the school boards are up to with their sneaky little back-door approaches to stuffing God into kiddies’ skulls.

I chose A Beka and BJU because they’re two of the biggest names (and I’ll be adding ACE as its own series, because it is also widespread, utterly horrible, and in some ways more insidious – including a version being taught in supposedly secular charter schools). These aren’t fringe publishers. These are the Christian right mainstream.

I will build on the treatment pioneered by folks like Doktor Zoom, and fisk these books to a nicety, all for your education, enlightenment, and possibly entertainment.

I do suggest that you lay in a supply of your coping substance of choice before we begin. You will need copious amounts in order to cope with this.

So, onward.

 

*I also have a copy of the Glencoe Science Earth Science textbook used in many public schools to use as a control. It’s a thing of beauty. I may have drooled on it a little bit. Where o where was this stuff when I was in school?!

 

Previous: Adventures in Good Christian Education: A Preliminary Foray

Keeping Up With the Creationists, Vol. I, Issue 1: Ain’t Just Private Schools, Kids

Hello and welcome to what I hope will be a weekly feature, Keeping Up With the Creationists, in which we peruse some creationist news and remind ourselves that, no, alas, creationism isn’t dead. It’s not even sleeping. It’s wide-awake and kicking in not only Christian private and home schools, but in our very own public school systems.

Yes, public.

If you haven’t already, read Zack Kopplin’s eye-popping exposé of supposedly-secular charter schools busily teaching kids (using government monies, let’s not forget) “that the fossil record is ‘sketchy.’ That evolution is ‘dogma’ and an ‘unproved theory’ with no experimental basis. They will be told that leading scientists dispute the mechanisms of evolution and the age of the Earth.” This is bog-standard creationist crap. I’ll be filing an Open Records request of my own to see what they’re doing to the earth sciences, but as we can tell from what Zack’s uncovered, there’s a major problem there. Those who thought creationism was beat need to go have a re-think.

As if that wasn’t enough to make you pop an extra blood pressure pill or two, here’s another bit of outrageousness: Louisiana public schools are openly teaching creationism. And they’re belittling Buddhist kids to boot. This isn’t a rogue teacher, mind, this is an entire school, up to and including the superintendent, and they’ve got Jesus hanging over the door, just to ensure the kiddies know who their lord n’ master is. The public school kiddies.

Amanda Marcotte makes an excellent point in a post about this: “bullying is a weapon that the Christian right loves and does not want to give up.” Because they adore school situations like this:

Students are frequently led in prayer, and students are required to attend an annual “See You At The Pole” prayer event. Teachers routinely hand out Christian pamphlets that [father of the bullied child] Lane describes as featuring “[t]he entire New Testament of the Bible as well as cartoons that denounce evolution and trumpet the evils of birth control, premarital sex, rock music, alcohol, pornography, homosexuality, sorcery, and witchcraft.” Needless to say, when he told the superintendent about his concerns about his stepson being routinely bullied and humiliated for being Buddhist, the superintendent “was dismissive and told us that we live in the ‘Bible Belt’ and that this is just how things are.”

So yeah, no, creationism’s not the least bit dead, and Christianists are busy undermining public school education and ensuring kids who don’t believe right are made miserable. Because Jesus.

Image is a giraffe, looking as if it's pointing to a duck that's waddling away from it. The caption is "Shun! Shun the non-believer! Shuuuunnnnnn!!"

They’re busy in not one, not two, but three state legislatures, trying to get creationism in through the backdoor. It’s not even the end of January, and nearly 10% of our states have jackasses jacking up science education. Local elections matter, folks. So does political participation. If you live in Virginia, Oklahoma, or Missouri, raise merry hell with your elected officials. Remind the saner ones that what the fuckwads are trying with these bills is the same type of shitty legislation that got Louisiana in a position where teachers are teaching creationism with impunity.

For a good editorial on the Virginia situation, one that pertains to all three bills, see here. I can forgive the tongue-bath they gave Del. Bell at the end in light of the full-throated defense of science and evolution at the beginning.

Turning now to Christianist schools, we’ve got some excellent insider tales from students a student* suffering ACE. A student at Gospel Haven Academy woke up halfway through his sophomore year in high school to realize, horrified, he’d been “taught pseudoscience, revisionist history, [and] right-wing propaganda.” Wait until you see what they’ve done to music. *shudder*

One of our own is also stuck within an ACE school: Tyler is a 17 year-old atheist who has discovered the joys of debunking the dreck he’s being taught. This line will remain one of my favorites of all time: “If teaching God’s point of view requires you to teach blatant mistruths, maybe it’s time to rethink God’s point of view.” I want this on t-shirts. I’ll see if I can in touch, and work out a nice little arrangement for a line of clothing to feature this quote, plus a humorous picture, suitable for wearing to your next church school potluck.

PZ has an excellent post on “engaging silly beliefs in multiple ways” that I urge you to consider. Those interested in Noah’s Ark might like to know it’s actually round.

And, finally, get your Sunday fix of Christianist history with Doktor Zoom. Today, we learn some very interesting… um, facts (if you can call the fucked-up things Christianists believe about FDR, Hitler, and Japan “facts”)… about WWII. Such as:

As for the Nazis’ racism, well, that’s just the inevitable result of Darwinism (never mind that the Nazis banned Origin of Species, shhhhh):

Hitler combined Marxist-socialism with Darwin’s theory of evolution, proclaiming that the German people had evolved into a superior or master race. He called for a world war to kill off the weaker races (especially the Jews) and assure the “survival of the fittest” (the German people). Because many Germans believed the notion of evolution, they accepted Hitler’s ideas. Soon public hospitals began to practice euthanasia (killing the terminally ill, the mentally retarded, and those with physical handicaps) and abortion (killing unborn babies).

That’s all for this week. Join me for more creationist shenanigans next Sunday. I’m sure we won’t lack for material…

 

*Derp. As Jonny points out, they are the same kid.