Adventures in Creationist Earth Science Education IVb: Wherein I Forecast a Crisis of Faith

After the desert of Science of the Physical Creation, I’m hoping Earth Science Fourth Edition doesn’t let me down. When I read Christianist textbooks, I expect them to incorporate a bit more God into the instruction, but it seems like no one wants to admit that they think God controls the weather. Sad.

And the beginning of ES4′s chapter on Weather is positively crunchy. It’s all about wind as an alternative to fossil fuels. The authors insist we come up with better, cleaner solutions to humanity’s energy needs. Even the cross-box doesn’t gabble about God – it just wants us to consider the benefits and drawbacks of wind power. That’s… positively sensible.

Oy.

It doesn’t get any godlier as temperature, pressure, and wind are discussed. They even tell us why wind is named for where it’s blowing from rather than the direction it’s going: it’s because weather vanes point in to rather than away from the wind.

Image shows a cat standing on a scratching post, staring intently at something off-camera, with its tail held nearly horizontal. Caption says, "Weather vane kitteh smells tuna from the west."

That would make the wind a westerly, even though it’s headed east.

Thanks to ES4, something formerly nonsensical will now be a breeze to remember. Hur hur hur… sorry.

The chart showing us how to determine wind chill is also a nice touch. Very useful.

A sensible explanation of air pressure, winds, and prevailing wind directions ensues. Alas, they repeat the myth of the horse latitudes. Does no one check their etymology?!

In discussing local winds, they forgot to mention the warming powers of a chinook, but that’s small taters. I just remember it from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Long Winter. Kinda sticks in your mind after it seems like the world will remain frozen forever, and then this lovely wind appears and you hear dripping from the eaves and yay! everybody won’t starve to death in a snow-covered wasteland.

Speaking of wastelands, it sure does feel like we’re in a godless desert. But at last, in the Life Connection section on Winds and Migration, we get a little God!

The ability of many kinds of animals to migrate long distances and around seemingly impassible barriers are truly amazing. We don’t know if animals had to migrate when they were first created [Migration? In Eden? Srsly?! -ed], but if not, God certainly designed in them the ability to develop this essential skill.

Wait wait wait wait wait. So you’re saying here that God either a) created these critters as migratory animals or b) had ‘em programmed for it. Now, option A seems bloody stupid – where the fuck would they be migrating to in the Garden of bloody Eden? Hmmm? And why? No seasons, right? Always lovely? So that means option B. But B means God was setting up his creation to fall. Wot a rat bastard.

You know what? I bloody love that above-quoted paragraph. After pages and pages of basic weather, it sticks out like a burning bush, and I hope it cracks at least a few kids over the noggin with a meaningful knuckle and shouts, “Wakey wakey! Your entire fucking religion makes no damn sense!” It’s this kind of thing that can cause the hairline fracture that eventually causes the whole edifice of faith to shatter.

The god-talk ceases during the bits on humidity, clouds, and precipitation. There’s a wee bit o’ religion in the text box on acid rain, where the author says how we need to reduce pollution to get rid of acid rain:

For those sources under our control, we are obligated to reduce these emissions in order to exercise good and wise dominion in the world (Gen 1:28).

Yes, indeedy. Could you give your fellow Christianists at A Beka a ring and ‘splain this to them? That would be lovely. The jerkwads think they can run around polluting willy-nilly because God promised never to destroy the earth again (until he destroys it again, of course), so they could do with a stern “good and wise dominion” lecture. The environment thanks you.

Image shows a cat on a roof with its back legs extended, toes spread. Caption reads, "Solar collectors activated"

Seriously loving their environmentalism. I just wish their obligation extended to recognizing the actual age of the earth and stuff. Oh, and treating their fellow humans better would be lovely. But I haz a hope. If the idea that the environment is something we should take care of got through, perhaps it’s just a matter of time before the next generation of BJU kids are on about hippie Jesus and cry happy tears at gay weddings.

And, kudos where due, they get the difference between sublimation and deposition right.

Overall, not a bad chapter. A little light de-godding, and it would be fabulous for any secular school, even one with a great big social conscience. Flipping through the next chapter on Storms and Weather Prediction, it seems to be similar. I mean, they even go so far as to admit we may see more maritime Arctic air masses form as the Arctic ice cap melts.

They’ve also got what SPC hasn’t got: a discussion of orographic precipitation and rain shadows, a subject near and dear to the Pacific Northwest’s heart. They also talk about convergence, which is nice. Living in a convergence zone, I can tell you it has a hell of an impact on weather.

Thunder storms, ice storms, and snow storms are very well-described. And – brace yourselves – one of the photos shows a pair of black hands holding the hailstones that shattered a windshield. They actualy acknowledge that people of color exist! This is quite huge for a university that only began admitting some black people in 1975.

The section on tornadoes is lively and informative, with excellent pictures illustrating their power, and the Enhanced Fujita-Pearson Scale is shown and explained. A text box advises kids not to try being storm-chasers themselves, which is very sensible advice. Hurricanes bring on an excess of exclamation points, but aside from that, well done – especially explaining why the same type of storm has different names in different regions (“This policy became standard after studies indicated Asian people didn’t heed warnings of storms with unfamiliar Western names.”). They accept “culturally appropriate” without a quibble. Dominion doesn’t seem to extend to forcing the entire world to revolve around western naming conventions, then. Whether this is because of an acceptance of diversity of the soft bigotry of low expectations, I’m not sure.

They fall at the fence in their little text box about Hurricanes and Global Warming. Well, stumble. They try to play up the whole “we haven’t seen definitive evidence of a link yet” thing and downplay the fact that our climate models are saying but we’re definitely fucked later in the 21st century – the only question is how fucked? Current consensus hovers somewhere around fairly and very, with a possibility of very-very. But since ES4 wants to decrease emissions anyway, I’m content to let them work themselves gradually up to accepting anthropogenic global warming as reality. They’re getting there, and doing some of the right things along the way.

We don’t get god-smacked until the end of the hurricane section. Even then, it’s not “God sends hurricanes to punish us for Gay Pride parades,” but simply saying that “we have a duty both to God and to our neighbors, to understand severe weather so we can prevent loss of life and minimize damage where possible.” They emphasize not sacrificing life for property. It’s wrapped in godly language, but the sentiment is fully in line with humanist goals.

Their Facets of Meteorology box gives advice on staying safe in storms. They give many practical tips. They don’t advise you to pray. The only time they mention God is in the Life Connection bit about animals impacted by hurricanes, and there, they aren’t spewing nonsense about God specifically creating special senses or any of that rot. They’re saying animals suffer in natural disasters, too, and good stewards care for them like God commanded. These are good things to encourage people to do.

The info on weather maps is good and includes how meteorologists can use GIS for predicting weather and how it helps government officials plan their emergency response to major storms. That was very neat.

Now we learn how we can “Serve God as a research meteorologist.” Don’t get excited. God isn’t mentioned once outside of the title. It’s all about what research meteorologists do and how many different ways their research is useful, and what you need to study to become one. Le sigh. I expected more, ES4!

And the book even shows you can be a meteorologist if you’re black. What’s next, showing lady scientists?

(I snark, but I’m pleased. Very pleased. I love it when we’ve progressed so far even BJU’s trotting to catch up. I’m happy to see at least some influential fundies incorporating good ideas like equality and reducing pollution into their worldview. Perhaps someday they’ll catch all the way up.)

They end the chapter with a flourish of God’s commands and dominion and stuff, but it seems here like a formality. Meteorology seems one of those branches of science even creationists can’t fuck up too badly. I love watching the BJU folks get excited over the technology and encouraging kids to learn more. That passion may lead a few of them to delve deeper and discover actual science, which is so much better than most of the crap they get fed. Even if not, at least creationist kids who pursue a career in meteorology have a chance to make a useful contribution to the world. Shame some of them will use their weatherperson cred to prop up ridiculous bullshit in other scientific disciplines.

But if they read their review questions thoroughly, and really think about #10, we may find more of them losing their faith than we might expect:

Why does God permit destructive storms, especially those that result in huge losses of life?

A dangerous question, that, but one they must confront. I encourage them to consider it carefully.

The image shows a Roman mosaic of a skeleton lying on the ground. The caption contains a quote from Epicurus: “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”

Realizing this set me free of the fear of God. Once that bond was loosened, the others unraveled.

 

Oh, Christianist Lab Manual. You Make Me Snicker.

I’m about to bugger off for the weekend – I’m behind on about nine trillion fronts, and every time I try to catch up, life shoves another pile of Overwhelm™ atop me. So I gotta take some time to chill and also read the bajillion (okay, 12) papers I downloaded pertaining to the Oso Mudslide. The cat is also going through her spring uptick in energy, and considering she’s twenty years old, it’s something I’ll put everything else on hold to enjoy.

Everything except the BJU Earth Science 4th Edition Lab Manual.

I thought I might be disappointed by the thing, but the moment I got it and flipped to a random page, and saw “Explain why the Haber-Bosch Process is an example of humans following God’s command in Genesis 1:28,” I knew it would be all I’d hoped it would be.

Then I decided to look at exercise 5a, “Where Do Those Dates Come From?” Had to be sure I was getting your money’s worth (and thank you for that cash, my darlings – it’s allowed me to acquire us yet more fascinating yet horrifying creationist crap). Boy, am I. Because

After completing this lab, you will be able to:

✓construct a chronology using Bible dating information.

✓connect your chronology to a historical date to find the age of the earth.

That, my loves, is the Christianist version of a science lab exercise.

Some of the labs are straightforward and look like quite a bit of fun, like creating a barometer and such. Those things are so bland they didn’t even bother to throw goddidit into some of the exercises. But don’t worry. You’ll get plenty of biblical nonsense when we do labs for stuff like radiometric dating. You can hardly wait, amirite?

Image is a demotivational poster showing a flat earth perched on four pillars, with the rest of the solar system revolving around it. Caption reads, "Biblical Literalism: Getting science wrong for over 2,800 years!"

A Beka’s lab manuals are awaiting me in our apartment office. I may have to break my intended radio silence in order to give you some sneak peeks at those, too.

Alrighty. Must away. I’ll have some great stuff for ye soon!

Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education IVa: Wherein We Enjoy Nearly-Godless Weather

Have I told you lately that A Beka’s graphics are a touch tacky? They are. At the start of the “Earth’s Weather” chapter, there’s a grainy picture of a hurricane from space, and across the bottom are three photos that rather clash. There’s an iceberg inside a snowflake shape, a wispy waterfall surrounded by verdant green inside a raindrop shape, and something like a very red-orange Monument Valley inside a sunburst shape. This is the kind of stuff people with stunted imaginations do when they get their hands on a graphic design program.

At least they didn’t have Jesus up there making all that weather stuff happen. Small mercies, amirite?

Aside from a questionable definition of climate (which implies the climate of a place doesn’t change), the first bits aren’t bad. At least there’s no god-talk. We have to wait until they’ve finished with evaporation before we get any of that. Then we learn how “God designed our bodies” to use evaporation to keep ourselves at the right temperature. What, you didn’t think evilution did that, did you?

They make a rather silly mistake with sublimation. When something sublimates, it goes directly from solid to gas or vapor with no liquid in-between. Dry ice does that, which is why we get the awesome smoke effect. But A Beka thinks frost is formed by water vapor sublimating. They go on and on about sublimation when what’s really happening is the opposite – deposition. Rather annoying mistake, that, but at least they get condensation nuclei right, and god doesn’t show up, so yay-ish. Until they babble about water vapor sublimating into ice crystals. Blah.

Picture shows a bulldog in a bathtub with its front paws on the edge, looking sidewise at  the camera. Caption reads, "If I melt dry ice, can I take a bath without getting wet?"

Cloud types and smog are dealt with without recourse to the supernatural. We’re treated to a perfectly reasonable explanation of air masses. So far, so secular.

When we get to fronts, the authors paint a rousing word-picture of battling air masses. They mention that the term “front” was inspired by WWI: what better word for where air masses clash than one that means the “‘battle line’ along which armies fight.” Fascinating, really, and that led me to spelunk the internet to discover if it’s true. ‘Tis. This is one reason I’ve actually been enjoying my Christianist textbook reading: I learn bits of trivia. You’ve gotta fact-check ‘em, but Christianists are very good at trivia. This seems to be what they do in place of actual science.

I’ll be honest – this section on fronts was great: factual, easy to understand, and rousing. You can’t help but feel the energy as air masses collide like gigantic armies. There are bits of these books, like this one, I’d like to lift and install in secular textbooks.

Alas, our good, clean, secular fun can’t last more than a few pages in SPC. You can almost see the authors going, “Oh, fiddlesticks, we forgot God!” and then trying to make up for the oversight. As they describe where precipitation comes from, they’re keen to inform us that “This movement of water from the sea into the air and then back to the sea, called the water cycle, is the mechanism that God designed to water those portions of the earth located far from the oceans.”

Orly? Did he design it before or after the Flood?

Image shows a kitten with its paws clasped. Caption says, "Dear god, please let it rain cheezburgers."

They follow up with a Bible box for Eccl. 1:7, because it mentions rivers. It amuses me that they shore up their Christianist cred by quoting the most atheistic book in the Bible.

The god-talk takes a back seat during the subsequent discussion of how different types of precipitation form. But when they start talking hail, they have to bring god on for an encore. Cuz, y’know, “God used hail against the enemies of Israel (Joshua 10:11) and predicts that He will do so once more in the future (Rev. 16:21).” That sits plonk in the middle of the info box on the dangers of hail, rather like your sainted aunt at an orgy: out of place, disconcerting, and swiftly avoided.

This next issue probably isn’t caused by being a creationist, although creationism leads to greater ignorance. Still. You’d think they could avoid a numbskull error like saying a storm with a lot of snow is a blizzard – blizzards are defined by winds, not the amount of snowfall. You don’t even need snow to fall at all in a blizzard. We’ll chalk that gaffe up to SPC being from Florida.

I’m very upset that the whole section on thunderstorms never once mentioned Thor, Indra, or Raijin. Teach the controversy, damn it! And how do we go through a whole section on tornadoes and hurricanes without mentioning they happen because god’s punishing people for not hating gays enough? What kinda “Christian Perspective” is this? Sheesh.

Image shows the enormous statue of Jesus in Rio getting struck by lightning. Caption says, "Christ: 0 Thor: 1"

After being bludgeoned with rapid-fire facts about how weather is measured and mapped, we’re finally allowed to apply our brains to a weather map. It’s all rote, though: you don’t really have to think to answer. Just like God wants it.

After a brief bit on forecasting, with some dubious do-it-yourself advice, we end abruptly, sans-god. Not even a verse-inna-box. Damn it, A Beka, you promised me a Christian perspective! You’re not even trying anymore.

I guess the weather really is a safe subject for the godly and godless to natter on about. Bored now.

Adventures in ACE VII: Ignorant About Igneous

You’d think something as basic as the three basic rock types would be hard to screw up. But if there’s one thing the authors of ACE excel at, it’s abject failure to get anything right. I mean, a stray fact here or there sneaks in, but the poor lonely things are isolated, surrounded by vast tracts of utter wrongness. One wonders what they’re doing there.

So. Igneous. After the violence done to volcanoes, I’m sure you can’t wait to see what they do to the related rocks.

If you ever want to make batholiths sound boring, quote ACE. They probably haven’t got a thesaurus in the office, judging from the number of times they use “large.” They say that “large amounts of magma” “may spread out sideways over a large area under Earth’s surface.” And the “largest area in the United States of such spread-out hardened magma is in central Idaho.” They don’t mention what these “layers” are actually called, and they make it seem like a huge sill. I don’t think they realize these are batholiths, that the huge mass of magma they came from is a diapir, and they don’t talk about them slowly cooling. I can guarantee they don’t want to discuss how long it takes for 15,000 square miles (not 16,000, ACE) of magma to freeze.

But it’s not like they understand the massive amounts of heat involved in things like batholiths. This is clear in the next paragraph, where they say “God used the volcanic action of breaking up the fountains of the deep, along with opening the windows of heaven, to bring about the Flood.” You know, a lot of creationists seem to go on about things like epic amounts of volcanic activity and even “runaway subduction” – which is probably a concept too complicated for ACE writers. Not one of the people espousing such extra-biblical claims have dealt with the heat problem. You know, the one that would have boiled Noah & Co.

Image shows a lake with a huge mass of water boiling out of it. Boiling lake in Yellowstone National Park.Once Churning Caldron was a cool spring covered with colorful mats of microorganisms. This all has changed after earthquakes in 1978-79 superheated the water and killed the microbes. This once cool pool now averages 164°F and in 1996, it began throwing water 3-5 feet. Image and caption courtesy Brocken Inaglory via Wikimedia Commons.

Boiling lake in Yellowstone National Park.Once Churning Caldron was a cool spring covered with colorful mats of microorganisms. This all has changed after earthquakes in 1978-79 superheated the water and killed the microbes. This once cool pool now averages 164°F and in 1996, it began throwing water 3-5 feet. Image and caption courtesy Brocken Inaglory via Wikimedia Commons.

ACE goes beyond that: they’re still babbling about the bloody vapor canopy. Creationists David Rush and Larry Vardiman knew by summer 1990 that a vapor canopy would create temperatures far too high for life on earth. Even Answers in Genesis doesn’t spout this shit anymore. But this ACE PACE, revised in 1996, is blissfully oblivious, going on about the wonderful greenhouse the earth was pre-Flood.

Then the numbskulls thoroughly bork their own “theory:”

“Abundant evidence from the past shows us that intense igneous and earth-shifting activity occurred. This evidence indicates that a rapid build-up of intense pressure took place within our earth, causing the walls and ceilings of the conduits to crack, crumble, and then possibly explode as the water in them was turned into steam. Volcanic explosions and eruptions occurring with these disturbances would have caused great quantities of magma from Earth’s mantle to rise, together with vast quantities of hot water and steam.”

This stuff, per their Flood story, happened all over the world. All the volcanism from 4.5 billion to 4,000 years ago supposedly happened all at once. They talk about enormous amounts of volcanic activity unleashing torrents of hot water and steam, and yet it never occurs to them that the ambient temperature within a wooden boat sailing the boiling Flood would cook everything in it. That’s assuming the heat doesn’t melt the caulk and sink the damn ship.

It’s amazing how very good at bad thinking they are.

Image is a demotivational poster showing a derpy-looking kid at a computer. Caption reads, "Ignorance: Opinions with a lack of knowledge."

It gets worse. While they’re vaguely aware of what pumice is, and definitely know it can be used in really powerful soap, awareness is a mere anomaly. Take the very next igneous rock they attempt to describe:

Lava that flows into water cools quickly and hardens to form a second variety of igneous rock – a dense, black, glasslike rock called “obsidian”…. Cliffs of obsidian in Yellowstone National Park are proof that this dry area was once underwater.

Um. No. Obsidian doesn’t form underwater, and the Obsidian Cliff at Yellowstone certainly didn’t. It was a subaerial (under air) flow of thick, hot rhyolite that flowed from an older rhyolite plateau and filled a valley. There may have been a stream it buried, and it was later planed down by a glacier, but it’s never in its life been completely underwater. Also, it’s around 180,000 years old, which is about 172,000 years older than the earth according to creationists. Rhyolite flows are generally subaerial features, so no, the pumice and obsidian formed from them are not “convincing pieces of evidence that God used subterranean forces of the inner Earth to overthrow the world because of man’s sin.”

Jeez.

They then go on to proclaim Mt. Ararat to be a volcano “formed early during the Flood.” Their evidence? They say there’s pillow lava upon it, and pillow lava forms underwater, ergo gigantic Flood. Checkmate, atheists! There’s a few problems with that, even ignoring the age of the rocks. For one thing, the only sources babbling about pillow lava on Ararat are YECs. Quelle surprise. There may indeed be something up there, but I’ll bet you a dollar it’s either a wee patch o’ pillows formed in a lake, or spheroidal weathering.

A discussion of igneous rocks that form underground follows the above nonsense. It consists of a description of granite suitable for 1st graders – in an 8th grade book. They spend more time babbling about the things you can carve out of it than they do discussing what it is. They don’t stop their granite art history at Mount Rushmore, either – they also want us to admire the Confederate leaders carved into Stone Mountain, GA, because treason is totes okay when it’s slave owners entrepreneurs trying to protect their right to own human beings state’s rights. Oh, yeah – Stone Mountain is quartz monzonite, not granite. And it’s not one big boulder, as they claim – it’s a monadnock. A pluton. A big fucking mass o’ magma that cooled underground, not a gigantic 700-foot high boulder. And the ACE people’ve cut it short by 125 feet. See what I mean? They can’t even get the minor details right.

This following bit of dumbassery, however, might cause the geologically-savvy members of this audience to lose the last of their shit. Don’t have anything in your mouth for this next gem o’ wisdom:

Another type of igneous rock formed beneath Earth’s surface when magma cools is basalt.

Image is an ecard showing a person with their face in their hands. Caption says, "Congratulations. Your stupidity has exceeded the limits of my expectations."

Try gabbro, you ignorant gits.

Also, can someone tell me where they’re getting this idea that 3-10 miles of basalt underlies the entire lithosphere, including the continents?

This section ends on a pathetic note, where they say that the basalt “foundation of the Earth is permanent.” I hate to break this to them, but Psalm 104:1,5 is either metaphorical or a lie. There’s this thing called subduction, y’see, that recycles those “permanent” foundations every few hundred million years.

After that mountain range o’ wrong, I’m sure you’re thinking, “It can’t possibly get any worse.”

Oh, it can. Wait ’til you see what they’ve done to sedimentary rocks.

 

Here is a lolcat to soothe your tortured mind. Image is a demotivational poster showing a cat with glowing green eyes staring from a cone of newspaper. Caption says, "Volcano cat. Nowhere is safe."

Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education IIIb: In Which BJU Goes Yellow-Green

After A Beka’s nonsense about humans being able to do anything they want to the earth’s atmosphere because God will save it, it’s a bit of a shock to open to the Earth’s Atmosphere chapter of our BJU ES4 textbook and see, before anything else, a bit about “Killer Air.” Sure, they talk about how God wants to fill the earth right up with people. But they admit air pollution is a problem. They even admit it kills people. And they want their readers to join in fixing it. They don’t leave the whole thing up to God.

Image is a gray cat looking very shocked. Caption says, "I am not often shocked. Right now I am totally flabbergasted."

ZOMG. Is BJU full of environmentalists? (Answer’s “not really,” but we’ll get to that).

Even flipping back a page to see the Unit 5* introduction doesn’t whack us in the face with God. They have a blurb from Michael Oard, Meteorologist, heading up this unit on the atmosphere. I know Oard’s a firm Young Earth Creationist. I’m currently reading an extensive treatise tearing his dumbassery apart. But all he talks about in ES4 is how weather is complicated and we don’t know a lot about it. Unlike SPC, ES4 saves the atmosphere for late in the book, so maybe they figure we know all the featured scientists are YECs by now.

But it’s clear from the beginning that, unlike A Beka, they’re keeping their indoctrination hammer in hand at all times, despite this rather mild start.

The first thing you notice when you get into the meat of the chapter is that whoever’s writing it has a much more informal, engaging style. In comparing our atmosphere to Jupiter, the author says, “Have fun trying to get a breath of fresh air there!” Shame about the “God created our Earth to be inhabited” schlock harshing the mellow towards the end. But the mellow’s unharshed by the next paragraph, which sounds like it was written by a leftist. I mean, they’re going on about reducing emissions and getting away from fossil fuels! I thought that was heresy.

They have my full and unstinting support right there. I can absolutely get behind the reduce-emissions-and-get-away-from-fossil-fuels agenda, and I’m thrilled to see it here, where I least expected it. More, please!

It’s BJU, so of course there’s a little cross-box trashing the Urey-Miller experiment, but the main text goes on to present “The Old-Earth Story.” They pollute the atmosphere a wee bit by saying secular scientists think everything is “pure chance” and “coincidence,” but then they do an honestly great job presenting the secular science understanding of Earth’s history, complete with bacteria evolving and pumping the atmosphere full of oxygen. Not a distortion, sneer, or smear throughout.

Nice. I hope that lodges in some young brains and gets the old synapses firing.

Next, “The Young-Earth Story” is told. It’s simpler, they say, and then go on to say they “don’t know when God created the atmosphere because it is not mentioned in the Creation story in the Bible.” They go on to assume God got round to it during all that firmament-forming, because plants would “need carbon dioxide and water vapor to live,” not to mention animals and humans definitely needing air to breathe the rest of Creation Week. And, of course, the atmosphere was “very good.” So good that “the Fall probably didn’t noticeably change the atmosphere very much.” But man, all that volcanic activity and changing oceans stuff during the Flood sure did! “We can still see the effects of these changes today,” but even though the Flood mucked it up, it’s still a pretty great exhibit of God’s design.

I invite you to compare and contrast Old vs. Young, and decide for yourselves which has got actual science in it.

Image shows a praying person on the left, and the Large Hadron Collider on the right. Caption says, "Questions about the nature of the Universe? Religion prays for answers... Science builds a 17 mile long, $5bn machine and gets them."

You know what’s totally sciencey, though? The imaginary space elevator we’ll be exploring the atmosphere in! But don’t jump in just yet – first, we have to learn about atmospheric chemistry, how it was discovered by several 18th century scientists, and that the abundance of nitrogen is all down to God. Nitrogen has a purpose, people: it’s there to dilute the oxygen so we don’t all burn to death. EVIDENCE!!!

The cross-box sidebar presents the vapor-canopy idea and points us to Chapter 21, where problems with it will be discussed. They’re not having any of that foolishness. Very refreshing.

They settle down to a sober discussion of the homo- and heterospheres. But to make up for three whole paragraphs without god, they have a big ol’ box on Larry Vardiman, who nearly lost his faith studying for a PhD in atmospheric science. Those pesky science facts and their refusal to conform to the Bible! But he chose the Bible, to hell with actual science, and went on to become COO for the Institute for Creation Research. Alas for him, he has a modicum of scientific integrity left, and so he’s had to accept that the vapor canopy is impossible due to the fact the earth would’ve boiled under it. ES4 is totally down with booting the canopy. (They’re more reticent about his admission that the YEC helium argument is total bullshit.)

But the real spit-take moment comes in the final paragraph of the blurb:

Our culture constantly attacks the Bible and its teachings. If you are ever in a situation that makes you question God’s Word, do what Larry Vardiman did. The Bible is rock-solid, worthy of your faith and belief!

And this, class, is why biblical literalists can never be actual scientists. This book is trying to ensure the poor kids reading it will never have a full and rewarding career doing genuine scientific research. They’ll never be complete, competent researchers if they take this advice. They’ll end up like Larry Vardiman, puttering around finding out that fables aren’t science but refusing to admit it at the Institution for Creation Research. It makes me sad.

Image is a cat lying down with its ears flat and looking rather depressed. Caption says, "You make kitty sad"

After that steaming pile, we go back to riding the space elevator (on a carbon nanotube tether!) through the various bits of the atmosphere distinguished by temperature. In fact, it’s all facts for this next section, which is about how atmospheric carbon and nitrogen get into living things. God gets a tiny incidental mention in a sidebar about fertilizer, but is otherwise absent. They make up for the lack at the beginning of the “Special Zones in the Atmosphere” part. We’re told those special zones “help improve our ability to put dominion into practice.” And since they’re there, God probably designed them. O-kay.

Amazingly, unlike A Beka’s SPC, ES4 admits the ozone layer not only had a hole in it, but was thinning, and this was no bueno. They even admit CFCs cause ozone to break down. But they stop just short of saying that banning CFCs was necessary. “Time will tell,” they say, “whether this was good and wise dominion or just scientists using an incomplete scientific model.” And they want us to hem and haw and play 20,000 Questions before we get crack-a-lackin’ on dealing with climate change.

It’s so very hard for these poor fools to accept overwhelming scientific consensus, innit?

Next, we learn that Christian missionary radio stations can use the ionosphere rather than communications satellites to spread their noxious bullshit. Joy. Also, God designed the magnetosphere to shield Earth and its passengers from intense solar radiation. Never mind that lifeless planets have got magnetospheres and Van Allen belts! They’re not exactly the same as Earth’s! We’re special, damn it!

Like SPC, ES4 acknowledges that most of the energy at the surface of the earth comes from the sun. Hello! Not a closed system!! Look, you guys just admitted the sun sustains “virtually all life on Earth”! That means there’s energy coming in from outside Earth, which powers this order from disorder thingy, which means you can stop babbling about the Second Law of Thermodynamics now. Wakey wakey!

Oh, who am I kidding? They’ll never admit their own facts contradict their thermodynamic nonsense.

They have a little info-box about the amount of solar energy reaching the earth’s surface. Unfortunately, they completely bugger the facts about the Krakatau eruption: yes, surface solar illumination was reduced, but not as drastically as they claim. Also, 1883-4 wasn’t the “year without a summer.” Wrong volcano, numpties.

The end of this chapter is a sad display of cognitive dissonance. On the one hand, the greenhouse effect is real. Thank God that God designed such a great atmosphere, which gives us sunny days without frying us in daytime and freezing us solid at night. That’s Gods Love, that is! And we’ve got to protect that atmosphere. But not so fast on the linking CO2 to global warming! What about water vapor, huh? Why don’t the scientists talk about that? (Um – perhaps because humans are pumping enormous amounts of CO2, not H2O, into the atmosphere?). And. And:

Living things need carbon from carbon dioxide. Efforts to reduce carbon dioxide into [sic] the atmosphere may actually be harmful, not helpful.

Image is a demotivational poster showing a forest canopy. Caption reads, "Al Gore Hates Trees. Carbon dioxide is plant food. Without it, plants die! With more CO2, plants grow faster! Being too "Green" isn't Green!

Apparently, they haven’t read SPC, which assures us nature pumps plenty of delicious CO2 into the atmosphere without us. So it’s okay, ES4 authors. We don’t need to spend the next several decades studying the effects of CO2 while the planet fries. We can reduce our emissions without starving plants, I promise.

Whelp, that was quite the odd mix. At least it appears environmental science is finally beginning to penetrate BJU brains. That’s far more than I could have hoped for.

Now if we could just wean them off the literal interpretation of Genesis…

 

*We’re going to be skipping round a bit so that we’re comparing topics. All the books have things in a different order from each other, but they’ve got the same basic stuff, and I thought it best to follow topics rather than chapters. Makes the differences and similarities between them all stark and stuff.

Adventures in ACE VI: Vacuous About Volcanoes

People, it took me days to fact-check the 31 (thirty-one) pages of Science PACE 1086. I’m boggled. I have no idea how they manage to get so much wrong. It doesn’t even make sense – I mean, there are several creationist canards, and I know why those are there, but they fail at facts that even Answers in Genesis gets right. It’s like they got their information about rocks from a source translated from French, which was translated from Tagalog, which was translated from a paper written in Pig Latin by someone who’d never seen a rock in their life, but heard something about them once.

Image is a demotivational poster of a derpy looking cat. Caption says, "SMRT. I am so smrt, s-m-r-t."

Take their inability to get famous volcanoes right. Not to mention their myths about medicine.

Like many people, they use erupting volcanoes as a metaphor for holding things in until you explode. Racer relates the story of how a boy at school offended him once, and he said nothing, but brooded. He worked himself into such a lather that he didn’t turn the other cheek when the boy offended him a second time. Don’t worry – there was forgiveness all round afterward, even from God hisownself! Racer’s dad, apparently a true believer in folktales about disease, solemnly informs him that holding in anger causes diseases like toxic goiter (nope), and ulcers (wrongo), and heart problems (well, I suppose one outta three ain’t bad). Then he equates the damage angry people cause with the devastation caused by volcanoes. Like Tambora. Which he then proceeds to bork.

Tambora’s eruption was huge, yes, but not 150 km³ of material big. Upper estimates are 50 km³ – some put the total as low as 30 km³. The caldera (not crater!) it left is big, but not 11 km – try 6-7 km wide. Weirdly, after exaggerating everything else, they get the height too short by nearly 1000 feet: Tambora lost 4921 feet off its top, not 4000.

As far as their claim that “A tremendous amount of pressure, over 46,000,000 pounds per square inch (3,000,000 kg/cm2), caused the Tambora eruption,” they seem to have pulled this from their asses. I can’t find that figure anywhere, not even on creationist sites. I’d march into their offices and demand they show me their sources, but I’m not willing to inspect some dude’s sphincter.

Mr. Wheeler, who knows bupkiss about ocean floor sediments, then chimes in to tell us that “Subterranean magma is under tremendous pressure because of the heat coming up from Earth’s mantle.” Yes, he doesn’t seem to realize magma is under pressure from the confining strata and dissolved gasses. It’s not mantle heat forcing it upward: it’s bloody molten rock, it’s plenty hot enough on its own, and it migrates upward due because of its lower density. Being all hot and molten means it’s more buoyant than the cold, dense country rock around it.

He’s also confused about the anatomy of a volcano: magma isn’t traveling up a pipe, it’s going through a conduit to a vent on the surface. Basic stuff any volcano diagram explains – and, oddly, the ACE writer putting wooden exposition in Mr. Wheeler’s mouth knows the terminology for dikes, veins, and sills, so I know they’re capable of looking this stuff up.

Volcano diagram courtesy USGS. Image is an erupting strato volcano with all the bits properly labeled, including the conduit and vent.

Volcano diagram courtesy USGS.

Of course, they can parrot a few facts they found somewhere, but they don’t seem to know what this stuff actually looks like in the real world. Dikes, they tell us, “resemble a thick tree trunk sticking up out of the ground” when the surrounding sediments are worn away. They actually look more like walls – it’s volcanic necks that may sorta-kinda look like tree trunks if you close one eye and squint real hard.

All this, of course, gives Mr. Loyalton a biblical tingle in his trousers, and he informs us such talk reminds him of Paul’s thorn-in-the-flesh, which God refused to remove. (II Cor. 12:8,9). Racer proves he’s becoming a perfect little godbot by finishing Daddy’s dubious comparison: “Just as the magma formed a hard igneous rock when it cooled in the weak places in earth’s crust, God sometimes allows things to happen in the weak areas of our lives to show His strength.” That’s right, Racer: your god is a sadistic fucker who likes to torment people at their most vulnerable. Exactly right.

Before we end this little sermon and pass on to yet more nonsense about Mount St. Helens, let us explore the ways in which their further “Facts From Science” are not actually factual. For instance, in the Etna box, we’re informed that “valuable fertilizers such as potassium nitrate and various phosphates are found in the volcanic ash that is blown out of the volcano.” I’d love to see the scientific paper that gem came from, because I couldn’t find a single source that says Etna’s ash contains any such things. I did learn a bit about those two salts. Potassium nitrate is the mineral niter, which seems to mostly occur as an evaporate deposit on cave walls. Phosphate in the form of apatite can be present in volcanic ash, granted – but most soils derived from ash need some time and modification to be productive. The volcano isn’t erupting ready-made free fertilizer, as this “fact” box implies. It’s not bloody Miracle-Gro.

ACE’s fact box about Mauna Loa would have us believe it erupts every 3.5 years. The actual average is about every 6, but it varies depending on which timespan you select. I have no idea why they think the average is 1 eruption per 3.5 years since 1950. Including the 1950 eruption and concluding with the first publication of this PACE in 1986, it’s only erupted 3 times in 36 years. That’s an actual average of every 12 years. I guess their average is an example of creationist math.

Not content to get the facts of the May 18, 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens completely wrong, they return to spew further ignorance. This is just – what is this I don’t even:

Mr. Wheeler, I read in our weekly science newsletter that scientists are watching the crater of Mount St. Helens very carefully,” said Racer. “The article stated that a blister, or dome, forms in the bottom of the crater each time the volcano quits erupting. If this dome in the crater begins to grow, scientists know that the volcano is about to erupt again.”

So. Much. Wrong.

First: it’s not a blister. “Dome” in this case doesn’t mean something hollow inside like the Tacoma Dome – this is a ginormous mound of solid lava. It doesn’t form after the volcano stops erupting: it’s part of the eruption. And, let me put this in a form creationists may understand:

IF THE DOME IS GROWING, THE VOLCANO IS ERUPTING. It is actively erupting. That is why the dome is growing. DOMES DO NOT GROW IF THE VOLCANO ISN’T ACTUALLY ERUPTING.

Gah.

Don’t make me talk about the fact they illustrated the concept of a dome by showing a drawing of a volcanic neck. Okay? We’ll get to the remainder of their ignorance about igneous next week. Right now, I am D-U-N done.

Image shows a volcanic diagram. Captioning reads: "WHAT Makes A Volcano Explode? 3 key elements combine inside the earth." The magma chamber is labeled "red food coloring," the cone is labeled "baking soda," and the lava erupting from the vent is labeled "vinegar."

This diagram is actually more scientifically accurate than Science PACE 1086.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Adventures in ACE IV: When Creationists Drill the Ocean

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ha ha ha ha no.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

Christianist Textbooks Revealed

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

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

Until we open to the first chapter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, right. A “scientist.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take a drink. Another drink. Turn the page…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Z.O.M.G.

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

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

 

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