Almost two weeks ago, I wrote about that creationist teacher who was fired in Sisters, Oregon — Kris Helphinstine had been showing his freshman biology class some PowerPoint presentations designed to cast doubt on biology, rather than to inform the students about the facts and evidence. Now a Bend newspaper has given a few more details of the grounds for firing, and most entertaining of all, has put up copies of the PowerPoint presentations! Aficionados of both bad creationism and bad PowerPoint will savor these.
Both are afflicted with ugly and inconsistent layout, and it’s always reassuring that you are about to see a quality presentation when one of the big, bold words in the title of the opening slide is grossly misspelled. You’ll also discover that the html renderings of the files will only work with Microsoft Internet Explorer, although that crime against all that is right and good may be the fault of the newspaper.
The human evolution presentation, in addition to being a clumsy monstrosity, doesn’t explain anything. It first shows a collection of trees, and seems to be making the point that there have been different ways of displaying and organizing the evidence. There’s some of the standard creationist quote-mining going on, with citations from various authorities that question absolute interpretations of the fossil evidence (which is fair enough, if only the students had first learned something about the evidence). A lot of the slides at the end are just illustrations of modern human diversity, as if to say that all the variations in those fossil skulls were merely snapshots of extant morphology. For instance, he has a picture of a Malaysian juxtaposed with a photo of a Homo erectus skull, as if to say they’re similar in their divergence from the human norm.
The eugenics presentation is even more egregiously empty of evidence and rich in emotion-laden, false associations. Most of it is page after page of horrible photos of Nazi death camps — which I think kids should see in their history class, and learn so that that horror is never repeated — and he makes a weak attemp to couple heaps of dead bodies to Francis Galton, Margaret Sanger, Planned Parenthood, and evolution. It’s all very Clockwork Orange, an attempt to instill a conditioned reflex to gag in disgust at the mention of the words biology and contraception. I also think there is good reason to discuss eugenics in the classroom, even in the biology classroom, but the point should be that good biology counters the claims of the eugenicists.
I can see why he was fired more clearly now. He was exhibiting fact-free collections of selectively biased images to mislead his students, and didn’t teach them a scrap of valid biology. These are students who would have to be deprogrammed of that nonsense if they went on to study biology at a university … and since most of them wouldn’t do that, it would produce misinformed citizens of that community. Exactly what the creationists desire — more ignorance!