Frickin’ electricity, how does it work?

This is a scanned page from a Christian science textbook published by Bob Jones University. I think they’ve been listening to too much Insane Clown Posse.


We’re all just mindless zombies here at scienceblogs, but somehow, BJU is even more brainless. I swear, a creationist could walk by right now and I wouldn’t even drool. But even in my decaying state, and as a biologist, not a physicist, I can answer this one.

Electricity is not a mystery on the level this book is discussing. There is a lot we don’t know about fundamental particles, but we understand the principles of electromagnetism so well that we can use it to build hair dryers and Large Hadron Colliders; to make the argument that we are mystified by it is lying to the kids.

The common creationist argument that we can only know what we directly perceive with our unaided senses is also nonsense. One could argue that we don’t really see people, what we do is gather photons that have been perturbed, we think, by a body, and infer the existence of a person…but that’s sophistry. It is no less ‘seeing electricity’ to say that I can hook up a current meter to a couple of wires and see a needle move in response to the flow of electrons.

That second paragraph is a horror of gobbledygook. Apparently, they think electricity is something like oil, a substance lying in large deposits that must be harvested and poured into your hairdryer to make it work. A current, as mentioned above, is produced by the movement of charged particles, nothing more or less. The sun produces moving charged particles, so it is a source of electricity, and the movement of the earth generates an electromagnetic field, but I can also do the zombie shuffle across the carpet to build up an excess of charged particles and touch the cat to allow them to flow, creating electricity myself, like unto a God. I do not have to create particles to make electricity, I just have to make them move.

Also, if that little girl did not use electricity, she would be dead. All of the cells in your body create charge imbalances by pumping charged ions across their membranes, and using the flow of ions back across those membranes to create chemical energy — they are machines that convert chemical energy into electricity that is used to power little dynamos that create stored chemical energy. We also use the gated movements of charged ions to generate electrical currents in our nerves and muscles, which is how we think and move.

Isn’t it nice how clearly religion is shown to be a science-stopper? Just take common questions, declare them a mystery and that no one has an answer, and presto, religion becomes an authority. An authority stuck at a dead end.

(via @jbrownridge)