I get to start teaching again this week!

Oh, boy, it’s been a while. I was out for the first few lectures (which I am grateful to my colleagues for covering), so in my introductory biology class I get to plunge straight in to Darwin, Darwin’s finches, and Sean Carroll’s The Making of the Fittest. No preludes, baby, I’m diving right in.

And then I stumble across CreationConversations, which is kind of like the Ask A Biologist website, if it were staffed by idiots. People write in, and the gang there, which seems to be mostly junior league suck-ups to Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis, tries to answer from the Biblical perspective. It’s simply sad and pitiful. Here’s an example of the kinds of questions they get:

I am starting ninth grade biology. I know that we will be learning about evolution. I’ve been doing a lot of reading and have a very solid belief in creation. I was wondering how I should go about talking to my friends and other students about creation and the lie of evolution in and out of the classroom. I’ve tried talking a few times about it with my closest friends and it is sad to see that their beliefs are so firmly rooted in evolution that they have never questioned it. I fear not only for my friends but for my generation seeing as they have been taught nothing but evolution for their entire life. Many of them don’t even believe in God. How can I show not only my friends, but other students, that evolution is wrong?

First of all, I’d have to tell this student he’s living in the paranoid fantasy land of most Christians: it’s highly unlikely, unless he’s at a very good school, that he will be confronted with much evolutionary theory, and the odds that his faith will be challenged at all is vanishingly small. In fact, if he’s perturbed at all, all he has to do is squeak something about Jesus and the teacher will probably run away as fast as possible — not because they’re afraid of your stupid questions, but because obnoxious evangelical parents can make the teacher’s professional life a seething hell.

Also, most of his peers will not have been exposed to much evolution at all, but if they go to church, they’ve probably gotten mega-doses of creationism. There will be no persecution. His biggest disappointment will be that he won’t get to be a martyr.

College, of course, will be an entirely different matter.

The answers he gets at the site are amazing for their semi-delusional thinking: most are entirely confident that they’ve got buckets of apologetics and evidence, and they’re mainly warning the poor kid to go easy on the defenseless evolutionists. They so rarely face serious opposition in the schools that they fantasize that the pile of crap on their site actually has some weight to it; but really, creationists rely completely on cultural intimidation to cow their opposition.

Here’s one representative answer they give:

My counsel is to check your attitude when you decide to confront an issue in class. Be sure that you are humble and respectful of others’ feelings. No one, especially a teacher, likes to look the fool in front of their peers or their students. Since the science controversy is firmly rooted in worldviews, when you begin to deconstruct their presuppositions, they can get defensive. It is far better to sow seeds of doubt and let an issue go, than to argue your point to a crushing conclusion. You may win battles that way, but lose the war, so to speak.

As Justin suggested, be the best possible student you can be. Learn the expected answers, but continually analyze the fallacies and presuppositions purveyed in class. A ninth grade biology course is a survey course, so you will be given a lot of generalizations. Don’t be arrogant or belittling when you decide to question one of these ideas. Look for the underlying truths in what you are learning. You will discover that, unless your teacher or the textbook author(s) are on a mission to convert students to evolution, you probably won’t even discuss it except tangentially in most of the topics.

Awww, how sweet. What this fellow is unaware of is that this poor student has nothing to be arrogant about — if he actually met a teacher who was able and willing to confront his misconceptions, he’d be hung out to dry. The answer also reflects a common creationist myth: the Big Daddy fable, in which the gentle, polite Christian boy humiliates the hysterical, dishonest Evilutionist professor by calmly refuting every piece of evidence brought up in the classroom.

It never happens.

In my experience, the reverse is true. The poor kid gets flustered and his story falls apart in a few moments’ conversation, and he looks like a total dork — I don’t enjoy these situations at all, because then I have to struggle to keep him from abject humiliation while explaining how thoroughly wrong he is. That’s the nasty part of these pro-creation sites that they don’t talk about: they are cheerfully encouraging students to have a false sense of competence, and then shooing them off into the lion’s den to be publicly mauled, while the cowards back at CreationConversations, who are the ones I really would enjoy eviscerating in the classroom, are taking it easy with their back-patting congregations of equally ignorant kooks, lying their asses off to children.

Oh, well. The good news is that students come out of our biology classes here at UMM well-prepared to shred the frauds of creationism.