Scotland is laughing at us!

It’s true. A bunch of people in kilts who wash down their sheep’s stomachs with Irn-Bru while listening to caterwauling bagpipes are giggling at those stupid Americans. It’s embarrassing. The Scotland edition of the Herald is mocking the American educational system.

The textbooks in the series are alleged to teach young earth creationism; are hostile towards other religions and other sectors of Christianity, including Roman Catholicism; and present a biased version of history that is often factually incorrect.

One ACE textbook – Biology 1099, Accelerated Christian Education Inc – reads: "Are dinosaurs alive today? Scientists are becoming more convinced of their existence. Have you heard of the ‘Loch Ness Monster’ in Scotland? ‘Nessie’ for short has been recorded on sonar from a small submarine, described by eyewitnesses, and photographed by others. Nessie appears to be a plesiosaur."

Another claim taught is that a Japanese whaling boat once caught a dinosaur. It’s unclear if the movie Godzilla was the inspiration for this lesson.

The situation is pretty bad when the Scots are looking at you like you’re mad and saying, “You don’t really believe in the Loch Ness monster, do you?”

(At least I can explain that no, it wasn’t Godzilla — it was a rotting basking shark with the gill region torn away that was called a plesiosaur.)

Don’t read the comments there and at The Scotsman! They really are laughing at us — they can’t believe that Americans believe in Nessie, let alone that creationism bullshit.

OK, now I want to move to Scotland. Seems like a sensible place.


  1. says

    Those bloody Scots are always laughing at us. They also claim that Charles Darwin was a closet Scotsman. His grandpa Erasmus was influenced by the Scottish Enlightenment, it has been said.

  2. csrster says

    Ach rubbish. Charlie Darwin came tae Embru tae read Medicine and ran away South wi his tail between his legs at the first sight o honest Scots bluid, the big English Jessie!

  3. says

    I know this post was more than likely intended to be funny, but surely PZ doesn’t really think of Scotland as some remote country with a laughable education system. Much of the modern world is a product of Scottish ingenuity.

  4. Aquaria says


    It’s not that PZ or the readers here do, but that a huge number of Americans are stupid enough to get riled up about that.

    It’s a play on that reality..

    Roll with it.

  5. barndad says

    Charles Darwin is seven feet tall!
    Yes, I’ve heard. Kills men by the hundreds. And if HE were here, he’d consume the Creationists with fireballs from his eyes, and bolts of lightning from his arse.

  6. Louis says

    If you do move to Scotland PZ expect to drink an infinite amount more alcohol and for your heart condition to worsen dramatically. They deep fry everything there.*


    * Okay, okay, this isn’t true. But let’s just say this, if chip oil were a world resource like crude oil, Bush would have invaded Glasgow looking for their “fryers of mass destruction”. True story. Bloke down pub said so.

  7. machintelligence says

    Much of the modern world is a product of Scottish ingenuity.

    Indeed. Scottish engineers, past present and future, are legendary.

  8. says

    Fair enough. Did seem surprising that PZ, having been to Scotland, would hold such a view. I tend to err on the side of being defensive when I see Scotland being disparaged, even in jest. ;)

  9. ewanmacdonald says

    I left Scotland for the USA a couple of years ago but I’ll always be grateful to the Scottish education system. I went to state primary and secondary schools, then university, in the west of Scotland and they were excellent.

    That said, there was quite a bit of godbotting going on when I was in primary school (around 20-24 years ago.)

  10. shouldbeworking says

    Does the legislature of LA even know that Scotland exists? it isn’t in the babble and all of the disciples spoke American without a funny accent.

  11. says

    Ewan, which university did you attend? I attended the University of the West of Scotland. It was established fairly recently, so it may be after you left.

  12. birgerjohansson says

    I just had a vision of Willie the groundskeeper (of Springfield elementary) sitting down for a beer with his fellow Scottish football hooligans and laughing at the bloody sassenach emigrants in Louisiana.

  13. opposablethumbs says

    Well it gets a bit nippy in the winter, PZ, and it has to be admitted that it rains a bit sometimes … but it really does have its charms. No daylight to speak of in mid-winter, but blissfully long, long days in summer – go home from a party even a wee bit on the late side and it’s starting to get light again already …

    And the whiskies …. ::wistful sigh::

    The deep-fried mars-bar was invented as a semi-serious piss-take of the stereotype, but does now exist and (dog help us) get eaten; the deep-fried pizza also actually exists to the best of my knowledge. And it is sadly true that the average (i.e. not-rich-people’s) Scottish diet is possibly the most unhealthy in Europe. But Scotland has held out for free access to university education where England and Wales are heading straight down the shitter.

    I do miss Embra, though ::more sighs::

    If only the ACE religidiots were as embarrassed about this as they ought to be – citing a silly tourist-trap myth that folk are fond of as if it were serious science. Of course if they were capable of that much clarity of thought they wouldn’t subscribe to this crap in the first place.

  14. marko says

    It’s nice to mock sometimes, but I’ve had the local young earth creationist church of Christ at my door trying to take my daughter to “fun club”. Let’s not let our guard down while laughing at the Yanks for believing in Nessie. And don’t forget, the evidence for Nessie is much stronger than it is for the sky dude – I’ve seen pictures!

  15. opposablethumbs says

    Oh, ‘pologies – didn’t realise you were already familiar with Scotland’s charms PZ. Never mind, maybe others will be suitably horrified about the mars-bars.

  16. marko says

    Everything in moderation. I’ve done battered deep fried mars bar with ice cream, very nice it was too, wouldn’t have it with chips for lunch.

  17. says

    Jamesmacdonald –

    Remember when Al-Qaeda tried to bring religious war to Glasgow they made the following mistake…

    1. They tried to set fire to a bunch of scots who were on their way to Barcelona to get as burnt as possible. There is a sort of irony in that…

    2. They tried to bring Religious violence to a land that once divided itself on the basis of whether you supported Rangers or Celtic.

    And for their troubles they just got set on fire and then a random scotsman charged up and kicked one of them so hard in the crotch that he broke his own foot…

    Nah we are a friendly bunch. Cynical, but friendly… Also deep fried donner meat or pepperoni and pineapple pizza is divine.

  18. rork says

    “Scottish engineers, past present and future, are legendary.”
    People like me think of David Hume and John Napier first.
    Which is to say, people who have heard of them.

  19. opposablethumbs says

    Let’s not let our guard down while laughing at the Yanks for believing in Nessie.

    Sadly, a very valid point.

    I’ve never had a deep-fried mars bar. I could see myself trying it – and liking it – but I think my body might be well pissed off with me afterwards.

  20. Sunday Afternoon says

    opposablethumbs: There’s Scottish “a bit nippy” winter cold, and then there’s Minnesota’s 3+ months of snow on the ground cold.

    Me: I grew up in the West of Scotland (whose team just won the League Cup), went to uni in the East (under & post grad) and then moved to California.

    I used to make regular trips to Minneapolis for work and got to experience their winter cold a few times. Still, there’s nothing like a wet Scottish winter’s day with the temperature just above freezing and some wind.

  21. marko says

    No true Scotsman would laugh at us.

    Afraid not, we tend to laugh at everyone, it’s what keeps us going through the dark wet winter. That and a layer of subcutaneous fat.

  22. ed142857 says

    jamesmacdonald (25 June 2012 at 8:44 am) said:
    […] Much of the modern world is a product of Scottish ingenuity.

    But what have the Scots ever done for us? Apart from television (Baird). Oh, and penicillin (Fleming). What about the telephone (Bell)? Laws of electromagnetism (Maxwell)? Steam engine (Watt)?

    Those are the ones which spring to mind. Plenty more at Wiki “Scottish inventors”

    No, I’m not Scottish.

  23. Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc says

    the deep-fried pizza also actually exists to the best of my knowledge

    Yep, this is definitely the case. I got a kofte kebab pizza from a takeaway in Aberdeen a few years back. I could have had it battered & deep fried but I passed up on that. The kebab pizza was actually quite nice if a tad fatty.

    Note: I’m a Southern Englisher so haven’t been to Scotland many times. My significant other loves Embra, though, I need to get her to show me around.

  24. Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD says

    Admittedly the Rangers/Celtic thing was a bit religious in origin. As I remember if you were catholic then Rangers was not your football (soccer) team.

    While I grew up there, and there was a bit of godbotting (I was the nearest to religious I ever got in my last few years there – but it was mostly because I was socially inept and they were the people who didn’t shun me… As a teen that’s hard to resist.)
    Still the CoS wasn’t particularly fundie, and my education in Scotland was excellent (well except for primary 5). And while there was religious education in high school it was mostly looking at all the various religions, not indoctrination. I wasn’t very good at it.

  25. What a Maroon, Applied Linguist of Slight Foreboding says

    As an American whose ancestors for the most part escaped from Scotland, I have to say I’m torn. Yes, Scotland is a place of noble thinkers, of scholars and great drinkers, but many of the more toxic parts of our bible-belt culture can be traced back to Scotland.

    Of course, it could just be that they kicked out the idiots in their midst.

  26. csmiller says

    ‘Scottish’ edition? The Herald is published in Glasgow, and is one of two broadsheet Scottish papers. (The other is the Scotsman, which is published in Edinburgh).

  27. says

    Scotland has indeed produced many of the marvels of the modern age. Just imagine what they could achieve if the Scots could settle their age-long conflict with their arch-rivals, the Scots.

    They would unite and crush their arch-rivals, the Welsh.

  28. says

    “Admittedly the Rangers/Celtic thing was a bit religious in origin”

    A bit! that’s like saying ‘the Pope’s a bit catholic’.

    Which reminds me of the old Glaswegian who was strictly oecumenical in his graffiti scrawling, even though it was so much easier to write
    “Fuck the Pope!”
    “Fuck the Moderator of the Assembly of the Church of Scotland!”

  29. Matt Penfold says

    They would unite and crush their arch-rivals, the Welsh.

    But would the Scots be ready for the killer sheep ?

  30. says

    “Are dinosaurs alive today? … Nessie appears to be a plesiosaur.”

    The obvious, plesiosaurs weren’t dinosaurs. Oh, and birds, well, you know.

    Even their BS claims reveal a total ignorance of the basics.

    Glen Davidson

  31. Gvlgeologist, FCD says

    Thanks to #1,2,5,10,12, 17,20,23,28,31,33 for making me laugh,

    to #6,13,16,26 for horrifying me,

    and to #7,18,22,24-27 for educating me.

    My morning is now complete!

    Except that now I’m hungry for something deep-fried.

  32. ewanmacdonald says

    james: I went to Glasgow. My brother went to UWS when it was still called Paisley.

  33. Matt Penfold says

    Talking of sheep, I had to chase a lamb down the road yesterday. We were driving along in the middle of nowhere, and came across a lamb that had got the wrong side of a fence to its mother.

    I ended up doing a brilliant rugby tackle on it.

  34. Louis says


    I ended up doing a brilliant rugby tackle on it.

    And THAT, Your Honour, is how I ended up naked wrestling a sheep. All completely innocent.


  35. Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD says

    Yes, well, it may have been an understatement, but I really wasn’t interested much in sport so apart from knowing that the teams existed and that there was some religious linkage I never really paid attention.

  36. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    This came up in the Canadians vs Americans on Bigfoot survey

    A recent Angus Reid Public Opinion survey in three countries found 17 per cent of Britons believe the Loch Ness Monster is “definitely” or “probably” real – a proportion that jumps to 24 per cent in Scotland.

    In that way, Scots are a bit like Americans, who, at an average of 29 per cent, are significantly more likely than Canadians to believe in Bigfoot. In the U.S. West in particular, the rate of belief in Bigfoot rises to 32 per cent.

    Original pdf

  37. Amphiox says

    In that way, Scots are a bit like Americans, who, at an average of 29 per cent, are significantly more likely than Canadians to believe in Bigfoot. In the U.S. West in particular, the rate of belief in Bigfoot rises to 32 per cent.

    Well, you see, the real reason the Scots are laughing is because they know that Nessie, a plesiosaur, is not a dinosaur!

  38. Amphiox says

    Does the legislature of LA even know that Scotland exists?

    That I think would depend on whether or not they went to the premier of Braveheart.

    Though maybe they all thought it took place in South Dakota.

  39. Sunday Afternoon says

    In Glasgow there is the Rangers/Celtic split and to a lesser extent there is the same in Edinburgh: Heart of Midlothian (“Hearts”, Church of Scotland like Rangers) and Hibernian (“Hibs”, Catholic).

    This split is sanctioned by the school system. While they are state funded, they are explicitly catholic or otherwise. The schools I attended would have a Church of Scotland minister who would lead periodic assemblies and attend various school functions attended by parents too (prize givings, etc). I suspect something similar went on in the catholic schools too.

    In secondary (=late middle & high) school, we were required to attend some degree of religious education. In our school, this fell to teachers who taught other subjects. In retrospect, one teacher in particular couldn’t have cared less about being required to teach us about christianity. He basically left us to our own devices and only came back to discipline us when the noise from the classroom could be heard in the staff room.

    Science was science, and there was minimal discussion of creationism in the introductory biology lessons I took for 2 years. I think there may have been some discussion in the later year physics classes when touching on astronomy and the origin of the universe.

    That some school functions were religious was not a huge deal to most of us that attended. I think most people were just going through the motions as that was what was expected as part of the culture. I think this continues in that many people still get married in a church and the parish system of the Church of Scotland means that there will be a minister available to a lead funeral services wherever you live – Wikipedia notes that most funerals in Scotland are lead by a CoS minister.

    I would argue that the Church of Scotland’s positions on many of the social issues are out of step with Scottish society:

    In my experience (granted I have not lived there for a while), there is a broad acceptance of carrying a baby to term being the woman’s decision. In Edinburgh where I went to Uni, there is an area that was called the “pink triangle” which had a thriving gay culture (the Scottish version of San Francisco?). If you were religious and gay in Scotland, you had a home in the Scottish episcopal church.

  40. michaelpajeau says

    What A Maroon (#29) – do the roses in the garden bow down and ask your pardon?

  41. rickschauer says

    I have an wonderful old friend who lives in Arbroath (Gaelic: Obar Bhrothaig) just a stone’s throw north of Carnoustie and St. Andrews were I could escape this lunacy and golf MAO…hmmm, crappy weather but with the golf and scotch, I dunno if I would care.

    Let’s see, where did I put my passport?

  42. says

    @ 41 – CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain

    Never forget that the majority of Scots will gladly insist that the haggis is a real living creature of the Glens too.

    The noble haggis is a three-legged creature that lives in the Glens, but they come in either right or left handed versions, so that the most effective means of capture is to jump in front of them and scare them into trying to turn and run away, only to discover that the shorter uphill leg won’t support them running the wrong way. Then as they fall down you scoop them into a net bag and boil them for supper ;)

  43. jefferylanam says

    Why would you bother with a deep-fried Mars bar when you had access to tablet (aka Scottish crack)? It’s the best thing you can do with sugar and butter.

  44. revjimbob says

    jeffreylanam –
    Tablet is best washed down with Ginger Wine (liquid sugar with flavouring)
    As a child in Scotland, I used to get a sugar sandwich as a snack.

  45. nslasha says

    I stumbled across an Isaac Asimov quote that you guys will enjoy:

    “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’”
    — Isaac Asimov, Column in Newsweek (21 January 1980)

  46. robro says

    So, speaking of stupid Americans…The Washington Post is reporting that Justice Scalia included this point in his dissenting opinion on the Arizona immigration law ruling:

    Notwithstanding “[t]he myth of an era of unrestricted immigration” in the first 100 years of the Republic, the States enacted numerous laws restricting the immigration of certain classes of aliens, including convicted crimi­nals, indigents, persons with contagious diseases, and (in Southern States) freed blacks.

    “Freed blacks”!! OMG, he’s siting slavery as a precedent for something other than the atrocity that it was and is. Isn’t it good to know that he has such a grasp of history. I wonder if he’ll cite Dred Scott in his next ruling?

  47. What a Maroon, Applied Linguist of Slight Foreboding says

    What A Maroon (#29) – do the roses in the garden bow down and ask your pardon?

    Nae, not mine.

    But I needs must leave….

  48. Rey Fox says

    Between this and Craig Ferguson’s televised trip there, I got the terrible wanderlust for Scotland now.

  49. avh1 says

    Another proud product of the Scottish education system here. I got a good state secondary education, including one of my teachers seeing gender roles as almost a religion. I have to at least partially credit her with making me a feminist, by making the whole idea of gender roles look so ridiculous. Thanks Mrs McD!

  50. Matt Penfold says

    Between this and Craig Ferguson’s televised trip there, I got the terrible wanderlust for Scotland now.

    In days long gone, when Scotland was good a football, if you waited long enough Scotland would play an game in your country and then Scotland would come to you!

    These days a bunch of schoolkids with jumpers for goalposts can beat Scotland, and so they never get invited to play many places.

  51. jefferylanam says

    revjimbob, I was introduced to tablet at a whisky tasting that paired food with whisky. They paired it with Lavagulin.

  52. sawells says

    Fun fact: While in Edinburgh as a medical student, Darwin paid for taxidermy lessons from a local expert who ran a shop there and made his money teaching students. Said expert was a freed black slave from Guyana, John Edmondstone.

    I think this is neat because, before I read Darwin, my mental image of Edinburgh in the 1820s did not include the black guy from Guyana – you can never tell who’ll end up where.

  53. says

    Unfortunately it isn’t just Scotland. This isn’t a troll post but I’m pretty sure most of the rest of the world looks at America these days and is left scratching their head saying “Wtf?”

    The biggest problem is that while it’s true America isn’t what it once was… it’s still pretty damn good – but it’s really hard for a lot of people on the outside looking in to smell anything but the compost heap that is stinking up the bible belt.

  54. nooneinparticular says

    Our brothers across the pond should not be too smug in their ridicule of ‘mercans.

    From the same article cited by PZ;

    It isn’t just America where the bizarre Christian Nessie myth is being taught as a reality. The UK has similar religious schools but they do not receive cash from the state. Nevertheless, the Evangelical Christian curriculum they follow has been approved by UK Government agency, the National Recognition Information Centre (Naric) which guides universities and employers on the validity of different qualifications.

    Naric judged the International Certificate of Christian Education (ICCE) as officially comparable to qualifications offered by the Cambridge International exam board.

    It is estimated around 2000 pupils study at more than 50 private Christian schools in Britain for the certificates as well as several home-educated students.

    Stupidity recognizes no political or national borders and craven gubmints abound, though to be sure, we here in the states seem to have perfected it.

  55. llewellyngreen says

    @ 48 – I had a lecturer back in undergrad who gave us questions on our Genetics exam concerning the inheritance of Haggis leg length. According to him, if the poor Haggis inherited legs that didn’t have to correct length ratios, or were wrong handed, they would tumble down the scottish hills they lived on and would die.

  56. says

    It’s a damp cold; you feel it more. People coming from England or Scotland often wear just sweaters for the first three winters. After that, they get acclimatized and start to feel it the way we do. It’s the opposite of people getting into their parkas in Texas when the temperature drops below 70 Fahrenheit.

  57. petrander says

    Obviously. The country that spawned sir Charles Lyell, should frown upon young-earth creationism!

  58. guthriestewart says

    What is it with all you foreigners and haggis? A haggis has 4 legs, but 2 are shorter than the other, so they can run around the contours of hills easily, but only one way. Catching them is easy, just chase them the other way around.

    One of my old lecturers from St Andrews university was a YEC, despite being a chemistry professor. I think he was a 7th day adventist of some sort, and his name cropped up a few times in creationist letters to newspapers.

    The Welsh aren’t our enemies either. They got conquered by England early on, whereas our tussles ended up in a score draw. Having said that most Scots aren’t too bothered by English people, as long as they don’t go around trying to be superior.

  59. Matt Penfold says

    What is it with all you foreigners and haggis? A haggis has 4 legs, but 2 are shorter than the other, so they can run around the contours of hills easily, but only one way. Catching them is easy, just chase them the other way around.

    Haggis’s come in two sub-species, the clockwise haggis and the anti-clockwise haggis. It is best for the males if they only try to mate with a female haggis of the same sub-species as the females have especially sharp teeth.

  60. opposablethumbs says

    the clockwise haggis and the anti-clockwise haggis.

    Ah, the chirality of haggi … ::solemnly contemplates contents of glass. Wishes it were a decent whisky. Alas …::

  61. gericorvus says

    Matt Penfold @38: Where I live we’re surrounded by sheep. And I can tell everyone that lambs are only cute, tiny and totally adorable for about three days; after which they turn into the ovine equivalent of morose, hulking teenagers. I take my hat off to you for tackling one of them!