Tuesday, 17 January 2012

A taste of creationist educational materials

These are extracts from this rather excellent blog post analysing some creationist "educational materials".  We don't know if these are used in the UK creationist schools run by the Christian Schools Trust as they won't tell us.  We think they do probably give an idea of what kinds of things are being passed off as known facts in those schools.

Science 4 for Christian Schools, an evangelical-written and -approved science textbook published in 1990. According to the stamp on the inside cover, my copy was previously owned by The Country Church & Country Christian School in Molella, Oregon. So, thanks guys!

I read through the entire thing (it's quite short) and picked out these 11 pages and excerpts to share. Let's call this an adventure in anthropology. Here are 11 highlights from an evangelical-written science textbook, written and approved by the Bob Jones University young-Earth creationism team.
  1. Science vs. faith

    This is the first paragraph of the book and while, on the surface, it's about the Moon, it's actually setting up the thesis statement -- and perpetual paradox -- of the entire textbook. 
. . .
  1. How old is the Moon?

    . . .
  2. All theories are guesses, but not all guesses are theories.

    There's semantic work at play here.

    . . .
  3. No guesswork required.

    It sure must be easy to take a test when "God did it" is the right answer to every question.
  4. Periscopes: Yankee war tools

    . . .
  5. End of days?

    This stuck me as the strangest page in the textbook. This one REALLY strays away from the science thing and goes straight fire-and-brimstone.
    . . .
  6. Grand Canyon: Proof of a young Earth or not?

    The syllogistic logic here for why the Grand Canyon is evidence of a young Earth is dizzying.

    . . .
  7. Glaciers and their water

    This textbook was published in 1990. This glacier paragraph really makes you wonder how this would be updated today to address global warming.

    . . .
  8. I asked a friend from Maine, and apparently they really do eat fiddleheads.

    I pulled this off page 63 of the book because it was emblematic of a pattern. After the first chapter on the Moon... which went hardcore creationism... the book actually settled down and became a regular science textbook. It almost seems like they had to throw in an innocuous mention of God or a Biblical quote here or there just to remind everyone that this isn't your average pagan science textbook.

    This one was a great example. Totally gratuitous mention of God creating different ferns. Really, God can be inserted into any sentence in the book -- this one just got the call. But you can put it anywhere. "God created a group of tubed plants that do not produce seeds, the ferns." "Most ferns were created by God with large, split leaves called fronds." I guess that kind of makes God the Poochie of this textbook.
  9. Magnets -- how do they work?

    I saved this page for the penultimate point because it's my favorite in the book. Let's ignore the weird, weird photo of the girl for a second and focus on the text. "Electricity is a mystery. No one has ever observed it or heard it or felt it ... We cannot even say where electricity comes from."

    The reason this page bugged me is because it doesn't come back to "God created it." I would actually accept that. This one is just misinformation for misinformation's sake.

    We know exactly where electricity come from. Scientists don't disagree. And no one's saying electricity comes from the planet/universe being millions of years old or from dinosaurs or from the spirit generated by the Earth's religious diversity. This page is just the evangelical textbook equivalent of trolling.

    Although, in their defense, perhaps if they make our heads explode that will generate electricity.
  10. The disclaimer, and what it ultimately means.

    I saved this for last. I noticed this one sentence that brings everything into perspective.
    "Any references and ancillary materials are listed as an aid to the student or the teacher and in an attempt to maintain the accepted academic standards of the publishing industry."
    What that means: We jammed our science textbook full of science because we had to in order to publish this. If it were up to us, "God did it" actually would have been at the end of every sentence.

    . . .

    If you believe that the word of the Bible is, indeed, the word of God and the absolute truth, I have no problem at all with that. If you want to teach your children that everything was created by God, I also have no problem with that at all either. But I find it unacceptable, irresponsible and actually sick to trick your children into your beliefs. It's not only disrespectful to them, it's disrespectful to your beliefs. It's a tacit concession that you don't think your beliefs can hold up in the face of a counter-argument... or that you don't think you can properly impart your beliefs to your children in an above-board way. When I read this non-textbook textbook, I see classic, not-so-thinly-veiled propaganda tricks. And that just spreads miseducation, confusion and, ultimately, acceptable ignorance. Which doesn't benefit anyone -- including your children, you or what you believe in.

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