Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education I: In Which First Impressions Are Made

Welcome to the first installment of our down-to-earth analysis of Christianist earth science textbooks*, in which we learn what good Christians™ are teaching the kids these days.

Let’s take a moment to acquaint ourselves with our three texts. Two are for Christian schools; the third is a secular control. At first glance, it’s quite easy to spot one of the Christianist books. Try for yourself!

A choice selection of Christianist textbooks, plus one secular. Can you spot the odd book out? The book on the far left has a white cover with a photo of a geode. The title is Earth Science Fourth Edition. The middle book shows a picture of planet Earth as the sky behind one of the formations in Monument Valley. The title is "Science of the Physical Creation in Christian Perspective. The third book shows a glaciated mountain, and is entitled Earth Science: Geology, the Environment, and the Universe. It is stamped with the National Geographic logo.
A choice selection of Christianist textbooks, plus one secular. Can you spot the odd book out?

Yep. A Beka Book’s Science of the Physical Creation in Christian Perspective (SPC) stands out like a street-corner doomsday preacher. I mean, it’s got some sciency-sorta pictures on it, but that font, not to mention those words, give the game away.

The other one’s better camouflaged – beautiful, even – but I’ll give you a hint: it’s the one that hasn’t got the National Geographic logo on the cover. Yes, our dear BJU Press Earth Science 4th Edition (ES4) is doing its damnedest to look like a legitimate science textbook. It’s even far larger than the Glencoe Science Earth Science: Geology, the Environment, and the Universe (GEU). (It has got to be, on account of all the God stuff they’ve shoved in. Foreshadowing, people!)

Time to get to know them better. Let us open our textbooks to the Table of Contents.

SPC seems positively normal here. We trip merrily through the chapters – Introduction to Science, The Atmosphere, Earth’s Weather, A Survey of the Seas, and so on, with nary a care. Chemistry (chapters 5-7) looks fine. But I hear a rumble when I get to Unit 3, Geology, and see a wee photo of Mount St. Helens there. Creationists love Mount St. Helens. They think she proves stuff, like how the Grand Canyon was totes formed superfast. Sigh. I can feel it coming… and then we reach Chapter 11: Interpreting the Fossil Record, and our carefree skip totally trips.

11.3 Effects of the Flood

11.4 Lack of Transitional Fossils: Evidence Against Evolution

11.5: The Evolution of Man: A Mistaken Belief

Whal, I think we all know where this is going.

The Physics unit returns us to the appearance of a normal table of contents in an ordinary science textbook. But the Special Features following are special indeed. There’s an entire section of them called “Science and Creation,” which contains such delights as “Radiometric Dating: Is It Reliable?” and (not kidding) “Monkeys and Typewriters.” Awgawds. And then there’s the wee Environmental Issues section, which has got “The ‘Ozone Hole’ Controversy” and “Global Warming: Fact or Fancy?”

I’m going to be a certified alcoholic before the end of this, aren’t I?

Image is a little gray kitty sleeping with its arms around a wine bottle. Caption says, I iz not alcoholic, I'z passionat bout wine."

We turn now to ES4, which looked rather normal on the outside. But the contents… they make A Beka’s SPC look practically secular, and A Beka is affiliated with Pensacola Christian College. Yes, the PCC that is so uptight it’s gender-segregated its elevators and stairwells. Indeed, the PCC whose take on psychology is only matched by that of the Scientologists and whose textbooks for Christian schools are so bad universities refuse to give students credit for studying from them. Well, BJU’s also not accepted as kosher curriculum by the U of C, and ES4 gives a good idea of why. Keeping in mind, this book was created after they lost that lawsuit.

Chapter One, “The World of Earth Science,” has a section called “A Christian Approach to Earth Science.” Hoo-boy. In Unit 2, Chapter 4, we encounter “The Earth, a Special Place,” which certainly causes some eyebrow-tectonics. Many of the chapters seem normal, but let your eyes drift right, where the little “Going Further in Earth Science” sections make sure we know it’s all about God God Goddity-God-God-God God:

“Biblical Origins: The Gap Theory”

“Life Connection: The Flood, the Ark, and Species Today”

“Careers: Serving God as a Seismologist”

and other such, um, amazing explorations, plus good creationist favorites such as radiometric dating and overthrusts. All that, and we haven’t even made it past the first page of the ToC – three more to go. Oy. It don’t get any better, let’s leave it at that.

And so, battered about the brain by biblical BS, I turn wearily to our secular control, the lovely GEU. And here I find only science. Science that unflinchingly mentions geologic time – in fact, a whole unit is devoted to it. There is no religion in the Appendices. Critical thinking gets its very own mini-book at the end. No supernatural forces in the mini-labs. The features do not feature a designer. Nor do the Science in the News or Science and the Environment topics. And the extra-awesome National Geographic Expeditions do not take us anywhere near Noah’s Ark. The entire book seems carefully constructed to present nothing but pure geoscience. This is, of course, horrible bias, according to the people who create unabashedly biased textbooks.

I’m out of alcohol. We’ll tackle the Introductions once I’ve restocked.


*h/t to Doktor Zoom, who planted the seed within me.

Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education I: In Which First Impressions Are Made

11 thoughts on “Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education I: In Which First Impressions Are Made

  1. 1

    “Monkeys and Typewriters.”

    They can’t even gt that right: It’s sodding apes—six eternal APES!!!!!

    (btw did you know that the word ‘Typewriter’ isn’t attested until a couple of years after that debate?
    Woooo… Spooky, no?)

  2. rq

    It may help to think of your foray into Creationism as this picture. See, it’s not about the creationism, it’s about the wine. ;)

    Either way. I don’t understand how people don’t get Science. I don’t. I don’t know how they can seriously teach the creationism/ID stuff. I. don’t. get. it. I know they do, and I know they believe it, but I cannot fathom why. They are humans in adult form. And they don’t get it. WHY???

    Also, gender-segregated elevators and stairwells, in the 21st centure? Creepier and creepier.

  3. 6

    Frankly, these textbooks are marvels of rational thought compared to the “science education” I got. A couple of short movies full of so many bold-faced lies that even AiG wouldn’t try to get away with them.

    They believe it rq, because they don’t know there is anything else. Evolution is dismissed without a glance because they’ve been told their entire life, by the people they respect (respect or else!), that it’s ridiculous. Its not (or at least rarely) a matter of weighing all the evidence and coming down on the side of creationism. Its an entire lifetime carefully structured around hearing only what your church wants you to hear vs a handful of lies and misinformation about evolution designed to make it sound ludicrous.

    The science education in these texts is years ahead of what they used to teach. Millions of functioning human adults right now wouldn’t pass a remedial science class, and they have absolutely no idea how much they don’t know. And these are the people who usually choose to home school their kids. I imagine its harder now to keep kids so insulated from outside ideas, but in the days before the internet, there was no source of knowledge outside your deeply religious parents and teachers.

    If my religious schooling had one fatal flaw, it was that they taught me to read too well. Our classes reading levels were years ahead of the public schools. And as soon as I got a good teacher who was willing to slip me real science texts on the sly, I started devouring them. And my time in the cult quickly came to an end.

    That’s the (tiny) upside to this curriculum. Once you get them to see the first little crack, the first lie, it becomes very very hard not to break the whole mess apart.

  4. rq

    I suppose I’m just amazed that it’s possible to live in such isolation from the so-called real world to this extent. I mean, I know they believe it and that it’s all they know. I’m mostly amazed that they’re able to maintain that level of ignorance throughout their lives in this day and age. *mystified*
    But obviously, it’s possible. As these ‘curricula’ show.

  5. rq

    No, no, the joke was fine – I was trying out an alternate spelling, suggestive of a mysterious and obscure culinary art. Which didn’t work. Sorry.

  6. 9

    Honestly, I’m a little bit happy about these books. Yes, its horrible science, but the fact that they have to exist is great. It used to be a lot simpler to dismiss evolution. ID is a fighting retreat, but its a retreat nonetheless. The truth is readily available in a way that would have been unthinkable 20 years ago. Religion has no choice now but to try to marry god and science, and its doomed to fail.

    Young people are leaving the church in droves, and if the IDers don’t drastically step up their game, that trend is just going to accelerate. “God did it, now stop asking questions” was a lot more convincing than this frankenstein they are peddling now.

  7. 11

    My sister and I were raised in the Catholic faith. When I was in junior high we were studying biological evolution. I remember asking my priest, after church one day, what he thought of it. His response, along with others in the church, was support for evolution and he said that it didn’t conflict with the teachings of the church.

    Years later my sister became very far-right in her religious beliefs, more towards the Evangelical nonsense. She home schools my nephew and uses this nonsensical A Beca Book for the science unit. The school she’s associated with has tenuous ties to the Catholic church. I informed her that the church has no issues with evolution and that she would only be hurting her son by teaching him non science which would hurt his chances in college. She went on a rant about how Charles Darwin recanted his findings (which is a lie). I then pointed out that it was a Catholic Priest (Mendel) who came up with genetics which is closely aligned with biological evolution. That didn’t matter to her!

    What I take from my sister is that she is petrified about all the “secular” influences out in the wold for her son. I told her that he’ll have to be out on his own after he graduates high school and will encounter all types of differences of opinion. It’s very sad.

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