So, we’ve now endured two Christianist textbooks. Let’s see how a genuine secular earth science textbook compares.
Well, for one thing, Glencoe Science Earth Science: Geology, the Environment, and the Universe (GEU) is written by a whole lotta actual professional science people, plus National Geographic, plus it relied on a ton of science consultants, and was reviewed and tested by a cadre of teachers. Like science, it was a collaborative effort.
Millions of years, in reference to a rock formation, is front and center in the opening of the Unit Intro. And no qualifications or compromise: evidence sez millions of years, we accept (provisionally, o’ course: this is genuine science, and always has room for revision as new data comes in). There’s an activity right up front to help kids understand scientific communication, and practice communicating accurately. One of the major differences between this book and the Christianist texts is the fact that mistakes and miscommunication aren’t attributed to deception, but presented as unintentional. This book already thinks better of people than fundie Christians do.
All of the books have a section explaining the major areas of earth science, including astronomy – but this is the only one that said flat-out that Earth is 4.6 billion years old. Earth systems – the lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere – are described with an emphasis on the interconnectedness of all things. We humans are acknowledged as part of the biosphere. This is probably what leads creationists to scream “BIAS!” – we’re not set apart as special. But it’s not like the text says we’re nothing, either, so screw that noise.
There’s an extensive explanation of what technology is, and how science has led to so much awesomeness. This segues nicely into a careful explanation of the scientific method, with a note saying the steps can, in fact, vary. The diagram for it is in the form of a puzzle, which is an excellent touch, and captures its complexity better than the other books’ simplistic interpretation. Experiments are explained, including independent and dependent variables. Students get to practice science with a mini lab measuring the effect of sunlight on the temperature of containers filled with soil versus water. Data, we’re informed, must be formatted so it can be studied, and (importantly!), if the data doesn’t match the hypothesis, it’s the hypothesis that’s gotta go. And just to drive the point home, the book once again tells us that the scientific methods aren’t rigid.
I found GEU’s discussion of measurement far superior to ES4, but SPC actually did a better job here: much more thorough and interesting. But, GEU has lots more applied exercises to show how measuring works. It explains what temperature is, too: the measure of the average vibrations of particles. This was helpful.
Communication gets emphasized again. We’re told that “one important goal of science is to make results available to others.” Lab reports, graphs, and such are discussed. So are research papers. But my gosh, the book somehow fails to mention you can publish in “scientific” journals such as The Creation Research Society Quarterly. Gee whiz, such bias (against journals not accepted as scientific by any actual scientific organization anywhere)!
Models are then discussed. Oddly enough, they do not go on endlessly about how worldview leads to the model. Instead, they talk about how models can change based on the data you’re gathering – like early astronomers finding data that told them the geocentric model was wrong, hence leading them to adopt the heliocentric model. You know, ES4 would’ve told us it was all a matter of worldview. (I wonder if our Christianist texts will end up questioning heliocentrism later? After all, the Bible implies the world’s flat…)
Next, theories and laws are correctly defined. O joyous day! GEU describes the differences and relationships between the words in a manner assures we get how scientist use those terms.
An especial delight is when cubits are mentioned in a geolab sidebar. They’re brought up only to explain they aren’t very useful these days, and to introduce lotsa measuring activities. The chapter concludes with a nice section on how medical imaging technology has allowed us to study dinosaur fossils like Willo and Sue. Fun and interesting!
A lot of differences other than the distinct lack of Bible babble stand out: one of the most obvious to me is that scientists aren’t overwhelmingly referred to as “he.” Pronouns are actually thin on the ground in this book, and the plural seems to be preferred unless discussing a specific named scientist. Kids aren’t dictated to as much. Things don’t feel so rigid, and there’s a hell of a lot more hands-on.
I bloody love this book. It’s so refreshing to get straight-up science after all that Christianist propaganda. And there’s nothing in here to prevent a kid from being religious, even fundamentalist, if they want to be. Well, aside from the overwhelming data against a young Earth. But it’s not science’s fault God was such a crappy creator he couldn’t make that clear, now, is it?
Right. With that reality check, it’s time to plunge back into the whacky world of good Christianist education…