Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education XII: Wherein We are Made Seasick

After the extraordinary nonsense of Earth Science 4th Edition’s last chapter, I’m fervently hoping this one is a bit less stuffed with inanity. Our heads and desks all could use the break.

Refreshingly, we begin with an ecowarrior-worthy bit on The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Ocean currents, we’re told, gather our plastic waste and concentrate it in an area of the Pacific Ocean that “could be larger than Texas!” Bad for the environment, bad for animals, they say, without pretending there’s anything good about it. It’s ES4 at its actual best. Yeah, the kids reading this textbook will end up desperately ignorant about science, but at least they won’t end up thinking pollution is a glory unto God. They may even agree to help us preserve the planet, as long as that doesn’t require responsible birth control.

Image shows Twilight Sparkle shrugging. Caption says, "Never know, could happen"

Look, I’ll take what positives I can get.

I’m frankly in awe at the fact they’ve got a paean o’ praise to Charles Moore, a man who was motivated “to get involved in marine environmentalism.” They actually said that like they think it’s a good thing. Amazing. And then, in their babbling about Dominion and Ocean Motion, they actually baldly state, “Reducing man-made-marine pollution is clearly a worthy priority for us.”

Call the doctor – my heart just stopped.

Image is David Tennant as the Doctor, making a funny face, with a stethoscope in his ears. Caption says, "The Doctor is in!"

Ahhh, much better. Right. Where were we?

Oh, yes. Then they admit that “changing global climate seems to be affected sea level, so the height of tides in some places is becoming a concern.” Good thing they didn’t agree it’s human activity causing the problem, or I’d have a flatlined for sure.

Contrary to Bill O’Reilly, they can explain why the tide goes in and out. They do quite a good job, actually, even clearly explaining why there’s also a tidal bulge on the side of the earth opposite the moon:

So as the moon revolves around the earth, the earth revolves around the moon, too. This means that, compared to the center of rotation, the far side of the earth from the moon is moving faster than the near side. This extra speed causes the ocean water on the for side to be thrown into a heap, just like mud gets flung off a spinning wheel.

Of course, it’s better explained as inertia, but give ’em a A for non-creationist effort.

We get through currents relatively unscathed, although the way the authors explain them is a bit of a muddle. One gets the feeling they don’t quite understand them, a feeling reinforced by the way they describe Ekman spirals as being deflected more with depth due to the Coriolis effect. Actually, the spiral’s shallower waters are moving faster than the deeper, which creates the spiral – it’s not that the Coriolis effect is stronger at depth, which the ES4 authors portray as the main reason. I know, shock-horror, imagine creationists not understanding science!, etc.

At last, we hook up with some Godly nonsense in the subsection on Ocean Migrations. After a long description of the migratory routes of various sea critters and birds, the authors show us just how far creationism can take us in our quest to understand the natural world:

How did these creatures come to rely on ocean migrations to survive? This is just another example of how God provides for His creatures in their design. How much more then can He also provide for us, whom He has made to bear His image!

Isn’t this marvelous, it’s because God made it that way, he definitely likes us bestest, the end. Ain’t science easy, kids?!

Their explanation of upwelling is frankly painful: they seem to confuse Ekman spirals with Ekman transport, and forget to mention the rather important part wind plays in moving surface water out of the way. They also seem to be convinced water is upwelling at the equator because it’s being squeezed by gyres, which is not mentioned by any of the educational articles I looked at. Methinks they don’t quite know what they’re talking about. Again.

But even they can’t fuck up waves too badly. Then a very cursory discussion of coastal landforms ends the chapter. We’re not even given a sermon. God’s apparently too busy sunbathing on the beach to interfere with its features.

With that short sprint, we’re now two-thirds done with our ocean triathlon. Of course there are no winners when it comes to reading creationist textbooks, but we’ll see just how much God-nonsense they can chuck in our path as we hoof it toward the finish line.

Image shows a golden sunset, with crepuscular rays shining through the clouds.
A San Diego Sunset from Imperial Beach. Creationists would say Goddidit. I say the uncreated laws of nature did it just fine all by their lonesomes. Photo by moi.

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Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education XII: Wherein We are Made Seasick

5 thoughts on “Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education XII: Wherein We are Made Seasick

  1. 1

    Actually, I have to say the godbots got the tide thingy much closer to right, as compared to some of the explanations I’ve seen in physics texts. Of course, I’ve also known physics profs to be without a clue as to how sailboats work as well. Just goes to show you that even a blind sq

  2. 4

    The tide paragraph quoted did not bother me all that much. About what I’d expect.

    The linked NOAA page, now, that made me twitch. I expected better.

    The NOAA page doesn’t even mention that the earth and moon are revolving, so the inertia bits don’t make sense at first. It also tries to avoid the term “centrifugal force”, which adds to the confusion. (Centrifugal force is a perfectly cromulent term, but these days I will say “centrifugal inertia”.) The rest of the NOAA description is based on the earth and moon revolving around a common center (without saying so), but it only makes sense if that common center is somewhere between the earth and the moon – it implies that the tide on the moon-side of the earth is being centrifuged down by inertia. Actually, the barycenter of the earth/moon system is about 1000 miles below the surface of the earth – inertia would be helping it rise, slightly.

    It’s a lot easier just to say that the moon pulls the inner tide up, and centrifugal force slings the outer tide out. That isn’t exact, but it isn’t wrong.

  3. 5

    The inertial explanation is wrong. It’s not centrifugal force either.

    A non-rotating Earth would still have two tidal bulges.

    It’s because Earth is not really a point mass, and there is a small difference of the gravitational force exerted by the combination of the moon and the Earth at each point of the Earth. These differences are the tidal force.

    Admittedly, vector force equations are not stuff even high school students can really handle, but invoking other physics concepts that are not the real explanation only makes things worse, IMHO.

    Better just to say, when two bodies are close enough together, gravity creates a tidal force on each of them. If they get really close, the tidal force can even pull the smaller body apart (the Roche limit). The tidal force of the moon on the Earth isn’t anywhere near that strong, but it is strong enough to move water around. (And the Earth’s crust a tiny amount).

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