Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education XXVa: Atomic Bombs of Creationist Crap

Let us return to this week to A Beka’s Science of the Physical Creation. Now that they have thoroughly butchered the history of chemistry, it’s time to address matter. It appears the creationists are okay with it. The SPC writers even define it correctly, explaining that it

1) Occupies space

2) Has inertia

3) Can’t be created or destroyed

4) Ordinarily exists as a solid, liquid, or gas.

It’s a limited and somewhat outdated description, but perfectly serviceable for an 8th grade textbook.

They’re careful to explain that mass does not equal weight, and do so with the easily-understood example of a book on Earth vs. the Moon: the weight will change, while the mass remains the same, cos of gravity.

So far, so science.

They desperately try to insert some religion into the mix when they get to atoms, but the best they can do is interject that the founder of modern atomic theory was a Christian. But the poor dears have to immediately admit that the Christian! John Dalton actually got the idea of atoms from Democritus, not the Bible. And when they briefly talk about alchemists being “men who tried to produce gold by chemistry and often wizardry,” you get the sense they think wizardry is not a bunch of fanciful crap based on superstition, but an actual thing that works (only not for making gold). But that’s about as much as they can manage when explaining elements and atomic symbols. They bang on a bit about how John Dalton was a Bible-believing Quaker, but even in the special text box they set aside for him, they can’t tie his work directly to his religion.

Huh. It’s almost like you have to look outside the Bible to discover facts about how the world works.

Image shows a black tuxedo cat stretched aross an open Bible. Caption says, "Creationist kitteh iz engaged in deep scientific research."

There’s no bullshit while they’re describing the kinetic theory of matter: it’s all extremely familiar, to the point where I’m having flashbacks to my public school education. I just wish my school had explained that diffusion is why stuff in a stinky fridge will all begin to taste and smell funny. That would’ve been quite relatable.

Their “think” question is also rather neat: “Why is it impossible to draw a distinction between ‘natural’ substances and ‘chemical’ substances?” This is a question many woo-loving people of my acquaintance should ponder. Especially the ones who fall for “chemical-free” chemistry sets.

For some reason, their description of atomic structure only acknowledges up and down quarks. There’s no reason for ignoring charm, strange, top, and bottom quarks. They were all discovered before the 1980s, with the exception of the top quark, which was suspected early on but not confirmed until 1995. Maybe the creationist authors were made nervous by the unconventional names. And they seem completely unaware of the experimental evidence for quarks. It’s quite odd.

We get a bare-bones but serviceable summary of the quantum theory of the atom, with no woo. Either none of the scientists working on those models were Christian, or the authors failed to make note of their religion if they were. Poor dears. I’m just glad they refrained from shoving God into quantum mechanics any-old-how. They verge awfully close while explaining quantum numbers, though:

The fact that even “unpredictable” electrons can be described mathematically is evidence that the universe is lawful and orderly.

I admire their restraint. I’m frankly amazed they didn’t leap to proclaim this as proof for God when it’s no such thing.

By now, you may be despairing. Isn’t there going to be any creationist crap? Hang tight, kiddos. It won’t be long now.

There’s no fuckery in discussing atomic mass. And it’s only very subtle when they begin to discuss radioactivity. Most textbooks I’ve seen use uranium to lead as an example of radioactive decay. This one uses radium-226 to radon-222. Can you guess why? What if I told you its half-life is only 1,600 years? Do you see what they did there?

And then, after talking about the various forms of radioactive decay, and describing why alpha particles are generally the least harmful to us and gamma rays the most, they drop this doozy of a creationist deuce on us:

Research seems to indicate that radiation causes harm (cell damage, cancer, etc.) only in significant doses, because God designed our bodies to naturally heal themselves.

No, you silly gits, that’s evolution that did that. I mean, seriously. Y’all are ridiculous. Why would God design our bodies to merely heal up to X level of exposure, rather than designing them to be impervious to radiation? Why, if your (omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent) creator couldn’t do that, didn’t he make our self-healing mechanisms more efficient in dealing with radiation damage? Why did your God do such a lousy job designing the supposed pinnacle of his creation? And don’t talk to me about the Fall. That was God setting humankind up to fail. He could’ve given humans the actual knowledge and wisdom to make an informed choice, but he didn’t. He could have put better barriers around those dangerous trees, but he left them accessible. So if you want to chalk up our inability to heal from moderate to severe exposures of radiation to the Fall, then I shall have to assume your God is trying to cover up a really shoddy design job. Or he doesn’t actually give a shit about us. Take your pick.

After springing that bit of inanity on us, they go right back to being sensible. They talk about nuclear medicine and food irradiation in – dare I say – glowing terms. No, seriously, though, it’s great to see people talking about this stuff without scare-mongering. It’s just that neither one would be necessary if their wretched God had just done the design job properly to begin with.

The creationist nonsense is about to go thermonuclear, so we’ll pause here. Line your bunkers with lead and don your sunglasses, my darlings. We’ll explode the rest of this nonsense tomorrow.

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Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education XXVa: Atomic Bombs of Creationist Crap

3 thoughts on “Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education XXVa: Atomic Bombs of Creationist Crap

  1. 1

    “3) Can’t be created or destroyed”
    Actually, they even get this wrong. Matter AND ENERGY can neither be created nor destroyed, ONLY CHANGED IN FORM. This is the way to verbalize Einstein’s E=mc^2 equation. Think about matter-antimatter annihilation, where you have mass being turned into energy. The reverse is when particles are accelerated to relativistic velocities, as in a particle accelerator, where that increased energy transforms into the particle having a higher mass. Matter and energy are the same thing expressed differently, much like water and ice.
    Pedantic correction over, please keep up the good work. I always enjoy these posts.

  2. 2

    ianeymeaney @ 1

    That’s true, but “matter can’t be created or destroyed” is a pretty decent lie-to-children, and is broadly applicable in the context of most chemistry and quite a bit of physics at the level the students are likely to be.

  3. 3

    4) Ordinarily exists as a solid, liquid, or gas.

    They missed plasma – even when its staring them in the telly.

    Yeah, it ain’t so common here on Earth but stars do make up a fair percentage of baryonic matter. Plus plasma is found in a few other places too ..

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