(Repost) 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

Waal, 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 over thrusts. 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.

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