(Tier 1) Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education XXXV: Wherein We Taste the Rainbow of Inanity

Can anything in Science of the Physical Creation’s unit on physics top their claim that our perception of color is a function of our souls? We can only hope.

(Content note: mentions of abuse and abusive behavior)

Unfortunately for connoisseurs of fine creationist crock, there are no shenanigans in the early bit of the next section, where they talk about the way light behaves. They do a really fine job explaining reflection. And we learn that paper doesn’t act like a mirror even though it reflects most of the light striking it because its roughness scatters the rays. Pretty neato! As I’ve said before, they’re super good at explaining science when they’re not indulging in creationist nonsense.

When it comes to refraction, they try a bit too hard to simplify: they say that “refracted light waves always bend toward the medium that slows them down.” But it’s more accurate to describe light as bending toward or away from the normal. Otherwise, they do a reasonable job explaining refraction, although with an inordinate focus on rainbows. We find out why when we reach the end:

The Bible teaches that God gave this magnificent display of beauty to Noah as a sign of His covenant following the worldwide Flood:

And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: and I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. (Genesis 9:14-15)

The rainbow still reminds us of God’s promise that the entire earth will not be destroyed by water again.

Image shows Noah and his family standing around a stone altar, burning shit that's bleeding down the stones. The wrecked Ark is in the background. There is no living thing, either plant or animal, aside from them. A double rainbow has appeared in the sky. Caption says, Yeah, hey, real sorry about that genocide there, Noah. I lost my temper, ya know? But here's a rainbow to remind me not to murder almost everything on Earth again.
“Noah’s Sacrifice” by James Tissot. Caption by moi.

And this has what to do with physics?

I mean, aside from the fact this has bugger-all to do with physics, let’s just explore for a moment what a terrible symbol the rainbow is in Christian mythology. I remember when I read the story of Noah as a kid: the next rainbow I saw was really sinister. Like God wasn’t saying, “Sorry! My bad! I won’t murder almost every human on Earth again, tee-hee!” so much as reminding us of that one time he got so pissed at people he nearly wiped out every single human, animal, and plant on the planet in a fit of rage. It was like having an abuser randomly reminding us of that one time we made them so mad they just had to break our face – but hey, they feel real bad about it. And they won’t do that again. But funny thing: they never promised not to push us down the stairs…

So no, I never did understand why we were supposed to be so happy about rainbows if God was just putting them up as a reminder that he’d promised not to flood the fuck out of us again. Like he might forget and murder everyone and everything without them. I very much more enjoyed the idea that rainbows were there to mark where leprechauns had buried pots of gold. My mom and I even tried to find the end of a rainbow once when we were driving home on Interstate 40 after a monsoon storm. It was the best fun. And it had more to do with physics than this Flood schlock: we couldn’t reach the end because the rainbow is an optical effect, not a fixed thing. Its position depends on the position of the viewer. No matter how fast we drove, we’d never reach the end of it. It was always just ahead. And eventually, the angle of the sun changed, or the water droplets cleared out of the air, and it was gone.

There are many rainbow myths that are far more badass and much less psychopathic than the Christian one. But, of course, they’ll sit there and claim their myth is totally true and really happened, which is why it belongs in a science textbook. To which I say: fine. But let’s put it in a psychology book and see what it says about the mind of God.

Bet you they won’t, because the results would be far from flattering.

The writers can’t think of many ways to work God in as they tell us about diffraction, interference, polarization, and electromagnetic radiation. They do manage to work in one wee reference:

Although [the visible light spectrum] is a very small range compared to the more than 70 octaves of the whole electromagnetic spectrum, God has marvelously designed our eyes to experience a vast range of colors and shades within these frequencies.

I can’t help but think that if God was such a bloody great designer and we were the pinnacle of his creation, he could’ve figured out a way to let us see the entire damned spectrum without having to use special equipment. The fact we can only see a tiny fraction of those 70 octaves doesn’t give me much respect for his design skills.

The section ends with a fun exploration of photons and lasers, sans God. Next up: relativity. I’m expecting some pretty epic creationist nonsense, considering what they have to do to the speed of light to get their young universe to work. Should be fun! For certain values of fun…

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(Tier 1) Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education XXXV: Wherein We Taste the Rainbow of Inanity
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