Imagine one of your children brings home their 4th grade science textbook. You decide to have a look at it, and on page 40, you read this:
Electricity is a mystery. No one has ever observed it or heard it or felt it. We can see and feel and hear only what electricity does. We know that it makes light bulbs shine and irons heat up and telephones ring. But we cannot say what electricity itself is like.
We cannot even say where electricity comes from. Some scientists say that the sun may be the source of most electricity. Other think that the movement of the Earth produces some of it. All anyone knows is that electricity seems to be everywhere and that there are many ways to bring it forth.
Now, what exactly would you think of that text? Me, I’d immediately contact the school and ask what the hell they’re teaching my kids. Of course, if that were the text that was used, it would mean that the religious fundamentalists had gotten control over the school system and were using textbooks published by Bob Jones University. The textbook in question–“Science 4: Students Text”–is home-schooling fare, or, in other words, texts for parents so extremist that they go to radical lengths to prevent their kids from getting exposed to the secular wickedness served up at public schools, and there are no private religious schools nearby with a fanatical-enough curriculum to satisfy them.
The passage above (seen scanned here) has been raising a lot of attention since PZ Myers featured it a few days ago on Pharyngula. You gotta know that it has led to a lot of attention because BJU Press has yanked the “Look Inside” feature for that one book’s class set off their web site, one would assume to avoid more embarrassment.
However, it doesn’t take much searching of their site and leafing through sample chapters of other texts to find stuff that’s interesting, though nothing quite as spectacularly buffoonish as that 4th-grade passage on electricity. Certainly the text is, to say the least, suspect as “Science.” Take this page from a 6th-grade text on goelogy:
Places where the plates meet are called plate boundaries. Scientists think that currents in the molten rock of the earth’s mantle may move the plates a few centimeters each year. This movement may cause the plates to separate, to collide, or to slide along their plate boundaries.
Some scientists believe that at one time the earth could have been a single large landmass that they call Pangaea (pan JEE uh). Because there was no recorded observation, we cannot be sure that such a landmass existed. We also cannot know how the landmass may have broken into pieces. However, the Bible tells us in the book of Genesis that God sent at great flood to destroy the wickedness on the earth. Genesis 7:11 states that “the fountains of the great deep [were] broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.”
Many Creation scientists think that the earth’s surface went through catastrophic changes during the Noahic Flood. These deluges could have caused the great landmass to break and separate. The plates may have moved with such tremendous force that landforms such as mountains could have been formed as plates collided.
Some scientists claim that landforms took millions of years to form, but it is likely that they formed in a much shorter period of time.
Note the determined dissembling and introduction of doubt when it comes to facts not embraced by the church. “Because there was no recorded observation,” and “we cannot know,” in addition to the insertion of biblical events to explain the form of the Earth. Not to mention the cute capper at the end, “it is likely that they formed in a much shorter period of time.” Yeeess, that is “likely.” Not that we’re making any claims here! We report, and you, the student, decide!
If nothing else, it is an interesting look at how the fundie crowd teaches “science” to their kids–with enough of the subject matter intact to make them aware of all the basics other kids know, but with just the right amount of fundie flavor to keep them out of hellfire.
Also note the repeated use of “some scientists think,” “some scientists believe,” and “some scientists claim” liberally applied to almost every statement of scientific fact, no matter how established or non-controversial. (Note, however, that when creation scientists are mentioned, it’s “many,” not “some.”) The intent is, naturally, to create a sense of doubt concerning anything that mainstream scientists say, as if everything is the field of science is just speculation, nothing more than theories and opinions, and therefore one can take creation science or other fundamentalist biblical interpretations just as, if not more seriously.
Or, I should say, some bloggers think that it is likely that these texts are full of it.
Of course, I am sure that these home-schooled kids will be set straight when they eventually attend Glenn Beck University (accreditation pending).