26 September, 2005

A Shame What They're Teaching Kids These Days

After far too long without saying anything, I'm going to really open up today. Trust me on this one.

From Sunday's Denver Post comes a story about the folks that are using tours of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science as the launching pad for teaching kids about creationism.

And unfortunately, that's not a mistype, either:

God made dinosaurs on the sixth day of Creation, the same day he made people, according to Rusty Carter's interpretation of the Bible.

"The word 'dinosaur' was not invented back then, but in Job 38, there's two large creatures, behemoth and leviathan," said Carter, director of the Littleton-based Biblically Correct Tours, as he prepared to give his first tour of the school year.
"What do you guys think? Is the world really 4.5 billion years old?" Carter asked. "Nonsense!" one girl called out. The adults in the group smiled.
Tour leaders say they're trying to point out flaws in the "so-called science" of evolution, which contradicts their own understanding of Creation.

Most of the children on Saturday's tour attend Foothills Bible Church in Littleton. About half go to public school, the rest to Christian or home schools.

Many knew creationists' critiques of evolution: that scientists' methods of dating rocks are inaccurate, for example.

For Tanner Cameron, a fifth- grade student at Shaffer Elementary, a public school in Littleton, life's history finally began to make sense Saturday.

"Ohhhh," he said as Carter's colleague Tyson Thorne explained how fossils form. Thorne's story included water, mud, sudden catastrophe ...

"They're fossilized from the flood!" Cameron exclaimed. "So maybe the dinosaurs became extinct because of the flood?"
What he teaches comes direct from the Bible, Carter said:

  • The Earth is 6,000 years old.
  • The fossil Lucy, purportedly a transition between ape-like creatures and humans, is shoddy science.
  • Organisms can't evolve from one thing into another. "You might have a small change, like a tadpole to a frog, but nothing more than that," Carter said.
  • Now I just have to ask myself... What the heck does this guy think he's doing with arguments like these? Pretty soon, we're going to wonder why students from Colorado schools are being turned down for admission into respectable schools due to these sorts of wierdness and being told it's flat-out truth.

    Regretfully, the web version was significantly different than the print version found on store shelves over the weekend, but I do remember a few parts of them very clearly.
    • Rusty Carter does not have a Ph.D in any subject and belittles the importance of the degree by calling the acronym "Piling it High and Deep."
    • He instead has a degree in divinity.
    • He publicly states that the Grand Canyon was created by the Flood.
    • When the children were asked what kind of science was being displayed at the museum, the people from Biblically Correct Tours led them in the chant of "Bad! Bad! Bad!"
    Mr. Carter isn't teaching these kids, he's indoctrinating them. That's the only word I can think of to describe the actions depicted in the article (particularly the print one) and part of me feels that the word-choice is far too weak.

    And, of course, the Denver Post wasn't the only source for wierdness on the ID front over the last two days. Via Balloon Juice comes this from the other, slightly less meaningful Post in Washington:
    But decoding chimpanzees' DNA allowed scientists to do more than just refine their estimates of how similar humans and chimps are. It let them put the very theory of evolution to some tough new tests. When scientists announced last month they had determined the exact order of all 3 billion bits of genetic code that go into making a chimpanzee, it was no surprise that the sequence was more than 96 percent identical to the human genome.

    If Darwin was right, for example, then scientists should be able to perform a neat trick. Using a mathematical formula that emerges from evolutionary theory, they should be able to predict the number of harmful mutations in chimpanzee DNA by knowing the number of mutations in a different species' DNA and the two animals' population sizes.

    "That's a very specific prediction," said Eric Lander, a geneticist at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, Mass., and a leader in the chimp project.

    Sure enough, when Lander and his colleagues tallied the harmful mutations in the chimp genome, the number fit perfectly into the range that evolutionary theory had predicted.

    And later on:

    Today, in a courtroom in Harrisburg, Pa., a federal judge will begin to hear a case that asks whether ID or other alternative explanations deserve to be taught in a biology class. But the plaintiffs, who are parents opposed to teaching ID as science, will do more than merely argue that those alternatives are weaker than the theory of evolution.

    They will make the case -- plain to most scientists but poorly understood by many others -- that these alternatives are not scientific theories at all.

    "What makes evolution a scientific explanation is that it makes testable predictions," Lander said. "You only believe theories when they make non-obvious predictions that are confirmed by scientific evidence."

    Lander's experiment tested a quirky prediction of evolutionary theory: that a harmful mutation is unlikely to persist if it is serious enough to reduce an individual's odds of leaving descendants by an amount that is greater than the number one divided by the population of that species.

    The rule proved true not only for mice and chimps, Lander said. A new and still unpublished analysis of the canine genome has found that dogs, whose numbers have historically been greater than those of apes but smaller than for mice, have an intermediate number of harmful mutations -- again, just as evolution predicts.

    Now, this says to me that the ID/Creationists are embattled wherever they go. And will it cause them to think twice about trying to put religion into science? Most definately not. All this is saying to them is that they are an embattled minority. And all that does is put them, mentally at least, to when Christians were actually a persecuted minority back in the days of Imperial Rome.

    Tell me how can a religous group feel as a minority when over there are over 159 million Christians in the country? The various flavors of Christianity are so dominant in the country that they already pretty much run everything already. Unfortunately, some of them feel like that means they can change things so that those of us that aren't of their specific flavor of Christianity are forced to listen to their blather.

    I've an idea on how to keep the latter from becoming universal, but it's going to have to wait for a different post. This one's gone long enough as it is.

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