27 August 2005

More on the California creationist lawsuit

In a post earlier today, I noted that a group of creationists are suing the University of California system in order to force UC to accept several of their classes that are currently not considered adequate. One of the courses in question is biology. As I already pointed out, UC is not discriminating against Christians by refusing to accept the class; it is simply living up to its responsibility to ensure that applicants are adequately prepared for university study. Nevertheless, I was curious as to what about these particular biology classes was so poor as to attract attention.

The LA Times reported that:
According to the lawsuit, UC's board of admissions also advised the school that it would not approve biology and science courses that relied primarily on textbooks published by Bob Jones University Press and A Beka Books, two Christian publishers.
Now, given what I've heard about Bob Jones University, I figured that any biology text that they produce would be unlike any I'd read before. So I trotted on over to the Bob Jones University Press website to see what I could find. Looking over their list of books for "conventional schools", I found a textbook for a 10th grade biology class. The price is a bit high for me, given the quality, so I didn't order it. However, the website has a nice "see the inside of this book" feature that gives access to the frontmatter, preface, introduction, and a sample chapter. After looking at it, I think I understand why UC has problems with it.

From the Introduction:
Biology for Christian Schools is a textbook for Bible-believing high-school students. Those who do not believe that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God will find many points in this book puzzling. This book was not written for them.
That's funny. There I was thinking that science is a universal concept, open to anyone who is willing to study the natural world. I had no idea that there are things in science that can only be understood if you believe what these folks do.

The people who prepared this book have tried consistently to put the Word of God first and science second...If...at any point God's Word is not put first, the authors apologize.
Let's see. What we have here is a "science" textbook, written by people who have made a conscious effort to put science second. Wow. What possible reason could the University of California have for being concerned about the quality of classes using this book?

The same encyclopedia article may state that the grasshopper evolved 300 million years ago. You may find a description of some insect that the grasshopper supposedly evolved from and a description of the insects that scientists say evolved from the grasshopper. You may even find a "scientific" explanation of the biblical locust (grasshopper) plague in Egypt. These statements are conclusions based on "supposed science." If the conclusions contradict the Word of God, the conclusions are wrong, no matter how many scientific facts may appear to back them.
It's nice to see how willing they are to keep an open mind about things.

Believe it or not, the book actually seems to get worse. The sample chapter provided on the website is Chapter One: The Science of Life and the God of Life. Page nine is a box that is labeled as one of the book's "Facets of Biology". The title of this particular facet is: "How God Communicates with Man". In it, we find:
Was Joseph Smith's [founder of the Mormons -tqa] revalation from God? Based on Scripture, one must say no! The apostle Paul says that if anyone (including Paul himself or even an angel) comes and preaches any other gospel, he is to be accursed (Gal 1:8).

If you want to know what this has to do with science, or why it appears in a science book, you'll have to ask someone else, because I've got no clue. It must be one of those aspects of science that perplexes those who lack the BJU-approved beliefs.

There's another Facet later in the chapter, dealing with spontaneous generation. It spans three pages, and concludes with this creationist gem:
After Pasteur's swan-necked flask experiment and thousands of other experiments supporting biogenesis, do people today still believe in spontaneous generation? Yes. Anyone who believes in evolution believes that spontaneous generation has occurred. ... If they can create life, they think they can support their belief in life's beginning without God.
This chapter of the text also has some material that discusses evolution:
The idea that life comes from similar life is important. God created humans and all of the other kinds of organisms with the ability to reproduce after their own kind (Gen. 1:12, 21, 25, 28); therefore, humans reproduce humans, oak trees reproduce oak trees, and cats reproduce cats. The idea of all life forms descending from a common ancestor cell that originated from non-living chemicals is absurd.

Right. It's completely absurd to believe that humans have descended from chemicals through a long line of ancestors. It's much more reasonable to believe that humans came directly from dirt which is made from...

Looking at just the available samples from this text, I'm not surprised that UC declines to accept courses using it as the primary material as valid. I am surprised that there are apparently some schools that do.

By the way, the examples that I've quoted are by no means a comprehensive listing of everything that's wrong with the material I read. They are simply a few of the more egregious examples illustrating the comprehensively unscientific nature of this book. A thorough examination would have taken far more time than I have, and would simply have depressed me further.

43 Comments:

Blogger JM O'Donnell said...

So are they going to defend that material in court? That should be pretty hillarious.

4:08 PM  
Blogger velid said...

Wow. That's even worse than I would have expected. If they win the suit, we are in a lot of trouble. There was a episode of Boston Legal recently where they did win such a suit. Let's hope it remains fiction.

4:34 PM  
Anonymous guambatstew said...

It's disheartening that, having seemed to get past the monkey trials and other issues pressed by the wacky christian right, we have to fight these same old battles over again.

Your blog shares many of my views.

Any thoughts on http://guambatstew.blogspot.com/2005/08/52nd-state.html ?

5:54 PM  
Blogger TQA said...

I'm watching the stuff around the Akaka bill with interest, but I don't feel like I've either lived here long enough or have enough of a grasp of the history involved to be able to put together an informed opinion one way or the other.

6:37 PM  
Blogger John said...

Apparently the L.A. Times has LOTS of funny stories. Check out this one that was on the FRONT PAGE today! http://evolutionarymiddleman.blogspot.com/

6:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right. It's completely absurd to believe that humans have descended from chemicals through a long line of ancestors. It's much more reasonable to believe that humans came directly from dirt which is made from...

Why is that absurd? They believe in a god. A god, by definition, can create organisms from dirt, anything else, or nothing at all. Such is the very nature of the supernatural: it need not be bound to any aspect of what we consider to be physical reality.

No it is not the supernatural being, if one exists, could create that is absurd. It is that the supernatural creator would make things exactly like they are a product of evolution that is absurd.

And another thing is absurd is they bas their ideas of that supernatural being on a allegedly literal reading of a book that is said to be perfect in every way when simply reading it reveals self-contradictions and many other problems.

Of course science can't handle the supernatural and thus does not belong in a science class. But that does not make it absurd per se.

5:00 AM  
Anonymous Dan S. said...

Noticed this in the LA Times article:

"The suit also accuses the university system of employing a double standard by routinely approving courses that teach the viewpoints of other religions, such as Islam, Judaism and Buddhism."

Three guesses as to what subject these courses fall under? Could it be social studies, perhaps?

It's the Tulsa Two-Step. You dare give any face time to another religion in any way, shape or form!! Therfore, biblical literalism is just as good as science!!

(in it's orginal form - A statue of Ganesh next to the elephants at the zoo is pushing Hinduism!! We demand a creationist exhibit!)

As in the Tulsa case, they didn't think this through to the logical end result . .

6:15 AM  
Blogger Jay Denari said...

These people are incredibly scary.

By their own statement, if even Jesus himself came back and denounced them, he'd be burned at the stake.

Their use of selective examples is impressive... I'm quite sure the UC system also has classes that look at Christian history and ideas; almost every decent university does. In fact... who'd have imagined it... UC even has a religion department!

That apparently just doesn't count b/c those classes look at ALL of Christianity, not just their deluded version of it.

7:58 AM  
Blogger Gloom Raider said...

What burns me up is that, though creationists claim to have absolute faith in God, there always seems to be in fundamentalist resistance to evolution an underlying belief that God is too dumb to have used evolution.

3:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By their own statement, if even Jesus himself came back and denounced them, he'd be burned at the stake.

If these people ever personally encountered Jesus himself, it would be like that Marshall McLuhan scene in Annie Hall.

Molly, NYC

6:20 AM  
Anonymous Shadow said...

I can affirm that UC Berkeley had comparative religion courses in the 1970s. I'd go into a diatribe about recent developments with geothermal vents on coean ridges, but that would be, if you'll forgive the expression, preaching to the choir as we say down south.

12:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Remember that evolution is still a Theory. Cartoon drawings of embryos showing the supposed gills on humans that turn into vocal chords, Piltdown man, and apes teeth filed smooth were all fabrications of the scientific community. As long as students understand the relevant information- why should you care if they agree with it or not? Only about 30 percent of Americans believe in evolution
http://www.gallup.com/poll/content/login.aspx?ci=14107. Let Christian schools teach from a Christian viewpoint.

5:14 PM  
Blogger TQA said...

Science is about reality. Reality is not determined by popular opinion, democratic vote, or anything other than, well, what is actually real. 95% of the American public could be against evolution, and all that would mean is that 95% of the American public was wrong.

8:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rather than judge a curriculum based on a partial, ill-informed, biased position, it would be wise for both the University of California (and anyone else) to compare how the students who have been taught using such curriculums perform in standardized testing and at the college level. I think that this would end any debate and might very well cause "those who know better than everyone else" to re-think their position. Last time I checked, evolution is a theory just like creation. I do not think that someone who has been taught from a Christian viewpoint should be threatening to anyone, unless you are afraid that someone might actually question evolution as it is being taught.

5:33 AM  
Blogger Kevin Wirth said...

Hey folks,

I thought that the criteria for determining whether someone is admissable into the UC System was based on things like, oh, I dunno, SAT scores? Regardless of what their textbooks say. After all, that's the true test, isn't it?

What do you care what the textbooks say as long as the SAT tests are all standardized, and they get a good score?

Hmmmmmm?

After all, you can hardly argue with an honor student who got an SAT score that qualifies him or her for admission.

THAT is the problem here. Not their religious beliefs, or what's in the textbooks. If someone can read books like these, and STILL get passing scores on their SAT's, they should be granted admission. Right?

Please say you agree, because if you don't, then you are condoning discrimination. Pure and simple.

1:33 PM  
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9:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i recently graduated from a uc with a minor in biology. i can safely say that, in the classes i took, the theory of evolution was accepted as more or less truth. creationism had no place.

i understand the concerns of the acsi. i've read part of their complaint and i understand the concerns about potential discrimination. however, i do think that the uc system also has a valid concern in ensuring that admitted students are properly prepared for any science classes that they might be required to take. from the excerpts i read in this entry, i'm a little concerned myself that they might not be.

additionally, fundamental knowledge of science isn't something that's necessarily always required in standardized testing. the SAT's do not cover science in the basic test. it is offered as a second test, but students are not required to take that test. nor are standardized tests the best or even the only method of determining a student's intelligence and academic capabilities, which colleges realize. consequently, you cannot determine how well a student will perform in college on the basis of SAT scores alone and colleges have a great interest in making sure their students succeed--it enhances their reputation.

i do believe that creationism has every right to be taught alongside evolution. they are both theories and neither have been proven as the absolute truth. however, when it comes to what the uc system requires, it's important to understand that the science classes within the uc system are not likely to be based upon creationism and so it's important that students can understand and accept at least the possibility of evolution. otherwise, they will not succeed.

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2:41 AM  
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2:42 AM  
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3:38 AM  
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1:59 AM  
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2:00 AM  
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2:00 AM  
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2:00 AM  
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2:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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2:01 AM  
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2:01 AM  
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2:01 AM  
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2:01 AM  
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2:02 AM  
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2:02 AM  
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2:02 AM  
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2:03 AM  
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