For a while, now, I've planned a series on the kind of creationists who like to run around calling themselves geologists and invade GSA meetings under false pretenses. People like Steven Austin, who does real geology only to the extent it gives him a Trojan Horse into professional journals and meetings. These creationists have a distressing tendency to lie by omission, trying to lure actual geologists into associating with them by pretending they're legit, and then telling their fundamentalist flocks they've presented their work professionally, therefore their creationist spin is SCIENCE - only failing to mention that wasn't open and avowed creation science they were presenting to the professionals.
I wonder how the flocks would feel if they knew they were being lied to?
Now, you may be thinking the professionals can take care of themselves, and if creationists can produce some mainstream science to present at technical meetings, what's the harm? Once the geologists there realize they're dealing with people who think the earth is less than 10,000 years old, they'll make fun of the fundies over a beer, and no real harm done. It's not like biology, where creationists are always attacking evolution education. Why worry?
Actually, the young earth creationists are mucking with the geology curriculum. See what they were doing with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills just a few years ago:
The creationists were prepared with a very long list of amendments to make to the TEKS to water down the presentation of evolution. it was interesting because there was a brand new earth and space science TEKS, basically bringing geology back and planetary science back, and there's a lot of evolution in there. The guy who wrote it is an NCSE member, good man, and there's a lot of evolution in the ESS TEKS. They went through those with a fine-toothed comb, and any TEK having to do with radioisotopic dating, with any sort of change through time, paleontology, those had to be tweaked to water down the coverage of evolution, make it more tentative, instead of saying describe the paleontological record for such and such, discuss whether the paleontological record, stuff like that. Unfortunately, our allies on the board didn't really understand what was going on, and in most cases these weakening amendments were passed.
So yes, they are going after Earth science education. And it's not just the evolution-supporting bits they're upset about. Creationists may be mostly preoccupied with the biological sciences just now, but geology's almost as devastating to their worldview, and many of them know that. Don't be shocked if a phalanx of them mount a sneak attack on the earth sciences when you're not looking. They don't want their kids to know they evolved from apes - they definitely don't like them hearing about 4.5 billion years and a rock record that refutes Noah's Flood.
They're already in our professional spaces, earning the credibility and vocabulary they need in order to convince people who don't know any better that they're the real deal. Imagine how well it will go for the USGS and various state geological surveys when the creationists have enough politicians snowed, and have convinced enough people they're legitimate scientists.
And they're raising millions of kids, the future of our nation, to be pig-ignorant of real geology. I've got the books to prove it.
In my hands are two Christian Earth sciences textbooks: A Beka Book's Science of the Physical Creation in Christian Perspective, and Bob Jones University's Earth Science Fourth Edition.* The books are used by countless Christian schools and in innumerable homeschools. This is the creationist parody of geology and the earth sciences which is being taught to children who don't have any alternative.
Conservative Christians whose kids are in the public schools can shovel this stuff into their own kids' skulls on evenings and weekends. Those kids are (hopefully) being taught straight-up science during the week. But the kids of conservative Christians stuck in the private and homeschool environments are cut off. They haven't got anyone to show them any different. So out they'll come, joining society, with a gaping ignorance of what Earth science actually is. Some of them will manage to fill those educational gaps on their own, but many won't.
And they'll vote for politicians who are as dismally ignorant as they are.
And they'll design structures and build in geologically-challenging areas with their crippled knowledge.
And they'll vote on referendums having to do with science.
And they'll run for public office (like, for instance, positions on the local school board).
And they'll shovel this stuff into their own kiddies' skulls.
And did I mention? They'll vote.
Look, I live in this society. So I have a vested interest in knowing how bad it really is. You, also, have a vested interest in knowing how bad it really is. Yes, even you in other countries - America's exporting creationism, you know. I want you to know where some of the whacky stuff's coming from when you encounter one of the products of this mis-education in your classrooms, or at a book club meeting, or in your community, or online.
I want the kids who were taught using these texts to know that what they're being taught is not the truth they think it is.
I want all of us to know what these texts get wrong, and what they get right.
Above all, I want us to know what's going on, before we, like biologists, end up mired deep in the culture wars, fighting off repeated attacks, and not realizing what the creationists on the school boards are up to with their sneaky little back-door approaches to stuffing God into kiddies' skulls.
I chose A Beka and BJU because they're two of the biggest names (and I'll be covering Accelerated Christian Education as its own series, because it is also widespread, utterly horrible, and in some ways more insidious - including a version being taught in supposedly secular charter schools). These aren't fringe publishers. These are the Christian right mainstream.
I will build on the treatment pioneered by folks like Doktor Zoom, and fisk these books to a nicety, all for your education, enlightenment, and possibly entertainment.
I do suggest that you lay in a supply of your coping substance of choice before we begin. You will need copious amounts in order to cope with this.
*I also have a copy of the Glencoe Science Earth Science textbook used in many public schools to use as a control. It's a thing of beauty. I may have drooled on it a little bit. Where o where was this stuff when I was in school?!
A version of this post was originally published at En Tequila Es Verdad. It is somewhat less polite, and contains many naughty words.