Those Awful Science Textbooks May 18, 2011

Those Awful Science Textbooks

One thing we know about the Creation Museum’s Ken Ham is that he pays very careful attention to science textbooks. He wants to make sure home-schooled Christian families have only the best resources for their kids.

We took some photographs (this is just a small sample) of the sorts of materials being sold at these [home-schooling] conferences. It is a warning to parents that they need to be extremely discerning, and they need to check out all curricula and books carefully. They also need to question those people selling resources and ask exactly what they contain as well as what stands the sellers take in regard to these issues.

Yes! That’s great advice. Parents should be discerning regarding what kinds of textbooks they’re getting for their kids. The problem is that, for Ham, the textbook is only a good one if it lies to children about basic scientific truths.

Just look at the photos on his website. These are supposed to be examples of bad textbooks:

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Can you believe it? These textbooks refer to the age of humans in the millions of years! And the age of the universe in billions! The bastards… they’re using real science! WHAT ARE THEY THINKING?!

Ham offers parents who want to brainwash their kids a warning:

Be precise when talking to vendors — ask very specific questions about the age of the earth, days of creation, when death came into the world, the extent of Noah’s Flood and that it covered the whole earth, the creation of Adam and Eve, whether they accept Darwinian evolution, big bang, etc. The more homeschoolers show the vendors they will only support those who stand on God’s Word as they should, the more I believe vendors and organizers of these conventions will take note.

Would anyone be surprised if they did change the content? Why worry about promoting factual information when Creationist parents don’t care about the truth? They want books that support their delusions, good science be damned.

Side note: Ham also including the following pictures in his collection. Why?! I couldn’t figure it out… am I missing something obvious?

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***Update***: Commenters point out that the Noah’s Ark picture is “bad” because it refers to the story as a… um… story.

The other two pics are part of a curriculum called “Singapore Science” and the last image in the main group is a page from one of the textbooks (it refers to dinosaurs living millions of years ago).

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  • Brian

    Yes, you are missing something….Ken explains in intro why he doesn’t like the Noah version shown – it is portrayed as fairy tale, not science.

    Second and third pictures are part of 3 pics of singapore science – third is the last pic in your main group as you can see from the illustration that matches cover art.

    But…yes, that’s one very hard to understand set of beliefs. He and Hovind are responsible for so much misinformation…. Almost seems criminal.

  • Wade

    I’m still baffled by the fact that young earth creationists think that “man from earth dust” is more compelling than everything from stardust over billions of years.

  • “Some scientists think germ-like blobs found in a rock on Mars show life existed there.”

    This must be the only time I’m ever in agreement with Ken Ham. It’s like saying “Some scientists think that evolution did not happen and God poofed us into existence.”

    Both the statements above are technically true, but they aren’t science.

  • MathMike

    Here are my guesses on the three mystery pics, and why Ken would think they are bad:
    1. Noah’s Ark is not a story, it is fact.
    2. Muslims have their own science, why not xtians?
    3. Girls should not be encouraged to be scientists.

  • roxanne

    Yep…Noah’s Ark is headed by the word “Story”….and as for the other books, they all promote the blasephemous study of SCIENCE!

    These poor, deluded homeschoolers are providing their children with no better education than a Scientologist…by the time these kids get to college or out in the real world, their knowledge base will be so narrow,that unless they actually work for the Creationist museum,they have little hope of a valid career!

  • Peter Mahoney

    This is why it is important to support programs like Nova Science Now, Science Illustrated magazine, dinosaur books and games that mention millions of years as the time-frames, etc., and expose our kids to these and similar cool materials.

    When a kid has viewed and loved a bunch of these, and we explain that the Bible says the world is only about 6-10 thousand years old, it’s a great way for them to see how VERY far from the truth that book is.

  • Trace

    As some of you know we are secular homeschhoolers (HS). My son and I interact with Fundamental Christian HS constantly. I even teach science at some HS co-ops. It is difficult, to say the least, to teach a number of subjects without making reference to the geological time scale or natural selection (mentioning artificial selection and genetics is viewed as suspect by some). Many good resources (online and otherwise) are deemed unfit by some families. Even among Fundamental families there is a lack of consensus, and some view ID as suspect.

    Anyway, the Singapore Science method is based on a national (sound) curriculum. That is why is not suitable for some homeschoolers. Start up science follows that curriculum and it tends to be “ideology neutral” and that is enough for some HS with an us vs them mentality.

    More info:

  • JD

    Books that don’t say poetry written by stone and bronze age people describe how life and Earth came to be. The horrors!

  • beijingrrl

    We’re also secular homeschoolers and I actually think we have it worse. A lot of the science textbooks try to leave out the debate altogether to sell more books. I have to carefully screen books to make sure they’re not slipping in a religious bias and add back in the appropriate big bang and evolution references. I use a science curriculum which occasionally refers to things being “created that way” rather than either simply being or having evolved that way. If I wasn’t aware of this issue, I might not even notice. But this particular curriculum does an excellent job of laying out the building blocks of science sequentially while being highly interesting to children, so I live with it at the elementary level.

    I’m still looking for a great, engaging history text for younger kids. Not only is there the religious issue, but the Eurocentricity of most.

  • Jake

    Every single science textbook I’ve ever seen has been accurate with regards to the age of the Earth, Dinosaurs, etc.

    Sure, they were simplified, but the point is they were scientific. So, in short, Ken Ham can eat it.

  • Trace

    Hi bijingrrl. What age/grade are you looking for? We are unschoolers so we don’t follow a set curriculum, but I know of many parents who buy used textbooks (aimed at public schools) online or obtain them otherwise.

    Yes, Social sciences in the West are quite Eurocentric. The web is your friend when it comes to that. I grew up in Western Europe and find that problem with topics like the American war of independence or other versions of history taught over here. We just compensate by studying a Canadian or British perspectives. The same for Latin American (or other) independence movements and so on.

  • Trace

    Oh, I almost forgot….Beijingrrl

    Have you tried BrainPop? It is a very good resource for younger students and quite balanced (Social sciences). They even mention atheism in one of their videos.

    Lots of free stuff and even a free trial period. My boy loves it. There is even an app for it. They also have a BPjr. and BP en español version.

    So anyway, I thought I would mention it. We use it for science a lot.

  • Marcie

    I work for a nonfiction childrens book publisher and let me assure you, there is no way we would ever publish anything but pure science. The owners are very Catholic but they still know the difference between science and stories. I’d say I feel sorry for the kids that purchase fundie books but I’m sure they feel sorry for us too.

  • LMR

    It’s not just the word “story” they don’t like about the first “questionable” picture. AIG has a particular problem with “cute” ark pictures.

    See here:

    Or here (Scroll down to the “Not all ‘biblical cartoons’ are biblical” section of the page.):

    They feel the “cute” arks make the story seem silly … as if THAT’S the problem.

  • Peter Mahoney

    Those evil science books also try to teach about lightening/thunder without mentioning Thor!

    They teach about oceans/tides without paying homage to Poseidon (or Bill O’Reilly)!

    The audacity of those science books to teach crazy things like “science” and “reality”.

  • Robert L.

    Wow, I didn’t know those Singapore Science books had gone international. The “My Pals Are Here” books are something I’ve grown up with, and so have many of the devout Christians I know. The fundies in America have nothing to worry about; the truth doesn’t do anything to faith because faith is something you can’t get rid of easily. Like AIDS, it’s passed from parents to children and from spouse to spouse. Fundies are underestimating the terrifying tenacity of the creeds they preach when they oppose good science in the name of religion.

  • I live “near” the Creation Museum, and Ken Ham was kicked out of our ‘local’ Homeschool Convention. It wasn’t because of his beliefs, I can assure you. At least half the conference was taken up with young earth creation crap, even a huge exhibit from the creation museum. He wasn’t allowed to talk because he didn’t have a ‘Christian’ attitude about science instruction. He was condemning all those Christians who were willing to teach their children evolution, and condemned the conference for allowing curriculum that taught evolution to be offered. I wouldn’t be surprised if these pictures were actually taken at that convention.

    Trace and Beijingrrl covered the plight of the secular homeschoolers quite well. In this area, a large portion of homeschoolers are of the young earth variety. I interact with people of this mind on a daily basis, even those who don’t homeschool. A lovely story for you:

    My oldest son has been an atheist for about 4 years. He’s 13. He arrived at this point on his own. After all, I am not an atheist. His two younger brothers have followed in his footsteps. When you were offering to send people to the conference in this area, we contemplated going. However, my son decided that he would have a very hard time keeping his mouth shut. He wants to be an archeologist. The other day, we were discussing this with a new homeschooling acquaintance. The woman said, “Oh! You could work at the Creation Museum!” My son said, “Oh! That’s a great idea! I could tell all the kids how ridiculous it all is!” That was the end of that conversation.

    It always amuses me in this area that people just assume that you’re a young earth creationist if you homeschool. I’m almost positive this woman had never met someone who challenged her beliefs.

  • Rich Wilson

    I use a science curriculum which occasionally refers to things being “created that way” rather than either simply being or having evolved that way.

    I’ve heard/read animal features described as ‘designed’ for a particular purpose. Although I agree ‘created’ is worse, it reminds me of the line by Darwin that Creationists like to cherry pick, where he starts out saying life looks like it was designed. It’s an easy trap to fall into to use the language of ‘design’ when talking about why certain biological features exist.

    I caught myself in that the other day when my son started asking me about why some animals (who are prey and have evolved camouflage) look the way they do. I started with they look that way so they won’t get eaten, and then changed it to the ones who are easy to see get eaten. The ones who aren’t are less likely to be eaten, and more likely to have babies. And we know how kids tend to look kind of like, but not exactly like, their parents.

    (right now he’s out sorting his hotwheels into ‘fast’ and ‘slow’ 🙂

  • Reginald Selkirk

    “Some scientists think germ-like blobs found in a rock on Mars show life existed there.”

    I agree with James, that one was not good. The number of scientists convinced by that evidence is not very high, and the “germ-like” terminology is leading.

  • Saltyestelle

    As a scientist, I feel this overwhelming urgency to defend and save science from the aggressive American idiocracy. Am I overreacting, or is it normal to be this pissed off? Science is the one big tent all people can gather under, as it is the one objective means to understanding our world. It connects while religion divides. Sigh.

  • T-Rex

    Theists’ belief systems are not based on facts so why should their text books and curriculum be based on facts? They can’t be bothered with facts, especially when those facts don’t agree with what their “hand book” says.

  • Atheist homeschooler here. I am amazed that he found that much material about real science at a homeschool convention. I have been to the one in Cincinnati before and was disgusted by the volume of creationist garbage that was available there as “science” curriculum. I feel like we are in a tiny minority. Actually I think that making the choice to homeschool and being exposed to all the crazy was a major factor in pushing me from Agnostic to Atheist.

  • Richard Wade

    Yes it’s normal for you to feel pissed off. I don’t think you’re overreacting. Science and science education in the US is seriously handicapped by a general anti-intellectual attitude fomented by fundamentalists. We are falling further and further behind the rest of the world. Europe and China will zoom ahead while America goes the way of Greece. European and Chinese tourists will take pictures of us in our traditional costumes standing in front of our picturesque crumbling buildings. Hopefully, they’ll give us a tip.

    The trick is to channel your alarm and anger into positive action rather than despair and dissipated rage. Redouble your efforts in your field, but more importantly, think about how to make your field more understandable to lay people. As Jacob Bronowski said in The Ascent of Man, if in a few years we still have the aristocracy of science, we shall not exist. We must establish the democracy of science, meaning we must make it understandable to the common person and to encourage their embracing of at least its way of thinking.

    This is what I do for a living. I’m a Johnny Appleseed of science, giving talks about science to children. I’ve performed for tens of thousands. If one out of every 200 is nudged in the direction of science or at least scientific thinking, I figure I’m doing my job well. I’d like to do a lot better, but I’ll never actually know what my influence is.

  • Shoop

    Set phasers to STFU! If creationism wants to be taught in schools or by a parent doing homeschooling it should be kept to Theology or Mythology class NOT science class!

  • Think of the bright side, those books look great in color, unlike our boring black and white books.

  • Drakk

    Richard – while I know what you’re getting at and I agree with you, I do not like this phrase “democracy of science”. It makes it sound like science decided by popular opinion, which is not what science is or should be.

    I actually think it is most necessary for science to move itself into the spotlight of public importance. People need to read and hear about it in the news, and there must be more magazines like New Scientist and they must have a readership on par with Time and The Economist if what you and I both seem to want is to happen.

  • Richard Wade

    Drakk, Yes I agree that the phrase “democracy of science” unfortunately carries with it the connotation of conclusion by consensus. Even Bronowski’s phrase “aristocracy of science” is imprecise. Somehow we need a snappy phrase about making science accessible and attractive to the masses rather than it remaining the realm of the knowledgeable few. I’ll work on it. Any suggestions are welcome.

  • Rich Wilson

    As a parent, I feel this overwhelming urgency to defend and save science from the aggressive American idiocracy.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Richard Wade: “democracy of science” … “aristocracy of science” … Somehow we need a snappy phrase about making science accessible and attractive to the masses rather than it remaining the realm of the knowledgeable few. I’ll work on it. Any suggestions are welcome.

    The reality of science.

  • @Jennifer- Did it make you feel dirty? I always walk out of that convention feeling dirty. After this year, I have decided I will not be giving them my money any more. At least I was able to look at a few of the things I wanted to. Of course, they canceled one of the exhibitors I was looking to see. They didn’t have enough room. Apparently, they needed more room for creationist bull.

  • One idea for the “democracy of science” would be for the various governments of the world to subsidize scientific research publishing. As it stands now, if you Google search most scientific articles, you will find that you can’t actually retrieve and view them unless you (or your institution) are a subscriber to the journal. The exception is if the author (or the author’s institution) paid to make the article open access.

    If the world’s governments really had a commitment to science, they would subsidize this research publishing cost so everybody could read everything written.

    Who would be against this? The usual suspects. Anti science types, tea-baggers, etc.

  • Liberty

    I would agree- I’m surprised he found actual science at a homeschool convention. I’m a student, now a high school sophomore, and when I was younger I was always spotting little bits and pieces of propaganda in my books- not just science, but also during an essay writing course I took at the community college. I’m more of an unschooler now, so there isn’t any more of that nonsense anymore.

  • beijingrrl

    Thanks for the advice everyone! My kids, 10 and 7, have always been homeschooled and I love to research, so I’m pretty well aware of what’s out there. It’s just so disappointing to look through a curriculum and get excited by all the things they do right to find that it’s marred by a religious bias. Particularly, if it’s done in a sneaky way.

    As an aside, our home base is LA, so we have lots of secular homeschoolers and lots of conferences, some very religious and some secular. A couple of years ago a friend was in a math workshop at one of our secular conferences and the poor vendor had chosen dinosaurs for his graphics. Some woman apparently freaked out and hijacked the whole workshop with her religious inanity. Apparently, the guy kept trying to get back on track by pointing out the obvious that they were there to talk about math, not science, but she wouldn’t let it go. It really shows you what kind of pressure curricula developers face in the private market. Don’t ask me why this woman was at our conference and not one of the specifically religious ones.

  • Robert Hagedorn

    Adam and Eve? Do a search: First Scandal.

  • Deb

    Atheist homeschooling family here, as well. This is a great issue you’re pointing out, because I found early on we had to work really hard to find good science texts. The voice of secular homeschooling is growing, I find. Even though we are still a minority, we are becoming more vocal and demanding of good solid science and history materials. This can only get better. But it is scary to see that the creationists continue to have such a huge impact on the ignorant crap that gets put in print and submitted to millions of families and innocent kids. Thanks for pointing out this issue.

  • Saltyestelle

    @Richard Wade, I teach psychology 101 at a local junior college. My first and biggest emphasis in that class is on critical thinking skills, which I strongly believe to be the most vital part of education. It seems that most people are suspicious of science in general because they know that information is easily manipulated in our society, so distrust comes easily. I believe that once critical thinking skills are learned and used regularly, science emerges as a wondrous sort of hero for humanity. My frustration is that too often people prefer to turn off their brains and NOT wonder, not seek. Watch Jersey Shore instead of NOVA. I know my task is to practice optimism and keep up the good work as best I can. I’m also happy to say I think things are, slowly, changing in a positive way.

  • Amambe

    Oh, get over it!  The overwhelming material for teaching the theory of evolution far outdoes the Creationist materials, so stop whining about the minority of creationist books out there.  Just because you believe in the religion of evolution, doesn’t make it any more provable than the creationist side.  Both sides require you to have faith, and both sides can find “facts” to support heir position.  Here’s the deal.  If evolutionists are right, why do you care what they believe-It will make no difference in the outcome. If Creationists are corrrect, though-It makes a big difference in the outcome, so if you are a true evolutionist, then you need not worry about this-sounds like most of you are not true believers in evolution, though, just God -haters.

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