Highly accurate artist's representation of the Loch Ness Monster
In January, I got good and riled up when a gang of legislators attempted to undercut education in my home state by allowing school corporations to make the teaching of science in science classrooms optional. That attempt was thankfully batted down for the time being, though American politics being what they are, it could certainly pop up again in a future legislative session.
Of course, the efforts of the national movement of well-heeled Young Earth Creationists have kept trucking along. I recently mocked Ken Ham's new billboard campaign, which uses bold and colorful cartoon depictions of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals to lure families to his Creation Museum in Kentucky. Now we have reports of a textbook soon to be placed in the hands of American schoolchildren which - in an apparent effort to set a new world record for simultaneous facepalms - claims that the Loch Ness Monster falsifies evolution. As quoted in the Scotsman newspaper, the Biology 1099 textbook put out by Accelerated Christian Education* sez:
Are dinosaurs alive today? Scientists are becoming more convinced of their existence. Have you heard of the ‘Loch Ness Monster’ in Scotland? ‘Nessie’ for short has been recorded on sonar from a small submarine, described by eyewitnesses, and photographed by others. Nessie appears to be a plesiosaur.This from a supposed biology textbook. The writers of a real biology text would know that:
- Plesiosaurs, while being extinct Mesozoic animals, aren't dinosaurs. This might be splitting hairs if this wasn't supposed to be a fricking biology textbook.
- Eyewitness accounts and sonar "sightings" hardly make compelling scientific evidence.
- Birds are the living descendants of dinosaurs, which makes a heck of a lot more sense to be in a biology textbook than cryptozoology.
But what to do when that science classroom is in a private religious school? This ACE textbook will be used to teach students who attend private schools thanks to funding from Louisiana's new school voucher program. Bruce Wilson wrote a terrific article on this issue at AlterNet:
This 2012-2013 school year, thanks to a bill pushed through by governor Bobby Jindal, thousands of students in Louisiana will receive state voucher money, transferred from public school funding, to attend private religious schools, some of which teach from a Christian curriculum that suggests the Loch Ness Monster disproves evolution and states that the alleged creature, which has never been demonstrated to even exist, has been tracked by submarine and is probably a plesiosaur.The children going to the schools which use this blatantly unscientific science textbook are having their miseducation paid for by money taken out of funds allotted for the public school system. This is a backdoor way to provide state funding for what is clearly a dogmatic religious education.
We need solid science education, free of the influence of any religion, desperately. I consider science to be a bridge between cultures, languages, and, yes, religions. A way to investigate the world and arrive at common ground on how it works. Young Earth Creationism is directly opposed to that goal, and unfortunately it isn't a view held by a vocal minority. It's nearly half of the US population.
Graph by Gallup
We've got so much work to do.
*For more on ACE, be sure to read Johnny Scaramanga's blog Leaving Fundamentalism.