Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Creative Creation "Science"

Yesterday, Eric and I wandered down to the local Christian/education store to select a science textbook for the coming school year. The biology book they had available was terrifying. Their physical science book looked okay to my rapid scan, though. I mean, the pictures looked excellent and the little mini-bios of different scientists were engaging. Their diagrams rendering sound waves, atoms, levers, et al, looked fine. "How much can their agenda ruin physical science?" I reasoned, and hurried to make the purchase so I could pick Daniel up on time.

Caveat Emptor.

Last night I started actually reading the thing.

"Recent evidence uncovered by a team of researchers suggests that sometime in the earth's past there was a brief, intense period in which the half-lives of all radioactive isotopes were very short. This period could have produced most of the decay products measured in the earth's crust today. It also would mean that half-lives cannot be assumed to be constant for the purpose of determining the age of the earth and its rocks."

Translation: An unnamed group of researchers, probably working for the Creation Science Institute, cherry picked some data to support their presuppositions that the world is not more than 6,000 years old. Based upon this single iffy data point, we are now speculating that all radioactive dating science is wrong.

See, I'm fine with saying "Sometimes science is wrong" or "I don't believe in carbon dating" or "here is the evidence for and against; I acknowledge the evidence for my belief is slim, but that's where faith comes in."

I am not fine with publishing speculation and innuendo and calling it an authoritative science textbook.

I absolutely believe that God created the world. I do not believe that humans randomly evolved from apes. I also agree that even the most brilliant scientific minds of our age cannot compare to God's understanding of the cosmos.

I just don't write down that opinion and publish it as fact.

Further gems:

"There are many scientists claiming to believe the Bible who say some dating methods are valid. They have various theories to reconcile old-earth estimates and the Creation week described in Genesis 1. However, those who compromise a straightforward reading of Genesis to accommodate deep-time dating methods undercut the very authority that establishes the major doctrines of the Christian faith."

Translation: If you don't interpret the Bible as being word-for-word literally true, you're not a real Christian. Symbolism, transcription errors, and problems in translation are impossible. Subtext: Our interpretation of the Bible is true; yours is wrong, wrong, wrong, you vile sinner!

What's wrong with thinking that a "day" might symbolize a creative period? After all, 2 Peter 3:8 says "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." Maybe God exists outside of time, or has a super-nifty relativistic time-stretching machine.

If they don't believe in a latter-day prophet, why are they so convinced their interpretation is the Absolute Truth?

Further, most members of any faith community say "God is perfect; humans aren't." Many Catholics and Protestants, Muslims and Mormons, Buddhists and Hindus all manage to maintain their beliefs even when failed by a religious authority. The priest gets drunk. The pastor, who preached amazing sermons, suddenly runs off with his secretary. The LDS Bishop says something offensive.

If human representatives of God can be fallible, why can't human renderings of God's word also be fallible? Hypothetical examples:

* An Old Testament prophet sees a vision of helicopters. Lacking the words to describe them, he stumbles to a symbolic "locust."
* Some scribe writes down his historical account of the days of ancient Hebrew prophets. He includes a folktale about naughty children getting eaten by a bear. Someone else comes along a hundred years later and assumes it is Scripture.
* A priest in the middle ages who can't even read is copying the marks he sees on the page before him. He accidentally copies a marginal notation into the text.
* Someone innocently mistranslates a word. The error is compounded as the Bible moves from Greek to Latin to English. Eventually people to decide to translate directly from Greek to English, but can't agree on which texts to use. The originals were lost a century after being written; a century after that, church fathers decided what to include in the official cannon and what to exclude; we now have a copy of a copy of a compendium and several fragmented copies of copies. Which is older? Which is more accurate?
*  Do we include the Apocrypha or not?
* And, finally, people with a decided Agenda delete, add in, or deliberately mistranslate to fit their own view of the world. Perhaps it was not even done maliciously; perhaps they honestly thought they were being helpful.

Oy. This is why we need a living prophet.

Final quote from the textbook:

"The Bible should be allowed to take its rightful place as the foundation for all scientific investigation and thought. Its teachings need to be used as the presuppositions that guide scientific study. Many claim that if science and the Bible are joined in this way, science will become pseudoscience ("false science"). Elevating Scripture to its proper place will force a person to reject scientism, but rejecting scientism will not destroy science. It will make science truly useful, and it may help to turn our culture from its current course for ship-wreck."

Sigh. Now I need to return the book (unless I keep it for entertainment value) and search for a real curriculum for the coming homeschool year.

Maybe in my search, I'll find an excellent text with a perfect blend of spiritual grounding and actual fact. It would be lovely to have a section on astronomy which quotes "The Heavens declare the Glory of God" without also saying "And if you believe that while the Earth was under construction, it might have been lit by industrial generator-powered heat lamps while the Sun was still coming online, you are a heathen! Only WE are allowed to speculate about random and crazy ideas."

Of course, the idea that I can find such a gem is slim. Likely I will need to settle for an overtly secular book with it's own amoral agenda.

Or, if I'm very creative, perhaps I can simply write the perfect text--in the next 144 hours.


Krenn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Krenn said...

I think you're exaggerating the secular agenda of normal science textbooks. they're just science textbooks. I should dig up my forum post from a few years ago explaining my position on earth-created-in-6,000 years.

Short version: I use religious records when i need a religious opinion, scientific records when i need a scientific opinion, and I've never yet met a scenario where i actually NEEDED to reconcile the two. Creating idle theories attempting to reconcile the two bodies of evidence is a fun thought experiment, but I don't expect to find or need a conclusive answer until after the second coming. In the meantime, it's just a project to play with when I'm bored.

Now history, Psychology, or legal textbooks... THOSE are potentially dangerous. But science is just science.

Gail said...

Ronald--I meant to reply to this a while ago and then forgot. Sorry.

I agree that science books don't tend to have an agenda. They may under- or over-emphasize certain ideas based upon the current leading scientific fads, but math and linguistic and other texts are subject to the same silliness.

I think I was exaggerating for effect. Juxtaposing how some Christians might say "And the science textbooks are all written by godless heathens with secularist agendas. They're trying to brainwash our young!" When in fact, it is the Christian "science" textbooks which have a super-skewed slant.