Thursday, July 1, 2010

Bob Jones Press: Working to make you dumber

Sometimes, in order for things to make sense, you have to start with the basics and go from there.

Yesterday I found a link to this book Science 4 Student Text, ISBN Number 978-1-59166-423-9. The book is published by Bob Jones University Press, which bills itself as "Christ-centered resources for education, edification, & evangelism.

I'll be honest, I'm not sure whom this book is for. College students? Based on the writing, I'd say maybe 4th graders. But let's take a sample page:

For a moment, I wasn't sure where to begin. The top quote? OK - that's correct, the book in the Bible called Genesis does say that. The first paragraph after "The Moon's Beginning"? That's factually accurate if simplistic - science is about information gathered by our senses, though there's more to it than that. And that's about a good a definition of "faith" as I've heard.

Then, the next paragraph launches into the silly. It's correct, there were no people there to witness the Moon being made, whether you go by the scientific theories or the Christian mythology. Then enter the stupid:

"What anyone believes about the beginning of things rests on faith, not science."

Let me translate what they're saying:

"Was there anybody there to see the Moon being made? No. Therefore, whatever you believe about the origins of the Moon is based on faith. If you didn't directly observe it, then whatever you believe about the origins are taken off of faith, not science."

Which is such a gross misunderstanding about science, and observation in general, the it's an embarrassment that this concept was even proposed.

So like I said: let's take it down to the simple level.

Mr. Faith walks into the kitchen and finds Faith Junior sitting on the floor. There is a broken cookie jar nearby, and it once held 10 chocolate chip cookies. It now looks like there a 4 left.

Faith Junior has smears of chocolate on his face and fingers, and little cookie crumbs around his mouth.

It is at this point that Mr. Faith, of course, does nothing. He can not punish Faith Junior because they didn't observe what had happened, and clearly any indication that Faith Junior got into the cookie jar and ate the cookies would be based on faith, not evidence.

But that would likely mean that Mr. Faith is an idiot.

Why? Because he is *observing* right there with his eyes. He observes that earlier, there were 10 cookies and not 4. He observes that Faith Junior has chocolate around his mouth and fingers.

From previous encounters with chocolate chip cookies, Mr. Faith would be able to say "It is common that when someone has been eating chocolate chip cookies, they tend to have chocolate on their fingers and their mouth. Also, they have crumbs around their lip."

Mr. Faith can make that decision because he has used previous observations and experiences, and then used the current observations to make a decision based on past performance.

It's how we get through our lives. Science is observation of the evidence at hand, then using that information from other observations in the past.

It's how a murder is solved. People have observed that when you touch a gun, you leave an imprint of your fingerprints upon the material. And other observations have been made that, so far, people's fingerprints are unique from person to person. Combining those two piece of information, and you have a method of catching a killer without anyone having to have seen the original crime.

Let's go back to the moon. How do scientists know it was formed? They don't - they don't pretend to. But what they do say is "We observe the rocks to look like this. So far, all rocks that look like this were formed in this manner. We observe the pattern of craters upon the surface of the moon, and we have some tests we can perform that show us how often craters occur and how they look over time. Based on these things that we have observed, and our current observations of the moon, we put forward that the Moon is about 4.5 billion years old. Give or take. And if we hear better explanations for the observations we can make now, we'll gladly evaluate them to see if they hold up."

I'm not going to get into the whole process of how you determine the age of old things, because I'm neither an astronomer or a geologist. But I do know they just because they weren't there millions of years ago to observe it that their conclusions are based off of "faith" any more than Mr. Faith grounding Faith Junior for cookie snatching is.

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