The Scientific Method According to Accelerated Christian Education

ACE frequently distorts the truth about science for its students. To make this possible, obviously the students can’t have a proper understanding of the scientific method. Sure enough, if we look at what they’re told, we see that students are misled about how science works.

First of all, the basis for inquiry ­– logical reasoning – is thrown out:

Man should never trust his own reasoning – his reasoning may be incorrect because man’s reasoning is not God’s reasoning.

OK, so if we can’t get to the right answer through reason, how can we get there? Well, luckily God has told us the right answers.

Although many modern scientific discoveries are not mentioned in Scripture, any scientific theory should be compared with Scripture. True science will never contradict the Bible because God created both the universe and Scripture. Some scientists may, like the early philosophers, contradict the Bible because their interpretation of their observations or their philosophical presuppositions are wrong, but the Bible, God’s Word, is infallible. If a scientific theory contradicts the Bible, then the theory is wrong and must be discarded.

 [Emphasis added]

So, if all the data contradicts the Bible, the data is wrong. So how come scientists manage to come to wrong conclusions?

The conclusions a scientist draws in his observations and experiments are based on his preconceived ideas or presuppositions. A scientist who believes the Bible may interpret certain “facts” much differently than a scientist who believes the theory of evolution. A scientist’s preconceived ideas may even limit what ‘facts’ he chooses to consider in formulating his theories. In your study of science, you should always remember that what you read is the work of a scientist who had certain presuppositions before he began his experimentation. All scientific ‘facts’ must be interpreted on the basis of God’s Word, the infallible source of knowledge.

Until the last sentence, this is all (sort of) true. The work of an individual scientist may indeed be affected by presuppositions. This would be an excellent time for ACE to tell us how science has solved this problem through the system of published, peer-reviewed journals. They should tell us how experimental findings must be repeatable in order to be valid. They should explain how fellow scientists are invited to critique the methodology of the experiment in order to improve the reliability of the data. They should explain how the conclusions are analysed to see whether the claims made are supported by the data. And they should tell students that findings which fail this rigorous process are rejected.

Instead, science is misrepresented as a field of bias and lies. Why has a science textbook been written by someone who either knows nothing about science, or doesn’t want students to understand it? The other ACE practice is to imply that fundamentalist Christians make up a significant proportion of the scientific community, as in many examples like this one:

As scientists began to realize that God is God of order and that His Creation is orderly, they gradually accepted three basic assumptions. First, the physical universe was created by the infinite and infallible God and is structured according to certain orderly laws… Science can be defined as man’s organized knowledge of God’s creation.

ACE’s anti-science bias is made clear by the inclusion on the syllabus of a poisonous book called When Science Fails (“explodes the naïve assumption that science has all the answers”), which I’ll probably consider in some detail at a later date.

What impact does this have on the students’ worldview? Well, apparently, it helps them to learn critical thinking skills, as one student attests:

It [the school’s training] provided a biblical foundation upon which to question and analyse academic and personal opinions/theories and beliefs. I was taught not just to accept what science dictates.

[cited here, p. 10]

I somehow doubt he means he learned how to critically evaluate scientific methodology and whether the findings of studies can be generalised. And what about questioning the Biblical foundation itself? I am not claiming here that the Bible is not true; I do contend that any belief has no value unless it has been challenged.

In ACE, there is constant sniping at science because it does not know everything, whereas God does know everything. Science has changed its mind, while their God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. This, combined with the fact that the curriculum contains no experimental or practical science whatsoever, leads to a denigration of science. In fact, science makes no claims to knowing everything, and changes in science are down to progress and new evidence.

I did not learn any critical thinking skills from ACE. When I encountered critical thinking in the Research Methods module of my undergraduate degree, many concepts were genuinely new to me. And that is a scandal.

[All quotations are from the Accelerated Christian Education Science PACE 1109, Physical Science 1, 1996 revision, pp. 5, 7, 9, 12]

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About jonnyscaramanga

I grew up as a Christian fundamentalist in the UK. Now I am writing a book and blog about what that's like, and what fundamentalists believe.

Posted on April 30, 2012, in Accelerated Christian Education, Education, Faith Schools, Fundamentalism. Bookmark the permalink. 41 Comments.

  1. This is extremely interesting. I can’t seem to find an email for you, but if you could get in touch with me at [email address removed to prevent spam] I would like to do something on our belief site

    Andrew Brown

  2. Am I understanding you correctly, that the ACE is the curriculum you were taught as a student? If so, were you home schooled as well? Sorry if you went over this an earlier post…just catching up on your site.

    Thanks

    • Hi, and thanks for reading the blog. I was taught the ACE curriculum until I was almost 15. I wasn’t home schooled though; I attended Victory School in Bath, which closed in 2000.

      • I was not aware that Victory closed… I’m only 12 years behind the times but I blame that on living in America (we dont know much beyond our own borders… shhh I didn’t admit that) What was the reason for this closure? Funding?

      • Basically lack of funds, but there was more to it. For a future blog post, I think.

  3. Things are this bad in a country with Darwin on it’s currency? I am surprised.

  4. Donald Miller

    ” . . . but the Bible, God’s Word, is infallible.”

    These people don’t seem to know anything about anything. The Bible that God wrote, does NOT make that claim for itself. So they are right and God is wrong. I come across a lot of religious people who push God around all the time. One of these days, I’m thinking the big guy is going to get ticked off and open up a can a whoop ass. He’s been known to do that before.

  5. Wow…I was home schooled for 3 years over here in the USA in the early ’90s, and the stuff I see here is awfully similar to the science textbook I had.

  6. Reading your blog brings back some of the horrors I’d forgotten from my 3 years in an ACE based secondary school. Argument after argument, detention after detention all for the “Sin of Hubris”. I questioned their scientific facts, their history, even the literature. None of it made any sense to me.

    It wasn’t until I hit University that I realized that my “six years” of education I achieved in 3 years of schooling in the self paced school was worthless. The only thing that I took away that was of any value was math. Even they had a hard time screwing up calculus.

    The final straw for me, in my senior year, was an argument with the Principal where he told me, flat out, that it was his God given duty to teach me what to think. I left the school shortly thereafter, got my GED and went on to University.

    If i had it to do over, I would never have left public school, even with the hell on earth the Central Florida school system was at the time. My real education effectively stopped when I did.

    Scott

  7. These types of reasoning are completely beyond me. I mean: in the end truth is all that matters; and we are fallible and can be wrong. All we should do is teach our children the best ways we have to find, recognize, and use truth. And then what we think we know. And how we know it.

    And then it is up to them.

    I mean if I’d teach my children exactly how to think, how will I protect them from the errors in my thinking that I am blind to?

    I mean, by God, if my child thinks I am wrong about something, and I cannot demonstrate that I am not, then what the fuck would I be doing by retaining it? Or worse: passing it on.

    I am sure I love my delusions as well, but not as much as I love my children. If you’re going to have children, you can at least have the courtesy to take your responsibilities…

    • Yes. Anyone who abandons their child to this rubbish doesn’t deserve to be called a parent. I am a current ACE high school student. I read this blog to stay sane. I come from a family of fundamentalists, but I was exposed early on to evolutionism and came to favor it. Unfortunately for me, my parents wouldn’t let me have my own ideas and began homeschooling me. Many thanks to this blog if not for it I would probably be a devout fundamentalist by now.

  8. PACE is getting popular among fundie schools. I attended an extremist fundie school in Nigeria. They’ve initiated the ACE. The books are just full of pseudo science. Luckily for me, they introduced the system 2 yrs b4 I left the school, otherwise no amount of reason would have saved me. I’m atheist now.You guys are luckier in the UK. Over here, being an atheist is no fun

    • Thanks for commenting freddy. I’d heard ACE is spreading in Africa but I’m still sorry to hear it from you. I’m glad you escaped in time though.

      • Its already down here in South Africa. Just not as widespread, its like its underground out here

      • ACE is spreading to Africa? Is there any way we can regulate this? Petition? It just makes me so sad to see young minds poisoned by this gibberish.

      • Yeah, it’s in loads of countries in Africa. This is a quote from ACE Geography PACE 1099 (the current edition):

        Although some nations are not open to foreign educational programs, many of them are. Schools using Accelerated Christian Education curriculum are currently operating in Kenya, South AFrica, Zambia, Botswana, Malawi, Uganga, Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, and DRC… Perhaps God will lead you to help start a Christian school in an African nation.”

  9. So… in response to: “true science will never contradict the Bible because God created both the universe and Scripture. Some scientists may, like the early philosophers, contradict the Bible because their interpretation of their observations or their philosophical presuppositions are wrong, but the Bible, God’s Word, is infallible.”

    If God “wrote” the Bible, and if it is indeed infallible, then why were we required to only read and memorize the New King James version of the Bible in ACE school? If the Bible is infallible, then why did a team of 47 translators work to provide an acceptable version of the Bible in 1611 at the request of King James I? Furthermore, why was a large portion of the original “Bible” removed from print and considered unfit from print? Certainly, if the word of god is infallible the entire work should be studied? Perhaps we cannot contradict the Bible because we are not truly educated on the entire text of the Bible? Or perhaps we are better kept in the dark about the truth, as the Book of Judith claims that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, who was a prostitute. Brings new meaning to “throwing the first stone” huh?

    Books of the Apocrypha (These are perhaps not in order or all inclusive because I recite them from memory as a result of undergraduate notes and research essays):

    * Esdras
    * Book of Tobit (the Vulgate, and Luther call it “Tobias”)
    * Book of Judith
    * Book of Wisdom
    * Ecclesiasticus
    * Baruch
    * Susanna
    * 1st & 2nd Maccabees
    * Papyrus of Oxyrhynchos
    * Egerton Gospel
    * Gospel of Thomas
    * A “secret” fragment of the Secret Gospel of Mark

  10. ACE conveniently circumnavigates human reproduction by using plant reproduction, fancy trying to tell kids that they are cabbage patch dollies!!!!

  11. I’m from Mexico, I studied in ACE 12 years of my life, I’m a cristian but I’m so confused about everything I learned there. All my life I defended Creation against evolution based in what I learned in ACE without questioning the reasons and information I received. Now that I’m 21 and studying a career I have serious problems believing what I hear about universe, life and Creation because my mind is set to believe and I hear only what I’m supposed to believe I want more information to clear my thoughts please!

    • Hi there. I’m really glad to hear from you.

      I would suggest you start by reading about Christian scientists who accept the theory of evolution. There you will learn the problems with Creationism from someone who isn’t attacking your faith. You could look at The Language of Science and Faith by Francis Collins and Karl Giberson, or one of John Polkinghorne’s books (maybe this one).

      I don’t agree with those books, but they present interesting points of view.

      You also said you only hear what you are supposed to believe. Maybe you could try studying critical thinking. I find Stephen Law’s introductions to philosophy very enjoyable. You could check out Philosophy Gym or Really Really Big Questions, maybe (I haven’t read those; I have read Believing Bullshit, which I think is great). Stephen is an atheist, so he’ll give you a completely different perspective to consider from the other guys I recommended.

    • Hey Renee,

      just heard about the school today and it’s the first time i hear of such in our nation. I’m from Botswana. When i heard about their teaching skills, i asked a parent who just found space for her kids there if the kids will not be confused …. Seriously, we cannot mix things like this. I am a christian who is a believer but i wouldn’t want to be confused…. Studying in this can retard one’s mind…

      Let science be science… why should it be christianized???

      This is pathetic.. why should we let the future generation be mislead like this. It’s not right. See, when the parent started explaining their curiculum, i said ‘ this is confusing..’ and she said no…. and i thought, she’s illuminated …

  12. So if scientific theory contradicts the bible it makes it wrong…. what if the bible contradicts the bible? Does that mean it is wrong as well? I would assume so.

  13. While I can’t really contribute to the discussion (i’m french and our system is kinda different), i wanted to thank you for the work you do here.

    The evolution/creationism debate is not really present in france, but an important one (and since I study the epistemology and anthropology of archaeology, it’s also relevant to me). Evolutionary processes are, in general, badly understood by and transmitted to laypeople (monkeys are our ancestors, anyone?) and this has given rise to some really atrocious logical fallacies.
    I’d like, sometimes, to be able to go ‘because science’. I wouldn’t have to think up arguments.

    A problem of fundamentalism which i rarely see addressed is the one of worldview associated to the study of the past. Science try to teach you to be aware of your own biases, and to use this awareness to reach better objectivity (no one says it works perfectly, of course. You just can’t can’t extract yourself completely, or you’d be worse than a computer -they still have programming. Maybe an amoeba. Anyway, i doubt you’d have a working brain).

    Absolutes in worldview, whether they deal with religion or politics or whatever, hinder scientific thinking. Most people dealing with science will agree on that.
    One of the many problem of fundamentalism is the idea that their worldview is an absolute, in space but also in time, going back in the form it has today to the beginning of christianity. Something anyone with a few notions on societal processes laughs at.

    Also, if “the Bible, God’s Word, is infallible”, then I’d like someone to explain me why inside there’s two versions of the creation of Adam end Eve, or different sizes given for the ark or the length of time spent on it or… well, self-contradictions aren’t exactly lacking in the Bible, which is no surprising considering the history of the judeo-christian tradition.

    Let’s not even begin on the history of the text in itself, or of the understanding and interpretation of the text, because that’s another can of worms.

    Sorry for the rant. All those extracts had me speechless and outraged and inarticulate.

  14. Interesting… I think that some of the comments above are too forgiving and fail to properly understand the damage that deliberate misinformation and lies do when force fed to young people. It doesn’t just harm the students themselves but causes great damage to society (ie the rest of us) by inculcating ignorance and bigotry that we all have to live with. These people are not just misguided, they are criminals and any sane system of law and justice would classify what they do as child abuse (amongst other crimes).

    These people are entitled to their irrational beliefs, however loony they may be, but misrepresenting them as fact or as science and feeding this crap to impressionable young students is a vile offence and should be proscribed by law. If they want to propound this rubbish then they can start a church and preach it from the pulpit, but of course they want to indoctrinate the young and to con the young and naive into thinking that they are teaching them some kind of “scientific” knowledge. Essentially they are no better than, and share the same philosophy as, the Hitler Youth of the thirties and forties.

  15. I can’t remember if I read ‘When Science Fails’ but I had to read a similarly dangerous book entilted ‘Did Man Just Happen’ which frankly just read as an angry rant.

    The author was rather racist too as one thing he claimed was ‘the absence of God has lead to the degredation seen in the common savage. But some quick research has shown it’s a very old book (so frankly on that merit alone it shouldn’t be used as it’s out of date but then since when has ACE ever actually updated their cirriculum? I was on an ACE scheme and it still called Russia as the USSR!)

  16. Just found you on the web and so relieved – regret the day I enrolled my daughter in the ACE program – will finish this year and use another ‘non-christian’ education system

  17. Someone ought to tell the ACE-ites this:
    “A person who rejects reasoning has no right to retain the word ‘because.'”

  18. I am not here to defend ACE. The absence of scientific experimentation from the ciriculum is indeed worrisome.

    However, evolution verses creation is a scientific topic that is heavier than any other topic because it dovetails with religion in the questions of origins and purpose of man. Thus, any scientist, on either side of this argument, is going to have a bias.

    There really is no such thing as true human reasoning. You’ll be led by God or by the devil, but you’ll be led by one of them.

  19. I am so glad to have found this. I have encountered a Bible “scholar” who does not believe in the scientific method, and was dumbfounded.

  20. kategladstone

    Hmmm — if “man should never trust his own reasoning, because …. ” then there are no grounds for trusting ANYthing that follows “because” (in the ACE book, or anywhere else.)

    If you should never trust your own reasoning, you have no grounds for trusting whatever reasoning the ACE authors are depending on you to use in order to understand their explanation of why you should never trust your own reasoning.

    What would happen, I wonder, if the above two statements could be somehow gotten into the hands of ACE students? I have fantasies of Scaramanga renting a crop-duster and dropping boxes of these and other mind-blowers, printed in “Chick Comics” size and format, over the yards and exit areas of ACE schools … If you began a Kickstarter project along those lines, I for one would donate.

  21. Scientific method is designed specifically to release us from bias. The biggest difference between scientists and non – scientists is the way a hypothesis is evaluated. Non – scientists tend to begin with a hypothesis, and then proceed to try to prove it. By contrast, scientists tend to begin with a hypothesis, and then proceed to try to disprove it. It seems that these are not that different, but the results can be dramatically different. Those who try to prove their hypothesis are more likely to choose experiments which agree with their own beliefs, where a good scientists choose experiments that are contrary to their beliefs. The later case is designed to remove the inherent human bias, and strengthen the scientific position. If an experiment disproves the hypothesis, it must then be abandoned, and a new hypothesis developed, which includes the new information. In this way, an ever increasingly sophisticated process of rational thought is developed, which proceeds to get closer and closer to the underlying truth. This is good, but insufficient. From this point, a scientist must publish this work, not in just any magazine, but in magazines which are peer – reviewed, where others also then proceed to try to disprove the hypothesis, and repeat the results. Yes, we are human, and errors are still made, but this system is self correcting. Ideas are constantly being put under scrutiny, to determine if they are still valid. Occasionally new data comes to light, and major revelations in our thinking occur, but incredible claims require incredible evidence before they are accepted. Some religious believers claim that scientists are close minded, and that we tend to ignore their claims, because they go against our “doctrine”. This is untrue and unfair. In fact, we ignore their claims, because no evidence is offered, or because the evidence is of dubious quality. Do you really believe that I wouldn’t want to be able to disprove the theory of evolution? I would be world famous, if I could. But there is simply no evidence with which to do so. I’d also be famous if I could show verifiable evidence for ghosts and ESP. But the evidence simply doesn’t support these hypotheses. They are far too readily disproved. My early education in ACE (from 1st grade until 7th grade) did not foster on me any capacity for rational thinking. Rather, I was intellectually stunted. It was only through great teachers in college that I was able to overcome the ignorant ideas that had poisoned my mind, and become a rational, realistic, “devotee” and practitioner of the scientific method. “All hail Science”!

  22. Re: “When I encountered critical thinking in the Research Methods module of my undergraduate degree, many concepts were genuinely new to me. And that is a scandal.” … Could you list these concepts, please, and the effect on you of learning each one?

  1. Pingback: Creation Science. Oxymoron? « Daniel Lovett

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