Five jobs a Creationist can’t do

This blog is littered with absurdities from Accelerated Christian Education, some of them involving mythical beasts or the denial of basic physics. But does it matter how old the world is? On a day-to-day basis, it doesn’t make much practical difference how long you think our planet has existed. Why not let Creationists teach whatever they want?

If there are grounds for regulating what gets taught in private schools, it must be because of substantive harm to students. I argue that ACE causes this kind of harm. It limits children’s future, because if they do what ACE says, huge areas of study are closed off to them. In fact, this post would be better (but less catchily) titled:

Five subjects a Creationist can’t study

1) Biology

You knew this one, right?

While we’re on the subject, belief in a universe younger than 10,000 years also cripples large parts of geology, cosmology, astronomy. And if you start claiming, as some YECs do (and ACE implies) that the speed of light has changed, bad stuff starts happening to physics as well.

2) Archaeology

Pretty obviously, if you deny the Earth is older than 6,000 years, studying stuff which happened 7,000 years ago becomes… tricky. Here’s ACE (in Science PACE 1109 – a Year 11 unit) denying the history of the Bronze and Stone Ages:

Stone Age

3) Linguistics

Models of language development don’t fit with the Book? Throw ‘em out. This is from English 1097 (Year 10). As with all these images, click to enlarge.

Tower of Babel

Interestingly, the ICCE (ACE qualifications) website claims that a number of students have gone onto study linguistics at university. I’m fascinated to hear how they got on. I’m guessing the cognitive dissonance was strong.

4) Psychology, psychiatry, psychotherapy, counselling…

ACE offers what it calls a ‘college-level’ counseling [sic] course. I haven’t seen it in person, but it’s been in print since 1980 and still on the curriculum today. The course handbooks are the ‘nouthetic counselling’ manuals by Jay E. Adams.

These books teach that secular counselling techniques are based on ‘atheistic’ and ‘evolutionary’ principles. As a result, the true Christian must reject all of them, and instead have a model of mental health which is based entirely on the Bible and the confrontation of sin. That rules out pretty much all disciplines beginning with the letters ‘ps’.

5) Theology & Biblical Studies

Obviously, ACE students can, and do, study theology at fundamentalist institutions like Bob Jones University and Liberty University. But if they go anywhere else, they’ll have a rough time, because ACE teaches them that questioning any aspect of the truth of God’s Word is sinful and wrong. Higher criticism, particularly, is evil and destructive. This is from the final Basic New Testament Church History PACE (year 12).

higher criticism 1

It goes on to say:

The leaders of Higher Criticism were mostly arrogant, unbelieving Germans in the 1800’s. English-speaking churches held out heroically against their attacks for many decades. Eventually, however, the prestige of these very learned men overcame the prejudices of many Scottish and English church leaders, and finally, the poison of infidelity invaded American churches.

Not coming soon to an ACE library near you: Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman.

Bonus: Thinking

Stephen Law argues that the great threat of Creationism is not that children might believe falsehoods, but that they might come to believe the absurd model represents cogent scientific thinking. It might corrupt not just what they think, but how they think. Creationism as taught by ACE is incompatible with both the scientific method, and rational thinking more widely.

So what do you guys think? Have I persuaded you that there ought to be regulation of curriculum in private evangelical schools? If you disagree, why?

Related posts:

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 15, 2013, in Accelerated Christian Education, Creationism, Education, Faith Schools, Fundamentalism, School of Tomorrow and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 28 Comments.

  1. Love it, but i really don’t think there’s a single job a Creationist can do successfully except perhaps being a tour guide for Ken Ham. Being clinically insane doesn’t look particularly good on your resume.

    • I know you’re joking John, so I don’t mean to be humourless, but actually, I think it’s important to realise that Creationists aren’t insane. Dismissing them that way doesn’t help us to solve the problem.

      Some of the children in Creationist schools are, potentially at least, highly intelligent. They accept Creationism because it is what their science teachers tell them. In that situation, it’s the rational thing to do.

      There’s a good skeptoid post/ podcast called Sarah Palin is not stupid on this subject.

      • True, we shouldn’t cut the strings and cast them (the kids) adrift. i feel differently about the adults who’re promoting the lunacy. Willful ignorance must be ridiculed, and the intellectual abuse of the children stopped.

      • I do agree, but at the same time the adults are just those children who grew up.

        I can’t help feeling annoyed at Creationists sometimes. I’m like, “Well, I was just as indoctrinated as you, and I thought my way out of it!” But, particularly in America, for Creationists there’s often a major social cost involved in questioning their beliefs.

      • Good point. I’m Australian so i’d honestly never heard of anyone actually believing Genesis until just a few years ago. At first i thought it was a joke. Then i discovered otherwise. Until that point my atheism was personal. Religion in Australia is a non-issue. You just don’t talk about it. We have an atheist PM now, and an atheist president here in Brazil (where i now live) and not a single thing was said about it during the elections. The more, however, i learnt about fundamentalists (Christian and Islamic) the more my hairs got up. Religion is a regressive sickness.

  2. Jesus Without Baggage

    The beliefs you mention in this post seem so silly, and yet I once believed them. I agree with you that these views are not harmless fantasies but lead to serious consequence to those who commit to them. ~Tim at jesuswithoutbaggage

  3. You can add teaching History to the list above.

    I ‘m not in favour of regulating the curriculum in private evangelical school, but only because I do not think there should be any such schools. Religious evangelism has no place in education whatsoever. It matters a very great deal what people think and how they are taught to think (as pointed out above) and children who are taught (not) to think in the way these evangelists do may well grow into educationally stunted and intellectually deformed adults whose irrationality and inability to reason makes them incapable of engaging with logical argument or rational debate.

    I have taught history classes where (adult) students, usually muslim but on one occasion a born again christian, would occasionally become so enraged by my attempts to explain the difference between actual history (for which there is some proof) and mythology and tribal legends that they became aggressive and had to leave the class (or be removed). Although I never set out to ridicule or to make fun of my students’ religious beliefs, it is simply not possible to teach history to people who cannot even grasp the notion of historical evidence and who lack the ability to analyse and evaluate such evidence critically.

    My classroom had a notice on the wall which reminded students that “there is no such thing as a historical fact unless it is supported by irrefutable evidence”. In practice the test of a “historical fact” is proof beyond any reasonable doubt and because there is not only much ambiguity in historical evidence but also a great deal of deliberate lying, fabrication and misinformation I would set the burden of proof very high indeed. We all know that history is written by the victors (the Vietnam/Second Indo-China War being the exception that proves the rule).

    • Thanks Steve. I thought that the archaeology section covered many of the same problems as history, but you’re quite right that there are separate issues. ACE’s history course devotes considerable time to discussion of the Hebrew patriarchs, most of whom historians and Bible scholars now consider to be mythical (or at least the stories we have about them are myths).

  4. My ex-husband is a linguist and there are some sub-fields that you could probably study without too, too much problem. He only had to take one or two courses in historical linguistics, which would present the biggest problem. I’d think that most linguists are assuming that the earth is not young, so a young earth creationist would certainly feel funny from time to time, but you could probably get through your classes. In fact, one person with whom he went to school (francophone, mostly Catholic university, almost no “fundamentalists”) was partly motivated because of his interest in the bible.

    By the way, I do feel like people overestimate the religiosity here in the U.S. Those die hard fundamentalists who seem to play such a big part in other’s imaginations tend to belong to isolated sub-cultures. They kind of get mad when people say it, and they’ll accuse you of bigotry, but they’re really not “mainstream.” As far as I can tell, they get a lot of their political leverage from more mild, not fundamentalist, Christians, and sometimes even Jews and others, who don’t really get how extreme the fundamentalists are. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been talking to one of my mother’s friends and I’ll mention something like, let’s say, Sarah Palin believing in “spiritual warfare.” They’ll be shocked and appalled. They thought that she was just a run-of-the-mill religious woman like you might find at any Church, not a member of a peculiar, strangely superstitious, sub-culture. Of course, my mother and I are viewed as raving liberals – and atheists, so anything I say is probably tainted as biased.

    • Thanks, that’s a really interesting comment. I see this with a lot of fairly moderate evangelicals. There’s a reluctance to criticise or question their “brothers and sisters in Christ”, and it lets the fundamentalists get away with too much.

    • I suppose there is no reason why a creationist cannot learn different languages and thus become a linguist, of sorts. However, someone who believes that the planet is only five thousand years old, and who thinks that the origin of our various tongues lies in diving retribution for someone scrumping an apple, cannot really grasp the full picture of languages and their complex historical interrelationship. Most of us speak tongues descended from the language of ancient Hittites over eight thousand years ago and charting the spread of languages though various branches and sub branches over the centuries is important to understanding the varied richness of languages and cultures we see today.

      A creationist may be able to translate competently but he/she would never be able to discuss and analyse human language and would not be what I think of as a linguist.

      As for Archeology and History being separate – well they are aspects of the same subject, or rather Archeology is a branch of historical study which looks at and interprets a particular kind of physical evidence. Evidence is everything in history and the books of the Old Testament are important historical texts. They are a mythologised tribal history of the Hebrews and provide important evidence (despite numerous translations and re-writes, each involving a subjective editing and re-interpretation) for how some a Western Asian peoples saw themselves and the world around them in the first and second millennia BC. Any historian would agree that they are useful for helping us to understand the ancient world but no competent historian would ever say that they provide proof for any particular event.

      What the Old Testament does help to show (along with many other documents and surviving records) is how myths and legends are passed down from one civilisation and culture to another, sometime over hundreds or even thousands of years. For example the myth of the Ark and the Great Flood (which may possibly originate in the frequent floods of the Mesopotamian plain, or possibly the great, and no doubt catastrophic, inundations of areas around the Persian Gulf, and the Red and Black Seas) was passed down from Ancient Sumeria ca. 2,500 BC (where it is mentioned in the Epic of Gilgamesh, with Utnapishtim playing the role later assigned to Noah) to their Babylonian successors, who passed it in turn to their vassal Hebrews tribes whose scribes eventually wrote it down almost two thousand years later in the first millennia BC. There are several other examples of this kind of mythological cross fertilisation and they are all fascinating, but none of them are proof that this or that event actually happened.

      A creationist is someone who rejects (or is unable to grasp) the entire concept of historical evidence and its critical evaluation and therefore creationists cannot even study history in any meaningful way, let alone teach it. By logical extension the same arguments apply to numerous other subjects and disciplines (Geology and Geography, Astronomy, Oceanography to name just four).

      Finally, the perceived religiosity of the USA does horrify and appall most of us Europeans (and many Americans – most of whom do not live in the USA). I am pleased to hear that the impression we get is exaggerated but we cannot just ignore the fact that numerous polls show that something like forty percent of the US population believes in the Genesis myth and it appears to be quite true that no politician can achieve high office without claiming to have some religious belief. In Europe we have various politicians who play the religious card but they are generally appeal to the less educated and are mostly derided – and some of them are merely advocates of the “noble lie” and cultural nationalism and are in fact atheists (Norman Tebbit in the UK for example).

      I have only visited the USA once (apart from an unwise and never to be repeated decision to transfer via Philadelphia in 2001) in my many trips to America and I didn’t come across any religious fundamentalists at all – but then I was only in Maine, which is basically Yankee occupied Canada anyway.

      • Oh, thank you wise European for telling me about my own country.

        Canada does not have a separation of Church and State, or didn’t when I lived there. The U.S. does. I know what I’m talking about. I married a Canadian, applied for permanent resident status, received it and lived there until our marriage fell apart. One of the problems I had living in Canada was the influence of religion upon public education. My ex, the Canadian, recieved religious education in public school. I, the American, did not.

        I’m not some sort of ignorant yahoo who’s never left my own hometown and I would appreciate it if you didn’t adress me as if I were.

        The first time I went to Europe I was physically threatened, while travelling in Italy, by a group of German men who thought I was Turkish because of my appearance. In Canada I was harrassed several times by people who thought I was part Native Canadian. I could make generalizations, easily, that Germans or Canadians are racist. But I won’t because what’s the point? I know some great Germans and Canadians I adore and love. (That’s why I chose those examples.) But you have no problem talking down to me because I’m American and I am insulted, and highly angry. You’ve read something, somewhere, about American’s religious beliefs and now you’re stereotypin and entire, rather large and diverse, country based on that. It’s out of consideration of the person who writes this blog that I haven’t said anything nastier about it. I’m biting my tongue so hard it’s bleeding. I didn’t adress you. Your choice to respond in this way by insulting Americans is agressive and obnoxious. If you had written a post on your own blog criticizing Americans and I had gone there and said, “No, Americans are great!” that would be different.

        Jonny, do you support this kind of anti-American prejudice, because if you don’t I won’t come back.

        By the way, a linguist is someone who studies languages, not someone who speaks a lot of languages. Many people who love languages both learn multiple languages (my ex spoke five) and study linguistics, but they’re not the same thing. My ex most certainly wasn’t a translator. When I lived in Canada, I did a bit of French-English translation (my French was better then) and I taught English as a foreign language, which I also once taught in Paris, and I am certainly no linguist.

      • I hope Steve will return to clarify his comment. I certainly don’t condone anti-Americanism, but I don’t think Steve’s comment was intended that way. I don’t think the first part of the comment disagreed with anything you wrote.

        He observed that it is frequently reported that 40% of the USA is Creationist. Maybe the polls are dodgy, but I don’t think this was an insult; he referred to the “perceived religiosity of the USA”. He didn’t claim it was real. He said he was pleased to hear from you that it may not be real. I can see how his wording could be seen as asserting European superiority though.

        I assumed the comment about the unwise decision to transfer in Philadelphia was more about the airport than the citizens of Philly, and the comment about Maine was similarly tongue-in-cheek.

        My comment policy is to ask commenters to be polite, and I expect that when Steve comments, he will clarify matters and will apologise if an apology is needed.

      • Wow..! What a broadside. Fojap can certainly give as good as she gets. But what exactly did I say to deserve such a vitriolic assault? Let’s break it down and see…

        “Finally, the perceived religiosity of the USA does horrify and appall
        most of us Europeans (and many Americans – most of whom do not live
        in the USA).”

        This is not insulting or derogatory but a statement of fact as I see it, although I will clarify it by adding that this opinion is generally held by those Europeans who consider the matter and come to any kind of view. Of course the issue of US religiosity may not impinge on the consciousness of many of my fellow European citizens at all. I don’t see any reason to retract or apologise for this statement but if anyone can show me convincing evidence to the contrary then I am open to be persuaded.

        “I am pleased to hear that the impression we get is exaggerated but we
        cannot just ignore the fact that numerous polls show that something like
        forty percent of the US population believes in the Genesis myth and it
        appears to be quite true that no politician can achieve high office without
        claiming to have some religious belief.”

        What is objectionable about this? Is it being suggested that the fact that the population of the world’s dominant economic and military superpower includes a high proportion of people (with significant political influence) who hold totally irrational and unreasonable belief systems is none of our business?

        “In Europe we have various politicians who play the religious card but they
        are generally appeal to the less educated and are mostly derided – and
        some of them are merely advocates of the “noble lie” and cultural
        nationalism and are in fact atheists (Norman Tebbit in the UK for example).”

        What does Fojap find offensive here? Does she want to argue the point?

        “I have only visited the USA once (apart from an unwise and never to be
        repeated decision to transfer via Philadelphia in 2001) in my many trips to
        America and I didn’t come across any religious fundamentalists at all – but
        then I was only in Maine, which is basically Yankee occupied Canada

        Changing flights at Philadelphia airport was unpleasant (especially with an eight hour wait) because it is a dump – a massive shopping centre with a captive customer base – and because the US immigration authorities treat flights to Canada as internal domestic travel and demand to know the business of transit passengers as if they have some right to control people going to Canada, which I found highly objectionable. I have avoided transferring through US airports when travelling to North or South America ever since – but I don’t hold Fojap personally responsible for the arrogance of her government so why should this offend her?

        As the blog initiator/moderator says, my comment about Maine was tongue in cheek, but with a kernel of truth. I believe Maine was actually absorbed into the USA through conquest by the newly independent US colonies rather than through the rebellion of its European settlers – but the American War of Independence is not my specialist area of history so if Fojap wants to correct my faulty understanding of the history of Maine then she is welcome to do so.

        I didn’t mention the Church-State relationship in Canada (which I agree is far from satisfactory) and nor did I mention racism in Europe or elsewhere. I have scars (literally – from the business end of a broken bottle) I acquired fighting racists and fascists in my home town of South London in my youth so I don’t take lectures from anyone on that topic. I don’t want to engage in tit for tat arguments with anyone and I don’t wish to be offensive, but people who feel grossly offended or insulted by opinions they dislike or facts they find uncomfortable are difficult to engage in debate or discussion (one reason why religious fundamentalism is so dangerous). I don’t know if Fojap falls into this category or whether she was just having a Bob Geldof Monday but hopefully she will calm down and take time to consider what I actually wrote.

  5. You say “that the speed of light has changed” and I understand the point you are making. Just thought you may be interested in this:

    They can slow light down by sending it through a Bose-Einstein condensate. Quite fascinating.

  6. I can’t remember a set of PACEs for New Testament Church History (maybe they didn’t bother offering it at the school I went to) but I do remember a set of New Testament Survey and Old Testament Survey PACEs. Anyway, I thought back then it was ridiculous for one of my classmates who didn’t grow up in Sunday School to not know a lot about the Bible. HAH! I didn’t realize until later on in life that Bible knowledge is not as common in “secular” settings.

    I do remember taking a class in university (I went to a Canadian university), and there was a course in Biblical Studies. I thought it was interesting, and I shyly admit that at that time I was thinking maybe if I study the Bible in university I’ll find ways to find my faith back. Boy, was I wrong! After that course, I completely fell apart and the little “Christian” values instilled by ACE in me evaporated. Finally, the light shone brightly afterwards.

  7. It isn’t just young Jonny who might have suffered from the current tolerance of pseudo-religious, right-wing influence in education. I was studying Linguistics in the University of St Andrews in the early 1980s when they decided to close down the department in the first round of Thatcherite cuts. The department was a uniquely international and friendly one. I dropped out of university altogether in the face of this slip-sliding to the Right, and have never entirely recovered since. One of the things I learnt was that a linguist speaks languages, but a *linguistician* studies linguistics, fojap. I’m not entirely happy about the phrase ‘ignorant yahoo,’ either – Yahoo! being one of those borderless terrains the political and academic exile can still find solace.

  8. Not buying your theory. Sorry, I guess you gave it your best shot.

    • Let’s see if you’re a hit and run troll or not. I welcome critiques of my arguments; if I’m wrong I’d like to be corrected, or if I can improve my argument I’d like to do that. Please without condescension explain why you find my argument unpersuasive.

  9. republibotthreepointoh

    I have noticed that Fundamentalists are nearly as reactionary against psychiatry as Scientologists are. Presumably for the same reason: a shrink or a psychologist can easily call bullshit on lies, particularly mentally-damaging lies. This really cuts into the unquestioned authority of the [insert name of church or cult of your choice here]. I had occasional run-ins with this when I ran republibot, with a number of readers being driven off by my pro-psychiatric stance. Even had some trouble with the staff on occasion, though they eventually came around. Well, one of ’em didn’t, but I digress.

    My standard argument runs like this: “You believe scientologists are evil, right?”
    “Yes,” they reply
    “And scientologists hate psychiatry, right?”
    “Yes,” they reply
    “So if an evil movement hates something, that something must be good, right?”
    “Ok, well then it’s your Christian Duty to support psychiatry simply because Scientologists oppose it.”
    “Uhm…I guess so….wait, what? I need Elder Bob to tell me what to do…”

    Theology, too, is a HUGE problem for Fundamentalists, and thank you for pointing that out. Any good Bible College (Including all those of the major denominations including Baptists) is going to be too liberal for these people. I saw some of that when I went to Bible College: People getting upset and stomping out of class because the teacher said something that contradicted the Bible.

  10. I have lived in Ohio, Kentucky, and California and now live in Alabama. I am sixty-seven years old, and not a European lecturing Americans.

    Religious fundamentalists and creationists are alive and well in the United States. They are attacking our public schools and its curriculum, educating thousands of children in their homes or at sectarian private schools, and assailing our social values. Their beliefs have led us into war (George W. Bush felt led by god to attack Iraq), limited our foreign policies (they believe god will punish anyone who does not support Israel), and promoted intolerance in our own society.

    They believe the United States is a “Christian nation,” and believe it is our duty to seek and obey the will of god. That makes them advocates of theocracy rather than democracy (if the will of the people and the will of god are different, then it is the will of god that they believe should prevail.) My experiences would suggest to me that the polls identifying a large minority of Americans as having those views are more or less accurate.

    Although I obviously disagree with them their ranks include members of my family, many of my friends, and many of my work associates. I have know some of them all of my life, and love them dearly. Nevertheless I fear that their beliefs and their zeal combine to make this, one of the world’s largest and most powerful nations, something of a wild card on the world stage.

  11. Everyone in this thread should read the above post (The Evolution of Language) by Bible scholar James F. McGrath.

  1. Pingback: A Creationist Love Song | The Dixie Flatline

  2. Pingback: The Evolution of Language

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  5. Pingback: Creationists Can’t Be Scientists | Nosmerca

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