13 Dec 2010

Bob Jones University science textbook for home schoolers ignores science and critical thinking

Secular News Daily - July 7, 2010

Home school science book ignores science

by Brian Magee

When PZ Myers posted an item on his blog, Pharyngula, this week about a home school science book for 4th graders from Bob Jones University Press (BJUP), the obvious ignorance was eerie. The scanned textbook page he posted was on electricity:

Electricity is a mystery. No one has ever observed it or heard it or felt it. We can see and hear and feel only what electricity does. We know that it makes light bulbs shine and irons heat up and telephones ring. But we cannot say what electricity itself is like.

We cannot even say where electricity comes from. Some scientists think that the sun may be the cause of most electricity. Others think that the movement of the earth produces some of it. All anyone knows is that electricity seems to be everywhere and that there are many way to bring it forth.

How would you have to change the way you get ready for school if you did not use electricity?

“The voice of thy thunder was in the heaven: the lightnings lightened the world: the earth trembled and shook.” Psalms 77:18

This is “all anyone knows” about electricity? Really? Wow.

Last week Columbia University researchers announced new information about how the very first stars were created over 12 billion years ago by finally being able to duplicate certain conditions in the lab. Even a quick search of the web finds all kinds of information about electricity, including stuff for kids. A good example is the “Energy Kids” page from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. And, yet, according to Bob Jones University, “all anyone knows” about electricity is that it “seems to be everywhere and that there are many way to bring it forth.”

Someone needs to buy them a subscription to a real science journal for Christmas or offer 30 seconds of training on internet search engines.

Bob Jones University, located in South Carolina, is fundamentalist to its core. From their own website, they describe themselves as “the foremost fundamental Christian university.” Their creed and mission are typical of fundamentalists.

Given the university’s creed and mission, the BJUP website is similar. Their “About Us” page contains this assertion:

We believe that lifelong learning must stem from the very source of Truth—God Himself. Scriptural principles are the basis of every product we sell. They appear in our math books as well as in our Bible textbooks. And they reinforce what you teach your students about God.

Then, without even of hint of the obvious irony, they tout themselves as being advocates of critical thinking. Within this claim they do something typical of those who wish to try and latch on to something legitimate without actually doing so—they use an incomplete reference from a legitimate source. In this case, the source is the Foundation for Critical Thinking, where they pull a small part of a longer definition of critical thinking—without indicating in any way that it’s incomplete.

The piece they pull to define critical thinking is “that mode of thinking—about any subject, content, or problem—in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully analyzing, assessing, and reconstructing it.”

The full definition from the foundation is well over a dozen paragraphs and includes several bullet points. That longer definition includes the following:

“Our basic concept of critical thinking is, at root, simple. We could define it as the art of taking charge of your own mind. Its value is also at root simple: if we can take charge of our own minds, we can take charge of our lives; we can improve them, bringing them under our self command and direction.”

There is no way that a fundamentalist outfit would allow any follower to think that they should be “taking charge of your own mind.” A basic fundamentalist doctrine is to “give yourself to Jesus” or something similar, which is the exact opposite. Critical thinking is something any system of education needs to claim in order to seem legitimate. But, making the claim doesn’t make it true. BJUP is trying to make a claim they are doing something they are not.

BJUP tries to justify their view of critical thinking as legitimate by throwing in some Bible verses on their critical thinking web page:

The God of the Bible is a God of reason and order. God asks us to know truth (Ps. 46:10), but He also wants us to understand truth (Luke 24:45).
These references to Bible verses will, for the believer, will provide validation. But few, if any, will even look up the verses to see what they actually contain.

Let’s take a look for ourselves.

First, Psalms 46: 9-11, to see if there is anything about knowing truth:

He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.
Can you find it? I can’t.

Let’s look at Luke 24:44-47 and see if there is anything about understanding truth:

And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
Again, I can’t find it.

How often is it that believers quote Bible verses with little or no relation to the thing to which they are claiming a relationship? Quite often, and believers fall for it. The same thing applies to the page on electricity; that verse from Psalms does not have anything to do with science or electricity.

The blatant dishonesty is apparent when someone takes a look—using the critical thinking skills they claim to teach!

If someone believes that some version of the Bible is true no matter what, that person has preemptively turned off any critical thinking before even getting started. When a whole group of people have turned off their critical thinking skills, it’s no surprise that they will conclude “all anyone knows” about electricity is that it “seems to be everywhere and that there are many way to bring it forth.”

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