Ideological Indoctrination

It’s been several weeks now, but I still can’t find the new K-12 blog promised by this month’s Acts and Facts magazine to appear sometime this “Fall” – a season which I understand is roughly equivalent, time of year wise, to NZ’s Spring.

But not to worry – the ICR has been in the indoctrination education business for a while now, but it’s mostly been targeted at home-schoolers until now. The ICR sells a bunch of Science Education Essentials, of which they provide some samples. I’ve taken a look at their Human Heredity sample – which I have uploaded here (fair use for criticism, as always) – and I’ll say that it certainly looks interesting.

General Remarks

It is highly unlikely that there are any poor kids in public schools that have to endure this. Even without McLean v. Arkansas – which showed that ‘creation science’ is oxymoronic and that creationism is religion and thus cannot be taught in schools – the sample would still break the establishment clause on average about once in every second paragraph. Here’s a sample quote:

Background Information:
All living things were created and blessed by God. God designed each kind of living thing to reproduce according to its kind.
Humans share some similarities with animals in terms of biology. We were designed by the same Creator, but humans did not descend from animals as evolutionists claim. Humans were uniquely created by God in His image and have uniquely human characteristics.

There is, of course, no such rule when it comes to homeschool – if the state is not doing the teaching then it cannot be establishing religion, whatever is being taught.

The whole thing reminds me of a YEC Sunday-school guidebook that has been adapted for general “science” education. The frequent use of Comic Sans throughout (which I will not replicate in my quotes, thank you – in the above the bolded heading was in that infernal style) does not inspire me with confidence either.

K-2 – Who Are My Mother And Father?

From my dim memories of early primary school this is the period when you get taught how to use scissors, to colour between the lines, the sounds that letters and letter combinations make, how to tell the time, and some basic low-digit addition and subtraction. Let’s see what the Creationists get up to, shall we?

Brief Description: The student will sort a set of pictures to identify parents and offspring. The student will identify uniquely human physical characteristics that set us apart from animals and recognize that humans have special abilities that animals do not have.

The point of this activity – as you can probably tell – is to make the children differentiate between themselves and animals. The ‘set of pictures’ is on pages five to seven of the pdf – we’ll get to it in a moment. Here are the teacher instructions – two other pieces of equipment that I haven’t mentioned that you will need are “a stuffed animal or animal figurine” and “a doll”:

  1. Place the doll and animal toy so the students can see both of them. Discuss with the students how they know the doll represents a human.
  2. Provide a set of picture cards for every two students. First, ask the students to sort the cards into two groups: animals and humans. Then, ask the students to sort the cards into family groups: mother, father, and offspring.
  3. Discuss the characteristics that make the humans look different from the animals. Discuss the characteristics of each animal that indentified [sic] the family as belonging together.
  4. Discuss the qualities and behaviors of humans that are different from animals: i.e., humans can learn to read, write, and do math; humans can use these skills to reason, solve problems, and create structures, machines, art, and music; humans are made in God’s image and have an eternal spirit.

Basically, the point that is conveniently not addressed here is the question of how much more different we are to the animal as the animal is to another, different animal. As things get further away from what we are familiar with we tend to not notice the differences between them as much. Which pair do you think is close – Cat/Dog or Amoeba/Paramecium? If the pictures were of a fungus, a plant and a mouse*, say, and the children were told to find the pair that they thought were the closest, what do you think they would answer? Probably Fungus and Plant, despite that not actually being the case. The point is that our internal classification system is flawed.

On the other hand, if there is anyone reading this that actually intends to do any of this stuff, what I’d like to see is what a child would do if presented with the fungus/plant/mouse problem as above, but instead with the goldfish, chimpanzee and human pictures. Go on – I dare you.

Which brings us back to the pictures. There are nine pairs of pictures, each pair being, at least implicitly, a mother and father in one picture and their child in another. The pairs are as follows: Goldfish, Chicken, Deer, Moose (I could have those the wrong way around – what’s the difference?), (Black?) Bear, Some kind of Monkey, Chimpanzee, and two human pairs – one of Asian ethnicity, the other of European. Among the first seven we have, interestingly enough, something approximating the Creationist idea of human evolution. We also get another example of how we are better at spotting differences between things we are closer to and more familiar with. We have, for example, one fish (set), one bird, and seven mammals (five if you’re not counting the people).

Now for the Discussion Questions:

  1. Why are animals different from humans? (Humans are made in God’s image.)
  2. How are humans and animals alike? (Humans and animals grow from babies to adults. Both humans and animals breathe, move, and eat. Both get water in some manner, and most have some way to protect themselves from weather and other living things that are enemies.)
  3. Can animals change into humans or humans change into animals? (No, because animals and humans were separately created by God. Humans were created in God’s image.)

(Those are their answers, by the way)

Question three is phrased in such a way as to imply that we are talking about werewolves and the like, but the idea to me seems to be that when the children first get exposed to the idea of evolution they will have the misconception that it is like that, and they already know that that is wrong. And the answer that is provided does not answer the question anyway.

Question two seems to be the entire basis for the idea that this has anything to do with the following American Association for the Advancement of Science benchmarks:

  • 1B/P3 Describing things as accurately as possible is important in science because it enables people to compare their observations with those of others.
  • 5A/P1 Some animals and plants are alike in the way they look and in the things they do, and others are very different from one another.
  • 5C/P2 Most living things need water, food, and air.

Or the NSES one:

  • 4CLS 1.2 Each plant or animal has different structures that serve different functions in growth, survival, and reproduction. For example, humans have distinct body structures for walking, holding, seeing, and talking.

It is amusing that the latter implies that humans are indeed animals (or plants), but remember that these, at least, are legitimate benchmarks/standards.

The late Dr Morris gets the last word:

Tenets of Scientific Creationism (Henry M. Morris, 1980):
The phenomenon of biological life did not develop by natural processes from inanimate systems but was specially and supernaturally created by the Creator.

The whole activity is supposed to last half an hour.

*It’s slightly ironic that I didn’t define what the plant and fungus were, even though I did with the animal.

Grades 3-5 – Inventory of Traits

Brief Description: The students will inventory their own observable genetic traits and compare those with other students. They will be able to describe how they are uniquely created by God and yet part of the same human family.

And they were doing so well until that first full stop. Ah, well… Interestingly enough, I never encountered this kind of trait inventory until much later – but then there was nobody desperately trying to keep me fundamentalist Christian once I got to my teens, was there?

As for the second, I wonder how they reconcile the idea that there are both differences and similarities between you and another child, and you are thus both “part of the same human family,” yet for the previous section we saw that there are both differences and similarities between humans and (other) animals, and yet we are not part of the same group. (We’re on page nine of the pdf, if you’re reading it).

The Objectives:

  1. List easily observable genetic traits in humans.
  2. Describe traits that show we are all part of the human family.
  3. Explain how different observable physical traits show evidence of God’s creation of unique individuals.

What about the traits that don’t show that we are all part of the human family? Teach the Controversy!

And here’s some (simplified) Key Concepts:

  1. Genes: Genetic material that provides most of the information that determines natural appearance; genes generally have two alleles.
  2. Genetic Inheritance: Genes inherited from parents that determine a person’s natural appearance and influence some of that person’s behavior.
  3. Inherit: For someone to receive something from his/her parents or grandparents, or people who came before; to receive a physical characteristic.
  4. Physical Traits: Observable and unobservable characteristics related to a person’s physical appearance and internal physical makeup.
  5. Trait: A distinguishing characteristic or quality.

The last time the ICR tried to pull the “genes generally have two alleles” one was in Late To The Party: Historical Adam.

This activity is rather complex – what we have is all the children determining how many of a list of traits they express. They then work out how many people in a small group have a given trait, and then the whole ‘class’.

Common Misconceptions: Students may think that they inherit traits from aunts, uncles, cousins, and siblings because family members resemble each other. However, traits can only be inherited from parents, and by extension from grandparents.

It’s nice to see the ICR actually clearing up a common misconception, rather than perpetuating them.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What do you notice about the observable physical traits of the people in your class? (Answers may vary.)
  2. What are some traits that can be passed from the parents to the offspring? (Hair, skin color, etc.)
  3. Do all people have the same observable/physical genetic traits? Why or why not? (Answers may vary.)
  4. Using Psalm 139:14, describe how the different observable/physical traits show evidence of God’s creation of unique individuals. (Answers will vary.)
  5. Describe why you are unique or different from the other students in the group. (Answers will vary.)
  6. Why do some people have the same physical traits and others do not? (Answer should stress heredity, which can lead into the inheritance lesson.)
  7. Does having the same traits mean that you are related to that person? (Not exactly. It means that people with the same trait have some of the same genes. We have the same genes because, if we go far enough back in history, we are all part of the human family that began with Adam and Eve.)

Psalm 139:14 reads, as the ICR kindly informs us, “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” I fail to see what this has got to do with phenotypic variation. Despite that, we will return to this passage again for the same reason. On a related note, I reckon I could make a claim that I, at least, am not “wonderfully made” – is that why I’m an atheist?

The idea of number seven seems to be to set up the idea that even though you might share genes with the goldfish you’re still not related to it.

Here’s an extension, once you’ve done that (one of three provided):

Play an Inventory Game. Have all the students stand. Have one of the students become the leader and say one of his/her traits at a time, beginning with, “I am a girl” or “I am a boy.” For each trait, have all students who do not share that trait sit down. Students who share the trait remain standing. Once the students have been seated, they should not get up again. Continue in this way until the leader is the only one standing. Count the number of traits it took to establish that the leader is different from everyone else in the whole group. This reinforces that we are fearfully and wonderfully made and each person is unique. Play another round with a different student leader.

I know – why not try that with species? You don’t even need to have ‘humans’ correspond to the ‘student leader.’ Hint hint.

Important educational information:

AAAS Benchmarks:

  • 5B/E1 Some likenesses between children and parents are inherited. Other likenesses are learned.
  • 5B/E2 For offspring to resemble their parents there must be a reliable way to transfer information from one generation to the next.

NSES Life Science Standards:

  • 4CLS2.1 Plants and animals have life cycles that include being born, developing into adults, reproducing, and eventually dying. The details of this life cycle are different for different organisms.
  • 4CLS2.2 Plants and animals closely resemble their parents.
  • 4CLS2.3 Many characteristics of an organism are inherited from the parents of the organism, but other characteristics result from an individual’s interactions with the environment. Inherited characteristics include the color of flowers and the number of limbs of an animal. Other features, such as the ability to ride a bicycle, are learned through interactions with the environment and cannot be passed on to the next generation.

Because those were totally covered. I can see why they are also technically under the ‘extensions’ heading…

Morris is just repeating himself, so we’ll not include him. All that should have taken a full hour. There’s a fact sheet on page 13, if you’re interested.

Grades 6-8 – Taste Test

Hey – no Comic Sans! I can rest my eyes… We’re now up to page 27.

The ability to taste the bitter compound phenylthiocarbamide (PTC) and related chemicals is bimodal, and all human populations tested to date contain some people who can and some people who cannot taste PTC. Seventy percent of people can taste PTC. Why this trait has been maintained in the population is uncertain, but this polymorphism may influence food selection, nutritional status, or thyroid metabolism. The gene product that gives rise to this phenotype is unknown.

There is conflicting evidence as to whether this trait is a result of either dominance or incomplete dominance. Some studies have shown that homozygous tasters experience a more intense bitterness than people who are heterozygous; other studies have indicated that another gene may determine taste sensitivity.

Much of these two paragraphs appear to have been directly copied. The second one appears to be entirely from the Wikipedia article on the subject, omitting the first sentence of the paragraph – “There are three SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) along the gene that may render its proteins unresponsive” – presumably because it does not help back up the claim of the last sentence of the first paragraph (and it is a bit technical).

Objectives:

  1. Describe why taste preferences are different using genetics.
  2. Portray God’s plan for making food that is pleasant to the sight and nutritious.

Instructions for Teachers:

  1. Explain to the students that God created us to sense a variety of flavors so that we could enjoy the things He created for us to eat. Our bodies get information through the sense of taste—some tastes are pleasant or sweet, and some are bitter or sour. Receptor cells in the taste buds on the tongue and throat, and nerve cells and their extensions called axons form pathways to the brain. Once the taste signal reaches certain areas of the brain, these areas detect and interpret the flavors.
  2. Ask the students to hypothesize if they think we all taste things the same. Why or why not?

Discussion Questions:

  1. On average, PTC papers taste bitter to 7 of 10 people (or 70 percent). How many in the class have the ability to taste the bitter PTC paper? Describe how well your class represents the norm for bitter taste. (Answers will vary.)
  2. Compare the results from the taste paper test with your results from the fruit tasting test. How well do they match? (Answers will vary.)
  3. Explain why there are so many variations in tasting the same thing. (There are so many factors, including differences in genes, memories, and even temporary attitudes, that are involved in determining any given person’s sense of taste that it is not possible for everyone to taste the same. This points to the idea that God made us all different because He likes variety.)
  4. The Bible uses analogies involving taste. How would our understanding of verses such as Psalm 119:103 or Proverbs 24:13 be different if we couldn’t taste anything? (We wouldn’t be able to understand verses like these if we didn’t sense tastes.)
  5. Read Genesis 2:8-9 and Revelation 19:9. What is one reason why you think God gave us the ability to taste? (God made a variety of good foods for us to eat and enjoy, so therefore He gave us the ability to taste those good things He made.)

God likes variety, eh? The Intelligent Designers, who always say that you can’t tell anything about who or what the “designer” is, need to be informed. Also: there is no excuse for racism. That, at least, I can agree with…

Note that in all of that there is no mention of the possible advantages/disadvantages of being able to taste PTC. Could it be that, as the ‘bitter’ taste generally tells us that a food is not good to eat, PTC gives a false alarm? Or maybe it has good qualities as well…

I’ll omit the massive list of alleged benchmarks that this is supposed to have something to do with. This activity should take 45 minutes.

Grades 9-12 – Fingerprint Genetics

Brief Description: Students will record and examine their fingerprints and those of their classmates. They will be challenged to infer the appropriate genotype. They will recognize that their uniqueness as a person is well-known to their Creator.

Last one – we’re on page 37.

Objectives:

  1. Deduce common patterns in fingerprints.
  2. Describe how the variable expression of a few genes leads to an inexhaustibly complex supply of fingerprint patterns.
  3. Express appreciation to God for His handiwork in the fine details of their lives, including finger ridge patterns.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Did every finger have the same genotype? Record the ratio of duplicate to unique genotypes from your and your partner’s two fingerprinted hands. (Answers will vary.)
  2. After adding your personal ratio data to a large chart accessible to the class, record the ratio of duplicate to unique genotypes from the entire class. Describe any patterns that may be in this data. (Answers will vary.)
  3. Share notes with at least five other classmates, and survey which of their fingers had the same genotype and which were different. Based on this data, do all fingers generally have the same genotype? If not, which fingers usually shared the same genotype? (Answers will vary.)
  4. Choose one of your fingerprints and determine all the possible genotypes of your parents for that same finger. If possible, analyze your parents’ and maybe even grandparents’ fingerprints to see how closely you can determine the parent genotypes. (Answers will vary.)
  5. Describe the qualities of an algorithm or the kinds of coded building instructions that would produce a pattern that was consistent and recognizable, yet would produce subtle differences every time it was used to build with. For example, would random gibberish work for such a code? Would a rigid short code that produces perfect clones do the job? (A code that produces variations on a pattern could not be gibberish or simple or short. In fact, it would have to be very complicated. It would even have to be more complicated than the pattern it ends up producing.)
  6. What would it take to build such a code? Since our Creator actually did that when He made Adam and Eve, and since this code applies only to a tiny part of the human body, what does this say about the intelligence or other attributes of the Lord Jesus, who formed us and our fingerprints in our mothers’ wombs? (It would take a supergenius to build a code that produces variations on complicated patterns. The fact that our bodies have these kinds of codes and the fact that our bodies were created by the Lord Jesus together mean that the Lord Jesus must be a supergenius.)

That last two really crack me up. Have these people never heard of fractals? It does not take a supergenius to build a code that produces variations on complex patterns. Seriously. Here’s two very similar fractals from the Julia set – click on them for more hi-res versions (warning – large file size):

Julia Thumbprint

Julia Thumbprint 2

They’re at slightly different zoom levels, but you get my point. The co-ordinates for the first is 0.36071835308675, 0.35704915871807 – the second is a few thousandths away. Fractal generators: hours of fun for the whole family. Even longer than the 45 minutes you have to do this.

So, yeah. The K-12 blog will indeed be interesting, to say the least…

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