IEE: Snowflake Bentley

We present a new edition of Ideological Education Essentials! (Otherwise known as 'Science' Education Essentials)Wilson A. Bentley snowflake, 1890

The week of Science Essentials posts that began three weeks ago was about “Snowflake” Bentley.

We’ve encountered him before. In the December Acts & Facts there was an article called Snowflake Bentley: Man of Science, Man of God. Now, Wilson Bently (apparently) believed that snowflakes were designed by God. However even the creationists have admitted that the amazing patterns formed are entirely the result of the random starting conditions of the flake, coupled with the laws of physics.

This is, when it comes down to it, quite a good counterpoint to the claim that we can tell what is designed and what isn’t. In this case, somebody – biased by their religion, I might add – saw design where there was none.

But that still doesn’t explain why the creationists bring it up, and yet don’t mention that little inconvenient truth.

The first post of the week was, of course, simply called Snowflake Bentley. It consists, mostly, of Dr Forlow explaining how she loves snow. It also includes a little bit of background on Bentley, and the claim that he was ‘ridiculed’ for believing that God had designed snowflakes. Finally, there is the question: What other winter wonders do you admire from the Designer of all creation?

There are only two comments for the post, despite being posted in the early stages of the Christmas Commenting Competition – nevertheless, this two more than usual. The first comment is from a Michael Boswell:

One of my favorite things about winter is looking up at the stars on a cold crisp night. Every Christmas season I find myself staring up at the heavens and being amazed at how much brighter the stars seem this time of year. I am awestruck by the beauty and complexity of creation and reminded of how really big God is and how incredible it is that he would still have time to listen to me, just one life among so many.

How do you know that he is, Michael?

The second is from Forlow herself:

Thank you, Michael.

Make that “one more than usual.”

Next up, as expected, were the K-5 activities:

The following activities can be used around your Winter Unit of study.

1)      These are not your usual snowflake activities! Check out Home Science Tools for fun activities that use everyday items.

2)      Just for fun: Watch Waltz of the Snowflakes Royal Ballet. Discuss the significance of this part of TheNutcracker ballet.

*yawn* This Home Science Tools bunch seem to be creationists, but it’s not exactly obvious. Even my local creationist shop puts books with titles like “evolution refuted” at the front – mind you, they’re pretty bad at keeping their other products ideologically consistent, and that’s really the only overtly creationist stuff in the shop.

3)      Have your students become Snowflake Detectives! Start by asking:

a. Did you know that large snowflakes can measure up to 2″ across and contain hundreds of individual crystals?

b. Where do you think the largest snowflake ever recorded was found? (Bratsk, Siberia, in 1971)

It would be in Siberia, wouldn’t it…

c. How large was it? (8″ x 12″)

According to wikipedia, now I look, the Guinness book of records gives “those of January 1887 at Fort Keogh, Montana; allegedly one measured 38 cm (15 inches) wide.” Questions about why Dr Forlow trusts the communists more than a good-ole ‘murrican rancher have not as yet been asked in the comments.

d. Finish by watching NASA’s Our World: Snowflakes. (WARNING: This is a secular site!)

Yes, she actually said that. What’s odd is that she’s already linked to youtube many times over the blog, including once already this post. However, the moment she links to a production of an American government agency…

Watching the video I can say that while it’s perfectly accurate to say that it’s secular, there really shouldn’t be a problem with it. Sure, it uses the words “change” and “climate” in the same sentence, but even the ICR doesn’t deny the warming trend these days. And, yes, they say that the shape of the snowflakes is caused by the conditions as they fall – which completely undermines any point she may be trying to make – but that’s accuracy, not secularism. For that matter, so is the climate thing. There really isn’t a reason for the over-the-top warning, and if there was why would she link to it? ‘Tis a mystery.

4)      Research 2 cold-weather animals such as penguins and reindeer. Have students discuss in their research how God designed these animals to survive the extreme cold temperatures.

If it comes down to it, the idea that God designed any given adaptation is nolonger cutting-edge YEC doctrine. The pseudoscience of Baraminology would have it that evolution (or rather, evolutionary processes) works on created kinds, which adapt to their environments – this wondrous suitability to their environment is apparently the result of the decay after the fall. Apparently, anyway – they don’t admit this often. Sometimes they make up ‘adaptive mechanisms’ to avoid the embarrassment, but I’ve never seen an explanation of what they actually are.

There were no comments on this post at all.

Moving along, we have the 6-12 activities:

1) Watch this short documentary by Chuck Smith about Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley.

Having watched it – it’s only 8:33 long – it should probably have a secularism warning in it too. There’s nothing in there about him believing that they’re God’s handiwork, though in general it’s pretty good.

2) Find out the chemistry involved in making hot chocolate in this fun and tasty experiment!

Is she being paid by those Home Science Tools people or does she just really like them?

3) If you live somewhere where it snows, try preserving snowflakes with your students. You’ll need hairspray, toothpicks, a microscope, and microscope slides.
a. Place slides in the freezer in advance of the activity.
b. Spray one side of the slide with hairspray (make sure it has been kept in a cold place like the refrigerator).
c. Catch the snowflakes on the sticky side of a microscope slide and use a toothpick to move them to the center, if needed.
d. Place the slide in a cold area where no more snowflakes will fall on it.
e. Leave the slide untouched for several hours so the hairspray will dry and the water in the snowflake will evaporate.
f. Study the imprint of the snowflake on the slide under the microscope.

It snowed here last winter, but that’s a statistical outlier and it wasn’t really much. Maybe next decade?

4) Use National Chemistry Week’s experiment on Super Snowflakes. You will need a microscope. Note that this is a secular site.

What is with this ‘secular site’ business? Orders from Above, I take it…

5) Have students read this short article. Ice is a crystal. One way to form a crystal is to make rock candy. Use this activity to explain the difference between a crystal’s “order” and a book, recipe, or living cell’s “nonrepeating information.”

Truly, the boundary between life and non-life is complex. What about quasicrystals? And the Neverending Story? And, for that matter, a creationist website? (Hell, you seem to have to repeat yourself a lot on an anti-creationist website.)

And the rock candy experiment website looks quite good, and by a truly staggering coincidence rather deserving of another ‘secular site’ warning.

There are no comments on this post either.

Last comes the Discussion Starters:

Classroom Starters:
What aspects of creation have made you wonder how God designed them?

Try the laryngeal nerve of the Giraffe.

Dinner Table Starters:
What winter wonders do you admire from the Designer of all creation?

Landslides. Only a Divine Bastard could have designed those into the system…

For the older student: A line in the old hymn What Can Wash Away My Sin? states “Oh! precious is the flow that makes me white as snow.” Why do you think it refers to God’s blood washing away our sins and making us as white as snow?

Poetic language, maybe?

And would you believe it but there aren’t any comments here either. They must all have been answering the questions on the CCC.

Now, let’s see if I can do the next week before she finishes the current one…



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