British education FAIL: more creationism in schools

Alert reader Andrew sent me a scan of a book used by “year 10” students (14-and 15-year-olds) who study for the academic GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) exams in England.  These exams, I believe, used to be called O-levels.

Unlike the older GCSE exam I mentioned in a previous post, this book is being used now.  Have a look at this part (click to enlarge):

Oh, dear Lord:

“Not everyone has the same view of the fossil record.

It is often used to show how animals and plants evolved.  However, other scientists have used the gaps in the fossil record to argue against the theory of evolution.

Many complex organisms in the fossil record appear and then disappear.  Unlike the horse. they show no gradual change.

Creationists interpret this to mean that organisms were created and did not evolve.”

Granted, question 7, right below this, says that fossil horses are an argument against the “creationist theory” (note how creationism is promoted to “theory” status), but the whole tenor of this section is to put creationism on an equal footing with evolution.

The upper right-hand corner of the page above (section not shown) contains this box:

Yep, that’s right: it directs the kids to a creationist website!  There is no box listing evolution websites for students who want to learn more about real science.

Here’s the “revision” guide, also used by students, which explains what the students have to know to get a passing grade in the GCSE exam. Note that it’s written by “GCSE examiners”:

And the relevant page on evolution:

The FAIL is obvious again: check out the second box, “Interpretation of  the fossil record”, which says, and I quote:

  • Some scientists use the fossil record to show how animals and plants have evolved. Other scientists have used the gaps in the fossil record to argue against evolution.
  • Many complex organisms in the fossil record appear and disappear which Creationists interpret to mean that organisms were created and did not evolve.

Exactly which “scientists” use the gaps to argue against evolution?  It can’t be those who espouse punctuated equilibrium, for while those folks argue against smooth and imperceptible gradualism in evolution, they fully accept evolution itself.  No, both of these points simply present creationism as an viable alternative to evolution, without any mention that creationism is not science but disguised religion.

The failure to criticize the creationist interpretation of the fossil record is even more curious in view of the criticism of Lamarckism that appears in the fourth box  (“[Lamarck’s] theory was discredited because acquired characteristics cannot be passed on by genes”).

Note as well that the second question at the bottom asks students to explain how creationists interpret gaps in the fossil record. In the British system, I am told, you must get a “B-A*” grade to pass the exam, so the students have to answer the creationism question.

Now here’s my question: why is this stuff being taught in British schools?

139 Comments

  1. Posted February 17, 2011 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    Ugh, I had no idea it was this bad over here.

    And when did we start this “don’t bother learning this bit if you’re not expecting a high grade” stuff? The bits marked B-A* don’t seem much conceptually more complex than the others: why not just teach them all, and accept that weaker students will have a less thorough understanding?

    By the way, it’s C and above that’s generally considered a pass by employers and universities. Unless that’s changed with grade inflation – er, I mean the steady increase of children’s intelligence every year.

    • six45ive
      Posted February 17, 2011 at 7:11 am | Permalink

      Yes Olaf. You can just scrape a pass by getting a grade C. My mistake in giving that info to Jerry which I’ve now corrected.

  2. locutus7
    Posted February 17, 2011 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    I would re-word it as follows:

    “some religiously-motivated people, possibly even religiously-motivated scientists, interpret gaps in the fossil record to reinforce their fictional belief system.”

    • Ichthyic
      Posted February 17, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

      I wouldn’t.

      I would just leave it out entirely.

      …because it is entirely irrelevant to understanding the SCIENCE of evolution.

      seriously, there are a million crackpot ideas surrounding any scientific theory, why is evolution singled out for the creationist crackpot idea?

      let’s see the section on the solar system, or the geology of the earth.

      Five bucks says they DON’T include geocentrism or flat earthism in either of those sections.

      don’t reword it, just ELIMINATE IT.

      • locutus7
        Posted February 17, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

        Well, so much for a feminist attempt at humor. I’ll crawl back into my hole (no, don’t even think it!).

        But you did get your wish.

        • Diane G.
          Posted February 17, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

          Feminist?

          BTW, I knew you were aiming for humor. (Tho it would be wonderful if such a statement really would appear!)

          • locutus7
            Posted February 17, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

            We’re considered humorless, you know. Anyway, see you ’round the block, so to speak. L7

            • JS1685
              Posted February 17, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

              I think Diane was wondering what, specifically, was feminist about your original comment.

              • Diane G.
                Posted February 17, 2011 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

                Well, she explained her intention. I probably should have gotten the joke the first time.(If I weren’t so humorless. Ba da bing!).

  3. Posted February 17, 2011 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    The history of science is an important part of a good science education.

    Astronomy classes should have a chapter or so that covers how our understanding of the heavens has evolved; this should include Eratosthenes’s measurements of the Earth, epicycles, Astrology, Copernicus, Galileo, and all the rest. Similarly, physics classes should start with the Greek concept of the atom as opposed to the concept of the four elements and work their way up past the solar system model and to modern atomic theory. Chemistry classes should mention alchemy, and so on.

    There’s a similar place for both Creationism and Lamarckism in a Biology class: as once-popular but now thoroughly debunked theories in the history of science.

    The scanned text fails miserably when it presents Creationism as a viable modern alternative.

    Also, unless the class is one specifically on the history of science, I’m not sure I’d even bother testing students on their knowledge of the history.

    Cheers,

    b&

    • Kevin
      Posted February 17, 2011 at 10:05 am | Permalink

      Probably because they can’t be bothered to actually teach science…so they settle for teaching the “history” of science and pseudoscience.

      Gad. I know this complaint is as old as Aristotle, but what morons we’re raising. Except it’s not the kids’ fault these days.

      • Microraptor
        Posted February 17, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

        So the real complaint is that the morons are raising our kids.

    • Ichthyic
      Posted February 17, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

      The scanned text fails miserably when it presents Creationism as a viable modern alternative.

      EXACTLY.

      they present Lamarckism as a rightly failed historical idea.

      …yet they present creationism as if it were a modern, scientifically competitive theory … WITH LINKS, even.

      sorry, but this is far worse than I would have imagined for a UK science education text.

  4. Chris
    Posted February 17, 2011 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    that’s depressing. I’m in Scotland, and I have a son who is a 18 months old and if the slide continues like this I dread to think how bad teaching will be by the time he gets to that age.
    Especially as we have this lot in our fair city.

    http://www.c4id.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=166&Itemid=26

    • Dominic
      Posted February 17, 2011 at 8:58 am | Permalink

      Educashun in Scotland is generally considered sooperior to that south of the border. Half Scottish school students aged 16-19 took a science subject.
      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-12451893
      Consider yourselves a Canada to our US…

    • six45ive
      Posted February 17, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

      Just looked at this link and the address of this bunch of morons. No surprise that their location in Glasgow is probably, along with Liverpool and maybe Belfast, the most religious city in the UK.

  5. Posted February 17, 2011 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    Factual congruity seems to appear and then disappear.

  6. six45ive
    Posted February 17, 2011 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    Jerry…..you ask;”why is this stuff being taught in British schools?”
    Very easy to answer…..it’s called cultural relativism, the idea that there is no ‘one way of seeing things’, that ‘everybody’s views and culture must be taken into account’ when lessons are being taught.
    Of course this is entirely at odds with the scientific method which may and do provide answers to questions that certain parts of society have a problem in accepting.

    • Tim Martin
      Posted February 17, 2011 at 7:50 am | Permalink

      everybody’s views and culture must be taken into account

      Including people whose view is that we shouldn’t take everybody’s views and culture into account?

      …is always my reply to this kind of nonsense.

      • JS1685
        Posted February 17, 2011 at 8:17 am | Permalink

        Erudite and eloquent commenter ‘Sastra’ over at Pharyngula often writes about the hypocrisy demonstrated by relativists and other new-agey types when they prattle on about “open-mindedness”, all the while remaining closed-off to the possibility that one idea can indeed be shown to be more plausible, if not outright true, than other ideas. They are themselves the worst kind of closed-minded: closed-minded to objective evidence.

  7. Matt Bowman
    Posted February 17, 2011 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    Fossils disappear???? So you’re dusting off a fossil and poof!—it’s gone. Ha Ha! That’s God! He’s always horsing around like that.

    • Posted February 17, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

      Got that one too!

      I can’t believe this is an upper grade text. Looks like elementary level to me. How dumbed-down can you get? And that’s even without the creationist apologetics.

      • Diane G.
        Posted February 17, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

        Really! Lower elementary, even. Guess traditional blocks of text are no longer comprehensible to today’s learners. Print is evolving convergently to Power Point form…

      • Jason
        Posted February 17, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

        It’s a revision guide not a main text book supplied for the course.

    • Rob
      Posted February 17, 2011 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

      Crust never gets subducted, nope, never.

      • Ichthyic
        Posted February 17, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

        you’re right, of course, but I can understand why Matt made the comment he did.

        Look at how the text is worded!

        indeed, if even Matt could make that comment, what do you think a child reading that text would conclude?

        • Ichthyic
          Posted February 17, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

          …I’d also add that even YOU misinterpreted what the text meant by “disappeared”.

          that’s how poorly it is written.

          what they were referring to is most likely not that fossils appear and disappear, but very poorly to the idea that there are transitional series associated with every fossil species we find.

          Yes, it’s so horribly worded as to be near nonsensical, and if there wasn’t the reference to “gaps” in the previous sentence, I doubt any of us would have any real clue what the hell they were talking about.

          It might be the singularly most poorly written text on the subject I have ever seen.

      • Matt Bowman
        Posted February 17, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

        Only joking Rob. I think the words “appear and then disappear” are intentionally ambiguous to avoid offending religious students, and allows for ridiculous interpretations.

  8. Al
    Posted February 17, 2011 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    IIRC, those GCSE revision guides are for purchase in bookshops so as to help the child learn at home for, well, revision purposes. I was in school recently enough (8 or so years ago) that I had similar guides (this was also after the change from O-levels). They were never used in school, and were bought by my parents. It’s strange that creationism is mentioned, but I don’t think it indicates that it’s being taught in school. It would also explain the “don’t need to learn this” bit.

    It would, of course, be better if creationism weren’t mentioned at all, and I could be wrong about the above.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted February 17, 2011 at 7:42 am | Permalink

      I am told that, at least in this case, the books were indeed being used in the schools.

    • DasSnipez
      Posted February 17, 2011 at 7:47 am | Permalink

      If I remember science classes from school correctly (6 years out now) then creationism wasn’t mentioned in the classroom at all apart from Religious Education which was optional.

      I’m actually go out on a limb and say that this article is referring either to either solely religious schools or is just wrong.

    • six45ive
      Posted February 17, 2011 at 8:08 am | Permalink

      Yes. You can buy the revision guides in bookshops but my school sells them direct to students (at a discount rate I think, being in an inner city school…..if we simply told the students to go and buy them at a bookshop you would get laughed at and ignored).
      Students have already been given these revision guides to prepare them for the exams this summer so I’m waiting to see if the paper will include anything on creationism.
      The top photo in this post is not from the revision book but from the orange Collins textbook
      http://www.collinseducation.com/TitlesListing/pages/productshow.aspx?Level1=Secondary&ProductId=34255

      • Ichthyic
        Posted February 17, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

        well, to be fair to the authors, there isn’t a claim to accuracy in their list of advertised features.

        😛

        there IS a claim that it contains:

        Original and interesting suggestions for starter and plenary activities to stimulate students

        that must be what the links to the creationist websites are.

  9. Joe
    Posted February 17, 2011 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    “why is thus stuff being taught in British schools?”

    Look, we here in the United Kingdom have just as much right to be f**king stupid as anybody else thank you very much. The USA does not hold a monopoly on stupidity and I like to think we can still hold our own on the world stage of mega-ignorance and I submit that textbook as evidence in support of my claim.

    • Tim Martin
      Posted February 17, 2011 at 7:51 am | Permalink

      As an American, I appreciate the solidarity.

      • Diane G.
        Posted February 17, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

        Hey! We can out-stupid them anytime. USA! USA!

    • daveau
      Posted February 17, 2011 at 8:02 am | Permalink

      This is how we plan to get ourselves back to being a top scientific country. Not by raising our standards, but by lowering everyone else’s.

      • JS1685
        Posted February 17, 2011 at 8:26 am | Permalink

        LOL…wait. Godammit, that’s pretty much true. 🙁

      • Dominic
        Posted February 17, 2011 at 8:32 am | Permalink

        Does anyone who follows WEIT from elsewhere in the world have this problem, say in Europe, Asia etc?

        • Posted February 17, 2011 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

          nope– no creationist woo in Japanese textbooks that I’m aware of (though my kids are still pretty young–oldest is 4th grade). Still, his 4th grade textbook is very thin–it’s nearly all experiments and things to do outside. Growing different kinds of plants and measuring them, where to look for larvae and bugs, experiments with batteries and voltmeters, finding constellations around Tanabata…that sort of thing. They do a good job with science here as far as I can see.

  10. Posted February 17, 2011 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    This is so incredibly embarrassing. I’m British so I feel doubly embarrassed. We used to laugh at the US and say ‘that sort of thing only happens in the U.S.’ but the U.S. exports everything, good and bad. But not having any evidence for this, I can only say it’s a weak hypothesis. Creationism is by comparison to my weak hypothesis an even weaker hypothesis. Why don’t we just go all the way and give credence to the ‘stork’ theory of sexual reproduction!. It’s our duty to humiliate and embarrass these people for teaching young minds this total rubbish. Let’s talk about vestigial organs and how imperfect the human eye in fact is and what about that nerve that goes from the brain all the way down and around the heart back up to the head again – yeah, that was great ‘design’ – thanks a lot for that.

    Andrew Sealy-Bell.

    • Dominic
      Posted February 17, 2011 at 8:09 am | Permalink

      I am with you Andrew. I really had no idea – not having offspring.

  11. Posted February 17, 2011 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    Well, it seems that most people forgot some of Tony Blair’ s views on creationism (google it ):
    Question : Is the Prime Minister happy to allow the teaching of creationism alongside Darwin’s theory of evolution in state schools?

    The Prime Minister: First, I am very happy. (…) It would be very unfortunate if concerns about that issue were seen to remove the very strong incentive to ensure that we get as diverse a school system as we properly can. In the end, a more diverse school system will deliver better results for our children.

    You see in textbooks today what some people including Tony Blair call a “strong incentive to ensure” diversity. I do not think even Bush took such positions.

    • Posted February 17, 2011 at 8:27 am | Permalink

      One of the major bad ideas of the last Labour government was to expand “faith schools”, which are actually funded with public money. The Tories of course plan to outdo Labour in this.

      I didn’t realise that the actual course materials had been made “faith friendly” as well.

    • Posted February 17, 2011 at 10:34 am | Permalink

      Bush said it was a good idea to “teach the controversy.” (Possibly not in those exact words.)

  12. Simon
    Posted February 17, 2011 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    Anyone got a copy of the geography book from the same series? Any discussion of flat earth?

    What about physics? Any mention of the “Einstein was wrong” cranks? Or Ptolemaic geocentrism (except to say we’ve moved on). Or Phlogiston? Etc.

    These may be important when discussing the history of science, maybe even the scientific method, but usually there’s no room for much of this in the science curriculum.

    So I wonder why the creationists deserve mention in the biology book.

    (Most English schools teach science ‘to the test’ and there’s a shortage of science teachers in the country. Both facts make it all the more shocking that professionally produced teaching/learning materials would bother to mention this balderdash.)

    • Kevin
      Posted February 17, 2011 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      Of course, Einstein was wrong about quantum mechanics. Darwin was wrong about several things within Origins and Descent, though he got the main stuff right. Haekel was wrong in his conclusions but not in his observations. Hawking admits his mistakes. Frankly, I don’t know of a really good scientist who wasn’t wrong about a thing or three. It’s part of the territory.

      But that’s how things work around these parts. We keep the good stuff and fix the stuff that doesn’t work so well.

      Not so much with religious-based ideas. The crackpot stuff just keeps getting rehashed over and over and over again.

      • Simon
        Posted February 17, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

        My “Einstein was wrong” comment was about a specific kind of crank. As a professional astrophysicist I get sent a certain amount of crazy ideas by over-enthusiastic amateurs who are usually obessed with their own version of gravity/relativity/cosmology but don’t actually know basic science – and don’t even know enough about science to realise they might not be right about everything. (And they don’t have a clue what Einstein’s work was really about.) There’s lots of them out there.

        A senior astrophysicist who I won’t name had a nice stratgegy for coping with all the crackpot mail he got. When he got a new crank sending him their “theory of everything” he bounced it straight on to one of the other cranks. Let them have their nonsense discussions with each other!

  13. Posted February 17, 2011 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    Again, one of the main problems is the use of the word theory – the vernacular version being ‘unproven’, ‘awaiting evidence’ etc. which is massively different to the scientific use of the word. This does cause a huge amount of confusion on the street and is causing a lot of damage. Even scientists get it wrong, i.e. ‘string theory’ should technically be called ‘string hypothesis’ as there isn’t any real observational proof (yet, if ever). How can we expect teenagers to understand this (or even be interested) when they are busy studying multiple subjects and also being teenagers with it’s own set of issues to deal with. The educational system is totally letting down these kids and cow-towing to the deluded who simply believe something without good reason and on zero evidence.

    Andrew.

    • Dominic
      Posted February 17, 2011 at 8:06 am | Permalink

      Evolution is clearly a Law. Darwin talks of the ‘theory of creation’ in On The Origin, but then he had to.

    • SLC
      Posted February 17, 2011 at 8:33 am | Permalink

      Even scientists get it wrong, i.e. ‘string theory’ should technically be called ‘string hypothesis’ as there isn’t any real observational proof (yet, if ever).

      This is something that I have been preaching for some time now. However, I would expand on the term string hypothesis as follows. The concept of strings is a perfectly legitimate branch of mathematics which may or may not have application to physics. It should be termed the string hypothesis as applied to physics as, thus far, there have been no testable hypothesis proposed to test it.

      • Kevin
        Posted February 17, 2011 at 10:13 am | Permalink

        I’ve taken to calling them “models”. I don’t even know if they’ve risen to the level of hypotheses, yet.

      • Circe
        Posted February 17, 2011 at 11:00 am | Permalink

        I think in the case of “string theory”, the word “theory” is used in the sense mathematicians use it(‘Ring Theory’, ‘Number Theory’ etc.). Basically, in this context, this just means a body of theorems about a structure defined by a set of axioms.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted February 17, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

      Well, that all comes down to how you define theory, doesn’t it? The idea with theories and hypotheses are that they are testable, at least in the end. So there is no distinction to be made whether a theory is tested yet or not. It isn’t any less a theory, the distinction of “not theory” would be if it wasn’t predictable (so never testable).

      However, in string theory’s case it is as Circe mentions an attempt from theoretical physicists, so it is “theory” by default. Note that it isn’t because it is axiomatic, string theory like quantum physics resist axiomatization. Axiomatic string theory is a dud: “Finding the proper axioms for quantum field theory [QFT] is still an open and difficult problem in mathematics. One of the Millennium Prize Problems—proving the existence of a mass gap in Yang-Mills theory—is linked to this issue.” And string theory is supposed to approximate QFTs at low energies.

      there isn’t any real observational proof

      As soon as I see “proof” I know that there will be some quasi-inductionist reasoning why either a) the current evidence isn’t “real” (cue folk physics) or b) the current science isn’t “real” (cue theology).

      That isn’t the problem, the problem is that what evidence there is is already predicted by QFT. For example, quark-gluon flux tubes was observed and explained first by string theory, its original reason for inventing in the first place. But merely a year after QCD (a QFT of the strong force) was making the same prediction.

      The reverse happened for black holes. Their entropy was first deduced by semiclassical methods, later by string theory. So what is lacking isn’t successful tests, it is a test of predictions that contribute (can’t be made by other theory) and thus making string theory not merely “true” (correct) but a bona fide fact (i.e. observable by way of prediction & testing).

      That it pass testing lifts it from “math” (but see above on axiomatics) to physics. Now it has to prove (test?) itself viable physics.

      FWIW, I would define “model” as an ad hoc simplification. Sort of orthogonal to axiomatics vs theory, a model may or may not be testable. For example, AGW climate models are of the former kind.

      • Posted February 17, 2011 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

        Great reply. Yes, it does depend on how you define theory – but that is part of the problem. A lot of people on the street if asked ‘is evolution a fact’ will reply something like ‘well, some say it is but it’s still called a theory isn’t it – I mean, why is it still called a theory then.’. This confusion really is impeding the public understanding of evolution. The normal response is to leave it there in frustration and put it in the ‘too hard’ bucket. So the issue remains unresolved and unclear in many minds.

        I did make a point about proof and string theory [read hypothesis]. Proof sometimes a difficult word to quantify but if let’s say the graviton were discovered and energy after the collision in the LHC was less than before the collision – we’d have seriously ask the question where did the energy go?. Did it leak into another dimension of space as predicted by the theory? I’m talking about that kind of result or detecting gravity waves.

        Steven Weinberg pointed something interesting out about mathematical models. He said that we can think of mathematically consistent models that do not in fact describe the real world. So in the end of course we always have to rely on good observational evidence.

        But of course the creationists in their astonishing arrogance already ‘know’ the answer don’t they and are way ahead. They make claims that scientists are arrogant – it just takes your breath away.

        This issue remains a disgrace and an embarrassment and if you haven’t already done so please complain to the Secretary of State for Education, details here:

        http://richarddawkins.net/articles/592093-updated-british-gcse-exam-evolution-fail

        Andrew.

  14. daveau
    Posted February 17, 2011 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    I said it the other day, and I’ll say it again. The second you call creationism a theory, you’ve lost. Now there are creation scientists?

    • locutus7
      Posted February 17, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

      Agree. We should stick to Creation Myths.

  15. Tim Martin
    Posted February 17, 2011 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    Ugh, their description of natural selection is pretty shitty too. Survival of the fittest genes, maybe, but not organisms.

    And, “To survive these changes a species needs to adapt and evolve otherwise it will become extinct” sounds way too… active. Like organisms are actively doing something to try and not go extinct. I doubt anyone’s going to get the idea from this that organisms just happen to be born with random mutations that increase their odds of passing on those genes and thus the species just happens to change and evolve over time.

    • Dominic
      Posted February 17, 2011 at 8:07 am | Permalink

      Right – humans are actively self-destructing & this crap will only accelerate the process.

  16. Dominic
    Posted February 17, 2011 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    Creationism, had you mentioned it in my school when I too O-levels in the 70s, you would have been met with blank stares. No one even considered it as it was a fairy story & obviously untrue! This is connected with the multi-culturalism debate – ‘we must give all world views an equal basis’ – what nonsense!!! I am fuming! Has anyone shown this to the Dawkins website? This really requires action to snuff it out.

    • six45ive
      Posted February 17, 2011 at 8:19 am | Permalink

      Yep! I’ve sent them the same info I’ve sent Jerry and the BCSE aswell.
      I did my ‘O’ levels, as they were known back then, in the early eighties and still have my books and non of this nonsense was ever even on the radar.

      I’m going to upload a video to Youtube shortly discussing the orange Collins textbook (as opposed to the revision book)so you’ll be able to see the offending page in context.

      I’ll also post another video later talking about an ‘incident’ that happened in November last year about how I came across what was being taught in (at least one) science class in my school so keep watching!

  17. Veronica Abbass
    Posted February 17, 2011 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    Now here’s my question:

    Why use the expression “Oh, dear Lord:” and others I have seen in the posts, for example “good God”?

    • daveau
      Posted February 17, 2011 at 8:20 am | Permalink

      I tend to put “Oh, dear (NE) Lord”, or “good (NE) God”. NE for non-existent. It’s difficult to break the habits of a lifetime.

      • Dominic
        Posted February 17, 2011 at 8:39 am | Permalink

        Perhaps gnugod?

        • Dominic
          Posted February 17, 2011 at 8:53 am | Permalink

          By Toutatis!
          By Jove!
          By all that’s foul!
          Buy me a drink…

    • Sigmund
      Posted February 17, 2011 at 8:25 am | Permalink

      Because it’s easier to write than “Jesus effin Christ!” ?

    • Posted February 17, 2011 at 8:33 am | Permalink

      These are expressions of the impossible, denoting shock at the sheer nonsense of the item in view.

      In contrast, if one says “By Jove!”, one literally believe in the existence and immense power of the god Jupiter. There’s just no other explanation.

    • JS1685
      Posted February 17, 2011 at 8:36 am | Permalink

      When I’m intending to be vulgar, I’ll go ahead and use “Lord” or “God”. If, however, I’m writing something with a more serious tenor, I’ll opt for “Good grief”, or some such.

      Take that, third commandment!

    • Posted February 17, 2011 at 8:58 am | Permalink

      Jesus Tittyfucking Christ, what the Hell good is a goddamned god for if you can’t use the shithead’s name in vain?

      Cheers,

      b&

      • JS1685
        Posted February 17, 2011 at 9:30 am | Permalink

        Oh wow! That was great!!!

      • Kevin
        Posted February 17, 2011 at 10:17 am | Permalink

        Oh Ben, Ben, Ben.

        You of ALL people should know that the commandment in question has nothing to do with swear words.

        It’s about honoring a contract. Back when the vast majority of people did not write, promises in the commercial arena were sealed with oaths to a preferred deity. “I swear by Yahweh to deliver 7 oxen in exchange for your virgin daughter.” That sort of thing.

        Taking the lords’ name “in vain” would be to renege on that promise.

        It’s about contracts, not swearing.

        • JS1685
          Posted February 17, 2011 at 10:33 am | Permalink

          Well, that is, of course, the sophisticated, nuanced way of looking at it. Many religious people consider it “taking the Lord’s name in vain” if you utter it at all, outside of prayer or scripture recitation. So much the better for the impact Ben and I seek to have in using it like that.

          Let’s not go all theologiany here…

          😉

          • Kevin
            Posted February 17, 2011 at 11:49 am | Permalink

            Of course, one can clearly see that the common perception/understanding of the intent of the commandment — ahem — evolved to its present form.

            But Ben is our resident expert in matters of biblical exegesis, hermeneutics, and historicity.

            I expect the smiley face from him after such an egregious misinterpretation of the original intent of the passage in question.

            Use the smiley face, Ben! 🙂 Or the winky smiley face!!eleventy!!! 😉

          • Posted February 17, 2011 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

            JEHOVAH!

            (sorry… I’ll get me coat)

        • Posted February 17, 2011 at 11:05 am | Permalink

          By Jesus’s protruding intestines, I really don’t give a fucking goddamn how “sophisticated theologians” interpret the lunatic ravings of ancient goatherding warlords.

          As JS1685 points out, the most common meaning of the phrase is to speak the name of a god while not kissing its ass. Who’m I to argue with the faithful on matters of faith?

          Cheers,

          b&

          • Posted February 17, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

            Now you’ve done it.

            fanning vigorously to keep from swooning.

            Where do I get smelling salts?

        • Rick T
          Posted February 17, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

          They also used to swear on their testicles. Thats where we get the words “testament” and “testify”. When mentioned in the Bible though it says they were taking an oath on the thigh. Ya, right.
          But maybe it became safer to swear to God because if you swore on your nuts you could lose one but if you swore by God you would be entirely safe. What’s an imaginary being going to do about anything?

      • justsearching
        Posted February 17, 2011 at 10:31 am | Permalink

        Damn it all. I thought my blasphemy sensitivity had declined to nil following my deconversion. You Ben have proven to me that a few stubborn sensors are still sending out signals in this formerly Christian mind.

      • Posted February 17, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

        I’m shocked, just shocked, Ben!

      • Andrew
        Posted February 17, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

        Like!

    • Veronica Abbass
      Posted February 17, 2011 at 9:54 am | Permalink

      Thank you for your replies; I am thinking of introducing my question as a new thread on Secular Cafe http://secularcafe.org/index.php.

      • Kevin
        Posted February 17, 2011 at 10:20 am | Permalink

        It’s really quite simple. We live in a culture where such language is used commonly and conveys highly specific meanings. It conveys emotional context and tone as well.

        Substituting “atheist-friendly” language is basically bowdlerizing the language for the benefit of no one at all … least of all to the benefit of clear communication.

        • Posted February 17, 2011 at 10:58 am | Permalink

          And, besides. Christians have stolen such perfectly good words from us, like “love” and “faith,” and perverted them beyond all recognition. Linguistic turnabout is fair play.

          Cheers,

          b&

      • Posted February 17, 2011 at 10:48 am | Permalink

        Please do.

      • Hempenstein
        Posted February 17, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

        I’ve developed an affinity for crimony, but on the other hand, anyone objecting to Jesus H Christ on blasphemous grounds would seem to be acknowledging the authenticity of the middle initial. Otherwise, you’re referring to someone else :-).

        • Posted February 17, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

          How do you know his middle initaial wasn’t H? For HolyGhost?

          • Rick T
            Posted February 17, 2011 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

            Or haploid.

            • Hempenstein
              Posted February 17, 2011 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

              Right! WE know it’s short for Haploid.

        • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
          Posted February 17, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

          I always assumed H stood for “Herodotus”.



          … “The Father of Lies”.

    • abb3w
      Posted February 17, 2011 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      Because even if the reflective part of the brain grasps that there is no-one to complain TO, the more reflexive level still may retain the notion of trying to negotiate trading this reality for one more appealing.

      There are probably other ways to convey the same emotional content, but most take more words or have a narrower cultural resonance. The next best purely secular substitute I can come up with (after about half an hour thinking about it while swapping a couple hard drives out) would be “Oh, my aching head.”

      Or in short: they’re still used as cultural idioms to express phatic content, not to give semantic expression to belief; and most atheists aren’t zealous enough to strictly police against phatic usage.

      • Posted February 17, 2011 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

        Linguistic fossil. The same way you still use the word “neck” to mean “a narrow tract of land” in the phrase “this neck of the woods”… lots of words like that. There’s no reason all the god-swears can’t go the same way.

  18. Ken Pidcock
    Posted February 17, 2011 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Granted that we don’t have national standards in the US, I’d like to think that the National Science Teachers’ Association would never put up with this kind of crap.

    Don’t science teachers in the UK have any kind of organizational clout?

    • six45ive
      Posted February 17, 2011 at 8:59 am | Permalink

      No. they have about as much substance as a homeopathic remedy!

  19. McWaffle
    Posted February 17, 2011 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    I didn’t think the last one was THAT bad, but his one certainly is. I took the first example (in the older post) to be a more LSAT-style “If true, the statement below would best support which theory?”

    This example, on the other hand, is far more overtly nefarious. It makes me rethink my opinion on the last one, even.

    • Kevin
      Posted February 17, 2011 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      The problem is that one is a theory and everything else isn’t.

      It’s degrading the meaning of theory to mean “guess”, “hunch”, or “whatever my preacher told me”.

  20. Posted February 17, 2011 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    This sort of madness would lead to ‘goddidit’ to be a perfectly acceptable answer to everything ~shudder~

    There is a ‘criticism’ section in the GCSE wiki page that could certainly be edited to include this nonsense.

  21. Posted February 17, 2011 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    In addition to the dreadful content, there’s also the dreadful style. How can a child learn to reason or communicate if their models consist of disconnected bullet lists with nary a narrative sentence in sight.

  22. Posted February 17, 2011 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    Can’t we create a Bat-Signal-like searchlight with a RD or a Gnu-Atheits logo on it to summon Richard Dawkins in cases like these?

    • Dominic
      Posted February 17, 2011 at 9:26 am | Permalink

      Please!!!
      I cannot remember being so depressed.

  23. Posted February 17, 2011 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    This is so totally mad as to be almost unbelievable! How on earth can an education system that used to be as sophisticated as the British one sink to levels of idiocy that can be matched only in theocratic countries? Is religion playing such a large part in the public square in Britain that they actually have to power to enforce this kind of idiocy? This is very concerning.

    • Dominic
      Posted February 17, 2011 at 9:32 am | Permalink

      That’s the thing – to me at least it does not appear to. We got our Labour leaders the wrong way around – Blair loves god/s & ruled to our misfortune for a decade, while Milliband is an atheist & likely out of power for years. I see things as either ‘true’ or ‘untrue’ (or uncertain) – modern trendy [iliberal] convention says we have to take into account the ‘untrue’ things because they are true for some people. Ahhhggghh!

    • Posted February 17, 2011 at 10:52 am | Permalink

      We’ve been focused on the introduction of Creationism into public education in US states (e.g., Texas), and here the Brits have fallen without even realising it.

      So much for Creationism not being a problem in the UK.

  24. Jampalaeo
    Posted February 17, 2011 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    I hope this nonsense hasn’t infected our curricula here in the Caribbean.

    Also, why are they using such an ancient simplistic cartoon version of horse evolution? That figure comes right out of the early 20th century!

    • Microraptor
      Posted February 17, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

      Probably for the same reason my bio professor can spend 20 minutes lecturing on the difference between a monophyletic group, a polyphyletic group, and a paraphyletic group, then immediately say that humans don’t come from apes.

  25. Gayle Stone
    Posted February 17, 2011 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    As usual the have not done “their” homework. Survival of the fittest is not “called” natural selection nor is, natural selection called survival of the fittest. They ain’t them same!

  26. Andrew
    Posted February 17, 2011 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    gdfghtjtyjeyertertyery

    • Posted February 17, 2011 at 10:01 am | Permalink

      As much as we love our kittehs, they do a notoriously poor job of dictation. Perhaps you could try typing your post yourself?

      b&

      • JS1685
        Posted February 17, 2011 at 10:21 am | Permalink

        Perhaps Andrew was trying to communicate w the GCSE exam creators in a way they’ll understand?

        • Posted February 17, 2011 at 11:08 am | Permalink

          Sorry, but I’m absolutely certain that no felid is responsible for that abomination of an exam.

          Cheers,

          b&

          • JS1685
            Posted February 17, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

            Oh, quite! My suggestion meant to leave cats out of it entirely.

            Fighting gibberish with gibberish…

        • abb3w
          Posted February 17, 2011 at 11:47 am | Permalink

          It might also simply been the result of a keyboard getting in the way of his beating his head on his desk.

          • JS1685
            Posted February 17, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

            My money’s on this one.

      • Posted February 17, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

        You are in rare form today, Ben.

        (good thing I wasn’t drinking/eating anything here at my laptop!)

  27. Sigmund
    Posted February 17, 2011 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Has anyone tried following the linked site for information on “Creation Science”?
    http://www.pilgrimtours.com/creation/
    It’s as bad as you can imagine.

    • Ken Pidcock
      Posted February 17, 2011 at 11:34 am | Permalink

      “Intelligent Design” Scientist Bios: Click Here

      Ooh, they don’t like it over at AiG when you get your creationism mixed up with your intelligent design. (Though, to be honest, Pilgram Tours just seems to like the phrase.)

  28. Ryan O'Donnell
    Posted February 17, 2011 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    I find it extremely bizarre that a creationist would attempt to use horses as an example, unless of course they are setting up for the whole micro vs macro evo nonsense. Something that is bothering me about this is that the figure, for the most part, looks decent (I would take issue with portioning it by epochs instead of a time scale since they are asking about evolution in the context of time). It makes me wonder if this is the work of multiply authors or if it is plagiarized. I have a feeling the creationism wording was edited in later.

    • six45ive
      Posted February 17, 2011 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      As the sender of these pages I think two things are going on here and the first one is something most of us in education in the UK have known for a long time now and that’s the general dumbing down of the curriculum to ‘improve’ exam results under the illusion that students are getting brighter when that’s clearly not the case.
      When you tie that in with the fact that religion is almost non existant in the public arena in this country and can only make advances by surreptitious behaviour and will attach itself to any trend that happens to be in vogue (which is how religion has always advanced…..by being a memetic parasite)then it doesn’t take a great leap of faith to realise that it’s attached itself to this alternate ideological meme of cultural relativism to make it seem acceptable to the political leaders and the public that it’s OK to ‘teach the controversy’ in science classes because…..”hey, that’s just the way the world’s going in this multicultural and culturally relativistic society.”

      On top of that it doesn’t help when you have a Prime Minister that I still don’t think people understand how religious he is and always probably was while he was in charge for 12 years.
      Personally I think Tony Blair made George Bush look like a Jain.

  29. Hempenstein
    Posted February 17, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Late to this party & so apologies if the point has already been made, but soon the reasons why we don’t teach creationism in public schools will no longer (if not already) be merely philosophical – empirical examples of the resultant train wreck will abound.

  30. Posted February 17, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    I totally take back my previous defense of the GCSE. The previous question posted had much more of a flavour of “This is what scientists think, and here are some other theories that are wrong.”

    This is just crap.

  31. six45ive
    Posted February 17, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s also important that I make the point that, as far as the text book is concerned (first image and the page with the creationist website on) that this is a general science book and has no other overt mention of creationism anywhere else in the book as far as I can see. I don’t want to give the impression to our American friends that this textbook is some sort of creationist scientific bible that’s being used by overtly religious science teachers to indoctrinate our children. It’s simply one page out of a few hundred and a couple of teachers that I asked about the book this afternoon didn’t even know that page existed. A couple more I talked to didn’t have a problem with it and couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. They generally thought it was a positive thing and was very ‘inclusive’ (can you see how culturally relativistic attitudes turn people’s critical thinking skills into total mush?).

    As for the revision book, again this is just one page out of a book about half the thickness of the text book and I didn’t see anything to do with creationism anywhere else in the book.

    I just wanted to make that clear as I didn’t want people thinking that this kind of blatant religiosity was endemic in science books in the UK although one page mentioning creationism in any science book is one page too many for me.

    • six45ive
      Posted February 17, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

      Sorry…..just to confirm; the text book is general science (Chemistry, Physics, Biology), the revision book is just Biology. Students have seperate Physics and Chemistry revision books. These are also clear of any creationist crap.

      • Ichthyic
        Posted February 17, 2011 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

        Students have seperate Physics and Chemistry revision books. These are also clear of any creationist crap.

        I suspected as much.

        so, IOW, there is NO legitimate reason, not even “science history”, to include creationism in the biology text.

        Seems like it’s time to find out who is behind the writing of these texts, and out them.

        • six45ive
          Posted February 18, 2011 at 3:23 am | Permalink

          Correct on both counts! I thought there might be some creationist stuff in the space section but as it only really discusses the Solar System there’s not much scope to shoehorn it in.

  32. Adam
    Posted February 17, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    I’m a 16 year old currently studying GCSE biology in England, and it is incredibly irritating to see stuff like this in a text book.

    Religion so often uses the ‘absence of proof is not proof of absence’ argument to justify believing in god despite lack of evidence, but then they fail to see that exactly the same reasoning is applicable here.
    The absence of some complete fossil records does not disprove evolution, are we expected to find a fossil for every evolutionary stage of every species that has ever lived?

    I think that if the book is going to include this, it should also point out why the creationist argument is flawed.

    • Ichthyic
      Posted February 17, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

      I think that if the book is going to include this, it should also point out why the creationist argument is flawed.

      I’m glad you noticed; makes you wonder why they didn’t, eh?

      Have you noticed religious arguments in any other part of your texts?

  33. Jason
    Posted February 17, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    This is a silly article. They gave creation two lines of argument whilst the rest of the page was dedicated to evolution!

    I did Bio GCSE in a Catholic school and was taught Evolution as total fact without even a mention of creationism.

    Plus this is a revision guide, not a text book used in schools!

    British education fail and “in schools” is a big exaggeration.

  34. Paul
    Posted February 17, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    This article is misleading and alarmist.

    The book is not issued in schools, it is commercially available through book stores only. (http://bit.ly/dJH49Y)

    This article implies it is being given to students. It isn’t. It’s just a really shit revision guide.

    • six45ive
      Posted February 17, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

      I’m glad you provided that info because I’d like you to tell me how you know my school doesn’t provide this revision book and where is your evidence that “it is provided through bookstores only” when there is a button on the bottom right of the page for registered schools to buy these books.
      On top of that I award you with another major FAIL in the respect that the book you linked to is a revision guide for FOUNDATION students whereas the scan I’ve provided is from a HIGHER level book. The clue’s on the front cover.
      However you have provided a link that enables you to browse and you will notice that the grades are lower than the scanned sheet from the higher book and it doesn’t have the page I’ve highlighted for you to peruse.
      http://browseinside.harpercollins.co.uk/index.aspx?isbn13=9780007348060&pid=7000000&reset=true

      • Luh
        Posted February 24, 2011 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

        I think they were just getting at the fact that this specific material isn’t the only choice a school has, it’s not rigidly issued as a national standard. There are many different guides available.

  35. six45ive
    Posted February 17, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    So…..as promised, here’s me making a pratt of myself.

  36. Dawn Oz
    Posted February 17, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    Its very sneakily done. Had to be written by a creationist apologist! Disappointed that the American creationist disease is now found in the UK.

  37. Posted February 17, 2011 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    Quote from Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education 1 year ago on the Andrew Marr show:

    “MICHAEL GOVE:
    Well to my mind, you cannot have a school which teaches creationism. And one thing that we will make absolutely clear is that you cannot have schools which are set up, which teach people things which are clearly at variance with what we know to be scientific fact.”

    Let’s hold him to his words, contact him and complain directly:

    Rt Hon. Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Education, at the following email address:

    ministers@education.gsi.gov.uk

    Please include the url of the pdf of the exam paper in your email – http://store.aqa.org.uk/qual/gcse/qp-ms/AQA-BLY1BP-W-QP-JUN09.PDF – and refer him to Question 2 in the Higher Tier section, on p17.

    Make your voice heard, this is incredibly important. He doesn’t want to be known as the minister for mis-education i’m pretty sure about that.

    Andrew.

  38. Posted February 17, 2011 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

    It might be that there was a creationist-sympathetic writer for this “revision” book (“review book” in AmericanSpeak) for the GCSE test…

    …but it is at least reasonably likely that the reason this creationist bit is in here is that the people writing the review book basically take the known material about the tests, and teach to that material. Since the test had that half-baked question about creationism on it (as Jerry showed in a previous post), thus the people writing the review guide had to put together some half-baked material about it in the review guide.

    According to a later post, they’re taking the creationism question off the test, so hopefully it will disappear from the review guides, at least in this positively misleading way…

    A more important question is — who is writing and reviewing the GCSE tests????

  39. Posted February 19, 2011 at 4:49 am | Permalink

    The overall author of the book was one Louise Smiley. She is not a known creationist and doesn’t appear to have any connections to the main creationist groups in Britain.

    I’ve done a Google search and can find no reference to her there.

  40. Luh
    Posted February 24, 2011 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

    Wow. That certainly was not in my biology GCSE revision material in 2005, though IIRC, it was from a different publisher. Still, what the hell happened D:

  41. six45ive
    Posted February 26, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    So…..as promised and about a week later than I’d hoped, here’s part 2 of my experience of how the books I previously linked to came to light. Once again apologies for the poor light and the camera going in and out of focus.

  42. Posted March 14, 2011 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    I found this alarming enough to look into it. After looking at the text book in question at my local Waterstones bookshop I can tell you that there is no reference to creationism anywhere in the book. The answer to the question of why the fossil record is incomplete is because most things don’t fossilise, an answer which is clearly in the text above the question. There is no question about how creationists interpret the ‘gaps’.

    To Creationists the gaps are very convenient. If you fill the gap between A and C with B then there are gaps between A and B and B and C. So the more gaps that are filled, the more gaps appear. Every fossil in the fossil record is a transition form but because of the so called gaps the more fossils you find the more the lack of transition forms. The fossil record would not be complete because not everything fossilises and as a result, the fact that we have so much fossil data testifies that evolution is true. Either that or if you believe in God (which I do) God has made it look true and has created a deception. Of course to us theists the idea of God deceiving people is ridiculous.


5 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tom Roud, Mab Mab Mab Mab, Nigel Williams, Delphine., Jerry Coyne and others. Jerry Coyne said: British education FAIL: more creationism in schools http://wp.me/ppUXF-7yQ […]

  2. […] the second time in about 24h, Jerry Coyne highlights significant failings in UK schoolbooks (British education FAIL: more creationism in schools « Why Evolution Is True).  Not only are there serious inaccuracies, but the text links to a creationist website.  […]

  3. […] Why Evolution Is True « British education FAIL: more creationism in schools […]

  4. […] British education FAIL: more creationism in schools Alert reader Andrew sent me a scan of a book used by “year 10″ students (14-and 15-year-olds) who study for the […] […]

  5. […] in the UK, such as through the risible Noah’s Ark Zoo near Bristol. But this week Jerry Coyne posted about a much more serious issue in British education, concerning the introduction of Creationist […]

%d bloggers like this: