Over the last few days, I reposted a series of four articles that I wrote two years ago. Those articles discuss a California lawsuit filed by a group of Christian schools against the University of California. They are suing in an attempt to force UC to recognize some of their classes as meeting the requirements that UC sets for high school students who are applying for admission to the system. Several subjects are involved in the suit, but as a biologist I’m mostly interested in the biology courses that are involved.
At the moment, the next scheduled event in the case comes on September 24th, when the judge will hear arguments on motions for summary judgement. I’m not a legal expert, and I don’t spend as much time following Constitutional Law for fun as Ed does, but I’ve got a feeling that the motion for summary judgement filed by the Christian schools will fail, and the case will go to trial. A motion for summary judgement can only be granted if there are no significant disputes about material facts in the case. In this particular case, at least as far as the science books are concerned, there is a significant dispute about the facts.
The plaintiffs (the Christian schools) claim that their courses, “add to standard content a banned book, a religious viewpoint that God created man and woman, or the viewpoint of creation or Intelligent Design,” and that this constitutes “viewpoint discrimination.” (Brief for Summary Judgement p. 20). Someone from the Association of Christian Schools International, one of the plaintiffs in the case, left a comment on a couple of the old articles that elaborated a bit on that – the case, he claimed, is not about creationism, it’s about “illegal viewpoint discrimination.
When it comes to the biology courses, their claim that they are teaching the “standard material” with a religious viewpoint added had better be disputed – because they’re not. I’ve got a copy of the Bob Jones University textbook that’s used by some of the Christian schools. Biology for Christian Schools does not, in any way, shape, or form teach “standard” biology with religion added. It teaches religion instead of standard biology, and the University of California is absolutely right to refuse to accept courses taught from this book as biology classes.
If you teach, as the Bob Jones book does on page 173, that:
It has been shown that there are many factors that can cause a population to change over time. Some people would take this fact and use it as evidence to support the notion of evolution. However, they should think again about these population changes. In the example above, the deer are still deer; in the photographs the elephant seals and cheetahs are still seals and cheetahs. Creationists and evolutionists would agree that mutations are the only mechanism that creates new alleles; however, most mutations are harmful, and none have created a new type of organism. Population genetic studies are useful in studying how populations change, but they can offer no support to evolution.
you are teaching something quite different from standard biology.
If you teach, as the Bob Jones book does on page 197, that:
Christians need not wonder about the beginning of life, though, since it is clearly outlined in Genesis 1 and 2. Other passages in the Bible give us additional facts about God’s creative act, the history of His physical creation, and even God’s description of what will eventually happen to His creation. Collectively, these passages provide a divinely inspired outline of the history of life. Because God is the source of all truth, all accurate scientific knowledge will fit into this outline. Anything that contradicts God’s Word is in error or has been misunderstood.
you are teaching religion in place of standard biology, and you are teaching that religion is superior to standard biology.
If you teach, as the Bob Jones book advises on page 200 of the teacher’s edition, that:
Evolution, by definition, is change toward the more complex, not merely change. Change can be downward or toward the less complex, which is not evolution but devolution.
you are teaching a definition of evolution that no scientist working in the field would accept.
If you teach, as the Bob Jones book does on page 206, that:
Scientists theorize that the postdiluvian mountains are higher and the oceans deeper than the antediluvian mountains and oceans. They also propose that the rapid movement of water running off the land masses accounts for many of the geologic formations seen today…
you are clearly operating under the mistaken assumption that “scientists” and “charlatans” are synonyms.
If you teach, as the Bob Jones book does on page 207, that:
The average human life span before the Flood (based on Genesis) was 912 years. After Noah, the life span quickly dropped to about 400 years and continued to decline. Some scientists believe this change in life span is also due to postdiluvian changes in the atmosphere. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob lived well over 100 years, but few men after their time have reached even 100 years. A cause for this decrease could be the loss of the antediluvian atmosphere resulting in more direct exposure to solar radiation. Other Bible scholars believe this decrease in life span to be a result of sin and its effect on the human gene pool.
you have clearly decided that science is an optional component in your science class.
When you tell students, as the Teacher’s Edition of the Bob Jones book does on page 233, that the correct answer to the question:
Anthropologists have found fossil evidence that clearly links humans and apes through a common ancestor. (True/False)
is false, you are lying to your students. You are definitely not teaching biology.
I don’t know what you’re doing when you teach, as the Bob Jones book does on page 618, that, “much of the modern environmental movement seems to be politically motivated by a liberal agenda,” but it sure as hell ain’t science.
At this point, I think at least one thing has become clear. Labeling the Bob Jones book “Biology” is like labeling a five-pound bag of dog droppings a “tulip” – the smell stays the same, and anyone who opens it is in for an unpleasant surprise. They can call a course taught from that book a “biology” class, but that really doesn’t make it one.
Far be it from me, of course, to suggest that the fine folks at the Christian schools do not have the right to teach their students using the five pound ba- excuse me, using the Bob Jones text. As sad as it may be for their poor students, they do. What they don’t have is the right to force other people to agree with their labeling. If they want their students to be credited as having taken biology, they need to teach biology. If they want to continue to exercise their right to deceive and mislead their children, they need to be willing to accept the consequences of that act.