Dark Christianity
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May 2008
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dogemperor [userpic]
A critical look at the A-Beka curriculum, part 2

Continuing with my post that I started here, I'm continuing with my critical look at the whole A-Beka curriculum. As I noted previously:

A few months ago, I posted a discussion of the specific ideology taught in dominionist curricula, including the A-Beka curriculum program used in many dominionist private school and homeschool communities.

This particular thread has gained a bit of new relevance, between California officially disallowing admission of students solely educated using A-Beka curriculum due to its educational content being below state minimum standards and a legal case involving groups trying to push a textbook commonly used in A-Beka biology courses.

Hence, I'm going to post my own little analysis of just WHY California would find it unsuitable for kids entering college level courses (I actually stated in the original thread this was likely to happen) and how this could
hurt Pennsylvania students in the long run if dominionists get their way.

Now, on to the bit everyone is talking about (A-Beka's "science" curriculum--yes, there's a reason I use quotes on that!)


It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter. —Proverbs 25:2

Science is the study of God's order, provision, and reasonableness as revealed in His physical creation.

While secular science textbooks present modern science as the opposite of faith, the A Beka Book science texts teach that modern science is the product of Western man's return to the Scriptures after the Protestant Reformation, leading to his desire to understand and subdue the earth, which he saw as the orderly, law-abiding creation of the God of the Bible.

The A Beka Book Science and Health Program presents the universe as the direct creation of God and refutes the man-made idea of evolution. Further, the books present God as the Great Designer and Lawgiver, without Whom the evident design and laws of nature would be inexplicable. They give a solid foundation in all areas of science -- a foundation firmly anchored to Scriptural truth. Teachability is assured through accurate, interesting writing, carefully planned demonstrations that can be performed with a minimum of equipment, chapter terms and questions, full-color illustrations, consideration of the interests and comprehension skills of students at each grade level, and detailed Curriculum / Lesson Plans.

There is so much with this that is pure bovine excrement (such as a level that even Hercules himself would have trouble clearing the stables of it!) that it's not funny (and has required me to split this to a two-part post). I will begin best as I can, however:

a) Science, not even modern science, is "against God" or "against faith". Many scientists--much like the alchemists of earlier times--see their scientific work as a way of finding how God does his thing, and actually finding science renewing of their religious faith.

What science *does* teach is the specific testing of a theory--based on available evidence--and, if the evidence shows the theory doesn't fit, changing the theory. (This is, incidentially, EXACTLY what mainstream Christians and Jews and Moslems do! Even the Catholic Church--based on the evidence--at least partially accepts evolution, even if they feel it was directed by God; the dominionist groups are quite literally the only branches of Christianity that are holding onto young-earth, 7-day creationism even despite reams of evidence to the contrary. Most of the rest of us accept the scribes of ancient Israel didn't know of microbes, Archaeopteryx et al and move on.)

As dominionist groups that use A-Beka--and the A-Beka curriculum *itself*--is a heavily dominionist and even borderline Christian Reconstructionist educational curriculum, scientific testing (either in the case of mathematical proofs, as noted above, or scientific proofs of theories based on evidence) *cannot* be tolerated because the basic theology holds *everything* in the Bible as being not only inerrant but literally dictated by God Himself. To entertain the concept of even *questioning* things like whether God meant "seven days" or "seven ages" (much less HOW he created the animals and plants and whatnot) is considered literal blasphemy and (in some circles) even "allowing footholds for demons of rebellion"; if you remove the plank of young-earth creationism, not only does the whole theological stack of cards come down, but--even more dangerously for dominionist groups--one begins testing things and logically thinking.

Dominionist groups--and in fact *all* coercive religious groups--actively discourage independent thinking. (In most dominionist groups it's actually denounced as Satanic in some form; at best you are told you are "walking by sight" and not "walking by faith", and *very* frequently one is told one is either being oppressed by "demons of doubt" or is "allowing footholds for Satan to enter your life and steal your salvation".) If one thinks independently, one can compare, and realise that the situation is harmful; the recommended technique in dominionist groups if one is starting to doubt things (like the Bible's inerrancy) is to *pray even harder and read the Bible even more*.

These are all classic coercive tactics--as noted, the curriculum itself is designed to essentially work as a form or extension of existing "thought reform" techniques practiced by dominionist groups--as documented here:

5. SACRED SCIENCE. The group's perspective is absolutely true and completely adequate to explain EVERYTHING. The doctrine is not subject to amendments or question. ABSOLUTE conformity to the doctrine is required.

and also:

7. DOCTRINE OVER PERSON. Pre-group experience and group experience are narrowly and decisively interpreted through the absolute doctrine, even when experience contradicts the doctrine.
(emphasis mine)

Any sort of "reality testing" is specifically discouraged in coercive religious groups, including dominionist groups; it is not a surprise that it is explicitly discouraged here.

b) The science curriculum is blatantly dominionist (in terms of theology).

One of the lines here--specifically the bit about subduing the earth--is a blatant giveaway that the curriculum, here as in the rest of it, is blatantly dominionist.

Most of you know this already, but I'll go ahead and refresh for those new here. The term "dominionism"--and the specific "code phrase" they're using--both are referring to the same Bible verses, Genesis 1:26:

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion
over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the
cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that
creepeth upon the earth.
(original emphasis in Wikipedia entry on dominionism)

The sentiment is made even more explicit two verses down, Genesis 1:28:

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply,
and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of
the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
(emphasis mine)

I have heard the latter verse literally used both as biblical justification for dominionism (in particular, the "deliverance ministry"/"spiritual warfare" sorts of dominionism) and as biblical justification for destruction of the environment.

3) The book promotes a flavour of creationism seen as extreme even in most Christian circles.

Per Talk.origins, there is confirmation that A-Beka books teach specifically young-earth creationism. As I've noted previously, just about the *only* groups pushing the whole "world made in 6 days and then God took Saturday off" theory are religious groups affiliated with dominionism.

In fact, so do people who were taught using the curriculum.

Most Christian groups either endorse (if creationist at *all* in the traditional sense) either "old earth" creationism (aka creationism that fits the geneological record) or some flavour of evolution (either "directed evolution" where God set up evolution as the method of creation and gave friendly nudges now and again--this is the flavour the Catholic church has accepted so far--or traditional evolution with God giving the "spark of life"). Talk.origins has a wonderful series of FAQs regarding the matter.

As it is, one of the interesting predictions of the theory of evolution--one that has been proven scientifically--is the concept of genes (ironically originally discovered/confirmed by Gregor Mendel, who was a monk working with various breeds of pea in attempts at hybridisation, and the ultimate basis being found in chromosomes and genes later).

Another interesting prediction--recently proven in rather spectacular fashion--is the concept of "transitional species"--aka species evolving from a common ancestor that show changes over time. This has been observed so far in not just microbes, but with fruit flies even *without* geological records. Most of us know about the various sorts of "cavemen" and australopithecines; very recently (within the past three years) an absolutely *astounding* number of remarkable dinosaur finds have been found with feathers and, in particular, lots of transitional forms between Archaeopteryx-like birds and dromaeosaurs (like Velociraptor and Deinonychus) and feathers (and other birdy traits, like four-chambered hearts and most recently birdlike "bellows" lungs) have been found in dinosaurs that are rather more removed from birds (such as feathered tyrannosaurids and even a psittasaur--a type of dinosaur related to some of the horned dinosaurs like Triceratops et al--with *quills* like a porcupine!)

The Chinese dinosaur remains are especially interesting as many of the dinosaurs (including groups like oviraptors that aren't as related to Archaeopteryx as, say, velociraptors) were literally *brooding* like chickens when they died; there have also been relatives of velociraptors (Microraptor gui) found that have flight feathers on all four limbs, showing for the first time that both the ancestors of Archie and Velociraptor (and Sinornithosaurus, one of the other feathered dromies found) were feathered and that birds probably evolved from gliders. We now actually have an almost complete transitional series between Archaeopteryx and Utahraptor (the largest of the dromaeosaurs)--and enough fossils of non-flying dinosaurs with very birdy traits--that even ornithologists who've resisted the idea (and been believers in the theory of evolution, but theorising Archaeopteryx was something *other* than a dinosaur) are now starting to come around to the idea that modern birds are the last surviving dinosaurs.

(Yes, I am an unashamed paleontology geek. I am also, in this particular instance, one of those who has found that their own personal spirituality has been enhanced by this; dromaeosaurs (particularly deinonychs) are, well, you may say an "Animal of Power" for me (as much as this eclectic pagan has such things). Seeing the skeleton of Deinonychus, and seeing for that matter Sue in Chicago or seeing the pictures of the feathered dromaeosaurs out of China, *is* in a real, literal way like a way of seeing God.)

Of course, some creationists (including young-earth creationists) think that the scientists are deliberately making fossils (yes, I have heard this seriously argued) or that God put them there to "test our faith" or even that dinosaurian remains are "lies of Satan".

d) The books give an inaccurate description of science history, and of history period.

Firstly, they claim man "returned to the Scriptures after the Protestant Reformation", again pointing to their belief (mentioned in the last article) on how supposedly Catholics and Eastern Orthodox are not Christians at all (by the way, this is why the AoG chaplains are targeting even Iraqi Catholics and Iraqi Orthodox for conversion, even though the chaplains' own religious tradition is not yet 100 years old and the Iraqis' are closer to 2000).

Secondly, many of the people who were practicing scientists were Deists or alchemists who were actively trying to puzzle out how God created things (in the specific case of the alchemists, in hopes of getting closer to God); also, and again I will defer to those on this community who are practicing alchemists, much of the practices in alchemy were pre-Christian (sometimes substantially so; many religious and philosophical groups that descended from alchemical colleges trace their history back to ancient Greece or even Egypt, and there is a fair amount of historical record to back this up; Hermes Trigesimus, for instance, is an ancient representation in alchemy that is obviously derived from Hermes, and has also in some alchemical traditions been equated with the Egyptian Ptah). A great deal of alchemical imagery was specifically wrapped up in Christian imagery to protect its practitioners from being burned as witches or sorcerors (a very real risk in those times).

Thirdly, many of the philosophies represented by dominionists as "getting back with God post-Reformation" are in fact *very recent innovations*; in fact, for instance, the entire concept of the Rapture has only been in Christian theology since the late 1800s.

Now, mind, this is just my criticism on the bits regarding *evolution*. Their "health" texts essentially tell kids not to stick their naughty bits in anything till they're married and don't even THINK of admitting you're gay. :P Public health authorities in general have already stated their mortification at the sort of "preventative health" taught in A-Beka's courses et al.

Needless to say, again, it's not exactly shocking why University of California sees this as unfit.

And now the last bit, English courses:


How forcible are right words! —Job 6:25

Because God has given us the great commission of communicating His truth to mankind, we must give our students the finest tools available to carry out this goal in a reasonable, well-articulated manner.

God gave us our powers of thought and language and chose to reveal His will and His ways to us in a written form, the Bible; thus we need to pay particular attention to the teaching of grammar, spelling, vocabulary, composition, and literature as we seek to educate students from a Christian perspective.

Since Darwin, linguists have sought in vain for a credible explanation for the origin of language. Having accepted evolutionary philosophy, they can only think that language must be simply a response to a stimulus, an emotional outcry, an imitation of animals.

If such foolishness were true, then any talk of language being governed by rules or any claims that some expressions are better than others would be inappropriate, and relativism would rule. This explains many English programs today. But as Christians, we still believe that the Bible provides the only credible explanation for the universe, of man, and of language. Therefore, it is easy to see in language a structure which reflects the logic, reasonableness, and orderliness of the One who created man and his language.

On this basis, we believe that there are standards for man to adhere to in language as in all of life. This is why our A Beka Book grammar books emphasize structure, rules, analysis, and the kind of practice that aims at mastery. This is why we place an importance on correct spelling and the continual enlargement of each student's vocabulary. This is why we aspire to provide students with examples of the very best literature of the ages, and this is why we emphasize the continual improvement of writing abilities.

And again, the curriculum falls on its face from a scientific viewpoint:

a) Linguistics studies (trying to find the primeval language) have been going on for far, far longer than Darwin (try the earliest records being as of 500 BC among East Indian cultures, and at a similar time period for the Greek). The first European person to study linguistic evolution in the modern fashion was Sir William Jones who proposed Sanskrit and Persian's relation to other languages in Europe (and was the initial foundation for research into what we now term Indo-European languages, see below).

In fact, a LOT of people were working on this in the late 1700's/early 1800's--ironically, in an attempt to recapture the "Adamic Language", the primeval language that was spoken in the Garden of Eden. (Yes, even Christians were doing this--again, this points to the levels of historical revisionism of all sorts rampant in the dominionist community.)

Von Humboldt also discovered, shortly after, that languages are rule-based (one of the things that has actually helped us study the relationship between languages).

b) Contrary to dominionist claims, we've actually gotten pretty damn far at deciphering the roots of language families (much better so with Indo-European and Ural-Altaic and Semitic, getting better with the four or five Native American language families and the four or five major African families, they and many of the Australian Aboriginal and Pacific Islands languages are more difficult because there's not a good list of vocabularies to compare in several cases).

In fact, we've gone past reconstructing the probable original Indo-European language and are now working on Proto-Indo-European (which may finally link Indo-European as being a sister group of the Ural-Altaic languages; the latter include languages such as Finnish, Turkish, Mongolian, and possibly Japanese and Korean (the latter two with heavy Chinese influence/loanwords)); Proto-Semitic is also felt to be pretty solid as a reconstructed "ur-language", and some (admittedly controversial) proposals even have *the* ur-language as Nostratic (which would include almost all known language groups aside from a few isolated groups).

c) Studies of language--just like studies of evolution in other things--show that languages over time do change, pick up words (and even on occasion largely cross-pollinate) from other languages, etc.

The evolution of English as well as the evolution of the various Romance languages is well documented (English is a particularly interesting case, as Old English and even early Middle English are very similar to Old Dutch and other Germanic tongues, but by late Middle English actually had started gaining characteristics of being a mix between early Middle English and Old French--to the point philologists have had serious discussions on whether Middle English should be considered a patois like Kreyol in Haiti!; Flemish in Belgium is somewhat similarly (though to lesser degree) influenced by French, and in turn Wallon is influenced by Dutch (to the point Dutch-based Wallon orthographies exist!)...so yes, there is admixture).

Another few languages where evolution is quite well documented: Greek (between Homeric Greek, Koine Greek (as used in the Bible), Byzantine Greek, and Modern Greek); the Semitic languages (including Hebrew; much of the more interesting things re Biblical research going on is how several of the terms for God in the original Hebrew do seem to be derived from Babylonian (which is a very closely related language, and whose Phonecian alphabet is the immediate predecessor of both the Greek and Roman alphabets); much of the research on the evolution of the Semitic language families, in fact, *is* from Biblical-history research and archaeological study of the coexisting cultures of the time.

As I've noted before, actual study of Biblical history taking into account cultural references of the times tends to be frowned upon--the main interest in Biblical research among dominionists seems to be in proving places in the Bible existed and that "Biblical miracles really occured". There is *far* less interest, for instance, in research showing that Judaism may be a monotheistic religion based on rejection of plural gods in Babylonian practice, that the "golden calf" mentioned in the Bible was actually a representation of Baal-Hadad (the Lord of Hadad, a major deity of Babylonian belief)--thus missing HOW SIGNIFIGANT the fact people were worshipping the calf was, but a reference people of the time or in the area would have understood straightaway. Much the same for Christ's own story about the Good Samaritan (Samaritans were, and still are, a very early side-branch of Judaism that was considered extremely heretical because they rejected the authority of kings and priests; they follow the Pentateuch but no other books in the Torah, and are the only remaining group in Judaism that practices the annual sacrifices as depicted in Leviticus et al; this would have been quite obvious in his day, and would be equivalent in modern days to dominionists passing a mugged guy in the street but someone from a "gay church" helping the guy to the hospital).

It is fairly obvious from the description that they are, just as they do with everything else, believing that ALL languages originated from the incident at the Tower of Babel and have not changed since. (A mere look at the King James Bible would be enough to disprove this, one would think)

It's also fairly apparent that their tactic in English education consists of rote memorisation and "phonics". Unfortunately, different kids learn in different ways, and it's entirely possible kids with learning disabilities (or even different styles of learning that some other method--say, hands-on work, or whole-word reading) may fall behind. (Then again, as noted previously, it seems A-Beka officially thinks that folks with learning disabilities are just in it for the money.)

Again, it's not exactly rocket science why the University of California finds this unacceptable--especially considering that they operate a linguistics school.

And that largely does it for now. I've been working continuously since from about 6pm to about 1:10am on this; people are free to comment in the threads.

EDIT: Minor, minor edits for formatting. Never ever ever type long essays fueled by sleep deprivation and research geekdom. :3