The Lies that Bind

  • How the Christian curriculum ACE lies about science;
  • How some people are happy to submit to tyranny;
  • Wondering if it matters children are lied to about reality, and concluding that it doesn’t, given certain purposes of life;
  • And reflecting again about how the religious right’s support for Trump completely discredits their moral authority;
  • And music for today: an early film score by Hans Zimmer.

Yesterday there was an item about the lies some home-schooling parents tell about public schools. Today we have an item about the lies taught by a popular Christian homeschooling curriculum.

Hemant Mehta, Friendly Atheist, 31 May 2023: How Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) denies science and cheats students, subtitled “New research highlights how the ACE curriculum leaves students with no real understanding of science, including evolution and climate change”

It’s hardly surprising that one of the most popular programs geared at the Christian homeschooling crowd is tragically failing students when it comes to evolution and climate change. Now two researchers have now documented just how egregious the problem is. Even more frightening is that this misinformation may be used at taxpayer-funded schools.

According to a new paper published in the Cultural Studies of Science Education by Dr. Jenna Scaramanga and Professor Michael Reiss of University College London, “both the teaching methods and content… place students at an educational disadvantage.”

The culprit here is Accelerated Christian Education (ACE), said to be “possibly the largest global supplier of creationist education” and “used in schools in more than 140 countries.” (Scaramanga, especially, is known for her criticism of the ACE curriculum.)

The article goes on and on with examples of the ludicrous things children are taught, and the kinds of test questions they are supposed to answer. Sample correct answer: “They have chosen to reject God and His Word.” Pretty much a standard solution for anyone who understands anything that does not match a literal reading of the Bible.

The curriculum is full of nonsensical claims about evolution apparently intended to deliberately confuse kids, with superficially plausible, but easily explainable, objections to evolution. (Example: If fish evolved into frogs, fish should no longer exist, but obviously they do. No no no. That’s not how it works — and the writers of this curriculum should know better. It’s like saying, if the world is round, why doesn’t all the water fall off?)

I often wonder if students of such curricula ever realize they’ve been, er, bamboozled.

Another angle on issues like this, that doesn’t directly concern evidence or “evidence,” is to consider what either side would have to gain by misrepresenting of what is easily identifiable as reality. What are nefarious reasons would scientists have to trick people into believing the world isn’t flat, or that the world is more than 6000 years old, or that evolution happened, or that climate change is real, if none of those things are real? What is their purpose? What do they gain? It’s far easier to understand the reasons religious people have to deny science: because scientific discoveries reveal that the simple stories in their holy books simply aren’t true. And communities are bound together by common culture that usually includes devotion to one or another holy book. That’s human nature (as understood by modern psychology). Ironically, the more fantastic the beliefs of religion are, that bind communities together, the better they indicate loyalty to that community. Lies that bind, you might say.

(I’ve written about ACE before, back in 2014, and wondered why it doesn’t bother Christians that they are, in effect, bearing false witness.)


I’ve noted before my impression that many people (conservatives) *want* to be told what to do, want simple answers to every problem, so they can live life feeling good about themselves without having to learn anything, or to think.

NY Times, Bret Stephens, 30 May 2023: Turkey’s Election Is a Warning About Trump

The opening para captures this point.

“The totalitarian phenomenon,” the French philosopher Jean-François Revel once noted, “is not to be understood without making an allowance for the thesis that some important part of every society consists of people who actively want tyranny: either to exercise it themselves or — much more mysteriously — to submit to it.”

And this helps understand why so many people out there would still vote for that vile person who has already been president once.

It’s an observation that should help guide our thinking about the re-election this week of Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey. And it should serve as a warning about other places — including the Republican Party — where autocratic leaders, seemingly incompetent in many respects, are returning to power through democratic means.

With examples of what Erdogan has done. And reason why some people vote for him.

“We love him,” explained a resident quoted in The Economist. “For the call to prayer, for our homes, for our headscarves.”

That last line is telling, and not just because it gets to the importance of Erdogan’s Islamism as the secret of his success. It’s a rebuke to James Carville’s parochially American slogan, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Actually, no: It’s also God, tradition, values, identity, culture and the resentments that go with each. Only a denuded secular imagination fails to notice that there are things people care about more than their paychecks.

These are the same motivations that lead the religious to lie about science. (Denial and disappearance of science is also happening in India; Here’s a link about it.)

And then about Trump. The article ends,

Which brings us to another would-be strongman in his palace in Palm Beach. In November, I was sure that Donald Trump was, as I wrote, “finally finished.” How could any but his most slavish followers continue to support him after he had once again cost Republicans the Senate? Wouldn’t this latest proof of losing be the last straw for devotees who had been promised “so much winning”?

Silly me. The Trump movement isn’t built on the prospect of winning. It’s built on a sense of belonging: of being heard and seen; of being a thorn in the side to those you sense despise you and whom you despise in turn; of submission for the sake of representation. All the rest — victory or defeat, prosperity or misery — is details.

Erdogan defied expectation because he understood this. He won’t be the last populist leader to do so.

Which is consistent with one of my theses: politics and religion are not about truth or reality. They are about tribalism, and ultimately, survival in the evolutionary sense — lies that bind. This is ironic since the religious, in particular, don’t believe in evolution.

And it’s consistent with my recommendation that the road to wisdom — to understanding reality — is to avoid the crowds of politics and sports and religion, and learn to think, discover, and learn, for yourself.

But it’s also consistent that within any community, the wisest ones know the simplistic stories of patriotism and religion aren’t actually really true, but go along with them, for the sake of the community.

And finally of course there’s the issue about whether it *matters* that children are being lied to about reality. It doesn’t, if the only purpose in life is to maintain the race, maintain the community, maintain the faith.

And if I haven’t already said this: more than anything else, the support by the religious right for a person like Donald Trump completely discredits their moral authority about anything and everything. Based on their teaching, you might think that they would condemn Trump. But they don’t. Their religious platitudes are — as I perceive it — overridden by the tribal priorities described above, as they do not realize.


An early Hans Zimmer score, from 1995, before he became famous. I discovered it about the time I first went to Hawaii, and so identify this music with my visit there. I’ve never seen the movie, or been to Rangoon. But this music evokes the exoticism of Hawaii, for me.

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