Homeschooling: Protecting Freedom, Protecting Children

On Monday, the Cato Institute hosted a panel discussion about homeschooling. It was prompted by an uninformed article that was published in the Arizona Law Review. The author of that article, Professor Elizabeth Bartholet of Harvard University, was one of the four panelists. The others who joined her were Neal McCluskey and Kerry McDonald from the Cato Institute and Professor Milton Gaither from Messiah College. I encourage you to watch the entire discussion by clicking on the image above, but I cannot resist adding my own “color commentary.”

I watched the discussion live, and I appreciated the fact that all the panelists were collegial. While they all had different ideas regarding homeschooling, there were no personal attacks or insults. That can’t be said about the text comments that were being added by some of the people who were watching. According to the software, 1,100 people were watching once the introductions were over, and 2,009 were watching by the very end, which was just over an hour and a half later.

The main issue that all the panelists addressed was how much government intervention should exist when it comes to home education. Here are the ways I would summarize each panelist’s position as expressed in the discussion: Professor Bartholet thinks that parents must demonstrate that they will be effective educators and provide a safe environment before they should be allowed to homeschool. Kerry McDonald said that there really shouldn’t be any government intervention, since the government has shown that it cannot educate children well or keep them safe. Neal McCluskey said that there should be limited intervention, confined to making sure children are not being abused or neglected. However, he emphasized that this should be done through the existing criminal processes, which assume innocence until guilt is proven. Professor Gaither didn’t really offer an opinion, but said that he has been horrified by some of the news accounts of abuse done by homeschooling parents. He also gave a history of homeschooling that was a bit biased, but relatively accurate.

Continue reading “Homeschooling: Protecting Freedom, Protecting Children”

A Life Dedicated to Love

Ellen Irene Parran, who passed into her Savior’s arms on May 27, 2020. She was 91.
I meet a lot of different people. Some of them are fans, and they offer me high praise. Some of them are definitely not fans, and they offer me insults. Some of them share common interests with me, and they support me in those interests. Many of them are brothers and sisters in Christ, and they offer me love. I am sure that the vast majority of those brothers and sisters are sincere in their offer, but every once in a while, I meet a brother or sister who actually demonstrates the love of Christ to me. One of those sisters was Ellen Irene Parran. While she is now gone from this world, it will continue to be a better place because of her effect on it.

I met Sister Parran (who quickly became Mother Parran to me) because I spoke at the Creation Evidence Expo, which was organized by her son-in-law, Pastor Fredrick Boyd, Jr. of Zion Unity Baptist Church. I am sure I was introduced to her earlier, but my first memory of her was something that happened at a dinner she had prepared for the speakers. The ribs she made were the best I had ever eaten, and I went over to her and told her that. She smiled and told me that she was happy I liked them, and I turned around to go back to where I was sitting. However, she gently grabbed my shoulders, turned me around, looked me straight in my eyes, and said:

I love you Dr. Jay. Don’t you ever forget that.

It’s easy for someone to say those words, and it’s easy for me to hear them and quickly forget them. However, looking deep into Mother Parran’s eyes, it was clear that she really meant what she said. And, more importantly, she lived out those words. Whenever I saw her, whether it was because of the Expo or because I was just visiting, she would make sure that all my needs (physical, emotional, and spiritual) were being met. When my wife was diagnosed with cancer, she regularly sent me encouraging messages, assuring me that she was praying for us. In short, she lived out those words from the time she said them until the time she died.

Of course, her love was not just lavished on me. It was given to anyone who would receive it, regardless of color, creed, or nationality. I remember one time a bunch of us were sitting around a table, and during a break in the conversation, she said:

This is what the Kingdom of God looks like.

At first I didn’t understand the context, but as I looked around the table, I figured out what she meant. There were men and women with several different skin colors from several different countries, and we were all united because of our love of Jesus.

I attended her funeral on Saturday, which was called her “Homegoing Celebration,” and those words immediately came back to my mind. The church contained people with different skin colors from different countries, but we were all united by the love that she gave us, which was a result of her love for Jesus. Indeed, the sanctuary of the church that morning was an example of what God’s kingdom looks like.

As those very different people spoke about how she had changed their lives, I could not help but think 1 Corinthians 13:13:

But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Because of the way she loved others, Mother Parran is one of the greatest people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. She is gone, and I will miss her, but the power of her love has already changed the world for the better, and it will continue to do so through the people who were fortunate enough to experience it.

Yet Another Mistake Made in Climate Models

Computer models are the main source of hysteria when it comes to global warming.
(Image a montage from two sources: pixabay.com and stockunlimited.com)

When you read or listen to the news, you are faced with dire predictions about global warming, aka “climate change.” For example, ABC news states:

Global warming will be twice as severe as previous estimates indicate, according to a new study published this month in the Journal of Climate, a publication of the American Meteorological Society. The research, conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), predicts a 90% probability that worldwide surface temperatures will rise more than 9 degrees (F) by 2100, compared to a previous 2003 MIT study that forecast a rise of just over 4 degrees.

Of course, a 9 degree Fahrenheit increase in global temperature will produce catastrophic results. How did the researchers come to the startling conclusion that there is a 90% chance it will happen? They used a computer model that attempts to simulate global climate under different scenarios. The problem, of course, is that the prediction is only as good as the model.

The obvious question, then, is how good are the models? The unfortunate answer is, “Not good at all.” As Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science Dr. John Christy has stated:

On average the models warm the global atmosphere at a rate three times that of the real world. Using the scientific method we would conclude that the models do not accurately represent at least some of the important processes that impact the climate because they were unable to “predict” what has occurred. In other words, these models failed at the simple test of telling us “what” has already happened, and thus would not be in a position to give us a confident answer to “what” may happen in the future and “why.”

Why are the models so bad? Because we don’t really understand climate science well enough to model it. A recent paper by Professor of Atmospheric Science Da Yang and his graduate student, Seth Seidel, provides a crystal clear example of what I mean. The paper’s abstract begins this way:

Moist air is lighter than dry air at the same temperature, pressure, and volume because the molecular weight of water is less than that of dry air. We call this the vapor buoyancy effect. Although this effect is well documented, its impact on Earth’s climate has been overlooked.

Because of its lower molecular weight, water vapor is less dense than air at the same temperature, so air with a lot of water vapor floats in dry air at the same temperature and pressure. As the paper says, this is well documented. However, no one thought to see how that might affect the earth’s climate. Well, these two scientists decided to do just that, and based on their calculations, it actually cools the atmosphere.

Here’s a simplified explanation for why: In the tropics, we find regions of wet air and regions of dry air. At the same elevation, the regions must have roughly the same density. Otherwise, the less dense region would rise. Thus, if I have a stable region of wet air next to a stable region of dry air, the dry air must be warmer, so it has the same density as the wet air. Thus, at any given elevation, the dry regions will be the warmer regions. Well, water vapor is a potent greenhouse gas, so wet air doesn’t allow as much energy to escape from the earth as dry air. Since the dry air is warmer, there is more energy in it. That means the energy is more concentrated in the air that will allow more of it to escape. This, of course, results in the earth getting rid of more energy, which causes it to cool.

Now here’s the interesting part: the author’s calculations show that this effect becomes magnified the higher the ocean temperature. In other words, if the tropical oceans warm up, this effect will end up producing even more cooling. This is an example of a negative feedback system, where a change produces an effect that resists the change. The earth’s climate is full of negative feedback systems (see here, here, here, and here, for example). This is exactly what you expect for a well-designed system, and the earth is a very well-designed system.

In their paper, the authors state that the climate models from which dire warnings are generated have the ability to simulate this effect, but they don’t. They suggest that climate models should be adjusted to take the effect into account. Of course, I agree. Whenever we learn more about climate dynamics, the models should be updated. However, my point is much more basic: This is a well documented, well understood aspect of the atmosphere, but until now, no one has thought to see its effect on the earth’s climate. After investigation, it is found to produce negative feedback, which makes earth’s climate more resistant to change. If this well documented, well understood aspect of the earth’s atmosphere has not been properly taken into account in the climate models that are forecasting doom and gloom, how in the world can we put any faith in them?

My Review of Exploring Creation With Biology, 3rd Edition

The third edition of Exploring Creation With Biology.
The company that initially published my science textbooks has been slowly coming out with new editions, which is necessary. Science constantly changes, which means the textbooks must change as well. So far, I strongly recommend two of their new editions: The Human Body, 2nd Edition and Exploring Creation With Marine Biology, 2nd Edition. Another new edition, Exploring Creation With General Science, 3rd Edition, was not good enough for me to recommend, but I also don’t recommend against using it. Two other new editions, Exploring Creation with Chemistry, 3rd Edition and Exploring Creation With Physical Science, 3rd Edition, have so many flaws that I strongly recommend against using them. This edition belongs in a completely different category: I can recommend it for students in a classroom setting or in a homeschool co-op that has a leader who knows biology well. However, I strongly recommend against it for homeschooled students working independently.

The main reason is simple: there is way too much material in the book. Like a traditional classroom text, this book aims a firehose of facts at the students and turns it on at full pressure! There are infographics packed with facts throughout the text, modules in excess of 40 pages of content, and a single experiment that combines three experiments from the second edition of the course. Simply put, this book is too much for a typical high school student. As a result, the student needs a teacher to separate the essential material from the non-essential material. In addition, because the book packs in so much information, it cannot spend adequate space explaining things. Thus, a teacher must be there to explain the things that the book does not.

Unlike the same author’s physical science book, however, this one is not full of scientific errors. There are only three serious errors, the worst of which is this statement:

When I took high school biology in 1977, the Time magazine headline read ‘How to Survive the Coming Ice Age’ because scientists believed we were in the midst of a global cooling event.

Time never ran a magazine with that title anywhere in it. The author probably saw the Photoshopped image of Time’s April 9, 2007 cover in which the date was changed and the actual headline, “Global Warming Survival Guide,” was replaced with the false headline she mentions. While it is true that there were several scientists who feared we were heading into a global cooling event in the mid-70s, the scientific discussion was not covered much in the popular media. It was mostly confined to the scientific literature.

There are some minor errors in the book as well, such as saying that Linnaeus separated organisms into seven taxons. In fact, he used only five. The other two were added later. However, those errors are not bad and will not affect the student’s future education in any serious way.

There are some parts that will really confuse students. Not only are some topics inadequately explained, many of the figures are so small that you can’t see what you need to see. For example, in one experiment the student is supposed to use a biological key for several pictured organisms, including grape and corn plants. However, in order to use the key, they need to see the veins on the leaves, and the pictures are too small for that. The author also uses terms that I cannot find an explanation for (like epigenetics). In addition, there are times where something is presented but not explained until later. For example, one figure has the equation ATP makes ADP + P without explaining what ADP and P are until several pages later. The index is also sparse and is missing crucial formatting in certain places.

There are many things I didn’t like about the text, including the fact that like the author’s physical science course, the student text is softcover. However, those things don’t necessarily make it a bad text. They just make it a text that I don’t like. The complete review is below, including the three serious science errors I found, the 10 minor science/history errors I found, the 16 parts that I think will be confusing to students, the three things I liked, and the 15 things I didn’t like.

My Complete Review of Exploring Creation With Biology, 3rd Edition

My Review of Exploring Creation With Physical Science, 3rd Edition

The third edition of Exploring Creation With Physical Science
The company that initially published my science textbooks has been slowly coming out with new editions, which is necessary. Science constantly changes, which means the textbooks must change as well. So far, I strongly recommend two of their new editions: The Human Body, 2nd Edition and Exploring Creation With Marine Biology, 2nd Edition. Another new edition, Exploring Creation With General Science, 3rd Edition, was not good enough for me to recommend, but I also don’t recommend against using it. Another new edition, Exploring Creation with Chemistry, 3rd Edition, has so many flaws that I strongly recommend against using it. Unfortunately, I must include Exploring Creation With Physical Science, 3rd Edition in the same category. I strongly recommend against using it.

In my view, there are many, many problems with this book, but let me start with the most obvious: The student text is softcover. In my mind, this is a big step backwards. Most homeschooling families want the student text to be hardcover, because they want several children to use it over a period of many years. Softcover books do not hold up well in that kind of scenario. Of course, other companies offer their student texts in softcover, such as this one. However, the price is much lower. For Exploring Creation with Physical Science, 3rd Edition, the softcover student text sells for the same price as a hardcover student text. That simply makes no sense.

Of course, the real problem with the course isn’t the makeup of the book; it’s the content. For example, the book contradicts itself when it comes to temperature. Initially, it says that temperature is a measure of heat. That’s not true. Later on, it says that temperature is a measure of the energy of random motion in the molecules of a substance. That is correct. However, the book also says that different colors of light have different temperatures. That’s impossible, of course, since light is not composed of molecules.

This kind of self-contradiction is not limited to light. When discussing motion, the author spends quite a bit of time distinguishing between scalar quantities (which have no information regarding direction) and vector quantities (which include information about direction). She then properly identifies speed as a scalar quantity (it says how fast you are moving), while velocity is a vector quantity (it says how fast and in what direction you are moving). She then properly identifies acceleration as a vector quantity. However, she goes on to show graphs of speed versus time and states that the slope of a speed versus time graph is the acceleration. That’s contradictory. If acceleration is a vector quantity, it cannot be calculated from a graph that has only scalar quantities in it!

The author also tries to give historical context for some of the subjects that are being discussed. Unfortunately, much of the history is often seriously in error. The author claims that the works of Aristotle were lost as the Western world started using Latin instead of Greek, and they weren’t “rediscovered” until the Renaissance. Nothing could be further from the truth! John Philoponus (490-570) specifically discussed Aristotle’s work and argued against some of his ideas, as did Thomas Bradwardine (c. 1300-1349) and many others. Most importantly, Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) took great pains to integrate Aristotle’s work into Christian theology, spawning an entire scholastic philosophy called “Aristotelian Thomism.” All of that happened when the author thinks the works of Aristotle were “lost.”

In addition, this book is supposed to be for homeschooled students, but there are so many confusing discussions that I don’t see how someone learning independently could be successful. For example, the author uses units that do not cancel in equations as early as page 56 and expects the students to be able to do so. She has explained how to cancel units, but not what to do when they don’t cancel. She doesn’t explain that until page 195. As another example, she has students determine the chemical formulas for ionic compounds, which requires looking at the periodic table and determining the charge that an ion will have in that compound. She tells the student how to determine the charge of positive ions, but she doesn’t tell them how to determine the charge of negative ions. Nevertheless, the student must be able to do that to solve the problems that she expects them to solve.

If you want to read the full review, you can do so below. It catalogs the 13 serious scientific and historical errors I found as well as 20 less serious errors. None of these errors are typos or misspellings. They are all conceptual errors or factual errors. The full review also includes the 14 confusing discussions I noticed, 12 things I didn’t like but aren’t errors, and three things I just didn’t understand. It also discusses how much of this book overlaps with the book the publisher says the students should use the year before, Exploring Creation With General Science, 3rd Edition.

My Complete Review of Exploring Creation With Physical Science, 3rd Edition

Did This Bird Go Extinct and Re-Evolve? I Doubt It.

A flightless Railbird on the Aldabra atoll in the Indian Ocean (click for credit)

Over the past few days, several people have sent me articles like this one, which makes a rather fantastic claim:

The Aldabra white-throated rail bird was declared extinct, a victim of rising sea levels almost 100,000 years ago.

However, the flightless brown bird has recently been spotted – leaving scientists scratching their heads as to how – and why – the species has come back to life.

What do you conclude from reading that? The article seems to be saying that no one had ever seen this bird before; it was only known from the fossil record. Now, however, living versions of it have been seen, and how they came back from extinction is a mystery. Unfortunately, like many “science news” stories, this one distorts the science to the point that it is deceptive and misleading.

The science that is being distorted comes from a study published last year. A responsible article that describes the study can be found here. While the study and the responsible article don’t distort the science, I do think the conclusion that they draw is not the only one consistent with the data.

Let’s start with the bird that is being discussed. It’s the Aldabra white-throated rail, whose scientific name is Dryolimnas [cuvieri] aldabranus. It lives on the Aldabra atoll in the Indian Ocean and is nearly identical to white-throated rails (Dryolimnas cuvieri) found in other parts of the world, like Madagascar. However, the ones on the Aldabra atoll cannot fly, while the others can. As a result, the flightless birds on the atoll are considered a subspecies of the version that can fly.

While we cannot say for sure, the generally-accepted origin story for the Aldabra white-throated rail is that normal white-throated rails landed on the atoll, and since there were no predators there, they stayed. Since they didn’t need to fly anymore, they evolved into flightless birds over several generations. This makes sense, because when a population of organisms doesn’t need a particular biological trait, mutations can degrade those traits without affecting survivability. In addition, DNA is so incredibly well-designed that over the course of generations, it can “turn off” genes that are no longer used in order to save energy. As a result, it makes sense that these flightless birds are descendants from birds that could originally fly.

Why do these articles discuss the birds being extinct at one point? Because the authors of the scientific study looked at the fossil record of the atoll. Using scientifically-irresponisble dating methods, they came to the conclusion that the atoll was completely underwater about 140,000 years ago. When they looked at fossils they interpreted to be older than 140,000 years, they found two bones that seem identical to the corresponding bones in the Aldabra white-throated rails that currently live on the atoll. Thus, they conclude that these flightless birds lived on the atoll before it went completely underwater.

Well, since the birds couldn’t fly, the authors assume that they all died when the atoll was underwater. However, in fossils that they interpret as being deposited after ocean levels decreased and the atoll was no longer underwater, they found another bone that looks similar to the corresponding bones in white-throated rails that can fly. However, it is heavier and more robust than what is found in those birds, but still lighter than what is found in the flightless Aldabra white-throated rails. In other words, it seems to be “in between” the bone of a normal white-throated rail and a flightless white-throated rail. To them, that gives “irrefutable evidence” (their words) that the Aldabra white-throated rails evolved twice: once before the atoll went underwater, and once after.

While their interpretation of the evidence makes sense and is consistent with all the known data, their case is certainly not “irrefutable.” First, you have to assume that they are interpreting the fossil record correctly. There is a lot of evidence to indicate the earth isn’t anywhere close to 140,000 years old, and if that evidence is correct, then their entire explanation is wrong. Also, even if the earth is as old as these scientists want to believe, the authors’ explanation is not the only one consistent with the data. We know that flightless animals can move from place to place on floating mats of vegetation. This is called “rafting,” and it is used by both evolutionists and creationists to explain the worldwide distribution of certain animals. If the atoll flooded like the authors think, the flightless birds could have survived by rafting. What about that one bone that is “in between” the two subspecies? There are natural variations in all bones. A “more robust” bone from a normal white-throated rail can be explained by natural variation within a population of normal white-throated rails.

The main reason I am writing about this is not to argue with the authors. It’s to point out the deceptiveness of articles like the one I quoted at the beginning of the post. As I have said many times before, do not believe the things you read in the popular press when it comes to science. Most “science journalists” are profoundly ill-equipped to understand science, and usually quite poor journalists as well.

Lichen Hid This Secret From Scientists for More Than 140 Years!

The colorful splotches on this rock are lichens, which we now know are a mutualistic association between THREE different organisms (photo copyright Kathleen J. Wile)

For more than 140 years, scientists have taught that lichens are the result of a relationship between a fungus and an alga (singular of algae). The fungus gives the lichen most of its visible characteristics and provides a protected place for the alga to grow. In exchange, the alga does photosynthesis and shares what it makes with the fungus. In other words, the fungus provides housing for the alga, and the alga provides food for the fungus. This is a form of symbiosis, in which organisms of different species exist in a long-term relationship. Since both organisms benefit in this symbiosis, it is called a mutualistic symbiosis, one of the most fascinating aspects of the biological world (see here, here, here, here, here, here, and here, for example).

Despite the fact that lichens have been studied for more than 140 years, there has always been one nagging mystery: The relationship cannot be recreated in a lab. Lichens can be found in all sorts of ecosystems, but no matter what you do with the fungus and the alga, you cannot get them to form the same relationship in a laboratory setting. A recent study might explain why. The authors of the study analyzed two different species of lichen, Bryoria fremontii and Bryoria tortuosa. They are easily distinguished from each other, since the first is dark brown, while the second is yellow. However, recent studies have indicated that the fungus and alga in each are the same. How is it that two lichens can be so different when their fungus and alga are the same? That’s what the authors wanted to find out.

They decided to look at the specific genes that were actually being used by the two species. After all, even if both lichens have the same fungus DNA and the same alga DNA, it’s possible that one lichen uses one set of genes more than the other lichen, and perhaps that could explain the differences between them. However, their initial analysis indicated that both lichens used essentially the same set of genes. That’s when they decided to think “outside the box.”

When doing a study like this, you have to decide what gene products you are looking for. They had limited themselves to the genes found in the fungus and the alga that were known to exist in the lichens. They decided to change their analysis to include all known fungus genes. When they did that, they found that genes from an entirely different fungus were also being used by the lichens! That fungus is a type of yeast (specifically from genus Cyphobasidium), which is very different from the fungus that was already known. The authors did some very difficult microscope work and confirmed the presence of the yeast in the lichen. In addition, they did the same genetic tests on many different species of lichen, and they found the yeast genes in the vast majority of the lichens that they studied. As a result, the authors suggest that the vast majority of lichens are made up of at least three different species. Here is how they conclude their paper:

The assumption that stratified lichens are constructed by a single fungus with differentiated cell types is so central to the definition of the lichen symbiosis that it has been codified into lichen nomenclature. This definition has brought order to the field but may also have constrained it by forcing untested assumptions about the true nature of the symbiosis. We suggest that the discovery of Cyphobasidium yeasts should change expectations about the potential diversity and ubiquity of organisms involved in one of the oldest known and most recognizable symbioses in science.

While this discovery in and of itself is remarkable, it is also an excellent illustration of how assumptions can put blinders on science. Why haven’t these yeasts been discovered in more than 140 years of lichen study? Partly, because they are well-hidden. To confirm the presence of the yeast in the lichen required some rather detailed microscopic analysis. In addition, when you are doing genetic analysis, you have to decide what to search for, which means your results will be limited by that decision. However, here’s the main reason: No one was looking for them. Since the assumption that lichens are mutualistic symbioses between two different species was so ingrained in biological thought, no one ever considered looking for a third, until these authors decided to “think outside the box.”

I wonder how many more scientific discoveries are waiting on other scientists who are willing question old paradigms and look for things that no one else has been looking for!

Another Confirmed Creationist Prediction

This was one of the first depictions of Neanderthal man, based on the work of paleontologist Marcellin Boule.

In 1908 a nearly-complete fossil skeleton was found in La Chapelle-aux-Saints, France. Marcellin Boule, professor at the Museum of Natural History in France and director of the French Institute of Human Paleontology, analyzed the skeleton in detail, eventually publishing his findings in the scientific literature. Before his scientific publication, however, a weekly French newspaper (L’Illustration) published the drawing above, which was based on Boule’s work. The drawing was later published in the Illustrated London News. As you can see from the drawing, Neanderthal man was interpreted to be a sub-human creature that was probably one of the steps in the hypothetical evolutionary process that led from an ape-like creature to modern humans.

As time went on, more discoveries were made that indicated this view was far from correct. Artifacts were found indicating that Neanderthal man buried his dead, used fire, made art, etc. This somewhat elevated Neanderthals from sub-human to almost-human. When DNA analysis strongly suggested that Neanderthals and what some call “modern humans” interbred, it became increasingly clear that from a biological point of view, Neanderthals were, in fact, fully human. Nevertheless, most evolutionists still consider Neanderthals to have lower intelligence than modern humans.

Throughout this entire time, creationists have seen Neanderthals as human in every way, including their intelligence. As early as 1925, creationist Harry Rimmer wrote a pamphlet entitled “Monkeyshines: Facts, Fallacies, and Fables Concerning Evolution.” In it, he says that drawings like the one given above are incorrect. He goes on to state:

At any rate, these reconstructions of the Neanderthal man do not show him the way his skeleton really was. He also was a true man.

This has been a common theme throughout the young-earth creationist literature. Neanderthal man was truly human in every sense of the word. A recent paper confirms this long-standing creationist prediction, while at the same time falsifying the evolution-inspired idea that Neanderthal man was of low intelligence. The paper analyzed a cord that was found on a stone tool which was made by Neanderthals. While the cord was not part of the stone tool, it was stuck to the tool and was deposited either before or with it. The authors show that the cord was made of three strands twisted around each other, which indicates sophisticated intelligence. As they say, it

“…is the oldest direct evidence of fibre technology to date. Its production demonstrates a detailed ecological understanding of trees and how to transform them into entirely different functional substances. Fibre technology would have been an important part of everyday life and would have influenced seasonal scheduling and mobility. Furthermore, the production of cordage implies a cognitive understanding of numeracy and context sensitive operational memory. Given the ongoing revelations of Neanderthal art and technology, it is difficult to see how we can regard Neanderthals as anything other than the cognitive equals of modern humans.

As I have said before, it is an exciting time to be a young-earth creationist. The true test of a scientific theory is confirmation of its predictions, especially when those predictions are at odds with a competing theory. In this case (and many others), young-earth creationism is showing that it is a robust, successful scientific theory.

Student Suicides Peak When School Is In Session

Suicides among children increase when they are in school. One factor might be the peer group to which school exposes students, which can be incredibly cruel. (image from stockunlimited.com)

In response to a Harvard Law Professor’s evidence-free assertion that there should be a presumptive ban on homeschooling, Ideological Diversity (a student group at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government) hosted an online conference entitled “The Disinformation Campaign Against Homeschooling.” You can watch it here. I attended the conference, and it lived up to the student organization’s name. There were seven speakers, and they all come from very different ideological perspectives. There was one Evangelical Christian, for example, while two of the other speakers specifically noted that they are not religious in any way. Some were conservative, while others were liberal. One speaker even noted that while he agreed with the other speakers when it comes to homeschooling, he strongly disagreed with them on many other matters.

All of the speakers were decidedly anti-school, but for different reasons. One suggested that the school system we have today is institutionalized child abuse. Another suggested it is the result of government overreach. Another suggested that it had never been shown to produce desirable results. Another highlighted that when it comes to the most basic outcomes, its results are horrible. Since I have been involved with the homeschooling movement since the early 1990s (because my best university students were homeschool graduates), I had heard all of those things before. Someone hearing them for the first time, however, might be shocked by the degree to which some of the speakers denounced what most people consider a normal part of a person’s childhood.

While most of the speakers covered material with which I was already familiar, one of them (Dr. Peter Gray, research professor at Boston College) focused on something I had never heard before: The suicide rate for children is twice as high when school is in session than when it is not in session. This is particularly striking, since Dr. Gray says that for people out of school, there is no difference between the rate of suicide in the winter and the rate of suicide in the summer. He noted that lots of people talk about suicide among students, and they discuss all sorts of different causes, but school is hardly ever mentioned.

Since I had never heard this before, I decided to look into it, and several studies confirm Dr. Gray’s statement. One of the more disturbing studies I found was published three years ago. It looked at hospitalization in children’s hospitals for thoughts of suicide (SI – suicide ideation) or suicide attempts (SA). It covered 2008-2015, and the results are very clear. Consider, for example, Figure 2 from the study:

Notice that even among 5-11 year-olds, thoughts of suicide and suicide attempts peak when school is in session and drop when school is out of session. It seems to me that anyone who is concerned about the welfare of children should be very worried about this clear correlation. However, most people (including myself as of three days ago) seem to be totally unaware of it.

Now remember, correlation does not mean causation. School might not be the cause of the increase in child suicides, suicide attempts, and thoughts of suicide. It might be something else that just happens to be correlated with the academic year. However, unless someone is actually willing to look specifically at the question of whether or not school is to blame, we will never know.

Another excerpt from Science in the Atomic Age

God designed creation so that almost everything it needs is recycled. Only sunlight must be continually added to satisfy the needs of both producers and consumers. (Image copyright Shutterstock.com/Sakurra)

I am putting the finishing touches on my 7th/8th grade book Science in the Atomic Age (which should be available for purchase in June), and I wanted to post another excerpt from the book. The excerpt I posted previously comes from a section about the brain. This one comes from an earlier chapter, where I discuss plants.

By the time the students reach this point in the course, they know that producers are organisms which make their own food (usually through photosynthesis), and consumers must eat other organisms for food. They also know how to interpret chemical equations and the specific chemical equation for photosynthesis. In addition, I have just shown them the chemical equation for the process by which consumers burn their food for energy and have pointed out that it is the opposite of the chemical equation for photosynthesis. Here is the discussion that follows:

In other words, producers like plants use water and carbon dioxide to make glucose and oxygen, and consumers then use that glucose and oxygen to make carbon dioxide and water. So producers are feeding us, and we take what the producers make and then produce the chemicals they need to make what we need! In this sense, at least, consumers are the opposites of producers.

This is a real testimony to God’s power and ingenuity. He not only created the producers to feed the consumers, He also designed the consumers so that when they use what the producers made, they give the producers what is needed so that the producers can make more food. Now, of course, the sun plays its role, too. It provides the energy the producers need in order to do photosynthesis in the first place.

This is all summed up in the illustration above. The sun shines light on the earth. Producers absorb that light in the chloroplasts of their cells and use it, along with carbon dioxide and water, to make glucose and oxygen. Consumers then take that glucose and oxygen and use them to make energy for themselves. This ends up making carbon dioxide and water, which can be used by the chloroplasts in the producers (along with more energy from the sun) to make more glucose and oxygen. As a result, the only constant input needed is energy from the sun. Everything else just keeps getting recycled between producers and consumers!

This Balance Is Even More Amazing

The balance between producers and consumers, as illustrated in the drawing above, is amazing. However, we need to be aware that it is often oversimplified. I have heard many educators say, “Plants make food and oxygen, while animals use food and oxygen.” That is true, but it is oversimplified. Plants do make food and oxygen. It happens when they are doing photosynthesis. However, they also use food and oxygen.

Does that statement surprise you? It might, but if you think about it, the statement makes a lot of sense. After all, why are plants doing photosynthesis? Because they need to make food for themselves, right? Well, what does the plant do with that food? It burns that food for energy, according to the equation I showed you earlier. What does that equation say? It says oxygen and C6H12O6 are reactants. That means they are used up. So plants not only use carbon dioxide and water to make glucose and oxygen, but when it is time for them to burn their food, they must use glucose and oxygen to make carbon dioxide and water.

Now wait a minute. If plants end up using the glucose and oxygen they make through photosynthesis, how are we able to use it? Because of this important fact: Plants make a lot more food and oxygen than they ever need. If plants only made the food that they need, they would end up using it and all the oxygen they made, and there would be nothing for consumers to eat or breathe. However, plants have been designed to make much more food than they will ever need. That means they also make more oxygen than they will ever use. That way, there is food and oxygen for consumers.

This is a very, very important design feature that many people don’t appreciate. In order for us (and most consumers) to survive, it’s not enough that producers like plants exist. They must not only exist, but they must do a lot more work than just keeping themselves alive. They must overproduce food and oxygen so that there is plenty for the consumers. Thus, the proper way to describe the balance between plants and animals is, “Plants make food and oxygen, but they also use it. However, they make more food and oxygen than they need, so that animals can use the rest.”