I think I know something about mythical creatures. I am one. The difference is: we all know that. (More)

Yes, I admit it. I’m a mythical creature. A fictional character. Oh sure, there are photos of me, like the one over there on the left. And that’s a real photo, of a real red squirrel. He looks like he’s making a point during a speech, but you’ll notice he doesn’t have a Blewberry. He’s also not wearing a class war correspondent’s vest, though I don’t usually wear that except when I’m on assignment. Then all those pockets for my Blewberry and macadamias are very handy.

It’s actually kind of nice being a mythical creature. For example, if I were a real red squirrel, I wouldn’t live very long. Our average lifespan is three years, although we can live up to ten. There would also be a 50/50 chance that at least one of my three children – Regis, Nancy, or Michelle – would not have survived their first year. I wouldn’t be researching a thesis on 21st Century Political Nuttitude because, so far as we know, red squirrels can’t read or write.

I don’t have to worry about any of those limitations, precisely because I’m a mythical creature. A fictional character, like Minnie and her mother Maddie, the lake monsters in a recurring series of Tuesday’s Tales. Maddie is very loosely based on Nessie, the mythical Loch Ness monster. While our Lake Madeline is fictional, Loch Ness is real. As for Nessie herself, well, she keeps a diary … but there is no conclusive evidence that she exists.

That absence of conclusive evidence isn’t a problem if for children who attend some Christian schools. Those children will learn that Nessie exists, presented as a undisputed fact:

One ACE textbook called Biology 1099, Accelerated Christian Education Inc reads: “Are dinosaurs alive today? Scientists are becoming more convinced of their existence.

“Have you heard of the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland? ‘Nessie’ for short has been recorded on sonar from a small submarine, described by eyewitnesses, and photographed by others. Nessie appears to be a plesiosaur.”

Another claim taught is that a Japanese whaling boat once caught a dinosaur.

The Japanese whaling boat did not catch a dinosaur. It caught a partially-rotted basking shark, as confirmed by tissue analysis. But ACE science textbooks don’t let actual science get in the way of a good myth: that a divine being created the universe, exactly as described in the book of Genesis, roughly 6000 years ago. To ‘prove’ that, the ACE folks use Nessie, the Japanese-caught not-a-dinosaur, a ‘theory’ that the sun is not powered by nuclear fusion and is shrinking too fast to be more than 6000 years old, supposed human footprints found among dinosaur remains, and a whole pile of other stuff that – properly aged – makes wonderful garden fertilizer.

How bad are the ACE textbooks? As Casey Luskin told The Christian Post, “Anytime you’re invoking Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster as evidence for your position, that’s not a very good route to go.”

Luskin is a research coordinator at the Discovery Institute. That’s the same Discovery Institute that encouraged the Dover Pennsylvania School District to teach intelligent design, a program that was rejected by a federal court as state-sponsored religion in violation the First Amendment Establishment Clause. In The Christian Post, Luskin added:

I personally believe that there should be freedom in education. If a private school wants to teach something, they should be allowed to teach it…. Now, that being said, you have to understand that a public university, they’re going to have certain admission standards, and they may or may not agree with what a private school is going to do.

But what if the ‘private’ school is funded by government? That’s not an idle question, as Louisiana recently passed a bill that allows school vouchers to be used at private religious schools, including the Eternity Christian Academy, a school that uses the ACE textbooks. In a time when a Google search for {public school funding crisis} yields 19 million hits from all over the U.S., you might think it odd to divert state education money to schools whose science classes teach religious myths.

This isn’t about the quality of education, as one of the schools approved to receive vouchers has no library, and doesn’t have enough classrooms and teachers for the new students. This isn’t about religious freedom, as Louisiana legislators balked when an Islamic school applied for vouchers. No, this is about state-sponsored Christianity, and Louisiana’s religious school voucher program will likely go the way of the Dover School Board’s intelligent design program.

When a federal court overturns the program, we’ll doubtless hear ranting and railing against “activist liberal judges,” which are almost as common as Nessie.

Mythical creatures make for good stories. But “good stories” are not the same as “good science.” There’s a reason I’m not in the BPI Fizzix Department.

Good day and good nuts.

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