"On what day did God make dinosaurs?"
This question, among others relating to the biblical creation story, was featured on a purported fourth-grade science test at a private Christian school in South Carolina. A photo of the test titled “Dinosaurs: Genesis and the Gospel” went viral after an angry father whose daughter attends the school, found it and posted it online.
The two-page test poses questions such as, “What is the History Book of the Universe?” and if dinosaurs lived with people.
The 10-year-old girl, who had a perfect score, said that according to the school’s biblical teachings, dinosaurs were the size of sheep and that a global flood created fossils.
“I didn’t know this was being taught to her until we heard a radio commercial together about the Discover the Dinosaurs exhibit,” the unidentified father wrote to Snopes.com. When the commercial stated that dinosaurs were 65 million years old, his daughter said they were only four thousand years old.
“When I corrected her, she snapped back, ‘Were you there?’”
Blue Ridge Christian Academy is believed to have administered the test to its fourth-grade students. The private Christian school in Landrum, S.C., follows a creation-based science curriculum, according to the school’s website.
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Slate’s Phil Plait points out that because the school is private, it’s legally allowed to teach this curriculum.
“Young-earth creationism is wrong, and it’s certainly not science,” Plait writes in reaction to the quiz. “This isn’t learning. It’s indoctrination. It’s the exact opposite of inquisitiveness: it’s children being told what the creationists want the answer to be, despite the evidence.”
Young-earth creationism teaches that the Earth is 6,000-10,000 years old. Believers reject the Big Bang theory and other catastrophic occurrences that scientists believe created such geological marvels as the Grand Canyon in Arizona. They also accept a literal interpretation of the first book in the Christian bible, Genesis. They believe humans, plants and animals were created by god and appeared in their present forms rather than through a lengthy process of evolution.
Christian groups have defended the quiz.
In a blog post written by Ken Ham, a young-earth creationist, he explains that the teacher showed students a DVD where he teaches history with a special emphasis on dinosaurs from a biblical perspective. The test was handed out afterward.
Ham points out that the angry father who posted the test online had consented to sending his child to a Christian school.
“The parent, like all parents who have children enrolled at this academy, had signed a statement, which acknowledged an understanding that sending their child to this Christian school would mean they would be taught biblical Christianity.”
He called the quiz images an attack by atheists and warned his readers that “the atheists want your children.” He added, “They are aggressively trying to demonize and marginalize Christians in their attempts to recruit your children for atheism or secularism.”
Karl Giberson, a science and religion scholar, who blogged on the creationism vs. evolution debate for the Huffington Post, wrote:
“The young earth creationist worldview is couched in a larger theological framework that takes ‘spiritual warfare’ seriously. One strategy that creationists have employed successfully is to argue that they are on the ‘good’ side, from which it follows that those who oppose them are on the side of ‘evil.’”
Young-earth creationism is one of several theories surrounding Earth's foundation, and not every creationist theory rejects evolution, says Eugenie C. Scott, the executive director for the National Center for Science Education, a not-for-profit organization based in Oakland, Calif., that says it provides information and resources for those working to keep evolution and climate science in public school science education.
As for the father who posted images of the creationist quiz online, he says that his daughter will be attending a different school next year.
“I have since taught my daughter differently, but I am sure she is confused now and plan to make sure she understands that teachers are people too and can be factually wrong,” he says.