Syfy Insider Exclusive

Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive videos, sweepstakes, and more!

Sign Up For Free to View
SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

Give Me An “F”! Creationists Fail a Fourth Grade Science Test

By Phil Plait

This came out a while back, but I wanted to see if it could be verified before writing about it. Via Elise Andrew at âI Fâing Love Scienceâ on Facebook, I see it has in fact been verified. According to, this is the first page of an actual âscienceâ quiz given to fourth graders at a school in South Carolina.

Once youâve stopped screaming in rage and/or pounding your head against the desk, letâs discuss this.

To start with, this photo is real, and was part of a quiz given at Blue Ridge Christian Academy, a private religious school. Since the school is private, and not public, this is not a violation of the First Amendment (unlike the flagrant stomping of the Constitution going on in Louisiana). In other words, this school can legally teach this. My complaint, therefore, is not a legal one.

My complaint is one of simple reality. Young-Earth creationism is wrong, and itâs certainly not science. For that reason alone, ideally it shouldnât be taught as truth anywhere, let alone a science class.

And itâs not just wrong, itâs spectacularly wrong. Itâs the wrongiest wrong that ever wronged. We know the Earth is old, we know the Universe is even older, and we know evolution is true. Any one of these things is enough to show creationism is wrong. In fact, all of science shows creationism is wrong, because creationism goes against pretty much every founding principle of and every basic fact uncovered by science. If creationism were true, then essentially no modern invention would work. Since youâre reading this on a computer, that right there is proof enough.

Mind you, things can be wrong and still scientific. Itâs the nature of the scientific process that mistakes are made. The difference, though, is that in science we learn from those mistakes. We know that if some explanation we have for a phenomenon is wrong, there must be either more to the story (and our explanation modified), or a different explanation. Creationism isnât like that. Itâs wrong in almost every possible way, yet not one thing has been learned by its purveyors.* They cleave to it even more strongly the more you point out its colossal mistakes.

In the case of this quiz, the promulgator is the truly awful group Answers in Genesis, which for years has been a font of nonsensical attacks on science and reality. Itâs not surprising to me at all they would be behind all this. You can read your fill of their shenanigans at the No Answers in Genesis website.

The thing that gets me is not the issue of legality here, nor necessarily who is promoting it. What really makes my heart sink is the reality that this is actually being taught to young children. Kids are natural scientists; they want to see and explore and categorize and ask âwhy?â until they understand everything. And we, as adults, as caretakers, have a solemn responsibility to nurture that impulse and to answer them in as honest a way as possible, encouraging them to seek more answersâand more questionsâthemselves. Thatâs how we learn.

But this? This isnât learning. Itâs indoctrination. Itâs the exact opposite of inquisitiveness: itâs children being told what the creationists want the answer to be, despite the evidence. And itâs not just that these children are being told something thatâs wrong; itâs that they are also told to simply accept it and deny the actual evidence they come across.

Dinosaurs existed long before humans? Forget it. People evolved to eat meat and plants? Forget it. Science? Math? Reality?

Forget it.

Science isnât like that at all. Itâs a method, and itâs all about curiosity, exploring, seeing what else you can find to support or falsify your ideas, seeking answers and testing them. Itâs about growing intellectually. Richard Feynman said it best: Itâs a way of making sure we arenât fooling ourselves.

This quiz is the exact, precise opposite of that.

I am deeply saddened that there are places teaching this to children. There is still hope for those kids; at some point theyâll get out into the real world and hopefully wonât have their curiosity and passion crushed by what theyâve been taught. Perhaps theyâll discover what science and reality really are. It happens; Iâve met many people who have been able to do this. But thereâs a selection bias here; those people sought me out, people who have emailed me or whom Iâve met at scientific and skeptical conferences. I canât really know what percentage of people raised creationists eventually had the scales fall form their eyes.

That is the true tragedy here. The idea of denying a child a window into the real Universe is anathema to me. But itâs routine for Answers in Genesis, and whatever âscienceâ teacher gave those children that quiz.

At, the parent of the child who took this quiz said the Blue Ridge Christian Academy was otherwise a good school, but they will keep a close eye on the science, and at the end of the year will pull their daughter out of enrollment. Good on them. And for the rest of us, let that be the lesson learned here: watch over science education very, very closely. Despite the claims, creationism is not a sound tenet of Christianity, and shouldnât be taught as one.

Itâs bad science, and bad religion.

* To be honest, Iâll admit that creationists have learned one thing: If they want to fool people into getting it taught in the classrooms in public schools, they have to disguise it. First it was âcreation scienceâ, then it was âintelligent designâ, and then it was using a âstrengths and weaknessesâ argument, all of which were clearly set up to be misleading. Itâs an interesting interpretation of the Ninth Commandment on their part.

Read more about: