"Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)
Elliott and the friends with whom he recorded in middle school in Texas (photo courtesy of Dan Pickering)
Accelerated Christian Education is a fundamentalist school curriculum used in a claimed 6,000 schools and 145 countries. Despite the name, education is actually second to its stated primary purpose, which is “to diligently teach our children to love the Lord in every sphere of their lives, with all their hearts, all their souls, and all their minds,” according to its website.
ACE explicitly says its intention is that students should not have any knowledge of anything contrary to the Bible. In practice, students are taught gross distortions and misrepresentations of mainstream science, like these 33 bizarre multiple choice questions from the ACE coursework. Here’s a look at the some of the blatant mistruths ACE teaches.
Science PACE (Packet of Accelerated Christian Education) 1099 contains this priceless wisdom:
Some scientists speculate that Noah took small or baby dinosaurs on the Ark…. are dinosaurs still alive today? With some recent photographs and testimonies of those who claimed to have seen one, 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.
This caused a media storm when it was revealed that ACE schools would be eligible for Louisiana’s school voucher program. Earlier this year it was reported that ACE had removed the Loch Ness Monster claim, but this is only the case outside of the United States. The information which replaces Nessie for international students is scarcely any better:
Pictures of dinosaurs have been discovered in ancient rock carvings and paintings. A reptile that could be an allosaur or a tyrannosaur is etched on the walls of Rattlesnake Canyon in Colorado. African bushmen painted pictures of other dinosaur-like creatures with pictures of a hippopotamus, giraffe, and elephant on the walls of a cave near Harare, Zimbabwe. These drawings made by man are an indication of the possibility that dinosaurs coexisted with man.
Chinese, Egyptian, and Irish stories of dragons may also have arisen from the stories of men who saw dinosaurs and passed on their descriptions to later generations.
So Nessie doesn’t disprove evolution, but cave paintings and legends about dragons do. Sadly for ACE, even Fox News won’t give that claim any credence.
The sun, as everybody knows, works by nuclear fusion. Unfortunately, ACE has a pet theory, outlined on pages 7-9 of Science 1096 (a PACE devoted entirely to refuting evolution, packed with misinformation and distortions of the truth). In short, these creationists want to prove that the sun is shrinking. If the sun is shrinking at a constant rate, then billions of years ago it would have swallowed up the earth. This, they say, proves that the universe must be young.
Unfortunately for them, the sun is not shrinking. That’s because, contrary to their assumptions, the sun is not a massive gas boiler gradually shrinking as it burns fuel. It’s a fusion reactor. This doesn’t fit their model, so they outright deny the truth:
The nuclear fusion theory of how the sun emits heat and light is an invention of evolution scientists… All other theories require the sun to use up all its energy sooner than the evolutionists’ invented timetable would allow.
3. Japanese Whaling Boat Found a Dinosaur
From the same page as the Loch Ness Monster claim comes this:
A Japanese fishing vessel brought up the decomposing body of a dinosaurlike sea creature off the coast of New Zealand. Caught at a depth of 900 feet, the creature weighed 4,000 pounds, measured 32 feet in length, and was seen and photgraphed by the crew members. The animal could not be matched with any living species but certainly resembles a supposedly extinct species of dinosaur.
That quote was placed alongside this picture.
Looks very dinosaur-y, no? Well, yes, but it wasn’t a dinosaur. It was a decaying basking shark; that’s just what they look like when they rot a bit. There was a lot of fuss about this when it happened, in 1977, before scientists got on the case and established what was going on through tissue samples. You can read all about it here.
Here’s the thing: As I said, this happened in 1977. Scientific evidence that it was a shark had been presented in 1978. So when did ACE write a PACE strongly implying this was a dinosaur (and saying it couldn’t be matched with any living species)? 1989! They kept it through subsequent revisions in 1995 and 2001; it remains in American editions today. This is utter mendacity.
Anyway, even if dinosaurs were found alive today, that wouldn’t disprove evolution. As a University of Sussex lecturer wrote to the TES, it would just mean we have to rewrite some timelines.
4. Evolution Has Been Discredited
Not “there are flaws/ gaps in the theory of evolution,” or “evolution is just one theory” — those normal Creationist arguments are bad enough. No, ACE PACEs say on multiple occasions that evolution is impossible.
That’s not quite true though, is it?
5. Humans Footprints Found Beside Dino Tracks
There is a claim that fossilized human footprints have been found alongside dinosaur tracks in the bed of the Paluxy River, Texas. Well, I’ll just let ACE pick up the story.
“Biblical and scientific evidence seems to indicate that men and dinosaurs lived at the same time…. Fossilized tracks in the bed of the Paluxy River near Glen Rose, Texas, also give evidence that men and dinosaurs existed simultaneously. Fossilized human footprints and three-toed dinosaur tracks occur in the same rock stratum…. That dinosaurs existed with humans is an important discovery disproving the evolutionists’ theory that dinosaurs lived 70 million years before man. God created dinosaurs on the sixth day. He created man later the same day.” (ACE, Science 1099, p. 29.)
But that’s OK. ACE wouldn’t lie, would it? It was probably discovered that they were a hoax after the PACEs went into print, right?
Nope. By 1986, even the Institute for Creation Research had given up on the Paluxy prints. This PACE went into print in 1989. It’s also mentioned in Science 1096, first copyright 1986, and still found in the current version (last updated 2002).
So there it is. Accelerated Christian Education: written by people who don’t care about the truth.
Heatmiser publicity shot (L-R: Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson, Neil Gust, Elliott Smith) (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott and JJ Gonson (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
"Stray" 7-inch, Cavity Search Records (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott's Hampshire College ID photo, 1987
Elliott with "Le Domino," the guitar he used on "Roman Candle" (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Full "Roman Candle" record cover (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott goofing off in Portland (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Heatmiser (L-R: Elliott Smith, Neil Gust, Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson)(courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
The Greenhouse Sleeve -- Cassette sleeve from Murder of Crows release, 1988, with first appearance of Condor Avenue (photo courtesy of Glynnis Fawkes)
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