I've already covered the intro, human transitionals and Noah's flood portions of my sister's school creationism notes. Next up is dinosaurs, dating methods and the age of the earth. But her notes also included a printout of an article by Brian Thomas called "No Fruit Fly Evolution Even after 600 Generations," which can be found here. He claims that no evolution was observed in three long-term scientific experiments involving bacteria and fruit flies. In doing so, he blatantly misrepresents their findings; it's hard to tell if he's lying or just really dumb. Here is one response, but I'll summarize the article's errors below.
In the first experiment, the scientists collected mutant stains of fruit flies in order to identify the genes for body development (which turned out to be similar to corresponding genes in other animals in a way that supports evolution). They were trying to get deformed fly embryos, yet Thomas falsely says they wanted to "document...evolution in action," and accidentally ended up with deformities, which showed "that fruit flies could not evolve." Next Thomas claims that the E. coli in the Lenski experiment were "hobbled by accumulated mutations, and the only changes that occurred were degenerative." No evidence is provided for this, and in fact the E. coli evolved several useful features, including the ability to breed 75% faster and to eat citrate.
Finally, there's the titular "600 generation" experiment. Scientists succeeded in getting fruit flies to develop 20% more quickly in the human equivalent of just 12,000 years, although some other traits were negatively affected. Thomas complains that the genes had not yet become "fixed" in the population, and though he mentions the authors' suggestion that not enough time may have elapsed for this to occur, he doesn't actually respond to this possibility (plus, genes may not need to be fixed in sexually reproducing populations at all). Overall, the article is a hopeless mess of confusion, mistakes and baseless assertions.
Now then, on to the notes.
It's not clear whether the teacher thinks actual winged, fire-breathing dragons have existed in the recent past, or just dinosaurs. On the one hand, the notes mention that the word "dragon" was used a few centuries ago to refer to dinosaurs—a fair point. But then they turn around and cite Isaiah 14:29 and its "fiery flying serpent" as evidence. They're really sending mixed messages about precisely what level of crazy they're willing to endorse.
Notes: Post-flood dinosaurs went extinct due to climate and human hunting.
Answer: I find it highly doubtful that well over 1,000 species—covering a wide range of sizes and niches (including air, land and sea)—could have died out that fast.
N: There are many stories about dragons, including Bible references (note: KJV).
A: And? There are also stories about Bigfoot, Nessie, krakens, UFOs and so on. Heck, there are entire fields of pseudoscience called cryptozoology and ufology. Are those things all real because there are stories about them? (Also, dragon myths were likely inspired by actual dinosaur fossils, just as giant squids inspired kraken myths.)
N: In Daniel 14:22, Daniel kills a dragon the Babylonians were worshipping.
A: This verse isn't even in the Bible. It's a later addition.
N: A dictionary from 1946 called dragons "rare" rather than "mythological."
A: Uh... huh. So 60-odd years ago there were still a few dragons hanging around? Is this for real? Do the people teaching this have brain damage or something?
Anyway, this seems to be the entry in question:
"Now Rare" quite obviously refers to usage of the word "dragon" to mean "a huge serpent." The phrase's formatting (capitalized and italicized to distinguish it from the definition itself) and the second listed definition ("A fabulous [i.e. mythical] animal...") both confirm this.
N: The geologic column is based on circular reasoning.
A: No, it isn't. Strata were mostly dated relative to one another, and index fossils create an additional reference point.
N: Radiometric dating is based on unprovable assumptions.
A: Some of the assumptions are reasonable, some are taken into account. And some methods avoid making assumptions.
N: The RATE project concluded that decay rates change.
A: There were numerous problems with that project, and tons of scientific studies disagree. My personal favorite detail is that "radioactive decay at a rate fast enough to permit a young earth would have produced enough heat to melt the earth."
N: Certain mammoths yield differing dates for different parts of their bodies.
A: This claim seems to have resulted from misinterpreted data.
Old Earth "Counterexamples"
The following are supposed limits on the earth's age.
N: Exponential growth of the human population!
A: Wow. Seriously? Okay, look. The fact is that population growth rates fluctuate wildly: war, disease, famine and natural disasters kill people off, and innovations such as agriculture and medicine allow them to flourish. This is what the actual population curve looks like.
N: Too few supernovas (just 300)!
A: Nope. And here are all the ones we've found so far—notice that there are way more than 300, and the number discovered per year has recently exploded.
N: Jupiter's cooling off too fast!
A: Nope. It's just not.
N: Ganymede's cooling off too fast!
A: Here are two possible explanations (see bottom paragraph of section).
N: Saturn's rings should have disintegrated!
A: Nope. They're relatively young and kept in place by Saturn's moons.
N: The moon is moving away from the earth too fast!
N: All the comets should have disintegrated!
A: Nope. New comets come from the Oort cloud.
N: No direct evidence for the Oort cloud!
A: So? Its existence is supported by indirect evidence (see previous link).
N: The earth's magnetic field is decaying too fast!
N: Earth's rotation is slowing too fast!
A: Nope. Based on bad data.
N: The Mississippi River delta doesn't have enough sediment!
A: Nope. The delta's location changes periodically.
I am continually amazed by how abysmal these arguments are. At times it's like they've scraped clean through the bottom of the barrel and just keep on digging. To think that parents are paying the school thousands of dollars a year for their kids to be taught this stuff.
About halfway done now. Just two more posts to go.