This article was published in the
"Editor's File" in
The Textbook Letter, November-December 1995.
This time, however, the trick is attempted with greater flair, because the writers have included an effort to fool students by using numerology. Numerology is invoked to promote some baloney about American Indians, and the result is a double dose of deception, all frugally packed into one bogus picture and its caption.
The picture shows a section through Earth, flanked by two sets of labels. The labels on the right identify Earth's major parts as Atmosphere, Crust, Mantle, Outer Core and Inner Core, while those on the left identify the same parts as Breath, Skin, Bones, Organs and Heart. The labels on the left are meant to represent Indian notions, and the caption near the picture says:
The Native-American view of Earth's structure and the scientific view are similar. Scientists have recently begun to notice the many parallels between the views of indigenous peoples and the emerging field of environmental science.
The first sentence is a falsehood and a clear attempt to deny the precepts and the processes of science. There is no similarity whatsoever between that skin-and-bones stuff and the scientific view of Earth's structure. The scientific view is an empirical construct that has been developed through the use of observation, evidence and reason, and it shares exactly nothing with an anthropomorphic superstition.
To reinforce their false claim, Addison-Wesley's people have enlisted more falsity. The labels on their illustration indicate that Earth has five major parts in both the scientific "view" and the Indian "view," and this supposedly shows that the two views are "similar." The ostensible similarity, however, has been contrived through trickery. To ensure that the scientific "view" requires five labels, but no more than that, Addison-Wesley's fakers have done away with the hydrosphere! To ensure that the Indian "view" requires five labels, and no fewer, they have concocted the label Organs -- as if Skin and Bones and Heart were not the names of organs! The whole thing is bunkum and a naked appeal to numerology, a body of superstition based on the notion that occult relationships can be divined from numerical coincidences. Numerology is in the same league with astrology, palm-reading, geomancy and other magical enterprises, and it shares their reliance on fakery and delusion, as the Addison-Wesley people have demonstrated here.
In any case, the claim that there is a single "Native-American view" is invidious because the writers are saying that all Indians, no matter where they live or what cultures they represent, hold the same belief about "Earth's structure." That is fake anthropology and witless stereotyping, much like saying that all Indians live in tepees and eat dogs.
The second sentence of the caption, a squishy claim about "many parallels between the views of indigenous peoples and the emerging field of environmental science," needn't detain us for long. It is supported by nothing at all, and it is just more bunkum. Indeed, it looks like a restatement of some of the clever-aborigine nonsense that appears in Addison-Wesley's high-school biology text. [See "Chief Thunderbottom, The Panderer's Friend" in TTL, November-December 1994, page 6.]
William J. Bennetta is a professional editor, a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, the president of The Textbook League, and the editor of The Textbook Letter. He writes often about the propagation of quackery, false "science" and false "history" in schoolbooks.
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