Rhetoric Fair project?

Newsvine brings me Pharyngula, which reports on  a Christian Academy’s “science” fair. Brian Benson, an eighth-grade student, won first place in the Life-Science/Biology category for his project titled “Creation Wins!!!”, in which he claims to disprove the theory of evolution by creating pseudo-stalactites with Epsom Salts.
You’re probably asking yourself what this has to do with Darwin’s theory. Glad you asked.

“Scientists say it takes millions of years to form stalactites,” Benson
said. “However, in only a couple of hours, I have formed stalactites
just by using paper towel and Epsom Salts.”

Wow. Now I can accept that this is from an 8th-grader, and my 8th grade science project probably wasn’t terribly impressive from my current point of view, but this won 1st place in a science fair. It’s not life-science or biology, and yet won 1st place in that category. Makes you wonder if science is even taught in that school. This probably should have been labeled a Rhetoric Fair instead, since rhetoric is fairly obviously what he was given first place for.
Keep in mind, I’m not wanting to be mean to the kid. It’s not his fault, really. I’m infuriated that his school is completely ruining his ability to think, though.

I’ll finish up by quoting Pharyngula’s bullet points on why this is bad science:

  • This experiment has nothing to do with biology.
  • Epsom salts are magnesium sulfate; stalactites are made of calcium carbonate.
  • Stalactite growth rates are estimated to be around 0.1-10
    centimeters per thousand years. If we assume his ‘stalactite’ was 10 cm
    long and use the slowest growth rate, that’s 100 thousand years, not
    millions.
  • Even if he had demonstrated an accelerated rate of stalactite
    growth, stalactite length isn’t the method used to date the age of the
    earth.
  • To quote the unquestionable authority, Terry Pratchett: “And all
    those exclamation points? Five? A sure sign of someone who wears his
    underpants on his head.” Mister Benson comes perilously close to the
    underpants limit in his title.

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