Textbooks that are being used by some Christian schools suggest that the Loch Ness Monster is not only real, but serves as evidence to support creationism.
The Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) program supports creationism, but one of its textbooks – Biology 1099 – takes an unusual stance by suggesting that "Nessie," as the mythical monster of Scotland is sometimes called, is a modern-day dinosaur.
"Are dinosaurs alive today? Scientists are becoming more convinced of their existence," the textbook says, according to Herald Scotland. "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."
In addition to concerns over the content of some of these textbooks, some critics of Louisiana's new education voucher program say public funds could go toward sending students to the private schools that teach this type of curriculum.
Thousands of students will receive state voucher money to attend private schools this fall under Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal's much-disputed education reform law. That means some students could receive money to attend school's like the Eternity Christian Academy and Learning Institute in Westlake, La., which, according to its website, uses the ACE curriculum.
Jonny Scaramanga is a former ACE student in the United Kingdom who now rails against fundamentalist Christianity altogether. He told the Herald that ACE is trying to use Nessie to prove that the Earth is only a few thousand years old, and that dinosaurs and humans once coexisted.
In a blog post titled, "Top 5 Lies Taught By Accelerated Christian Education," he also attacks the curriculum's assertions that the Sun doesn't work by nuclear fusion, that a Japanese whaling boat once caught a dinosaur, that the theory of evolution has been disproved and that dinosaurs and humans once coexisted.
"I called ACE on May 3rd, 2012, and was told that all of these [worktexts] are still in print and the content has not changed. These lies are still being taught in over fifty British schools today," Scaramanga wrote.
Casey Luskin, a research coordinator with the Discovery Institute, is currently writing an intelligent design textbook titled, "Discovering Intelligent Design," which will likely be published later this year. The textbook is purely scientific, he says, and won't contain any Bible verses as evidence.
Luskin believes that it is unwise for ACE to use the Loch Ness Monster as evidence.
"Anytime you're invoking Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster as evidence for your position, that's not a very good route to go," Luskin told The Christian Post on Tuesday.
He says there is a difference between creationism, which starts with the Bible and then looks at data, and intelligent design, which uses data as its starting point for research. Young earth creationism also differs in that it views the Earth as being only a few thousand years old, he says, while intelligent design theorists accept "the conventional geological time scale."
While private schools are free to teach whatever curriculum they please, Luskin says, they should be careful to teach that which also gives students a chance at future academic success.
"I personally believe that there should be freedom in education," said Luskin. "If a private school wants to teach something, they should be allowed to teach it...Now, that being said, you have to understand that a public university, they're going to have certain admission standards, and they may or may not agree with what a private school is going to do."
He recommends that private Christian schools use a mainstream biology textbook as the focus of their science curriculum, but supplement intelligent design textbooks to highlight other theories and the weaknesses found in evolutionary theory.
Georgia Purdom holds a doctorate degree in molecular genetics and serves as a research scientist and speaker for Answers in Genesis, an organization that supports and promotes the young earth creationist view of cosmic origins. Answers in Genesis promotes the idea that God created the universe in six, 24-hour days about 6,000 years ago, but Purdom says she has never before heard of the argument that the Loch Ness Monster exists as evidence for creationism.
"I think it's a very poor argument to use...I don't like to see things that are mythical being used to support creation and deny evolution," she told CP.
She says dinosaurs were brought onto the ark constructed by the biblical character Noah, then they died out sometime after the global flood that is described in the Book of Genesis.
The world's environment changed after the flood, she says, and dinosaurs could have died out later due to starvation, disease, climate change or being hunted to extinction. Myths about dragons, she says, may have resulted from human-dinosaur encounters.
"There are cave paintings and things like that that we have of creatures that look very dinosaur-like, so it's possible that these didn't die out even thousands of years ago, maybe just hundreds of years ago," she said.
The Christian Post was unable to reach ACE for comment prior to publication time.