Thursday, 31 March 2011

Why it needed saying

Cross posted from Panda's Thumb
By Paul S. Braterman

Michael Gove, UK Education Secretary, has said in as many words that “teaching creationism is at odds with scientific fact.” This is progress. The existing curriculum guidelines stated only that creationism and ID should not be taught as science, leaving room for them to be advanced as philosophical or religious doctrines (in the UK, there is no separation of Church and State). In any case, the publicly funded “Free Schools” now being set up are not constrained by the language of the curriculum. Some half-dozen Evangelical church schools with pro-creationism policies have applied for Free School status. We hope, in the light of the Secretary’s words, that these applications will now be rejected.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

C4ID's Workshop on Intelligent Design creationism

I notice that C4ID are holding a summer school to push Intelligent Design creationism to the already converted (Summer School | C4ID).  Their web publicity on that page still seems to be under development, so one may expect more information to come.  It’s a five day residential event.

Who’s speaking?
The usual crew, including Dr Alastair Noble and Dr David Galloway (two of the C4ID triumvirate), plus one or two other interesting names, including John Langlois, a barrister based in Guernsey.  Other participants include Dr Jonathan Loose (who is at Heythrop College, the Specialist Philosophy and Theology College of the University of London), Prof Guillermo Gonzales (an astronomer at Grove City College – a Christian school in Pennsylvania), Prof Steve Fuller (Sociologist, Warwick University), Professor Chris Shaw (Pharmacy, Queen’s Belfast – probably the only biologist), Dr Jonathan Wells (of the Discovery Institute, the people who cooked up ID as a facade for creationism), and a lawyer, David Williams.
Not many biologists.  One thing that occurs to me each time I peruse the current biological research literature is the huge amount of information published that is consistent with evolutionary theory and a huge global community of biological researchers, particularly in comparison to the paucity of biological researchers pushing ID creationism.  It’s a shame a bigger presence of biologists couldn’t be mustered for this event: were ID creationism really science, I would have thought this wouldn’t have been difficult.  But then again, I am not surprised.

Who may attend?
Interestingly, you must already be committed to intelligent design creationism:
Applicants should be able to demonstrate an interest in and commitment to the design argument.
One purpose of the school is to build a network of emerging professionals across the disciplines who are conversant with the arguments for intelligent design. Because of professional sensitivities, participation in the conference will be handled in strict confidence and with anonymity.
The application requirements include the request that applicant provide:
(1) a resume / c.v. (2) a short statement of your interest in intelligent design and its perceived relationship to your area of work and life and (3) a letter of recommendation from a person of standing who knows your work and is friendly towards ID.
So the upshot is this is an event to build a network of people who already believe in ID creationism.  It’s interesting that participation is to be held in secrecy: the mind boggles.  Whether it’s intended to protect the attendees or for more sinister aims isn’t clear (perhaps I’ve been reading too much pulp fiction!).  In several decades as a biology researcher, I’ve never attended a conference or workshop that had such a level of secrecy.   One other interesting observation: there’s some cash behind the school, as bursaries are being made available for up to 85% of the £600 attendance fee…

Where is it being held?
At the Elim Conference Centre, run by Elim Pentecostal Churches.  That in itself is interesting: one might have expected ID creationism, which masquerades as genuine science, to have gone for a more conventional venue.

[Originally posted at Wonderful Life.]

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Government Answers another Free Schools Question

Julian Huppert (Cambridge, Liberal Democrat)
To ask the Secretary of State for Education what his policy is on (a) ensuring that free schools are not permitted to teach creationism outside the religious education curriculum and (b) requiring evolution to be taught as a science in such schools.

Nick Gibb (Minister of State (Schools), Education; Bognor Regis and Littlehampton, Conservative)
holding answer 10 February 2011
Academies and free schools will benefit from having freedom over the curriculum they deliver. However, we have been clear that creationism should not form part of any science curriculum or be taught as a scientific alternative to accepted scientific theories. We expect to see evolution and its foundation topics fully included in any science curriculum. Under the Government's planned reforms to school inspection, there will be stronger focus on teaching. Teachers will be expected to demonstrate that their subject knowledge is secure. If creationism is being taught as a scientific fact in science or any other areas of the curriculum outside denominational RE and collective worship, this would be noted in the Ofsted report.

(Our emphasis)

From here.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

BCSE in the press

Michael Gove's statement is a good step in the right direction but we remain concerned that creationists who gain control of publicy funded schools will be able to undermine sound science by backdoor methods outside of the science lessons.

Our recent letter to Michael Gove and the response of his spokesperson has hit the press;


We would recommend that everyone reads our letter and the accompanying memorandum which sets out the background evidence for our concerns.

The Everyday Champions Academy application is at one end of a range of creationist activities.  We call them "popularisers".  They have little or no grasp of the science they so vehemently deny and are very open about their disdain for modern science and their devout faith in a literal interpretation of the Bible as an alternative.

That Michael Gove is quick to apparently confirm that he sees this flavour of extreme views as incompatible with the running of a publicly funded schools, is undoubtedly a positive step to be welcomed.  We will await the outcome of the ECA application with interest.

At the other end of the range of creationist activities we see a very different beast - these creationists avoid any mention of creationism, or even of Intelligent Design and certainly don't mention their religion.  Instead they produce and/or distribute very clever materials that seek to undermine sound science with creationist canards disguised in scientific sounding language to the detriment of pupils.  We call them "infiltrators".  These types of activity will prove a much sterner test for Mr Gove's leadership and control of the Free Schools programme.  The fact that such schools will be subject to the Freedom of Information Act will at least give the BCSE an opportunity to try to monitor such abuses of the system and we intend to make full use of it.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Michael Gove, Free Schools, Everyday Champions Academy and Creationism

The BCSE has today written to the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP at the Department for Education expressing our concern regarding Free Schools and Creationism.

The full text of the letter is as follows:

Dear Minister,

The British Centre for Science Education wishes to express its extreme concern at the application of the Everyday Champions Church, and the stated ambitions of other biblical literalist groups, to run a Free School, especially since such schools are not bound by the National Curriculum.

The Everyday Champions Church exemplifies what you yourself have described as “inappropriate faith groups using this legislation to push their own agenda.” As you are no doubt aware, teaching in schools run by such groups forced a revision last year of the original friskolor legislation, subjecting Swedish free schools to the same regulations as traditional schools, and requiring religious free schools to ensure that teaching is objective. I feel sure that you do not wish to find yourself having to introduce such remedial legislation, with all the disruption that this would entail.

According to Pastor Evans [1],“Creationism will be embodied as a belief at Everyday Champions Academy, but will not be taught in the sciences. Similarly, evolution will be taught as a theory. We believe children should have a broad knowledge of all theories in order that they can make informed choice.”  This is a disingenuous evasion (but note the scientifically illiterate use of “theory” to convey uncertainty). ECC is host to a lecture series and website, which describe Young Earth Creationism as scientifically superior to established biological and Earth science, maintaining for example that the Grand Canyon was carved out by Noah's flood, and to a lecture series based on this.“ A broad knowledge of all theories” is established creationist code for this position. In addition, embodiment of creationism “as a belief” can only mean that on this topic science itself is subordinate to religious considerations, and that the central concepts of the natural sciences, as developed over the past 350 years, must be rejected as doctrinally unsound.

As if to avoid ambiguity, John Harris, ECC’s lecturer on the subject, added (loc. cit.) that “EVOLUTION IS A RELIGION…  Uneducated, dogmatic, close minded, humanistic, evolutionists trying to impose their false religion on mankind! What’s worse, is that they deceitfully call it SCIENCE. It is nothing but a religious worldview that has NOTHING to offer to science or humanity other than lies.”

We do not see how such theologically motivated disdain for our knowledge of the natural world can be tolerated within the publicly funded educational system.

The ECC proposal is already a cause célèbre among creationist churches, and others are preparing to follow where ECC is leading. As shown in the attached memorandum, this is part of a concerted attack on science education by committed believers in biblical inerrancy and literalism. We cannot believe that it is your intention to advance their clearly articulated agenda, but if you allow such people to establish their own schools, using public money, it will be the unavoidable consequence of your policies.

The British Centre for Science Education is neutral on all matters of religion, and its concern in these matters is motivated entirely by concern about educational issues.


Professor Paul S. Braterman, MA, DPhil., DSc., for BCSE

We have attached a memorandum to the letter as follows:

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Creationist Free School - Everyday Champions Academy - What beliefs do they have?

Everyday Champions Church in Newark are applying to run Everyday Champions Academy (ECA) as a free school funded by public money.

We have already covered this very briefly here where Gareth Morgan took our inaugural Numpty award for demonstrating that he has no idea of what “theory” means in science.

The TES originally reported the claim that creationism might indeed be covered in science classes as stated by Morgan originally but who then (apparently) made a comment (4th one down) "clarifying" as follows;
“Creationism will be embodied as a belief at Everyday Champions Academy, but will not be taught in the sciences. Similarly, evolution will be taught as a theory. We believe children should have a broad knowledge of all theories in order that they can make informed choice.”
For the moment let’s ignore the clanger about a “theory” [which, in science, of course, means an explanatory framework extremely well backed by evidence], and take the ECA free school applicants at their word. Let’s assume that they will teach biology properly and let’s look instead at what “creationism will be embodied as a belief” might mean outside of the science classroom, and what "a broad knowledge of all theories" might mean for the teaching of science itself.

We think we can now give you a fair idea of their actual views even though they are keeping awfully quiet about them at the moment, thanks to the fact that the ECC have been putting on “Discovery Nights” some of which have covered creationism. This was done with the involvement of a chap called John Harris who states on his web site “creation science” that “Every Day Champions Centre is our Home Church”.

So Creationism as promoted by the ECC, and so presumably as will also be embodied in the leadership of the school, incorporates the following beliefs;
  • Free schools do not need to follow the national curriculum, as long as they teach to a broad and balanced curriculum.
  • Such a balanced curriculum will teach as a scientific theory that there was definitely a worldwide flood, and that this theory is superior to what mainstream geologists maintain.
  • Modern biology is a religion and not science - so presumably it will be covered in RE lessons and perhaps in assemblies
  • The government, schools, teachers and scientists are all involved in a fraudulent conspiracy to defraud and are engaged in the brainwashing of children - perhaps civics or PHSE
  • Dinosaurs are not extinct because they survived Noah’s flood on his Ark - if taught in science this breaks Mr Gove's restrictions and if taught outside of it would make a mockery of them
  • The Natural History Museum is wrong - school trips to museums might be interesting then
  • The Bible is inerrant - another good topic for assemblies - especially for the 50% of the children that can not be selected for by faith
  • If you accept modern evolution you can’t know right from wrong - this includes the Church of England and the Vatican let alone 99% plus of scientists.

It is typical that a creationist's self confidence and arrogance be matched only by their ignorance of science and scientific principles, but this is a particularly extreme example.

In the appendix [see below] there is a whole list of quotes covering these subjects which have been taken from John Harris’s blog.  He seems quite proud of his beliefs and in fact he has brought together his comments from various sources for our edification.  Once they become more widely known we might expect him to remove them - so we have kept copies just in case.


Here we have a group that already teaches anti-science, in fact they teach anti-everyone-who-doesn’t-read-the-Bible-the-way-they-do propaganda. Here we have a group that is not just ignorant of modern science, but is also absolutely certain in the knowledge that they are in fact the ones who are completely right and that everyone else is utterly wrong. Here we have a group that accuses the government, teachers and science museums of a grand overarching brainwashing conspiracy.

Should the government use taxpayers money to pay for such a group to run a school?

We don’t think so.

If you have any more information on the creationism being promoted by ECC then please let us know.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

What Are Creationist Full of . . . ?

Howard Conder of Revelation TV is in the running for our next Numpty award.  You have to love the man.

Answers on a post card please.

Free Schools and Creationism

The DfE would not comment on individual applications, but in a statement said: “Ministers will want to satisfy themselves that the proposers are suitable people to be involved in setting up a school and that the curriculum is acceptable to them. We would not expect creationism and intelligent design to form part of any science curriculum developed by any state funded school that has the freedom to develop their own curriculum. Similarly, we would expect to see evolution and its foundation topics fully included in any such science curriculum.”
There is clearly no conspiracy. Michael Gove does not want state-funded schools in the hands of extremists – if not for the sake of children’s rights, then to avoid a PR disaster. The question is whether officials have the time and expertise to root such groups out, particularly those that are willing to conceal their true motivations. The irony is – as the Swedish experience has demonstrated – that by making the free school programme so accessible, Mr Gove may actually be putting his treasured policy at risk.

From here.

Monday, 14 March 2011

BCSE cafe press shop

We have started a shop on cafe press.

This is mainly to raise awareness of the BCSE and is possible thanks to the excellent artwork from Neil Davies, giving us something to sell that anyone would be proud to wear.

The shop is in its very early days so any suggestions re additional products etc. would be appreciated.

If anyone can think of additional slogans they would like Charlie to have on his sign then please let us know.

Funds raised will help with our web costs and towards speakers travel expenses.

More Creation-Watch Opportunities

See our creation-watch page for details of a tour about Noah's Flood by the Canadian arm of Creation Ministries International.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Dawkins on Revelation TV

I think the initial multiple comments about Dawkins talking to "more intellectual" people simply refers to trying to get him to debate with a "creationist". This would be a huge publicity coup for them and I think that Dawkins also knows this and will avoid it - it would look a lot better on their CV's than on his.

If you don't have time for the whole thing - look at 25 mins for the "toilet challenge" to modern biology - it's a new one on me.

Please note that the TV channel now appear to have gone back on their previously stated intention to publish the video.  We will be putting up some short extracts under the "fair comment" laws in a little while.

Hurray it's back up!

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Creation-Watch International Special

Fancy a free all expenses paid trip to the US?

Discovery Institute’s Summer Seminar on Intelligent Design is an 8-9 day program where students can come to Seattle and learn about intelligent design (ID) from the scholars and scientists in the field.  The program goes from July 8-16 and it is FREE (including travel, meals, and lodging) for all who are accepted and attend. The details may be found at:
The program is for undergraduates (junior class level and higher), or graduate students. It focuses primarily on the science, but it also covers philosophical / social / legal dimensions of the debate. In fact, there are 2 tracks in the program, one for students studying the sciences and the other for those in the humanities. 
The Discovery Institute are offering such but the only catch is they get to throw creationism and Intelligent Design at you for the week.

Any volunteers who would like to report back?

See here for more details.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Creation Watch - Harun Yahya - report by The Plashing Vole

This report from here;

Anti-science live!

Oktar Babuna and Cihat Gundogdu of extremist group Harun Yahya claim that they're credible because they've studied at Imperial, NYU and California University medical schools. Not in biology, I notice. I wonder if their MDs are from these institutions. Anyone know how to find out?

Here are some transitional fossils for you:

Adnan Oktar's already been stated as the reason they're here. First speaker attacks Darwinism as communist, racist, capitalist, atheist and fascist (busy man, if slightly confused).

On to Dawkins immediately and Gould: Darwin attacked as the origin of modern atheism. So we're not here for evolution at all: we're here for religious propaganda (surprise). Materialism = ancient Greek = atheism. Claims that scientific findings will prove that nature is created. 'Outdate materialist dogmas' will have to give way.

Moves straight to Social Darwinism and claims it's rooted in Darwin: totally untrue. 'Survival of the fittest' isn't - as the speaker claimed - 'the law of the jungle'. It's about adaptation to niches.

Onto communism. Quotes Marx's approval of Darwin. Now claims that Darwinism is about conflict and so is Marxism. Again - wrong on the Darwin. Wonder when the supposed science is going to turn up?

Now we're on to Lenin. Claims communism collapses without Darwinism, which 'inevitably leads to communism, which inevitably leads to Leninism, which inevitably leads to terrorism'. Quotes Lenin's plan for revolution, as though revolutionary situations are somehow permanent.

Now it's Stalin. There's still no mention of evolutionary science. But Darwinism was taught in the USSR (er… Lysenko actually took over, terribly) and millions were killed 'because of the ideas of Darwinism'.

But it's not just the communists: fascists are Darwinists too. Apparently Hitler's 'My Struggle' is completely Darwinist. Charles Darwin was a racist too, apparently. (By our standards - by his time's standards, he was actually quite progressive). Darwin, I accept, was limited by his context - but that doesn't make the evolutionary model untrue. It shows that the scientist who discovered it was flawed.

'Because of Darwinism… more than 350 million people were killed in the twentieth century'. The fundamental concept is… fighting those who were not one of us… religions are about compassion, mercy, love, justice and tolerance… killing innocent people is forbidden'.

Funny: I was under the impression that genocide was rather older than religion.

'Every terrorist is a Darwinist'.

Now he claims to be on to the science: raises intelligent design immediately. BINGO. And fully-formed fossils. That didn't take very long.

Claim 1: 'Chance is Darwin's false god… which literally works miracles'. No scientific counterargument, just condemnation.

Claim 2: How did the first cell form. Begins with proteins. So complex that it is impossible. Therefore God did it. DNA and proteins must co-exist. One can't predate the other - so God had to put them both there. "That defeats Darwinism very fundamentally" because single proteins can't emerge by chance, in isolation. 'Evolution collapses at the very beginnings of life'. (Here's recent research on protein evolution).

Next analogy: cities are complex. Cells are more complex. DNA is the 'databank' and mitochondria are power sources more complex than nuclear power stations. One failure and the whole cell dies. Natural selection doesn't let a cell survive through mutation, so the cell had to be created complete.' We have the fossil of the first cell created on earth (cyanobactiera?)' - I find it very hard to believe that this is provably the oldest cell on earth. Especially as cell fossils are rather fragile. (Hawaii university seems to believe - the fools - that there are range of these cells or varying complexity, which seems like evolution to me).

Claim 3. Natural selection can't change DNA. So fast gazelles may produce faster gazelles but not horses. So? This is a total distortion of Darwin. Here we go with the human eye - that took longer than I expected: almost 20 minutes. An unconscious process can't produce a working eye, the guy claims. Oh yeah? Then he just claims that Allah creates nature, and that's an end to it.

Next claim: DNA is too complex to have evolved by chance. 99% of mutations are harmful or non-beneficial. The speaker quotes Ranganathan as 'a Darwinist' who supports the speaker's science: but a quick search reveals that he's just another creationist.

Now says no fruit fly experiments have ever shown beneficial mutations. So? Yet again, the Qu'ran is cited as scientific experiment. He seems to be claiming that the rarity of beneficial mutations proves that mutation isn't evolutionary. But this is utter balls: developmental biology asserts that over the billions of years of life we've had, the rare beneficial ones will survive precisely because they are beneficial.

Calls a Darwinist a 'pagan priest preaching a pagan religion' he knows is false. Then we move  on to Dawkins. They claim he can't provide an example of a genetic mutation which 'increases information in the genome'. Then they show Dawkins muttering - audience point out the clip is fake. I'm no biologist - but is increased information the same as beneficial mutation? I suspect not. Now Dawkins is claimed as the inheritor of Pharaonic religion.

Apparently mutation can't reproduce the Golden Ratio of harmony, which he claims is present in all of creation, such as the shape of peoples' faces. It's 'the secret signature of Allah'. But mutations generate 'pathology and asymmetry'.

Claims there's no evolutionary mechanism - but he hasn't done this at all.

Next claim: no fossil evidence - new speaker:

Claims there's 'concrete' palaeological evidence that all species 'arrive fully-formed' and 'complete'. They may go extinct but don't change. Fossil evidence is very rich so Darwinists can't claim the record is incomplete. 350 million fossils prove there's no change of species. All images are 'imaginary' and 'have no scientific value at all'. Silly picture up of starfish turning into finned fish: not a claim evolutionists have ever claimed. Starfish and fish evolved along the same timescale - no-one has ever claimed that a modern starfish is the ancestor of the modern goldfish. But this guy claims that because there's no 50% starfish and 50% fish fossil in the record, evolution is denied. Starfish started as they are now.

Quotes Darwin as asking where the transitional fossils are and saying they are everywhere. Then he claims there are only 2 million species in existence, which is a massive underestimate. In fact, science has only got round to classifying 2 million (which I think is quite impressive actually). And let's face it: Darwin had a hammer and a sailing ship: not electron microscopes and exploration gear.

This moron claims that there are no primitive fossils and that life arose abruptly, not gradually. There are 'no ancestors' to the Cambrian lifeforms (no, I don't mean the Welsh). They're complex without ancestors. I just don't buy the idea that we have a complete fossil record: over billions of years, some are going to be physically inaccessible, perhaps most.

Back to Dawkins and his 'confession' that it appears that 'most of the major invertebrate groups… were planted' in the Cambrian: so apparently he's a Creationist too (this is of course one of the many partial quotations which form their 'intellectual' method: Dawkins actually goes on to explain why it might appear like this but isn't actually the case - but the speakers aren't interested in telling their audience that: I presume this kind of misinformation applies to all the other quotes they use. They quote Gould as well as saying that the Cambrian distressed Darwin and his followers because 'they know' that the Cambrian explosion = creation. And then it's back to the Qu'ran.

He then quotes Darwin's assertion that if they could find a complex organism which couldn't have evolved gradually, he'd be discredited, and claims that he is going to show us such and organism: the trilobite. Apparently because it had a lot of eyes which were more complex than the ones we have, it's proof of God. But trilobites had several different types of eye: which implies that there isn't a 'perfect' version which appeared immediately.

Fish tales: he claims that evolutionists belief that 'fish stepped onto the earth and became reptiles'. Untrue. Then claims that fish could never have evolved into land-dwelling creatures: and yet there are fish which do leave the water. The Mangrove Rivulus hides in logs for long periods, for example. There are many types of amphibious fish, such as periopthalmus gracilis.

This fish doesn't exist, according to the speakers

Now attacks evolutionists for claiming that birds are descended from 'giant dinosaurs'. Which is bollocks. Birds are supposedly descended from dinosaurs - but there were lots and lots of dinosaurs of varying sizes, many of them tiny. This is such distorted lies. It's so lazy!

Now we're picking on the dolphins (Douglas Adams is turning in his grave): pictures of bears gradually turning into dolphins with a big cross on them, which is a very distorted version of Darwin's speculation. Even he has to admit that Darwin reassessed this idea. But we don't get any history of dolphins from our esteemed speaker. (Here's the real evolution of dolphins: from land mammals, 50 million years ago).

But here's the absolute proof that evolutionists are mad: some species, such as the gingko tree, are the same as they were 150m years ago.

Er… isn't that what a Darwinist would say? That some species have found their niches and don't need to exist.

Here we go: the evolution of humanity, or rather the 'word game' of the myth of human evolution. It's all faked. Because that popular image of small ape to big human isn't very accurate, all of evolution is false. Apparently humans and apes have always existed at the same time - which is utter rubbish: the fossil record clearly shows apes emerging before the human sub-varieties. He claims that 'races' exist (modern biology says not) and uses the magic word 'negroes'. Oh dear. Evolution is a 'fairy tale'. 'Science' must respond to such lies and imagination. Piltdown Man was a fake (true) so other protohumans are also fakes.

I'm so depressed. Now he's showing pictures of orang-utans with human eyes photoshopped in (no source given) to claim that evolutionists have faked the entirety of human origins. Palaeological reconstruction is apparently a big fake too. Apparently bad drawings of primitive humans disprove evolution as a theory too. No soft tissue survives so reconstructions are unreliable: said the man who just told us that we have fossilised cells. So to recap: because there have been some fakes, and some mistakes, all evolution is a big lie.

Now he's claiming that australopithecus is officially scientifically an ape, after being thought of as a protohuman. Untrue - it's a claim originating with the Jehovah Witnesses, who as far as I know tend not to conduct much palaeological research. A. africanus and and robustus are more humanlike than apelike: afarensis is halfway between and ramidus is more apelike. Looks like evolution to me!

And back to religious texts.

I'm getting quite angry now. The lecture has consisted of lies and deliberate distortions, while the speakers accuse their opponents and deliberate liars.

Whackjob question time

Carrying on with the Harun Yahya extremist propaganda by Oktar Babuna and Cihat Gundogdu: do remember that mainstream Islam doesn't have a problem with evolution: something else not mentioned by the speakers or the organisers.

Probably 80 people here.

Question 1: you don't see natural selection as beneficial and there's no beneficial example. How about the Gypsy Moth, over the past 100 years? It was bark-coloured. With the industrial revolution, it changed colour to match the polluted environment to remain safe, and is now reverting to the original colour. His father is a dairy farmer - has selectively bred for more milk production rather than beef.

Answer: even evolutionists don't use the gypsy moth example any more because it's a fake. As to cows: variations isn't evolution. The genes don't change, so there's no evolution.

Q3: Are you saying that if evolution's true, there should be plenty of transition fossils.
A: Trillions.
Q: And you say all species spontaneously appeared - in complex forms - with the Cambrian explosion?
A: Yes. 3 phyla before the Cambrian, millions in the Cambrian, 35 now.
Q: So millions of species decline to 35 phyla. So are humans and rabbits there in the fossil record if they all existed in the Cambrian period?
A: We never said they appeared at the same time. There's an order of creation. The Phyla tree is false.
Q: So did we start with simple and get more complex life-forms?
A: No. We start with complex forms. There's no progress.
Q: So where are the Cambrian humans?
A: Photosynthesis existed a long time ago and we can't do it in the lab: so no evolution.
Q: But no rabbits or humans?
A: Trilobites have the most complex eyes ever and they're extinct. So complexity was there from the start.
Q: Bones survive: fewer remains of soft-bodied organisms. How can you find the fossil of a bacteria as often as that of a dinosaur? How do you tell the difference between designed gradual complex appearance and evolution?
A: God wanted it this way.
Q: DNA insertion experiments prove the addition.
A: long rambling claim that God invented DNA and everything started in one go.

(Unfortunately a lot of the students are just laughing at the speakers' little jokes at the expense of the questioners and are clearly uninterested in referencing, peer review and experiment: just in the religious credentials of the speaker). Biology lecturer walks out because his questions are being silenced: students mock him. 'What have you evolved from?', jeers one. Moderator is clearly losing it.

Q. What's the name of the Pharaoh you referenced?
A. I don't know. One of the Pharaohs.
Q. What do you mean by pagan?
A. Belied based on nothing. DNA means there's an infinite wisdom far superior to human intelligence. Humans can't create life so there must be a god.
Q. A famous scientist (can't catch the name) traces hominids back to Kenya. Where did man come from?
A: Only the revelation of God can tell us. Qu'ran tells us we're the same as the first man. Science tells us that new DNA information can't arise so we're the same as the origin. 350 million fossils show there are no intermediates or transitions and Darwin, Gould and Dawkins agree.
Q. Dawkins says every fossil is intermediate.
A. Dawkins says they are planted in the pre-Cambrian.
Q. No he doesn't. He says 'appeared' and then explains why.
A. No transitions. No evidence. Evolution never happened. The Qu'ran says so.
(More students leave, clearly not impressed).
Q. (Me) how is it that blind trilobites appeared later than the ones with the eyes? How many peer-reviewed publication do you have? After all, I have to submit my work to the scrutiny of my colleagues to achieve credibility amongst them and my students: why hasn't he?
A. Trilobites existed in the Cambrian and not before. Eyes can't emerge step by step. Missing elements mean it wouldn't work (me: isn't this a design flaw?).

I ask again:
"Darwinism controls scientific journals'.
'Complexity to simplicity denies evolution', he says. Which is a total lie and he should know better. Darwinism says that species evolve to fit niches. If a simple model works better, that will emerge. This is the case with eyeless trilobites: they emerged (I point out to him) where trilobites lived in lightless places: why expend energy on an unnecessary eye? He again mocks this and ends the session.

Session closed: very hastily. There were no questions from anti-evolutionists - probably because they don't have the scientific background to make serious points: the event was an exercise of authority. Afterwards, quite a few attendees ask questions of myself and the biologist sitting next to me - they're not convinced but at least they're curious.

What a simultaneously enjoyable and annoying experience. I haven't seen such blatant lies, distortion and misdirection since I went to Catholic school. I hope I didn't come across as a humourless naysayer - I also hope that the speakers' ranting, use of spiteful jokes and repeated evasion of specific questions were noticed by the students.

PS. He keeps going on about proteins and the impossibility of them evolving: try this paper in Nature, the most rigorous science journal in the world.

Moderate Muslims Defend Science and Free Speech

From here;

As representatives of a broad spectrum of belief in the Muslim community, we support Usama Hasan's right to free speech and the right to foster a culture of intelligent and compassionate debate about Islam (Imam is threatened with death after delivering lecture on evolution, 7 March). Islam has a tradition of creative thinking and discussion which allows disagreement and, importantly, the tools to tackle social injustice. Intolerance violates the spirit of Islam and has to be condemned.

We cannot allow people to promote acts of violence against opinions they disagree with. The stakes are high as we demand the right to build a strong foundation for future generations of Muslim children living in Britain. We can only do this if our rich diversity of Muslim communities not only follow in the footsteps of some of the great thinkers that have been proud to call themselves Muslim but also lead the way in tackling some of the greatest challenges facing all people today. We have been responsible for scientific and philosophical revolutions, created art that stands the test of time. This can only continue if we allow a free exchange of ideas, rigorous debate, and protect the individual's right to speak his or her mind when others will not.

Raheel Mohammed Director, Maslaha

Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra Chairman of mosque and community affairs committee, Muslim Council of Britain

Dr Musharraf Hussain Karimia Institute

Rabia Malik City Circle

Akeela Ahmed Muslim Youth Helpline

Yahya Birt City Circle

Mohammed Imran

Merryl Wyn Davies Director, Muslim Institute

Samia Rahman Muslim Institute

Ziauddin Sardar

Julie Siddiqi Executive director, Islamic Society of Britain

Suleman Nagdi

Dilwar Hussain Policy Research Centre

MA Qavi

Rania Hasez Muslim Women in Education

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Creation Watch - Harun Yahya

Previously announced as part of Harun Yahya's tour we have posted this report from here;

Harun Yahya's (Adnan Okatar) was not there himself, instead the "show" was hosted by two other Turkish guys, one of which introduced himself as being a brain surgeon (as if that makes him an authority on evolutionary biology.)  This is how it went...

Firstly, my video camera broke so I could not record it :(

1: Darwinism is about how the strong overtake the weak, the stronger kill the weaker.
2: This gave rise to Nazism, communism, Mao Zedong killing millions, and so on.
3: Darwinism led to racism.
4: Various quotes from Hitler, Stalin, etc
5: Quote from Darwin about how civilised man with replace the savage - narrated as "White men will kill off and replace non-white men"

Then he posted the following "problems" with evolution
(Origin of life)
A: Evolution cannot explain how life began in the first place.
B The human cell is so complicated it cannot just suddenly appear by chance.
C: The eye is so complicated that it cannot just suddenly appear by chance.
D: Gives the Boeing 747 argument.

(What are the mechanisms)
A: Natural selection does not create new information - I noted that at this point he described it as the survival of the "best suited" and not the strongest. Someone attempted to give an example and was told he could ask questions at the end.
B: The whole eye is required in order to work
C: It is impossible to create new information, only Allah can create.
D: Mutations are 99% harmful, 1% neutral, and NEVER add new information.
E: After years of working with fruit fly mutations scientists failed to make a new species - then quoted the verse from the Quran about how mankind cannot even create a fly.
F: Played this Dawkins video where Mr D apparently cannot give an example of new information in DNA receiving lots of laughter - I think it was changed to show a man asking the question.

At this point I could no longer hold my tongue. I shouted out that it is fake, that the video was edited with a different question.  I was told to be quiet by the organiser, I protested again that he was spreading misinformation.  I was told I would have the opportunity to ask questions at the end.

G: We were told that there isn't a single example of a beneficial mutation.
H: He went on to describe the golden mean ratio. I was hoping he was going to say Mecca was at the GR point on the graticule location system so I could tell him it is over 270KM away, but he didn't.  Instead he tried to show it as proof of creation by telling us the distant from our noses to our chins etc.

(Where are the fossils)
A: ALL 350 million years of fossils we have are unchanged. The ones we find which we cannot identify are simply extinct animals.
B: There are no intermediary fossils.  He actually showed a photo of crocoducks.
C: Showed the Harun Yahya Starfish to Fish morphology and said there are no such "imaginary fossils" present in the record.
D: Quoted Darwin saying the lack of fossils is a problem - implying there should be innumerable fossils.
E: There are just too many gaps in the record.
F: The Cambrian explosion shows fully formed creatures suddenly appearing, trilobites with over 2,000 eyes - and did you know that eyes cannot "just exist" unless created.  
G: Quoted verse from Quran "Allah only needs to say 'Be' and it is" - Fossil record shows that Allah said "Be".
H: At this point I noted he said that ALL species appeared at the Cambrian explosion and lots went extinct, but later he claimed something else so I'll have to check the video.
I: Quotes Dawkins again saying that the fossils look as though the creatures were just placed there, leaves out the 2nd half of the quote.
J: Trilobites were the first creatures to exist on Earth, trilobites have eyes, therefore a trilobite is irreducibly complex and must have been created.
K: Showed Darwin's famous quote about how the eye is difficult to explain, but left out the rest of the quote where he goes on to say that he still thinks it did.
L: Shows a picture of a creature crawling out of the sea onto land.  Top half life a lizard, bottom half in the water like a fish.
M: Claims that for this to happen its gills would need to turn into lungs - if I recall he stated the usual crap about how if it were born with lungs it would have drowned in water.
N: Fish fins would need to mutate into weight supporting limbs (implying that then it would not be able to swim.)
O: Showed a fossil of a fish + a living version of the fish, which proves evolution does not happen.
P: Tried to describe evolutionary stance on the origin of birds as so (the jist of it, not the actual words)

"One day a dinosaur was chasing some flies.  It flapped its arms as it ran.  This made it develop feathers, and one day it flew.  But look, what is this in the picture? It is a FLY!  Why do they try to explain FLIGHT like this when there is already something flying?"

Note how he changed the evolution of birds into a claim of how flight started.

Q: He defined evolution of humans as small monkeys getting bigger and bigger until they were humans. The presented the existence of 4ft pygmies as proof that this is not true.
R: Stated that frogs only turn into princes in fairy tales - was hard for me not to mention the verse in the Quran where Allah turned Jews into apes and pigs.
S: Explains that hominid fossils are all fake.  They are really just extinct monkeys.  Articles (not scientists) build up fake flesh on them for pictures/photos and just use their imagination to make them look however they want.  Therefore it is all fakery.
T: Piltdown man was on display for 40 years before it was discovered to be a fake.  "They" (the evolutionists) tried to fake it but got caught.
U: Quoted Heckel confessing to forging his embryo illustrations and saying that his fellows should also be on trial for forgery. Commentated it that Heckel was a remorseful confessor trying to set the record straight and get his fellow conspirators exposed for their deception too.

Then we moved onto questions - I will mark them Q & R (Question & Response) - the speaker responded, but I do not feel he gave answers...

Q: Someone gave an example of moths which experienced a change in skin colour to match the colour of the bark on trees as the bark darkened over the years due to pollution.
R: This is because the glue that was used to stick the moth samples down changed the colour.
(Questioner later told me he heard chants from audience such as "Yeah, WE got you!")

I asked a multi part question
Q: I want to get your argument correct.  Are you implying that fossils are easy to make?
R: Yes
Q: And that all creatures were created in their current form in the cambrian explosion?
R: Yes
Q: Then were are the fossils of rabbits, and mice, and humans?
R: Oh no, those were not created at the start
Q: So are you then saying that simple life was created at the start, then more complex life, and then mammals, and then humans?
R: Yes
Q: So instead of saying "Be" and it was, Allah said "Be, be, be, be, be"?
(Protests from the room for insulting their religion)
Q: So, how do you tell the difference between a scenario where god created animals at various points in time, each time more complex; and the scenario where simply life started, gradually evolved over a long period of time into more complex life forms, and there are few fossils because fossils are hard to form.

(I struggle to remember the order of his rebuttals, but I think they were in this order)
R: Because the human cell is too complex to suddenly exist, and the eye is too complex to just exist
Q: I didn't ask you about cells and eyes, I asked you about the fossils. How do you tell by looking at the fossils?
R: Because the eye, blah blah blah, and the cell, blah blah blah
(I am told to behave myself by the organiser, I protest that he is not answering the question)

Him: Even Dawkins said they were placed there.
ME: "No, he didn't say that at all.  He said they might APPEAR AS THOUGH they were placed there, but what you have done is to cut of the end of the quote where he goes on to say BUT.....and explain it, you are lying to these people"
Him: How did he explain it then? How do YOU explain it?
Me: The cambrian explosion was a period when hard bodied creatures started to exist.  Hard bodies fossilise easier than soft bodied creatures.  That's why it is easier to find the fossil of a massive dinosaur bone than it is to find the fossil of a bacteria!

I think he then went on to talk about proteins, cells, and the eye again.

Usama Hasan On Evolution

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Science is based on evidence, not people taking offence or threatening murder . . .

From here (our emphasis);

With the Name of Allah, All-Merciful, Most Merciful
Further to my detailed statement dated 15th February 2011 about evolution, I would like to state, after reflecting on the matter and listening to the advice of others:
1. I regret and retract some of my statements in the past about the theory of evolution, especially the inflammatory ones.
2. I do not believe that Adam, peace be upon him, had parents.
3. I seek Allah’s forgiveness for my mistakes and apologise to others for any offence caused.
4. This does not excuse the cowardly and fraudulent campaign spreading lies and slander against me over the last two months.
5. Neither does it excuse those who have continued their mediaevalist, hair-splitting theological and jurisprudential discussions whilst remaining silent about the clear incitement to murder uttered by some in their midst. “Slaughter the people, but worry about killing mosquitos.”
Usama Hasan
London, Friday 4th March 2011

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Creation Watch - Harun Yahya tours the UK

We just spotted this tour;

These have been posted on creation-watch.

More on death threats for "evolutionist"

From here;

Harun Yahya, a popular Islamic creationist scholar from Turkey, begins a UK tour in London on Monday, adding to the debate. Last December Salir al-Sadlan, a senior Saudi-based scholar Salir al-Sadlan, said Muslims shouldn't pray behind someone who believed in evolution in a speech at Green Lanes mosque in Birmingham.
Inayat Bunglawala, chair of Muslims4UK, a group promoting Muslim engagement in British society, said there was "widespread ignorance" about evolution among the Muslim community. "Many traditional imams are grounded in ancient books in Arabic but have very little grounding in science. I find it staggering how they can be so strongly opposed to evolution without reading about it. That seems to be opposite of the very first commandment of the Qur'an, which is to read," Bunglawala said.
"Some of the language being used by Dr Hasan's opponents smacks of fanaticism. The shame is that, if his congregation do reject him, then it may well deter other imams from undertaking a study of evolution and speaking about what they have learnt."

Scientist Imam threatened over Darwinist views

From here;

Dr Usama Hasan, a physics lecturer, has received death threats from extremists
A prominent British imam has been forced to retract his claims that Islam is compatible with Darwin's theory of evolution after receiving death threats from fundamentalists.
Dr Usama Hasan, a physics lecturer at Middlesex University and a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, was intending yesterday to return to Masjid al-Tawhid, a mosque in Leyton, East London, for the first time since he delivered a lecture there entitled "Islam and the theory of evolution".
But according to his sister, police advised him not to attend after becoming concerned for his safety. Instead his father, Suhaib, head of the mosque's committee of trustees, posted a notice on his behalf expressing regret over his comments. "I seek Allah's forgiveness for my mistakes and apologise for any offence caused," the statement read.
The campaign is part of a growing movement by a small but vocal group of largely Saudi-influenced orthodox Muslims who use evolution as a way of discrediting imams whom they deem to be overly progressive or "western orientated".
Masjid Tawhid is a prominent mosque which also runs one of the country's largest sharia courts, the Islamic Sharia Council. In January, Dr Hasan delivered a lecture there detailing why he felt the theory of evolution and Islam were compatible – a position that is not unusual among many Islamic scholars with scientific backgrounds. But the lecture was interrupted by men he described as "fanatics" who distributed leaflets claiming that "Darwin is blasphemy".
"One man came up to me during the lecture and said 'You are an apostate and should be killed'," Dr Hasan told The Independent. "I want to go back – I've been going to the mosque for 25 years. It is my favourite mosque in London, and I have been active in the community for a long time. I hope my positive contribution will outweigh their feelings towards me."
But the imam's apology seems to have done little to resolve the matter. Earlier this week, the group issued a statement saying that Dr Hasan had been dismissed from his position as vice-chairman and imam at the mosque, and describing his views as a "source of antagonism in the Muslim community". Neither he nor his father were present at the meeting that voted for his dismissal.
Evolution "is not a matter of iman [belief] or kufr [disbelief]," said Dr Hasan, "and people are free to accept or reject a particular scientific theory." He also attacked clerics who made pronouncements about science they didn't understand, declaring that "any such fatwas about science from people ignorant of the subject matter are null and void."
Like Christianity, Islamic opinion is divided over evolution. More than a millennium before Darwin, Muslim scientists had posited ideas about species survival and generational change that bore striking similarities to Darwin's eventual theory.
Most Islamic scholars have little problem with evolution as long as Muslims accept the supremacy of God in the process. But in recent years a small number of orthodox scholars, mainly from Saudi Arabia – where many clerics still preach that the Sun revolves around the Earth – have ruled against evolution, declaring that belief in the concept goes against the Koran's statement that Adam and Eve were the first humans.

The Age of the Universe

From here;
Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the age of the Universe.
Since the 18th century, when scientists first realised that the Universe had existed for more than a few thousand years, cosmologists have debated its likely age. The discovery that the Universe was expanding allowed the first informed estimates of its age to be made by the great astronomer Edwin Hubble in the early decades of the twentieth century. Hubble's estimate of the rate at which the Universe is expanding, the so-called Hubble Constant, has been progressively improved.
Today cosmologists have a variety of other methods for ageing the Universe, most recently the detailed measurements of cosmic microwave background radiation - the afterglow of the Big Bang - made in the last decade. And all these methods seem to agree on one thing: the Universe has existed for around 13.75 billion years.
Martin Rees Astronomer Royal and Emeritus Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at the University of Cambridge
Carolin Crawford Member of the Institute of Astronomy and Fellow of Emmanuel College at the University of Cambridge
Carlos Frenk Director of the Institute for Computational Cosmology at the University of Durham.

View from the Pulpit - Neil DeGrasse Tyson

From here;

Now it’s been 130 years since Darwin. So you have to ask, what is your measure of this resistance? Is it most of the world? No, it’s not most of the world that’s resisting this. It’s a small subset of the world. One might even say the holdouts. But they need to understand that their counterparts in the past were no less passionate about their objection to a scientific discovery as people objecting to the sun going around the earth or vice versa.
They were no less passionate in the invention of the microscope, the discovery of germs: that when you got sick, it wasn’t because God made you sick, it was because you exposed yourself to these microorganisms. And I can hand you these microorganisms and you’ll come down with all these symptoms. That discovery removed God from many equations that people had going in their head for why you got sick.
There’s a famous statement about venereal disease… when penicillin was demonstrated to cure venereal disease, there was some bishop who at the time said that this medicine was the work of the devil, because it allows you to fornicate and not face God’s punishment. And you still see a little bit of that with the AIDS virus. But by and large, people are not thinking that germs are handed off by supernatural powers.
So I think it’s a matter of time. There’s an old saying about the evolution of every great truth: First, people say they don’t believe it; then, they say it contradicts the Bible; and third, they say they’ve known it all along.
So just give them a little more time. They might warm up to it.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Thursday, 3 March 2011

James Williams in Scientific American

From here;
But even in the U.K. the rise of publicly funded free schools allow alternatives to state-approved science curricula. And in some Muslim-majority countries, such as Pakistan, many teachers tell students to disregard the evolution unit entirely because the theory is incorrect.
Allowing creationism into schools in the U.S. or beyond, many argue, does not just undermine educational integrity but also threatens to "hamper the advancement of science and technology as students take their places as leaders of future generations," as the Geological Society of Australia asserted in its 2008 statement on science education. Member states of the E.U. have cited the need to effectively tackle medical problems rooted in the process of evolution—such as AIDS treatment and antibiotic resistance—as real-world reasons to bolster its instruction in biology classrooms.
"We've got to have teachers who understand the nature of science—what makes science a science and what makes theories so strong and robust," says James Williams, a science education instructor at the University of Sussex in England.
When evolution is challenged as "just a theory," he notes, even well-informed teachers and curriculum designers sometimes neglect to counter that theories (such as the theory of gravity or electromagnetic theory) are not hypotheses in want of further evidence, but rather the sturdiest truths and descriptions of how the material world works that science has to offer. In many places, though, the rise of more fundamentalist belief systems—and the politicization of those beliefs—is jeopardizing progress toward stronger science instruction. The landscape of evolution instruction around the globe is a varied and rapidly changing one, impacting students from Canada to China. Here is a look at where the issue stands in the U.K. and E.U., and in some countries with majority Islamic populations.
A late introduction to Darwin in the U.K.
Even as the home country of Charles Darwin, the U.K. leaves formal evolution education until ages 14 to 16, which, Williams says, is "very late to start thinking about it." And when evolution is introduced in biology classes, it is kept as a relatively separate topic. "To me that's odd—it's like trying to teach chemistry but not putting atoms at the center," he notes.
Introducing the concepts of evolutionary theory at an earlier age and keeping them more central to the curriculum could help to solidify the topic in students' minds and minimize the opportunity for misconceptions to arise, he notes. "When somebody has a misconception in science, if it's embedded, it's incredibly difficult to change."
Williams says that he has noticed a slow increase in the quantity of creationist teaching in the U.K., but it is still mostly at parochial schools and newer "free schools" (which are similar to U.S. charter schools in that they are government-funded but free from many of the regulatory strictures applied to public schools). But that does not mean that the issue does not come up in the public school classroom. In one survey around 40 percent of teachers reported being challenged by students about evolution, suggesting that there needs to be solid training for U.K. teachers whose general "understanding of evolution is very, very poor," Williams says.
Some U.K. pro–intelligent design (ID) groups are also pushing to include "alternatives" to evolution in the country's national curriculum. One group, known as Truth in Science, calls for allowing such ideas to be presented in science classrooms—an angle reminiscent of "academic freedom" bills that have been introduced in several U.S. states. A 2006 overhaul of the U.K. national curriculum shifted the focus of science instruction to highlight "how science works" instead of a more "just the facts" approach. Although the update has been positive in some respects, it also creates more room for purportedly science-based groups that back ID to try to introduce alternative viewpoints of life's origin—in the name of critical thinking and classroom analysis. A healthy classroom debate about alternative energy sources or even the mechanisms of evolution, Williams suggests, is a great use of the newer approach to teaching science. But framing a biology classroom discussion about whether evolution occurs should not be allowed, he says.

And the country is not out of the reach of U.S. based pro-ID organizations, including the Discovery Institute. Copies of Explore Evolution (which offers "the arguments for and against neo-Darwinism"), authored in part by Discovery Institute members, were sent to many U.K. school librarians—bypassing science teachers altogether.
Although the country boasts a relatively robust national science curriculum now, until 1988 the U.K. had national requirements to teach only one subject in its state-sponsored schools: religious studies. And that subject remains in the publicly funded schools.
Perhaps counterintuitively, Williams says, it might be the persistence of religion classes that has kept more of the creationist push out of science classrooms in the U.K. compared with the U.S. "I think that this lack of separation of church and state meant that parents who do hold Christian values are very happy that schools are going to be teaching from the religious standpoint."
The religion classes offer a more comprehensive cultural introduction to various theologies around the world than strict Anglican instruction, but, Williams says, that does not mean they have kept out of the creation game entirely. "In science class we would never look at the evidence against the existence of God, but it seems to be perfectly acceptable to challenge the scientific standpoint in the religion class," he says.