Tuesday, 31 May 2011

COMING SOON-THE CENTRE FOR INTELLIGENT DESIGN HOST THE FIRST UK ID SUMMER SCHOOL

Exciting breaking news-the non religious centre for intelligent design are offering 50 places on their first ever summer school to "inform emerging professionals of the scientific coherence of and compelling evidence for ID". Not in an actual school, university or any other sort of educational establishment mind you, but he Elim Pentocostal Centre in Malvern, Worcs. A location somewhat lacking in laboratory facilities for the new white hot science of ID? Still perhaps they plan to pray for a test tube or two instead.






Summer school looks intriguingly conspiratorial though. It will look at IDs distinct stance from religious faith. The real story of Dover (the one in their dreams where the evil judge was tricked by the evil scientists, working in league with the devil, into noticing that ID wasn't actually science I guess). The challenge to evolutionary science of abiogenesis, as opposed to the challenge of mud to man in just one day, with rib to woman as an afterthought minutes later. I just can't help wandering how many times they'll repeat the old lie they've got on their website about abiogenesis being just a bunch of silly scientists waiting around for a bunch of silly old chemicals to organise themselves into a cell.






Summer school high spot has just got to be the presentation of clear chemical evidence (exciting-can it be, some real evidence at last?), for intelligent causation (just what could it be-an intelligent designer label perhaps, bar code, best before date, a note saying "God was here" written in amino acids) and of design in a variety of biochemical features (doh I fear this is going to be IDs disappointing old God of the Gaps argument yet again-poo).






Also on offer-the key implications of ID in public and professional life, strategies for promoting ID (lie, lie and lie again) alongside the personal and professional hazards (losing the ability to reason logically perhaps, early onset dementia due to enforced non usage of brain cells).






Tutors attending include Warwick University's Steve Fuller representing that little known branch of biochemistry-sociology. Langlois the wealthy and mysterious Guernsey lawyer, a David Williams who is also a lawyer and Johnathan Wells from the Discovery Institute. Lots of others will be there, including Noble and Galloway, the jolly old crypto creationists running C4ID.






To win a coveted place you will have to demonstrate an interest in and commitment to the design argument (what argument is that then?). To prove commitment you will have to provide a CV, a statement of your interest AND a letter of recommendation from a person of standing who knows your work and is friendly to ID (I imagine MI5 recruits operatives in a similar way, ID does sound exciting doesn't it boys and girls). It even says you'll get a special code number on application-doesn't say yet that you'll have to eat it but I bet you will. And you will be searched before you enter-for what it doesn't say-bombs, knives, recording equipment or seditious copies of the Journal of Molecular Evolution?






Best of all in the paranoiac conspiracy stakes it states due to the "professional sensitivity" of ID "participation will be handled in strict confidence and annonymity" candidates will be issued with cyanide capsules in the event that they are caught and tortured to reveal what the evidence for ID actually is. I made that last bit up by the way but the rest is true.






An initial cost of £600 has been slashed thanks to a generous "grant from a UK source" (ooh more mystery-how exciting it all sounds). Now nobody will pay more than £300. A lucky 10 applicants will pay just £100-yes that's right just £100, 20 just £200 and the rest at £300. And for that you'll get £600 worth of accommodation in the Elim Petacostal Centre. All rooms en suite, heated swimming pool and all set in 32 acres of glorious countryside within easy reach of the genuinely stunning Malvern Hills (not strapped for a few bob are they these Elims-charity really does begin at home for them).






If you're still not taken with the idea of partaking in your own ID secret agent thrillathon, C4ID are further tempting you with tiny snippets from a selection of its speakers. Guillermo Gonzalez tantalises us by saying the case will be weakened or strenghtened depending on how strong the correlation is between habitability and measurability (no I didn't have a clue either-mysterious isn't it).






Jonathan Wells has us metaphorically clawing at the doors with his impassioned portrayal of anguished incredulity as he says "how do you get from a jellyfish to a trilobite or fish, we just don't know, we just don't know, WE JUST DON'T KNOW" (well read a bloody biology book JW-then you will know). Followed by "Darwinism is the real science stopper, it stops us enquiring. When Darwinism says all these animals just appeared, thats not science it just stops research". Er no JW, that isn't science thats the book of Genesis. Darwinism is the one where the animals didn't just appear, they evolved over long periods of time (jellyfish to fish-remember the thing you just don't know). "Darwinism", or to use the usual phrase, "biology", would be the one that spawned mountains of research and sparked all sorts of new scientific endeavours.






Far and away my favourite ID trailer though has got to be Steve Fuller. Perhaps because I went out with a sociologist when doing my A levels, mainly because his ability to say lots of confusing things I didn't understand impressed me (and he had a car). Likewise Steve Fuller stating the bleeding obvious as he gives his incisive take on the word 'theory' from, he tells us, 'Philosophy of Science 101'






To summarise Steve's bit: evolution is a theory it can be falsified (it can Stevie but it hasn't and it's not looking likely in the foreseeable future), there can be alternatives to it (yes there can but in practice no viable one has emerged in the last 150 years), it's a theory not a fact Mr Dawkins (wanna sure fire way to identify creationism-listen out for the mention of Dawkins-gotcha Stevie), a theory is just a souped up hypothesis or a series of interconnected hypotheses that can all be individually falsified (well blow me down with an evolved feather), that isn't contentious, that's Philosophy of Science 101, even though they thought it was contentious at Pennsylvania (well I guess thats cos they were inconsiderate enough to draft in real scientists at Pennsylvania Steve).






Maybe Steve gets on to more salient points later or maybe he hasn't done Philosophy of Science 102 yet, but certain FACTS are conspicuous by their absence. He omits to state that for a 'theory' to become a theory it has to be testable and make verifiable predictions. And in practice theories can be pretty much accepted as fact when they are rigorously tested and confirmed over and over again. Evolution satisfies on all counts and has been tested to destruction using real science-nothing has dented it. And as science has moved on (for example the sequencing of the genome) it has been retested in new and previously unthought-of disciplines, and still nothing has dented it.






And he forgets that to test against an alternative, you first need an alternative to test. Which is? Surely he can't mean ID? Strip away the superfluous words and whizzy jargon (irreducible complexity anyone) and ID boils down to "if something has lots of parts that perform a function, you can't remove those parts without losing the whole function. It therefore has to have been designed". And if some inconvenient scientist then points out that the appearance of design is a feature of evolution or shows conclusively how you can remove parts and retain functionality or shows how it could actually have evolved-then just bluster and say they would say that wouldn't they. Thats not really science Steve, thats counting, counting cells for Jesus to be more precise.






So if you want to be a scientist but don't fancy years learning all that bothersome science stuff, or if espionage is more your thing and you fancy the paranoid glamour of being at the cutting edge fo dodgy propaganda then "the burgeoning new profession" of ID is for you. Get yourself to Malvern 18th to 22nd of July 2011 (don't forget to pack a false beard). For more details plus an application e mail contact, secret code number and a mysterious 'UK source' bursery, go to www.c4id.org.uk/summerschool I'd just love to join you but I think I have some paint to watch dry that week.











Monday, 30 May 2011

Press reports round up: BCSE and CrISIS

More from the CrISIS campaign soon but in the meantime here are some links to the press coverage so far:

First the Daily Telegraph who manage to get almost everything about the story incorrect.

Our good friends at the NCSE who get everything correct.

Education News

Times Education Supplement

This is Plymouth

Ekklesia and more here and here.

NSS

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Creation Watch - Richard Fangrad in Oxford - Creation Ministries International

This report from BCSE supporter Luke Bristow:

Richard Fangrad’s ‘Flood of Evidence’ Talk

I recently attended a Creationist talk entitled ‘Flood of Evidence’ conducted by Richard Fangrad from The Creation Ministries. The talk took place at an Evangelical Church in Oxford after the regular Sunday service. Once the sermon was completed Richard took to the stage to commence his talk. He began by engaging the church community about a recent trip to Israel taken by a number of the congregation. After this he began an introduction about the Creation Ministries, his role in it and what the focus of the group is (attempting to convince people they should accept the Genesis story as, ahem, gospel). He took this opportunity to mention that a number of the people involved within the ministry are PhD scientists. Unfortunately we’re not informed which subjects the PhDs were taken in. We’re left to assume that simply because they have PhDs that immediately qualifies them to comment on the Genesis account of creation.  He then directs us to the Creation Ministries website and suggests that there is a rich source of information there that can answer many of the questions that naturally arise when someone believes in tales of men made of dust, women made from spare ribs, talking snakes and immortal vegetarian T-Rex’s etc.

Some valid questions are then posed such as ‘how did the kangaroos get back to Australia after Noah’s flood?’ and ‘where did all the different skin tones come from?’ I’m keen to hear how the kangaroos managed to hop that, mainly ocean bound, seven and a half thousand mile journey home but instead we’re told to visit the website for answers.  He also mentions that you can subscribe to a mailing list which sends out regular emails countering newsworthy scientific discoveries with alternative creationist explanations. As clipboards are passed around to harvest email addresses we’re asked the question ‘Do you ever hear in the popular media a new dinosaur discovery written up as good evidence for biblical creation?’ Surprisingly the congregation seem to unanimously react as if they don’t often hear new dinosaur discoveries chalked up as evidence of creationism. He assures people that the emails provide such information. I begin to wonder why these explanations of dinosaur discoveries supporting creationism, being newsworthy themselves, don’t make it into the news.

With his Power Point presentation in full flow he begins to show pictures of some soft tissue found in dinosaur fossils. He implies that this would be impossible if they were millions of years old. We’re left to take his word on this as he declines to furnish us with any evidence to support this claim.

We’re then subjected to an explanation about why it is important for Christians to understand the conflict between the Scientific Community and the Bible. Although it’s worth noting that he doesn’t actually use the term ‘Scientific Community’ he uses the word ‘World’. My impression is that this is all part of building towards the idea that there isn’t actually a conflict between Science and Religion. He then explains that as a Christian child grows up they are surrounded by the vast Himalayan-like Mountain range of evidence that completely undermines creationism. This leads to questions arising about their faith. These questions, left unanswered, cause conflict and if they aren’t countered with creationist ‘arguments’ the child will grow up and abandon their faith. He then presents some rather reassuring statistics about the number of Christian children leaving their religion in the US. He then reassures the audience (well, not all of us) that these issues can be answered scientifically using evidence.

Next comes a game of linguistics as the conflict is framed as a ‘Battle of Histories’.  He states that it can’t simply be a Religion v Science issue as the early Scientists were YEC Christians and science came out of a Christian Worldview. I didn’t quite grasp the next point he attempted to make but he said ‘If Zeus and his gang were in charge, or some of these religious systems with the Gods warring amongst themselves, why would you expect the laws that govern their creation to remain fixed? Gravity pulls this direction one day (he illustrates this point by walking to one side) and that direction the next day (continuing with the visual assistance he walks in the other direction)’. This is one of many moments when I’m at a loss to understand what the hell he’s talking about. He then proceeds to explain that it cannot be a conflict between Science and Religion because there are different kinds of science. I start to wonder how the different disciplines of Biology, Physics, Chemistry and Geology etc. interplay with this conflict and I become confused further when he defines the different types of science as ‘Operational Science’ and ‘Historical Science’.  Two phrases which I’ve never heard before. ‘Historical Science’ is loosely defined as being about things that can’t be observed. Apparently ‘Operational Science’ is a different Science but I fail to grasp what it’s supposed to be.

He then begins to explain that when fossils are found we have to imagine what happened in the past in order to explain how the fossil got there. Because we weren’t there we can’t know how the animal was buried. He then explains that when we see it today we ‘make up a story’ about how it got there and this can lead to different stories. Realising that he has such a poor grasp of evidence I begin to hope that if I’m ever accused of murder and all the evidence blatantly absolves me Richard isn’t on the jury.
I then chuckle to myself as he informs us that fossils do not come with a nice little label on them saying ‘I am 75 million years old’. This is the first of numerous times when the phrase ‘radiometric dating’ is screamingly missing from the talk.

He then returns to his point about it being a battle of histories and asserts that both histories are believed only as a matter of faith. We’re provided with no reasoning for this argument and are left to accept it too, on faith. He then attempts to encourage his audience that they have an advantage in this ‘Battle of Histories’ because they have ‘the history book of the universe’, aka: the Bible (although as far as I’m aware the Bible’s details about the goings on in other parts of the Universe are a little sketchy. I can only assume that this was God’s gift to astrophysicists so that they have something to do.)

He then continues on about how important it is to believe in Genesis. We’re reminded that if it wasn’t for the original sin of Adam and Eve’s apple scrumping there would have been no need for Jesus to come down and cleanse our sins by being nailed to a cross and dying in agonising pain. As a consequence there would be no grounds for Christianity. I ponder the irony of Jesus spending so much time teaching his followers forgiveness when his sole purpose for existing was to be brutally murdered as atonement for a several millennia earlier charge of apple theft. The Lord moves in mysterious ways I suppose.
At this point we’re about halfway through the talk and we’ve had no real arguments or evidence against evolution. I’m starting to feel disappointed.

Richard claims that atheists know Genesis has to be true in order for Christianity to be true and that’s the reason we attack it. I nod in agreement. Personally my only grievance with a talking snake convincing a woman made from a spare rib to eat an apple, the spare rib woman then convincing a man made from dust to do the same, and this being the reason that death exists is simply because I know how important it is to Christianity. Other than that it’s a perfectly legitimate explanation.

We’re then promised that we’re about to see some science supporting Genesis, I wait with baited breath.

He states that no one has ever seen evolution and therefore it’s all down to interpretation. If I ever find myself infected by that newly evolved anti-biotic resistant MRSA superbug I’ll take great comfort in these words. He then explains that because fossils are of dead animals they must have been fossilised after the Garden of Eden because at that point death hadn’t been invented yet. If that wasn’t true and that fossils were older than the garden of Eden then in his own words ‘with that comes tumbling down to the central teachings of Christianity’ so ‘therefore we need to show fossils aren’t old’. He then says that evolution states that fossils are millions of years old. I’m enlightened as I never realised that evolution offers opinions on such topics. He then suggests that we have lots of fossils that aren’t millions of years old. Next comes my favourite part (drum roll) he shows a picture of a ‘fossilised hat’. My fellow sceptic companion will later explain that he was starting to fall asleep until these words woke him up again. Richard then shows a picture of a bag of petrified flour. Upon later investigation my assumptions are confirmed when I find out that the hat was turned to calcium carbonate. It was a miner’s hat that had been left in a mine for decades and soaked in mineral rich water which had built up around it. The bag of flour was also petrified. For some reason Richard didn’t explain to his audience that this is a completely different process to the fossilisation of dinosaur bones. If I didn’t know better I’d say that he was being dishonest.

He then gave another so called argument by mentioning the famous femur of a T-Rex found in Montana by a team headed by palaeontologist Mary H. Schweitzer. Due to the difficulties of removing the fossil from its remote location it was broken into two pieces small enough for a helicopter to carry. Much to everyone’s surprise remains of soft tissue were found inside the bone, amazingly this even included blood vessels. Richard then implies that therefore this couldn’t possibly be millions of years old. Once again no evidence is provided in support of this premise. He then utters quite frankly a brilliant quote ‘Here’s an observation. It’s still a matter of we have a fact, we have these two interpretations, one interpretation is that that animal died 70 million years ago, another interpretation is that the Bible’s history is a little more accurate, the condensed history that we have in the Bible there. One of the interpretations makes a whole lot more sense. Do I need to say that? Kind of like a no-brainer when you see things like this.’ I wholeheartedly agree with him on this point although I fear our views probably diverge on some of the finer details. He then claims that the Grand Canyon is ‘exhibit A for millions of years to evolutionists’ but fails to explain which orifice he’d just pulled that statement from.  He talks about the Mt St. Helen’s eruption which deposited rock over a large area. We’re then shown a picture of a gorge called the little Grand Canyon that was carved by a subsequent mudslide. He considers the fact that this happened quickly to be some form of proof that the same thing happened at the Grand Canyon. Much to my surprise he fails to explain how the neatly layered bands of different rock types that make up the Grand Canyon could have been deposited by a single volcanic eruption. Richard then suggests that the Canyon itself was created by Noah’s Flood but once again fails to provide any reason to ignore all the evidence to the contrary. It turns out that he himself has gone on a boat trip down the Grand Canyon with some creationist geologists. They were looking for evidence of quick deposition. He assures us that they came to the conclusion that it couldn’t possibly have happened slowly but declines to mention how they came to this conclusion. He then claims that Noah’s Flood created the perfect conditions for fossilisation. But again doesn’t explain why. Perhaps it caused lots of hats to be washed into mine shafts? I don’t know. He reiterates his earlier point that it’s a great time to be a Christian because of all the evidence. I continue my patient vigil waiting for this evidence. He repeats that evolutionists take the idea of millions of years on faith. I decide to myself that I would concede the point that I have faith in evidence and the scientific method.

He then begins to explain that there is a moral need for belief in the Bible. For some reason we’re not reminded of all the various World Health Organisation and UN statistics that clearly show a correlation between secular nations and low crime rates, murder rates, infant mortality etc. He then asks the question: if you don’t believe then who sets the rules? We’re provided with a quote from an evolutionists discussing morality in relation to evolution, the basic premise being that evolution does not provide us with an inherent morality. He then poses the corollary question of what would happen if someone took that view literally. But thankfully we’re not burdened with the task of pondering this for very long; he answers it himself using a quote from the cannibal serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. The quote can be summarised as Dahmer saying that if evolution is true then you can do what you want. At this point I have to be fair and add that Richard was gracious enough to admit that not every evolutionist will end up a serial killer. I suppose the implication is merely that some will. Or perhaps many will, or maybe even most. It’s hard to say exactly what his insinuation was. Meanwhile I wait for a quote from one of the Christians who kill abortion performing doctors in order for balance. No such balance is given. He states that Dahmer was consistent with the view that comes out of evolution and claims that if evolution is true you cannot say Dahmer was wrong, which is surprising because evolution is true and yet I say Dahmer was wrong.

As a final summary we’re reminded that there are two belief systems and apparently they both require faith. He claims that there isn’t a single fact or observation that evolution has made that he disagrees with, a contradiction to his earlier statement that evolution states that fossils are millions of years old. But, we can forgive him for this on the basis of it not being true anyway. It’s fascinating that he can get this far without even once mentioning radiometric dating or even simply considering why it is people believe fossils are millions of years old. Next we’re told that Science supports biblical history and that dinosaur bones obviously do not support millions of years, probably one of the most blatant of the lies during the talk.

The talk finishes with seven minutes of encouraging people to buy various magazines, books and DVDs and also to visit the website. Much to my disappointment I never did find out how the kangaroos got home.

To summarise the talk wasn’t as good as I hoped. It came across mainly as a sales pitch for the Creation Ministries. There was quite a bit of talk about why you need to believe in Genesis. This was followed by the promise that all the inherent problems with believing such nonsense can be answered in the magazines, books and DVDs on sale. In between was a light sprinkle a few half-baked ‘arguments’ any of which could be easily undermined by five minutes on Google.  But at the same time I have to mention that Richard came across a decent, amiable and sincere chap, even if somewhat deluded.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Close that loophole Mr Gove

The BCSE is very pleased to announce that a letter from CrISIS has today been delivered to Michael Gove at the Department for Education formally asking him to close the loophole that allows creationists into state funded schools to present Creationism to our children as a valid scientific fact.

This is the next part of the CrISIS campaign we told you about here and here - if you haven't done so yet - please sign the petition.



The letter is signed by the following people:

Laura Horner B.Sc., PGCE (CrISIS founder and parent)
Jim Al-Khalili, Professor of Physics, Professor of Public Engagement in Science
Simon Barrow for Ekklesia
Dr Susan Jane Blackmore, BA (Hons), MSc, PhD
Professor Paul S. Braterman M.A. D.Phil , D.Sc (Oxon) for the British Centre for Science Education
Andrew M. Colman, BA (Hons), MA, PhD, Professor of Psychology 
D. Colquhoun FRS, Professor of Pharmacology, University College London 
Richard Dawkins, DSc, FRS, Emeritus Professor, University of OxfordProf 
Christopher C French, Professor of Psychology, BA PhD
Adam Hart -Davis, MA (Oxon), D Phil (York)
Julian Huppert, Member of Parliament for Cambridge
The Rev Canon David Jennings, M.Phil., B.D., A.K.C., Rector of Burbage,Canon Theologian of Leicester Cathedral
Professor J Steve Jones
Dr Stephen Law
Clifford Longley, Consultant Editor to the Tablet, BBC Moral Maze panellist
Terry Sanderson, President of National Secular Society
Rev Michael Roberts, M.A. (Oxon - geology) B.A. (Dunelm- theology) F.R.Hist.S Vicar of Cockerham, Winmarleigh and Glasson, Hon Research Fellow in History, Lancaster Univ.
Simon Singh MBE
Canon Prof J.S. K. Ward D.D (Oxon) D.D. (Cantab) , F.B.A. Emeritus Regius Prof of Theology, Oxford
James D. Williams BSc MEd FSB CSciTeach
This list of signatures, put together in just a few days, and comprising key figures from science, education and religion, demonstrates the following points:

  • The issue in question is not one of atheists versus the religious.
  • The issue is one of concern for educational standards.
  • Creationists are flagrantly abusing a guideline that says Creationism can't be taught in science classes by simply teaching it in other subjects.
  • This makes a mockery of the current guidelines and some state funded schools are taking advantage of this to advance their own fundamentalist agendas.
  • This has important implications for the Free Schools policy.
The letter text reads as follows:
Dear Mr Gove,
Creationism In Schools Isn’t Science - CrISIS
Despite existing Department of Education guidance on the teaching of creationism, some recent events at St Peter’s, a state secondary school in Exeter, Devon show additional protection is necessary.
In March, Philip Bell, a full time Evangelical preacher and Chief Executive of Creation Ministries International (who presents creationist views that the world is about 6000 years old as scientific fact and denies the validity of the theory of evolution) was invited by the school to lecture to Year 11 students as part of an RE revision day.
It should be noted that his organization states on its website that their preferred method of evangelizing is infiltrating at a grassroots level via a sympathetic teacher, introductions and magazines as they feel this is a more successful method of achieving conversions. His website showed that he considered the event “Ministry to school students”. Mr Bell and his colleagues have already made appearances at other schools and according to his website more are planned.
The school is adamant it has done nothing wrong within the current guidelines despite presenting creationism on equal terms with modern science to sixteen year olds and in a letter to a parent describing Mr Bell as a “scientist” who “presented arguments based on scientific theory for his case” and describing modern biology as “evolutionism ".[1] This echoes Christian Schools Trust policy on evolution[2] which is to teach biblical creationism as historical and scientific fact, present evolution and creationism as competing scientific standpoints, and present evolution in such a way that it will not be believed.
Recently, the Department of Education has stated that you are ‘crystal clear’ that creationism has no scientific validity and should not be taught as science. Yet here we have a school presenting Creationism as a valid scientific position, and justifying this by reference to Religious Education. These events show that creationists are now openly using the RE syllabus to advance their claim to be offering a valid scientific alternative to established knowledge, from within the State funded school system.Therefore, we believe that the guidelines need clarifying to prevent Creationism being presented as a valid scientific theory both in lesson time and outside of it in state funded schools, as we are aware that this is also happening in clubs in and out of school time. Given the nature of the internet, we also believe that the Guidance should state that websites which promote creationism as a valid scientific theory, like other unsuitable resources, should not be used. We believe this is necessary to protect the plain intent of the current Guidelines.
In addition, you will shortly have to deal with applications for Free School status from Everyday Champions Church (ECC), the Christian Schools Trust and for Academy status for St Peter’s among many others. Recent public statements from ECC and its associates suggest, if anything, an even more anti-scientific approach in its preferred teaching.[3] This would suggest that the current Guidelines will need modification to reflect emerging practice.
The parent involved in the Exeter school incident (Laura Horner) and the British Centre for Science Education together with the groups and individuals listed at the end of this letter have therefore come together to launch CrISIS (Creationism In Schools Isn't Science), whose views are summarised in our petition:
Creationism is known, and officially acknowledged, to be contrary to scientific fact. We therefore demand that creationism should not be presented as a valid scientific position, nor creationist websites and resources be promoted, in publicly funded schools or in any youth activities run on publicly funded school premises.
Since this is in accord with Government policy as we understand it, we look forward to your support in this matter and a clarification of the Guidelines to reflect these demands.
Respectfully, 
[1] http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/crisis-creationism-in-schools-isn-t-science.html 
[2] Christian Schools Trust 2009 Policy on the Teaching of Evolution, quoted in full by Sylvia Baker, Ph.D. Thesis in Education, 2009, available at http://go.warwick.ac.uk/wrap/3115, pp 354 on 11/5/2011
[3] http://www.creationscience.co.uk/hello-world-2-2/
The BCSE calls on Mr Gove to issue an unambiguous statement confirming that state funded schools should not promote creationism as a valid scientific position in any class or activity at all.

This solution is quick, simple and free.  The BCSE and other groups will then have an effective tool to use when we receive reports of creationists active in state funded schools.

Close the loophole now Mr Gove.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

CrISIS; Creationism In Schools Isn’t Science

Shocking goings-on in Exeter! Young Earth creationist introduced to class in publicly funded school as a scientist presenting his side of the creation/evolution "controversy"! Please, please, sign and pass on this petition, to stop this kind of thing happening again.


Creationism is known, and officially acknowledged, to be contrary to scientific fact. We therefore demand that creationism should not be presented as a valid scientific position, nor creationist websites and resources be promoted, in publicly funded schools or in any youth activities run on publicly funded school premises.


You will be in good company; Richard Dawkins, Julian Huppert, Simon Singh, Stephen Law, Susan Blackmore, Prof David Colquhoun of Improbable Science fame, two of the UK’s leading theologians (Keith Ward of Oxford University and David Jennings of Leicester Cathedral), and, as I write this, more than 1250 others including some names that will be very familiar to readers of this blog.

Here is what triggered this, and here is what is at stake. With much prodding, the Westminster Minister for Education, Michael Gove, has divulged that he is "crystal clear" that creationism is scientifically false and should not be taught as science. Unfortunately, other ministerial statements are as clear as cowshit, and seem to allow creationism to be taught as true within the context of Religious Education. That's right, call it RE and you can claim that you're allowed to tell children that it's true even though everybody agrees that it isn't.
Enter, at the invitation of someone in St Peter’s Church of England School, C of E but fully paid for out of taxes, one Philip Bell. This man has a first degree in science but is now a full-time employee of Creation Ministries International. A powerful and convincing speaker, he is best known for his "spectacles" argument. No way of interpreting evidence is assumption-free (this much is true). So, he claims, "evolutionists" look at the evidence through evolutionist spectacles, and interpret what they see accordingly. Therefore it is equally valid to look at the same evidence through biblical spectacles, and come to the completely opposite conclusion. Then, he asks, how do we know that radioactive decay rates have been constant over time. Good question, but how many 16 year olds will know the good answer?  Did you? [1]
This is not an isolated episode. The Church of England is being targeted by nondenominational know-nothing biblical literalists. Does that matter, when less than a million people show up to church on Sunday? Yes, it matters very much indeed. That Church controls a third of the schools in England, a proportion bound to increase under the Westminster Government's Free Schools programme. 
If you find the liberal Christianity of the CofE a pain in the neck, the takeover crowd are a brain haemorrhage. Noah’s Ark, Tower of Babel, Adam’s rib, if it’s in the Bible it’s true as far as they’re concerned, and they want their schools to say so. They want to teach "Creation Science" as an "alternative" to ordinary, reality-based science, and they'll happily do it in the RE class if they have to. That is what we need to stop, unless we want schoolkids being lied to about the plain facts of geology, biology, physics (radioactive decay laws), astronomy and cosmology (the age and extent of the visible Universe), archaeology, and ancient history.
The openly Creationist Christian Schools Trust is trying to smuggle their schools into the English state system, and if they succeed we can guess what will happen with the five schools they have in Scotland. The Young Earth Creationist JAM (Jesus And Me) foundation, operating out of East Kilbride, is dishing out CDs to primary school kids. Readers of the this blog will know about the antics of Truth in Science, Explore Evolution, and the Atlas of Creation, whose massively expensive Creationist materials have been sent to every high school in the country. And to go back to where this story started, Philip Bell is visiting Lochgilphead School this autumn.

[1] Radioactive decay rates depend on things like Planck's constant, the mass of the electron, and the relative strengths of electrostatic and nuclear forces. If these had been different, the entire behaviour of matter would have been different, and we wouldn't have had rocks with recognisable chemistry laid down in the first place.

Written by Paul Braterman and cross posted at 21st Floor

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

British Science Association and BIS Ipsos MORI poll

From here:
Two questions in Public Attitudes to Science 2011, a survey conducted by Ipsos MORI in association with the British Science Association for the United Kingdom's Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills, are relevant to the creationism/evolution controversy.
The topline report details (PDF) that, presented with "Human beings have evolved from other animals," 67% of respondents agreed and 17% disagreed, with 12% neither agreeing nor disagreeing and 3% saying that they didn't know; presented with "God created the earth and all life in it," 39% of respondents agreed and 37% disagreed, with 21% neither agreeing nor disagreeing and 3% saying that they didn't know.
The survey was conducted among 2103 British adults aged 16 or older, in face-to-face in-home interviews from October 11 to December 19, 2010; the data were weighted to reflect the population profile of the United Kingdom.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Times Education Supplement strangely ignorant again

We previously reported on the TES Scotland letting students, teachers and parents know about a web site pushing creationist canards.  TES is apparently under the impression that holding a view sceptical of modern biology is both scientifically justified and part of the National Curriculum.   It is neither.

We pointed out that such a newspaper might consider it a part of their normal professional operations to point out that such materials are specifically deemed unsuitable for use in education by the government teaching guidelines.

We were disappointed to be ignored by the TES.

Now they have gone one better (or worse) here.

This is actually a report from a public discussion at the recent Edinburgh Science Festival although you would be hard pressed to know it.  The chap who is given most prominence in this piece (Alastair Noble) thinks that every word in the bible is true and that science must be subservient to it.  More importantly he was not on the panel at the talk.  He was, in fact, an audience member who spoke for about 30 seconds.

Now the TES gives him top billing.

We need to ask the question as to whether the TES has anyone with any kind of scientific training who can point out just how far they have strayed from modern science and educational standards.

Please go and comment on the story or send your thoughts to the editor of TES Scotland here:

scoted at tes.co.uk