Dear friends of the BCSE,
Another busy few months since our last newsletter.
We will give you a brief taster of events here but please click through the links to read more.
Evolution Not Creationism
We were very pleased to welcome the big hitters to the ring with the launch of this campaign by David Attenborough in September. We would like to encourage everyone to sign their petition.
The CrISIS campaign petition has now hit the target of 5,000 signatures and will be moving on to the next stage soon - we will keep you all posted.
Creationist Free School activity in your area? If so, we need to hear from you.
The Education Secretary told one of our committee that in his view, the public interest required him to refuse a Freedom of Information Act request for information about unsuccessful Free School applications, for fear of discouraging further applicants, and we expect that requests for information about pending applications would also be refused.
We must therefore rely on locally gathered information about Free School applications from creationist organisations. If any such applications come to your attention, please let us know (as well as expressing your opinion locally, and writing to your MP). We know that at least one such application is currently under consideration (see next paragraph).
Christian Schools Trust
These folks are openly biblical creationists and are pushing a Free School application, for the Bethany school group in Sheffield, which seeks Free School status in 2013. If granted, this would mean that the entire cost of running and maintaining the school, which is now private, would have to be met from the existing local authority education budget, although the authority would have no control over its actions.
This from their FAQs:
"Will the SCFS curriculum include creationism?
Yes. Christianity has a clear and distinctive creation story which is relevant to all areas of the curriculum. We know that ’some people think differently‘ so we will be sure to give full weight to other views of the origins and purposes of life. Our science curriculum will be broad and well-balanced, looking at the assumptions, evidence and interpretations behind scientific theories. Michael Gove’s view that ‘teaching creationism is at odds with scientific fact’ will be taken into account."
In a recent Radio Sheffield call-in programme, they repeatedly proclaimed their own brand of biblical literalism as the only real form of Christianity, thus denigrating the views held by the vast majority of Christian believers in this country now, and indeed for the past two centuries. One of CST’s own leaders, Sylvia Baker, conducted a survey of CST and similar schools, and found that only 7% of their students end up accepting the reality of evolution as a process over many millions of years, a statistic that the Bethany representative presented with some pride on the radio programme. He might also have added that 80% of their students believe not only Noah's worldwide flood, but Adam's chest operation in the Garden of Eden, to be matters of historical fact (details here).
We will shortly be posting a fuller analysis of the Sylvia Baker thesis and survey on our website. In any case, it is important that we hear from you about CST and other creationist activity in your neighbourhood, especially as regards attempts to enter or infiltrate the publicly funded school system. As Dr. Baker's thesis makes clear, the CST position is driven by its own peculiar theology,, which pervades all its educational activities. In the circumstances, quite apart from the insult to science, it is difficult to see how a CST school could fulfil the obligation, incumbent on all faith-related schools within the public system, to show respect and consideration towards pupils who do not share their faith.
In view of the Education Secretary's reticence, it is particularly important for members and supporters to notify us of any such activity that they come across.
We also urge members to let us know about, and attend, public meetings regarding such applications in their area.
Members should challenge the applicants with the statement made by the Department for Education in response to the application for Free School status from Everyday Champions Church:
The Secretary of State carefully considered your application, the views and beliefs of your organisation as set out in your application, your responses at interview and information about your organisation available in the public domain. He was unable to accept that an organisation with creationist beliefs could prevent these views being reflected in the teaching in the school and in its other activities. It is his firm view that the teaching of creationist views as a potentially valid alternative theory is not acceptable in a 21st century state funded school.
This is available on the ECC website here.
There are no grounds for complacency; CST has friends in high places (although not, we think, the very highest) and may know something we don't so please help where you can.
C4ID and friends in High Places
Talking of "friends in high places", the Centre for Intelligent Design, the Glasgow Glove-puppet of the US Creationist organisation the Discovery Institute, recently put on an expensive inaugural dinner and have been bragging about it ever since.
"The audience of some 90 invited guests included leading scientists, philosophers, Parliamentarians, educationalists, theologians, lawyers, and representatives of the media and business sectors. Given the controversial nature of the subject and the desire not to inhibit discussion, C4ID requested that the identity of the participants remain protected. The attendance of so many significant figures signals real interest in the topic, but, as Lord Mackay stressed in his introduction, their presence was not taken as an indication of support for the position of Intelligent Design (ID)."
The "scientific" claims made by Meyer are getting on for two decades old now and have made no impact within scientific circles as they are mostly "not science" sprinkled lightly with error. To an audience not trained in the relevant scientific disciplines the combination of polished rhetoric and science jargon is superficially appealing.
But writing books and holding lectures doesn't make Intelligent Design into science.
If any members or supporters attended or have reports of the event please let us know.
In typical creationist style the Discovery Institute in the form of a Scottish student lashed out at criticisms of the event on the UK based Christians in Science forums. This particular article also displays with great clarity the central fallacies of the Intelligent Design position.
World Around Us - TES and DfE claims
We have previously told you about this creationist website masquerading as a science resource for schools. There is a lot more research on this group to be seen on our wiki here.
First of all the TESS have published a response by one of our committee members and you can see this here.
Secondly the web page now seems to be claiming or strongly implying DfE support for their materials, on the basis of a letter from DfE welcoming the production of all new educational materials, but specifically refusing to comment on the content and quality of such offerings; yet another example of the level of truthfulness and candour that we have learnt to expect from creationist groups. We covered this here; I wrote to the DfE via their web page as detailed in that blog posting and received a response stating the following:
"The Government’s policy on creationism and intelligent design is clear. The Government is committed to high quality science education reflecting the consensus within the scientific community about the validity of current explanations of the origins of the universe and the diversity of life on Earth.
The Secretary of State of has made it very clear that teaching creationist views as a potentially valid alternative scientific theory should have no place in a 21st-century state-funded school.
The Department receives many requests for endorsements of education materials, as was the case with the World Around Us website. It appears this request received a standard response, which makes it clear that we do not endorse or promote third party resources but did not consider the specific contents of the website in question.
The Department does not approve or endorse this or any other website which suggests that creationism and intelligent design have a valid scientific basis or that these ideas present a valid scientific challenge to mainstream theories.
The Department is now considering what further action to take in the light of the representation of the correspondence which appears on the website in question. Once again, thank you for drawing this to our attention."
We wait with interest to see what happens.
Everyday Champions Church - A firm "No" from Michael Gove
As mentioned in the CST story above, the ECC Academy application was rejected as Michael Grove was "unable to accept that an organisation with creationist beliefs could prevent these views being reflected in the teaching in the school and in its other activities." Furthermore "It is his firm view that the teaching of creationist views as a potentially valid alternative theory is not acceptable in a 21st century state funded school."
Despite the overwhelming evidence we gathered regarding their creationist beliefs, mainly consisting of their own public statements on the matter, they are now disappointed:
"We feel very sad that the application has seemingly been rejected solely due to the Schools perceived association to creationist beliefs."
They were due to meet with the DfE again a few weeks ago and we await developments with interest.
Here is to a great 2012 for science education.
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If you want to join us then please click here.
We have conducted several talks to various groups including Skeptics in the Pub, Student Societies and Humanist Groups. We are keen to raise awareness of the issues around creationism and the education system. Remember that we are religiously neutral and would particularly value discussions with religious groups concerned with the activities of creationists.
If you want us to talk to your group then please get in touch mark at bcseweb.org.uk
Our "Creation-Watch" campaign continues with many more opportunities in 2012.
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If you have questions or concerns about a situation at your school please contact us in confidence at creationwatch at bcseweb dot org dot uk
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