Thursday, 29 March 2012

Pot, Kettle

One loud scottish supporter of the C4ID who is insistent that it has nothing to do with creationism or religion has been spotted being a hypocrite here.

The Funniest Thing You’ll See a Christian Do All Day… 
"In this article, I am going to focus specifically on the historical accuracy of the Qur’an. As we shall see, the claim that the Qur’an is historically accurate — particularly when it describes events hundreds of years removed from its writing — is not a tenable position."

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Intelligent Design community demand ID Spoofs to be put in the Science and Technology Category

From here:

The Intelligent Design movement have gone to the courts to force popular satirical news site, The Spoof, to put Spoofs that ridicule evolution and promote creationism into the Science and Technology section along side items that ridicule Creationism.

"It is not acceptable that pro-Evolution articles are allowed into the Science And Technology section, whilst anti-Evolution articles are put straight into the bin," said spokesman for the Discovery Institute, Michael Beye. "We will be bringing the full weight of the law down on the Spoof to force them to ridicule evolution alongside ridiculing Quantum Physics and homoeopathy."

Live Blogging the C4ID 2011 Lecture - part two

I started here.

Ok here we go again from 27 mins in this time.

He is still going strong about how complicated life is and the fact that there is information in DNA,  oooh a fancy animation. Transcription, digital information, polymerase is complicated, messenger RNA, nuclear pore complex, a device, complicated, assembly instructions in a two part chemical factory, complicated, complicated ribosome, transfer RNA, complicated, machine, device etc. etc.

Because Huxley and Darwin knew nothing of this they were . . . (left hanging)

Another analogy, cadcam is computer aided design of parts and assembly.

Life does this, it is mind blowing and has raised "the DNA enigma".

Oh that sounds new, wait for it . . . .

Where does the information in DNA come from?

What? Still this bit of fluff?

Therefore life must be designed.

Now there is an answer to this folks, I just spent about half my core second year biology degree course studying it.

It comes from the interaction of the phenotype with the environment and is fed back into the genotype.  It is more commonly called Natural Selection.

Is that it then?  That is the big question and we already have the answer.  So will the ID crowd now go home?

No he is still going strong.

There are two concepts of information - mathematical notion i.e. Shannon information theory.  Reducing uncertainty.  He really needs to explain why he is throwing this in, unless he just wants to confuse his audience.

Claims Specificity means something - not sure what - but then neither is anyone else.  Will he admit this major criticism of his work and address it?


Will he perhaps bring up that Dembski has conceded that the specificity filter gets false positives i.e. it doesn't work?  Maybe he has a refutation to this refutation.  No

Back to Crick now, who was apparently insistent that information in living systems is "specification of the amino acid sequence in the protein . . . Information means the precise determination of sequence, either of bases in the nucleic acid or on amino acid residues in the protein"

I find this to be disingenuous in the extreme.  Read Crick in context and you can plainly see that he was offering up a solution to where the information was in living systems.  Information that was known to exist from genetics and the location of which had been linked to DNA by previous experiment.  Previous experimenters had been put off DNA as a possible carrier of data because it always seemed to contain very similar ratios of the constituent ingredients i.e. the four "letters"and the structural elements of the famous duble helix and so it wasn't apparent how such a boring molecule might hold the information.

So Crick is simply explaining how a molecule with roughly equal ratios of a few chemicals can store complicated information, i.e. using the four letters as a kind of code.

Why on earth wouldn't Meyers explain this if he was trying to be open and honest with folks?  There is nothing to stop him going on to say that he doesn't agree with modern biology about how it got there and he could explain precisely why.  Wouldn't that be the honest thing to do?

Instead he is seems to me to be trying to deliberately mislead his audience.

Its complicated and specific and complicated etc.

Now he is saying that Dawkins admits DNA is uncannily computer like.  Meyer explicitly states that even in the very simplest forms of life we see extreme complexity.  Again very naughty.

The hidden card here is that he wants you to think that science thinks life started with modern cells.  That todays modern cells are the simplest form of life.  It doesn't think any such thing of course.

What about RNA world?  What about 3 or four other current origin of life hypotheses?  According to Meyer these bodies of work don't even seem to exist.  Again I find this a very dishonest approach from someone telling a non expert audience that he is covering the topic for them.

He thought origin of life was solved years back but it isn't you know.  He went to a conference with origin of life scientists and everything and their candidness about their ignorance was shocking.  He evens says that the scientists spent lots of time at the conference asking where the information came from and again he just leaves the implication hanging that they had and have no clue at all.

Now he is saying that explanations should be one of three things.  We should explain things by chance or necessity or both.

Evolution uses both of course - surely he will have to admit that at some point.

So the origin of life theories were basically just chance or necessity or both.

Chance has been rejected though apparently because Meyer can find some quotes from people saying it has.

And - If you pick a random scrabble letter you only get gibberish.

Holy Moses this is a classic Creationist argument - I thought the ID folks had supposedly got rid of all of them.

Unless you have lots of trials it doesn't work - how many trials does he think a whole planet over hundreds of millions of years might give you?  And bearing in mind any kind of short word is kept and replicates . . . oh sorry he would be simply quoting evolutionary theory.

Anyway he stopped before that and switched to trying to convince people that slowly keeping hits one at a time and building up the information slowly so it can't happen.

No mention of the scientific challenges to this work, most of which is actually covered at high school or undergraduate level.  Yes he is really trying to get away with this.

He has ignored his critics in the wider world and no pretends they don't exist to his audience. He doesn't even mention protein families!

Chutzpah is the word.

I'm flagging again now.  We are now up to 50 minutes.

So chance has been rejected by science apparently.

More another night.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Live Blogging the UK C4ID Lecture 2011

Ok, so this lecture event cost the C4ID a fortune and is the Intelligent Design movement putting their best foot forward to a selected audience of politicians and university top knobs.

So just in case you have something better to do with an hour and a half of your time,  I'm going to watch it for you.

This is a "live blog" of my viewing session:

We start with an anecdote about philosophy at Cambridge - don't ask questions that reveal ignorance.  All questions are welcome here, but at the end.

He's very happy to be in the UK.  Intelligent Design was germinated here apparently.  No Scopes trial here he says. He doesn't say that this is because we never banned Evolution from our schools here in the UK.  But I think Meyer is happy to leave his audience ignorant of the fact that it was the creationist law banning the teaching of science that was tested in the infamous Monkey Trial.  Yes, despite all the creationist/ID proponents demands for fair treatment etc it was they who banned actual science from actual science classes in many US states for many years.

Complains C4ID is science and based on scientific thought not creationism.  No evidence, he just asserts it.  Full stop.  No addressing of the common and oft repeated problems with this.  I would have thought this would be a great opportunity to explain why his critics are wrong - but he seems content to just assert they are wrong and in fact doesn't even mention the common claims they make.  Wow - that is chutzpah for you!

Darwin introduced NS and change over time.  Half right.  Change over time was generally accepted before Darwin, and many of those who accepted it where clergy.

ID dispute none of these things, they accept NS, and almost all accept that the earth and universe are very old.  ID research community he says?  Wow they are doing research? Perhaps we might find out about it - they have kept it secret up until now.

Next we get the first straw man - that biologists claim that NS accounts for all design seen in nature - no they don't Genetic Drift enhanced by such effects as the founder effect are now part of the picture but presumably being honest about this won't suit his rhetoric - let's see.

Now he is quoting some folks to frame this as science versus religion.  Meyers likes Dawkins because he states this simply.  Meyers shares this view with UK creationists who use Dawkins as a major part of their recruitment approach - i.e. this is science versus God.

"Defines" ID - some bits of living things point to intelligence.  Wow really clear isn't it?  ????

Brief review of Darwinian denial of design - Origin Of Species chapter 4 - Artificial human breeding of sheep, Darwin argued that this mimics the effects of natural selection therefore NS eliminates the need for a guiding intelligence of any kind.

Thus the claim of design is refuted.  Is he really going to ignore the rest of the arguments in OOS, Darwin himself thought that biogeography was the strongest evidence for NS?  Looks like he is going to pretend it doesn't exist. Again.

Today there are scientific arguments about NS not being sufficient to account for large scale innovations. He mentions a conference of 16 leading biologists who doubt evolution, then leaves it at that.  Simple claims that evolution is in serious doubt in the scientific community.  This is in fact a simple lie as far as I can see.  Check for yourself - here is a write up of what happened but look around for yourself.   Once again Meyer apparently doesn't think that anyone will bother to look into the substance behind his claims.  Tough luck matey.

Distinguishing morphological evolution from chemical evolution.  He wants to leave modern neo-darwinism as true but still wants to question the origin of life - do we know what happened?  No.  Neither does he.  Isn't that called God the Gaps, Excuse me Designer of the Gaps?

Holy Moses I'm only 15 minutes in.  This guy is really churning out the misleading propaganda isn't he?

Apparently because Darwin can't explain the origin of life therefore he didn't get rid of the need for a designer.  This is very messy pseudo-logic.  Can't he see a difference between them?

Says life was assumed to be very simple when it started.  Oh I see he is going to say it must have been complicated from scratch, from day one!  Wait for it.  No just leaves the clear implication hanging.

Crikey, quoting ancient comments describing cells as being very simple.  Now implying that complicated cells like those seen today were the first life.  He doesn't hold back does he?

Now talking about language and codes in DNA.  Wow, aren't proteins complicated.  Kids toy prop to show how long amino acid chains are that make up proteins.  Lots of proteins in life.  Complicated protein pictures.  Thousands of them.  Wow. Complicated. Wow. Jargon. Wow. Complicated.

I think you get the idea.

"Sequence specificity"; function of whole determined by the sequence of the parts.  Sounds really impressive - gets us nowhere but as long as we are impressing non scientists then that is apparently fine.

Francis Crick was a code breaker in World War 2 apparently, although this appears to be news to wikipedia which says he worked designing mines, so does this.  Where is Meyer pulling this stuff from?  I think this might be indicative of the man - even his casual asides appear to be simply made up.

I'm now 26 mins in and I can't take any more - I will do more another night.

Debunking Corner: Irreducible complexity (again)

How is this for a good ratio of rebuttal to rebutee(?):

To answer this whole page of garbage from uncommon descent you just need the following:


This shows you just how empty the IDCreationist position is.  There are actually several other ways that IC systems can evolve but that one word response seems to fit the arch and knives/glasses examples given.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Centre for Intelligent Design update

It looks like the C4ID is intent on spending money in direct contradiction to DfE policy.

At least that is the impression they give in an email sent out today.  There are no fees or expenses for talks given anywhere in the country.  They must be well funded.

We also noticed this:

"Although C4ID is not specifically targeting schools, I am also happy to give talks in schools, to classes or clubs, where appropriate."
They seem to have forgotten that Michael Gove has stated that:
"Creationism, intelligent design and similar ideas must not be taught as valid scientific theories"
So we are left wondering when exactly is one of their talks is "appropriate" in a school?  Certainly not in classes, clubs, assemblies, or any other activity where they are presented as a valid scientific viewpoint.

Any school facilitating such a talk risks the wrath of Mr Gove and the local LEA and the ridicule of the press.

Perhaps Noble is hoping that schools wont realise that they aren't supposed to let him promote his pseudo-scientific nonsense as science so that he can sneak in under the radar?

If you hear about such talks in schools or colleges please let us know and we will take the appropriate action.

It is telling that C4ID themselves won't tell us where they are giving talks, there is no sign of them on their web site, presumably because they know that they are going against the DfE and rather than tackle the issue in the full light of day, they woud rather operate in the shadows.

This is not a reputable and honest way to behave.

Here is the full text of the email sent out today:

No fee for  ID Presentation from Dr Alastair Noble


I am being increasingly asked to speak to groups about Intelligent Design and I am writing to say that I am committed to expanding this aspect of the work of C4ID.  I would be happy, therefore, to speak at any event, anywhere in the UK, which you may wish to organise.  I am also happy to participate in more intimate settings like a dinner or supper event. 

I have a number of illustrated presentations which are suitable for college, university, church or public audiences and which deal with various aspects of Intelligent Design. Although C4ID is not specifically targeting schools, I am also happy to give talks in schools, to classes or clubs, where appropriate.  The current requests have been for talks on:
  • The scientific evidence for Intelligent Design
  • The Re-emergence of Intelligent Design
  • Intelligent Design and the case for faith
  • Evolution and Intelligent Design
  • Are we here by design or by chance?
Although these talks have differing emphases, each deals essentially with the evidence for design in nature.  I also usually have some books and DVDs for sale. 

If you wish to organise an event, please get in touch with me  by email or call the Centre on 0141 331 1607.  My PA, Rosalyn Goodfellow, will probably deal with your request.  It would be helpful for scheduling if you could give me a few months' notice of your intentions. 

I should say that the costs of this will be borne by me or by C4ID, though any contribution you can make will be welcome. 

I look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes 

Dr Alastair Noble

Centre for Intelligent Design 

About The Centre for Intelligent Design
The primary aim of the Centre for Intelligent Design (CID) is to promote the public understanding of Intelligent Design (ID) and its implications.

The Centre for Intelligent Design is an independent organisation which has been set up by a network of volunteers across the UK who have professional interests in education, science, medicine, business and the law. It is funded by contributions from individuals and organisations who support its aims.
Its specific objectives are to:
  • promote the professional investigation and public debate of Intelligent Design
  • challenge, on the scientific evidence, the neo-Darwinian claim that the development of life is purely the result of undirected forces
  • encourage consideration of the wider implications of Intelligent Design.
For more information visit our web site at 

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Blog Focus: A question for Creationists

From the rather excellent :

Rosa Rubicondior

"These questions should be extremely easy for creationists who insist that micro-evolution is possible but not macro-evolution, because, presumably, they can distinguish between these with ease and understand the mechanism well enough to explain why it can't happen."

A bit of fun

HT James McGrath

More evidence from the USA . . .

. . . that creationism is well organised and well funded.  Reasons to be vigilant here in the UK

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Creationism alive and well in the USA

If you thought that creationism was just a quaint episode from the past, here is a recent communication sent out by the American Institute of Biological Sciences about creationism and Global Warming denial.

Correlation and now Causation

BCSE has been pointing out for some while the apparent correlation between creationism and some quite extreme right wing views such as being against equal rights (for just about anyone but creationists), anti-environmentalism, global warming denial etc. etc.  It isn't universal but it seems to be pervasive.

The author of the hilarious anti-BCSE smear site BCSE Revealed (It's so good we have a copy in case it ever gets taken down), David Anderson, who is a never-mind-your-facts-6,000-year-old-earth-kind-of-chap, tells it how it is:
"Only the Christian doctrine of creation ultimately stands against the oxymoronic idea of "homosexual marriage". Only an understanding of creation explains why the juxtaposition of "homosexual" and "marriage" is an oxymoron. Like a feline dog, or an infant elder. It's not so much "changing the definition" of marriage" as contradicting it." 
" . . .the West still largely views polygamy as immoral, but sodomy as potentially an expression of love." 
"The doctrine of creation cuts the knot. Marriage is a designed institution, given by a Creator to help fulfil his purposes for creation." 
"Godly male pursuit and godly female submission were to express realities that have both life-long and cosmic and eschatological significances. Hence homosexual sin is a radical rebellion against the created order and its Maker. And 'homosexual marriage' is a contradiction in terms." 
"We need to know what the ground on which we stand is, and not just point out some of the nice flowers that grow in it."
Creationism->homophobia->submission of women in marriage.

So which ever side of the politics you are on - creationists are the only ones who can justify your views!

From here.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Science and Religion

A fascinating discussion between the Chief Rabbi and Marcus Du Sautoy.

For creationophiles go to 57 mins for an interesting question and answer.

JBW2012: Religion & Science from Jewish Book Week on Vimeo.

"No Jewish creationist existed before the 20th century."

Creationist Free School in Sheffield - update

We told you about this before.

Their application has now gone off to the DfE.

Let's look at the current evidence that should rule out their application.  Just for fun why not restrict ourselves to evidence that is proudly displayed on their own website.

Firstly some typically creationist weasel words:
SCFS says…
The Secretary of State for Education says teaching creationism as scientific fact, is “wrong”. (SCFS- we don’t teach creationism as scientific fact but we do offer to our pupils the wide range of assumptions, data, interpretations and theories made by the scientific community.)
What does this even mean??

So a kind of denial that is followed up by a frank admission:
The government has amended its funding agreement to prevent creationist groups from opening free schools. (SCFS- Why? What is there to fear from people who believe in the traditional Christian origins account? We are ordinary Christian parents and teachers who are at the heart of the education system, in every school, at every level, doing every job. Tell us …is their a problem with our work or our beliefs?)
Which had previously been stated more plainly too:
In March the Department of Education said Mr Gove was “crystal clear that teaching creationism is at odds with scientific fact”. (SCFS- we do not teach about creation as scientific fact. It is our faith position. We, like everyone else, have the problem of reconciling our belief with the assumptions, data, interpretations and theories of science. Who has advised Mr Gove on this? Has he talked to real scientists who do believe in the Christian creation account?)
Naomi Philips from the British Humanist Association tells Premiers teaching creationism can confuse children and hinder them in later life. (SCFS- What is the evidence for this? Our pupils tell us they are extremely well prepared to cope with further and higher education …and later life.)
A previous application from some other creationists was refused by Mr Gove with this comment:
Michael Gove 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."
So can SCFS reassure him that this won't happen?


In fact they state that this is exactly what will happen in the school right there in plain view on their web site:

6. 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. (Note: 80% of our pupils achieve GCSE grades A*-C in Science courses)

This makes Mr Gove's decision making very easy in this case.

Creation Watch update

More creation watching opportunities in Scotland have been added to the main Creation Watch page.  The first event charges entry and so we suggest that an equal and "opposite" donation to a proper charity, perhaps one involved in scientifically based medical research would nicely balance things up.

Celebrating Creation - Classical Music Event
When: Sat 24th March 2012 7:30pm
Where: St Columba's Free Church, JohnstonTerrace, Edinburgh EH1 2PW
Price: £6
Drovak once said: 'I study with the birds, flowers, God and myself.' Observing creation often fills us with awe and wonder. From the vast cosmos to the tiny flower, a panorama of beauty and majesty calls forth creativity from all of us. For some that outlet is music. In this concert we will listen to music by the composers J.S. Bach, Chopin, Vivaldi, Mozart, Handel, Haydn, Schubert, Kreisler, Rutter and Haynes, combined with visual and narrative enhancements. 
Carrying The Creation Tourch
When: 20th October 2012
The Biblical Foundation of Creation: Rev Wayne Sutton (to be confirmed)
Creation and Evolution: the biological evidence: Dr Marc Surtees (ECG)
Migration after the Flood: How did animals and plants spread around the world so quickly? Dominic Stratham (CMI)
Let the Rocks Speak: Evidence for the Flood from the fossils and geology: Philip Bell (CMI)
Creation: The Evidence (includes the gospel) Paul James-Griffiths (ECG)

Both of these events are in Edinburgh.  Please read our guidelines if you decide to attend.

Small bloggy milestone

We went past 100,000 views the other day and now regularly get several hundred visitors a day.  You are all very welcome.

Any ideas and suggestions for improvements in the comments please.

Welsh Evangelicals and Young Earth Creationism

The Evangelical Movement of Wales recent published an article arguing for a literal interpretation of the bible and de facto young earth creationism.  Here are some extracts;
"Do you believe that Genesis 1-2 present a factual account of the creation? Are Adam and Eve real historical figures just as much as Robert Boyle (1627-1691) and Michael Faraday (1791-1867)?
For the best part of two centuries, liberal academic scholars have tried to undermine the historical reliability of these Old Testament narratives, and many others. The consequences of this on the well-being of churches are catastrophic." 
"I am happy to bear the stigma of being naive! I am ready to be counted a fool for Christ." 
"If I preach that Genesis is myth, that Jonah is parable, that Daniel is fiction, that the Bible is so similar to Babylonian myths, that we must be open to the idea of its being a truly human (and erroneous) document, then you can be sure that those who listen will begin to doubt the Old Testament. Did God create all things? Did Adam really sin and all mankind in him? They will not know what to believe. Did God part the Red Sea or was it a fluke combination of natural forces? If I say that only naive simpletons imagine that Jonah was actually inside a big fish for three days, or that there was really a den of lions for Daniel – if I turn history to fiction – I will undermine the faith of the hearers. Since the Bible is full of miraculous, supernatural events from cover to cover, once they start to doubt, they will not know where to end it."

Peter Naylor is the minister of Immanuel Presbyterian Church, Cardiff. This article was a paper given at the Affinity Theological Studies Conference and has been  summarised and adapted by Paul Yeulett.

Read the whole thing for yourself here.

Does the Evangelical Movement of Wales run any state funded schools?  We aren't aware of any.  Do they get involved in local education?  We would like to know.  Presentation of these kinds of creationist views as being a valid scientific viewpoint would breach all DfE guidelines and ministerial comments on the subject.

To regular readers the name Paul Yeulett might ring a bell.  This is because he was a teacher at Emmanuel College during the controversy that erupted when it emerged that creationism being presented as a valid scientific alternative to evolution a decade ago, something which is no longer allowed in state funded schools.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

British Monkey Trial

'Infidel teaching' of Darwinism in schools
Originally published in the Manchester Guardian on 14 March 1908

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Dissection of Signature in the Cell

From a review of Meyer's ID/Creationism book "Signature in the Cell";

Meyer’s attempt to infer the existence of intelligent design are somewhat naive.  He summarises his strategy as “Inference to Best Explanation”. 
Premise One: Despite a thorough search, no material causes have been discovered that demonstrate the power to produce large amounts of specified information.
The flaws with Premise One:  (1) There are plenty of chemical and biological mechanisms which can and do increase the quantity of biological information.  (2) ‘Specified Information’ is a bogus concept, and one which Meyer never actually defines. (3) A number of hypotheses have been advanced to explain the origins of biological information, and it’s only the straw man versions set up as easy targets by Meyer which fail.  (4) And finally, science will ultimately continue to generate origin of life hypotheses, some completely undreamt of as yet. 
Premise Two: Intelligent causes have demonstrated the power to produce large amounts of specified information. 
The flaws with Premise Two: (1) Specified Information continues to evade definition by Meyer.  (2) The only intelligent cause that Meyer can demonstrate is human cause, and (3) the complex information devised and generated by humans does not in fact correspond to biological information. 
Conclusion: Intelligent design constitutes the best, most causally adequate, explanation for the information in the cell. 
ID creationism fails.  Even were one to suppose intelligent design, for this form of creationism to gain traction, one would need at the very least to identify who or what this designer is (or was), and the means by which this intelligent designer undertook this major design effort (which actually exceeds the human ability at present). 
Ultimately, Meyer’s concept remains a restatement of the classic ‘God of the Gaps’.  Because Meyer cannot conceive of a natural mechanism by which genetic information arose (or indeed believes that such a mechanism can never be uncovered) the role of a supernatural entity is the explanation.  Meyer rejects this, and rather unsuccessfully argues that his ‘Inference to Best Explanation’ is not such a ‘God of the Gaps’ argument.
Meyer restates his chain of illogic as follows: 
Premise One: Causes A through X do not produce evidence E. Premise Two: Cause Y can and does produce E. Conclusion: Y explains E better than A through X. 
For Meyer, the ‘E’ in the first premise is biological (genetic) information.  He also supposes that an exhaustive catalogue of explanations has been generated and rejected. 
This reveals his unscientific approach: the list can not be exhaustive, and many explanations only fail for Meyer because of the way he’s set up straw men, and applied irrelevant statistical tests.  Meyer makes a direct connection between human generated information and biological information.  From my perspective as a research in molecular genetics, the premises must be restated as: 
Premise One: Causes A through P do not explain (in Meyer’s view) the origin of evidence E (biological information), though we have yet to devise causes Q-X . Premise Two: Cause Y can and does produce F (human-generated information). Conclusion: Y explains E better than A through X. 
This quite clearly illustrates the flaws in Meyer’s reasoning. I don’t believe that linguistic information or computer code are directly analogous to biological information.

From here;

Sunday, 11 March 2012

View From the Pulpit - Michael Roberts, C of E Vicar on recent events at St Peter's

This blog post is by BCSE member Michael Roberts who is a Vicar in the North West.

I write as a Church of England vicar responding to Psiloiordinary’s blog post on St Peter’s School, Exeter. I was appalled to hear that a creationist was invited to speak to GCSE students for the second year running. Above all, I write as a Christian minister, who was formerly an exploration geologist and one who has followed the growth of creationism for forty years. When I first came across creationism at L’Abri under Francis Schaeffer (a founder of the Religious Right), it was having little impact in Britain. At that time in the early 70s most Anglicans thought it irrelevant but now a significant minority (at least 5%) of priests are creationists (including at least one Bishop – Wallace Benn of Lewes) and creationism has been introduced to numbers of Anglican schools, possibly with the connivance of the clergy.

Over the years I have noted how creationists attempt to go to schools to talk about creationism. Often they were welcomed by schools who had not realised what they stood for and perhaps, naively, thought they were allowing “both sides “ to be presented to students. Initially this “schools ministry” was published on creationist websites, but now are not mentioned as groups like the BCSE have a creation watch and immediately jump in to thwart the meeting, as I have done in the past. The result is that visits by creationists are not publicised and often are unnoticed, as happened at our local Anglican secondary school two years ago. To the few I spoke to, well after the event, I was told it was to give fairness and balance. However no school would welcome holocaust deniers, flat earthers or Apartheid supporters as speakers.

I was particularly concerned about one of the proposed speakers, Dominic Statham as he is a speaker for CMI (Creation Ministries International) which is one of the most virulent and vexatious of all Creationist groups. On their website you will find many articles, which make inaccurate claims about science and others which denigrate us mainstream Christians as “Compromising churchians” and “neo-chamberlainite” appeasers to secularism and humanism. Two examples are where they dismiss Prof Alister Mcgrath and the Church of England generally as well as the late Dr Arthur Peacocke and Sir John Polkinghorne, with a further attack on Sir John Polkinghorne whom they inaccurately portray as:
An Anglican physicist and theistic evolutionist whose ‘God-of-the-gaps’ theology has defined God almost out of existence, according to the ID movement’s Phillip Johnson, and relegated Him to being only the lighter of the fuse of the Big Bang. For instance, Polkinghorne says, “God I think interacts with the world, but doesn’t over-rule it. God has, if you like—is conducting the improvised performance of the universe. So I think what is settled is much less determinative, and there is much more flexibility and freedom and surprise and openness in what’s going on.” Translation: God is not the sovereign miracle-working ruler of the universe, but is largely limited by natural processes. He is incapable of even knowing, let alone determining, the future in the way in which the Bible indicates.
I find this dismissal of devout Christians, who are well-informed in science very offensive. From a wide knowledge of creationism both in Britain and the USA, I find these attitudes widespread among creationists, as did one British creationist, Paul Taylor, recently, who called Rowan Williams a “practical atheist”.

Further, I cannot see why Statham is regarded as a “well-qualified speaker” as he has no training in geology or evolution and is an engineer by training. See an extract from his book for his young earth beliefs. I think most readers of this blog will know that all forms of creationism are worthless and as I like to put it, accidentally or deliberately dishonest.

Two years ago I went to a meeting where Statham introduced the CMI film on Darwin The Voyage that shook the world. That film is grossly inaccurate and misquotes three historians whom they interviewed. As a minor Darwin scholar I know the three, as one co-authored a paper with me, another saw my first academic paper on Darwin through to publication. The other said that the saviour whom CMI worshipped must be Machiavelli! (I am sure that some happy-clappy hymns could be re-written by replacing Jesus Christ with Machiavelli!) Their annoyance on being deceived was published on the History of Science Society website. On seeing the film I support their complaints at the misrepresentation they suffered. Another CMI speaker Philip Bell admitted in an interview that they had deceived the three historians. I have spoken at length with each of these three historians, who were all vexed. I am very familiar with the work and publications of CMI and found it consistently inaccurate verging on dishonest, with a very hostile approach to any Christian who is not a YEC. However that is typical of almost all creationist groups.

Last year Philip Bell spoke to the school, which set off Laura Horner’s justified complaints and resulted in the CRiSIS petition. He consistently misrepresented normal science and even argues that dinosaurs were still living in Cumbria in the 15th century! When fell-walking in the Lakes I look out for dinosaurs. I am surprised after the controversy his presence caused last year that a similar speaker had been invited. Last year CMI commented on Bell’s visit on their website implying that opposition came from secular humanists, overlooking the fact that both myself and Rev Prof Keith Ward were involved. They gave a similar response after the scientists’ criticism of creeping creationism last September  overlooking that one signatory was an Anglican priest, the Rev Prof Michael Reiss. This is standard practice of many creationists to gain support and a rejection of mainstream Christians by implying or stating that we are essentially the same in our beliefs as secular humanists. In many ways, I feel closer to these so-called secular humanists as they are more honest and respectful to others than Creationists. For that I will probably be called an “instrument of Satan” again!!

My objections to the visit of Staham were many. First, his views are false and dishonest and would have misled the pupils, as they are presented under the guise of being scientific. His organisation has long attacked mainstream churches for being “compromisers, churchians and neo-chamberlainites appeasing secularists and atheists over evolution. Like many Christians I am not concerned with “appeasing” anyone and prefer to be truthful. Secondly, his views are in stark opposition to any Anglican theology, even going back to the Bishop of Exeter’s Bampton lectures of 1884! Temple was supporting evolution from 1860. Since then most Anglican theologians have seen no theological problem with evolution. The numbers are legion and include recent Evangelicals like John Stott, Jim Packer and Alister McGrath. Thus to have such a speaker would have been contrary to the Anglican ethos of the school, as well as misleading GCSE students. Thirdly, if his visit had taken place it would have brought the Church of England into disrepute. Fourthly, it will provide ammunition for those who want to get rid of church schools, and this in combination with Bell’s visit last year may have had that effect..

What has happened at St Peters is only the tip of the iceberg as there have been many attempts to introduce creationist speakers to all types of schools, and at times for teachers to illegally teach creationism as science. This is despite all government directives. I have come across clear examples in church schools in Exeter, Chichester and Blackburn dioceses and anecdotal evidence for others. Going back to 2002 the teaching of creationism at Emmanuel College, Gateshead brought a major problem to light, as does the spate of applications for creationist Free Schools today as in Everyday Champions School, Newark. As far as our church schools are concerned, the Church of England needs a clear policy forbidding creationism in any shape or form. I am aware that there are many issues facing the church today, but this needs at least as much attention as gay marriage. Perhaps the Bishops can do so now.

Michael Roberts, Vicar in the Blackburn Diocese.

Creationists ignoring government request

We have told you before about the cryto-creationist web site "World Around Us".  It's one of those really strange things only creationists like Genesis Agendum can cook up.

WAU Menu
Start with silly creationist tales of Noah's Ark, a 6,000 year old earth etc.
Now mix with scientific sounding language.
Be careful not to worry about logic or evidence.
Add a slack handful of references - don't worry about them being correct.
Carefully remove any overt reference to God or creationism
Allow to stew slowly in a strong sense of persecution.
Add a large dollop of shear bloody mindedness and serve smugly as the best thing since sliced bread.
Now promote to UK schools. 
We previously told you about their careful quoting of DfE correspondence to give the impression their scientifically worthless web site was somehow officially endorsed for use in schools.

The DfE have since then been very clear that creationism is not science and should not be presented as a valid scientific point of view in publicly funded schools in any subject.

Following some FOI requests and in line with Crown copyright and under the Open Government Licence ( for news purposes, we can reveal that Genesis Agendum have been ignoring a government request to remove those comments since December last year.

Here is the redacted request from last year:

December 2011


It has come to our attention that one of the pages of your website carries quotations from two separate items of correspondence from the Department. We have reviewed the page in question.  We believe that these excerpts have been cited out of their original context and are concerned that the selective quotation might mislead readers in two ways.
Firstly it would suggest that the Department is endorsing your website. This is not the case. The Department does not endorse, fund or promote any specific resources or activities for use in schools.
We also consider that the quotations might give readers the impression that the Department endorses the teaching of creationist views in science. Again, this is not the case. 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.
I should, therefore, be grateful if you would consider removing the quotations from your website.
Yours sincerely,

Maths and Science Team
Curriculum Policy Division
Those out of context quotations are still there.

Three months and counting.

An excellent example of the kind of behaviour we have come to expect from creationists here in the UK.

We will revisit this issue from time to time until Genesis Agendum finally remove the misleading material.

Wonder what the ASA might think . . . ?

CrISIS revisited

Regular visitors to this blog will recall the CrISIS campaign from last year which was sparked off by a visit to a state funded high school in Exeter by a Young Earth creationist, Phillip Bell from CMI.

This resulted in a petition which now has over 5,000 signatories, a letter to Michael Gove signed by CrISIS founder Laura Horner, the BCSE, Ekklesia, the NSS and a veritable galaxy of star names from across a wide range of scientific and religious views.  This paved the way for the later launch of the much bigger "Teach Evolution Not Creationism" campaign, the refusal of several creationist Free School applications and amendments to the Free School funding agreement to rule out the presentation of such nonsense as a valid scientific viewpoint in any lesson.

Some notable supporters of CrISIS included;
Jim Al-Khalili, Professor of Physics and Professor of Public Engagement in Science, Surrey

Simon Barrow for Ekklesia

Richard Dawkins, DSc, FRS, Emeritus Professor, University of Oxford

Christopher C French, Professor of Psychology, Goldsmiths College

The Rev Canon David Jennings, Rector of Burbage,Canon Theologian of Leicester Cathedral

Professor J Steve Jones, UCL

Professor David Colquhoun FRS, University College London

Clifford Longley, Consultant Editor to the Tablet, BBC Moral Maze panellist

Terry Sanderson, President of National Secular Society

Rev Michael Roberts, Vicar of Cockerham, Winmarleigh and Glasson, Hon Research Fellow in History, Lancaster Univ.

Simon Singh MBE

Canon Prof J.S. K. Ward Emeritus Regius Prof of Theology, Oxford

. . . and now

Prof John Spicer, Chair of Christians in Science South West

Prof John Bryant, Prof Emeritus of Cell and Molecular Biology, University of Exeter
Coverage in the quality press and discussions with Hugo Swires MP resulted in a letter from Nick Gibb MP and eventually a response from Michael Gove who confirmed that creationism should not be presented as science in any subject.

We were therefore horrified to learn late last week that the school intended inviting another speaker from CMI, Dominic Statham to present creationism as a valid scientific viewpoint to children on Tuesday next week.  Worse still Dominic, a scientifically and theologically unqualified mechanical engineer, was described to the entire school year as “a well-known and well qualified speaker”, and his fringe Young Earth creationism was referred to as one of “the two main Christian views on the origin of the universe”. We were appalled and so, we understand, is Prof John Bryant the other guest participant.

We have therefore sent a letter on behalf of CrISIS and BCSE to the school and other concerned parties in the local authority and the local Bishop and others in the Diocese.  You can see the full details of the letter at the bottom of this post but the main points are summarised here:
  • Creationism is not science should not be presented as a valid scientific position in any subject.
  • Creationism is bad theology and presenting it as mainstream Anglican theology is nonsense.
  • Please cancel the event.
We are delighted to comment that we now understand that the visit from Dominic Statham is now cancelled although we await official confirmation of this.

We will keep you posted.

It has not escaped our notice that, if success is confirmed, this brief campaign may provide a model of how to make the case against creationists in publicly funded schools from an educational, scientific and theological perspective in such a way as to avoid the creationists stock response that this is just a bunch of atheists attacking Christianity and that somehow free speech is best served by exposing children to their nonsense.

The involvement of people across a wide range of religious and scientific viewpoints, where there is a vast majority in agreement with the findings of science over the past 200 years, highlights the absurdity of the creationists' specific scientific and theological claims and just as importantly their attempts to turn this into a culture war like that in the US where the situation is different in almost every important respect.

BCSE is delighted to work with all who are prepared to stand up against creationist attempts to subvert the UK education system regardless of their religious views.

- - -

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Conspiracy Theories

One good thing about being a creationologist (one who studies the behaviour of creationists) is that you get to be a conspiracy theorist and quite often the conspiracies are real!

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Creation Watch Updated

We just updated our creation watch page so there are now lots of chances to go see a creationist in action near you.

Denis Alexander interviewed by SiTP

Go here to listen.

Debunking Corner: Origins Exposed: Latest Crypto-Creationist Pamphlet Debunked by Paul Braterman

Origins – Examining the Evidence (Truth in Science, November 2011) is the latest addition to the steady stream of error-laden creationist pamphlets disguised as teaching resources. Close examination shows it to be, specifically, a lawyer’s brief for Young Earth creationism, bolstered up by quote mining from the literature and end-of-chapter exercises framed in such a way as to make this version of creationism appear acceptable.

The three authors are all believers in a 6-day 6,000-year-old creation, while the publishers, the ironically named Truth in Science, are self-identified as a creation group. The only function I can envisage for this book is to offer a pretence of teaching evolution, while doing so in such a way that it will not be believed. This indeed is the policy openly adopted by the "Christian" Schools Trust, whose scientific adviser, Sylvia Baker, is among those quoted in praise of the book.

Errors of logic and science abound. The outcomes of scientific investigation are repeatedly misdescribed as inputs, in order to make appeals to the evidence appear circular. We have the usual nonsense about complexity, criticisms of radiometric dating that were answered by technical improvements back in the 1940s, and irrelevant attacks on long-abandoned scenarios for the origins of life (a subject that in any case lies outside the domain of evolution science, much as the origin of the elements lies outside the domain of chemistry). Although the book was produced in November 2011, the authors are deplorably ignorant about recent developments, and their chapter on how humans are related to apes shows no awareness of such striking and well-publicised developments as the full characterisation of Ardipithecus, and the discovery that Neanderthals interbred with our direct ancestors. In the concluding chapter, evolution is misdescribed as a linear process, and the alternative offered is of separated but distinct "islands". If this means anything, it means separate acts of creation.

What, eight separate acts of creation for the eight separate forms that even this book recognises between Sahelanthropus (their choice) and ourselves? No student should have to waste valuable class time dealing with such nonsense.

In more detail: the authors, Geoff Barnard, Andy McIntosh, and Steve Taylor, have all publicly committed themselves to a Young Earth biblical literalist viewpoint. The individuals quoted in support are a roll-call of UK creationism and Intelligent Design, and while none are convinced by the evidence for evolution, most are convinced by the evidence for a historical Adam and Eve. Truth in Science itself masquerades as an educational organisation, while its manifesto clearly identifies it as a creation group. The sycophantically favourable comments all describe the book as supplying useful additional information and arguments that will stimulate scientific thought while drawing attention to alleged weaknesses in the evolutionary position. Detailed examination shows that these claims have no basis in reality. 

(see below the fold)

Creation Watch: Creationist plans for the London Olympics

A number of Young Earth Creationists are planning to evangelise the London Olympics;
A Dutch YEC hopes to moor 'Noah's Ark' in the Thames later this year. 
Meanwhile, YEC Ken Ham (his Answers in Genesis organisation hope to build another 'Noah's Ark' in Kentucky) is planning to come to the UK to do creation evangelism, including handing out a planned new leaflet 'Big Ben-Time'.

Several 'Carrying the Creation Torch' conferences are also being put on, at churches, by the YECs of Creation Ministries International in May and June this year: 

Academies have more freedom to teach nonsense than Free Schools

The DfE recently updated the Academy School funding agreements - for all new Academies.  This does not include the clause that would remove funding if the school presents nonsense as a valid scientific position like the Free School funding agreement introduced recently.

Why not?

We don't know - why don't you ask them?

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Latest Creationist News: Archbishop of Canterbury - Atheist

"To all intents and purposes, the Archbishop of Canterbury is a practical atheist."

From here.  

More blatant creationism from another Free School applicant

Recently, we have been amusing ourselves by giving examples of applicants for free school status who have been merrily proclaiming their creationism despite the fact the DfE rules state that they wont be funded if they promote such nonsense as a valid scientific position.

This time it is the Sheffield Free School.  In a concerted effort to show the DfE that they wont present creationism as a valid scientific position they decided to invite a young earth creationist to talk about "World Views – Why they really, really, matter in our schools.  Arthur Jones will give a taster of how he forensically examines world views to show what is really being taught in our schools."

From here.

You can't make it up.