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

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