Friday, 14 October 2011

C4IDs Dr Noble responds to Attenborough-in the style of a creationist.

It’s been little under a year since the brand new Centre for Intelligent Design C4ID opened in the UK to

“Promote public understanding of ID and its implications”.

“To promote professional investigations and public debate around ID”

And to prove beyond all shadow of a doubt that

ID is definitely not creationism.”

Amidst the fanfare of publicity surrounding its launch, director Alastair Noble was keen to demonstrate ID as a scientific theory and to distance it from any religious connotations. In fact the slick website even included a FAQ section where questions such as

“Isn’t ID just a religious, philosophical argument rather than a scientific one?”

 Were answered with a resounding

No. Theists believe the entire universe is best explained by an intelligent cause, but that is not something that can be scientifically verified. Intelligent Design theory is not philosophical or religious-it is limited to what can be demonstrated scientifically.”

Given the religious affiliations and creationist past histories of those involved in C4ID, the obvious question was could they respond to challenges in the measured, rational way required to maintain that positive ‘secular’ spin? Or would their years immersed in the ranting and foaming at the mouth world of creationism prove to be their undoing? Well now that question has been answered, and it would appear that at the first sign of trouble they resort to form and reveal beyond all shadow of doubt that ID is just creationism’s pretend secular sibling.

The challenge came in the form of the moderately worded so called Attenborough letter, signed by 30 scientists and supported by Ekklesia and ASE, asking that ID/Creationism should not be taught as science. Any half decent PR guru would have responded in equally moderate secular tones. Any half decent PR guru would have remembered their remit-to present ID as not religion-and avoided references to the beliefs of either their critics or themselves. It would appear that C4ID is bereft of half decent PR gurus! Check out Alastair Noble's startling, ranting and raving press release in response - a document rich in the words and tones of traditional creationist rhetoric.

Its unpromising start states:

“Richard Dawkins and Sir David Attenborough want the government to ban creationism and Intelligent Design (ID) theory from the classroom. Such a move shows a disturbing lack of understanding of both the nature of scientific theory and of science education, responds the Centre for Intelligent Design.”

But surely ID and creationism are different things. Why the ID website itself contains the following:

ID theory is simply an effort to empirically detect whether the appearance of design in nature-which is acknowledged by virtually all biologists-is genuine design (the product of an intelligent cause)......Creationism is based on finding scientific evidence to defend the entire creation account in the Bible (or for Muslims the Koran).”

So why is Noble not pointing out that they are different in his all important press release? In fact why is he not in agreement with the ban on creationism in the science  classroom, since he himself has pointed out it is based on finding evidence for a religious position?

Much later on Noble states:

“The Centre for Intelligent Design notes that it is no coincidence that both Richard Dawkins and David Attenborough are prominent atheists.  The Centre believes that the introduction of religious or philosophical ideas into the debate is contrary to the spirit of science which should not be exploited in pursuit of a secular or atheistic agenda."

And how is the fact that Dawkins and Attenborough are prominent atheists relevant to the science of a theory like ID which merely attempts to detect whether the appearance of design is genuine? If ID is NOT based on “finding scientific evidence to defend the creation account in the Bible”, and C4ID state it isn’t, then why is Dawkins non belief relevant?

 In addition neither Dawkins nor Attenborough have called for any religious or philosophical ideas to be introduced into science education! They have merely stated that two ideas, creationism and ID, which have yet to prove themselves in the scientific arena, should not be taught as valid science until they do.  As the so called ‘scientists’ involved in ID have yet to convince their scientific peers that they are valid scientific positions, surely Attenborough and Dawkins are right. In fact surely the paucity of any of the standards of science in ID (its lack of predictions, methodology, genuine peer review and evidence to name but a fraction) means that Dawkins and Attenborough are in fact attempting to prevent the introduction of purely philosophical and religious ideas into science!!

ID needs a lot of work, well actually it needs a miracle, before it becomes remotely close to approaching even the rigours required to be called bad science. Until it does it remains a philosophical, religious, God of the Gaps discussion alongside Paley in A level RE.

If Noble is suggesting that it is Dawkins and Attenborough’s atheism that presents the religious or philosophical ideas that concern him, it should be noted they are not calling for atheism or anything else to be introduced into the debate or the science classroom either. It is simply not relevant. Noble knows that ID has been thoroughly rejected as science on purely scientific grounds. He should be particularly aware of that fact because its wholesale rejection has, in no small part, been due to the efforts of devoutly theist scientists such as Francis Collins and Ken Miller. If that fact ever changes then and only then will his paranoid persecution complex be justified. There is NO secular or atheist agenda.

And Noble also states:

“All attempts by Richard Dawkins to indoctrinate children with an ‘evolution only’ education spring from a secularising agenda. As he himself admits, Darwin made it possible for him to be an intellectually-fulfilled atheist. Professor Dawkins thus has a vested interest in promoting evolution, and therefore cannot be taken seriously as an objective voice on this matter.”

A bizarre argument given that, as Noble later acknowledges, the campaign has the support of Ekklesia a Christian think tank. Then there is the fact that two of the biggest critics of ID, Miller and Collins are avowed Christians.

Popes, priests, vicars, bishops and many Christians from many different denominations happily accept evolution as the only current rational explanation for the data and evidence. That acceptance makes not one iota of difference to their faith. What is pertinent to the atheism of Dawkins is irrelevant to someone else’s lack of faith. We all have our own reasons for belief or lack of it.

Then there is the fact that C4ID claim again and again that ID is the scientific search for intelligent causation, not to prove the existence of the Christian God. If that is really the case then why should it be any different to evolution? If it ever attained scientific credibility and convinced me of intelligent causation, it would not Nobles Christian God that I’d assume was responsible.

So Dr Noble, evolution is taught because it is a well supported scientific theory that is of supreme importance to the understanding of biology NOT as an attempt to deny the existence of God or Gods. Both theists and atheists are happily engaged in researching, teaching and learning about it. Dr Noble’s ID on the other hand, only commands the support of people at the fundamentalist end of the religious spectrum. It is Noble that wishes to introduce a religious idea, it is Noble that has the agenda, it is Noble that has a vested religious interest in promoting ID and it is Noble that therefore cannot be taken seriously as an objective voice in this matter.

“Dawkins argues that ID should not be taken seriously because its main protagonists are theists. But we don’t hear him arguing that by the same token evolution should not be taken seriously because its main protagonists are atheists.”

This strange statement would suggest that Dawkins rejects ID merely because its protagonists are theists. Two points need mentioning here. The first is why are the main proponents of a so called empirical scientific position only theists? Both atheists and theists accept the evidence for evolution or indeed atoms, gravity, quantum mechanics and so on. If it is only theists, and indeed only a minority of theists from the more fundamentalist and extreme fringes of faith, that take ID seriously then the onus is on Dr Noble to examine why this is the case and not simply bandy accusations. After all ID is quick to point out that the intelligent cause does not have to be the Christian God, so atheism alone should present no barrier to it.

The second is that Dawkins quite happily accepts the science of theists when it qualifies as good science, the science of evolutionary protagonist and devout theist Francis Collins for example. Dawkins does not refuse to take the parts of the genome that Collins had a hand in sequencing seriously because Collins is a theist.

Then there is that other famous evolutionary protagonist and devout theist, Ken Miller. Miller, who not only scientifically showed that Behe’s claims for an irreducibly complex bacterial flagellum were nonsense, but who also made mincemeat of IDs claim to be science in the courts at Dover.  Not only does Dawkins take Miller’s science very seriously indeed, he has made a big thing in at least two of his books (The God Delusion and The Ancestors Tale) of Millers faith. Dawkins may not like or respect the religious beliefs of scientists, but where their science is sound, he both accepts and respects it! And when they have a major hand in shredding the nonsense of ID/creationism he positively revels in the irony of it.

ID is rejected because it is NOT science!! It is rejected because it is NOT credible!!

Noble goes on with much in the same vein, adding spurious facts like:

“The British Humanist Association (BHA) is one of the five organisations behind the campaign, along with Ekklesia – a liberal theological pressure group that has a long history of opposing criticism of evolution. And the list of signatories reveals that many of the supporters are indeed atheists. The BHA aims to remove God from the curriculum, and is therefore afraid of any theory like ID that has theological implications."

Ignoring the fact that Ekklesia is a Christian think tank, composed of Christians, the BHA does not aim to remove God from the curriculum. God is not part of the science curriculum anyway so cannot be removed from there. Nor is He part of the history, english, maths or DT curriculum. God is discussed in RE, the discussion of God in RE is not a part of this campaign-this campaign only aims to prevent children being taught the lie that creationism and ID are scientifically valid positions.

Not only does this campaign not refer to removing God from the curriculum at all, but Dawkins has recently come out in support of the continued teaching of RE. I think Noble may only wish his version of God to remain on the curriculum but that is just tough.

But what exactly are Nobles suggestions for science education. Well here is a selection from his many paragraphs ranting on a similar theme:

“If this was about the integrity of science education", says Dr Alastair Noble[1], director of the Centre, "then they would be campaigning for students to have access to all the scientific evidence about evolution and origins – including the positive evidence for design in nature and the evidence both for and against evolution. Scientific theories are only credible if they take account of all the evidence."

This is incomprehensible as students already have access to all the scientific evidence that we have. I suspect what Noble really means is the inclusion of ID religious indoctrination and propaganda from those with a religious agenda.

If evidence for ID is to be presented, Noble first needs to provide some. But ask for positive evidence for design and he will give you the ‘it looks complicated so couldn’t have evolved’ line, or perhaps introduce you to some maths that completely ignore the rather important contribution of natural selection to evolution. I’ve searched the C4ID website; there is NO positive evidence for design to present to students at all. Not only that but there are no predictions, there are no hypotheses, no ways of testing for design-all you will find there are articles about things that look complicated hence evolution must be wrong. Oh and I forgot to add, there is no logic there either.

There is NO real evidence against evolution to present to students. They are told what we do and don’t know about origins. What Noble wants is a fraudulent pretence to suit his religious beliefs. That is neither fair nor honest.

“The 30 scientists who have signed up to the ‘Evolution not Creationism’ statement are attempting to prevent students from hearing the rational, well-evidenced arguments that cast doubt on neo-Darwinism.”

If such arguments exist the place to air them is before experts in evolution. The place for such arguments is via the peer review system. Schoolchildren have neither the skills nor expertise to see through them. They are not the arbiters of science. However, thus far, neither creationism nor ID has come up with any rational arguments to cast doubt on Darwinism, neo or otherwise. They have said absolutely nothing that any half decent scientist hasn’t been able to rip to pieces. I can only assume that is the rationale behind their strange notion to present their ideas to pre-GCSE students instead. Get them before they know enough to criticise and confuse them so they’ll never learn enough to do so.

“Students also need to understand the provisional nature of the scientific consensus. Science is not done by consensus. Indeed, students should be aware that some crucial scientific discoveries were made by individuals who challenged the consensus. The reality of science is that one individual scientist with sound evidence can trump the consensus."

The key words in that sentence boys and girls? Sound and evidence, ID has yet to produce sound evidence. In fact ID has yet to produce any of the other things required by science, like predictions, a testable hypothesis or method of looking for design. All it is thus far is a God of gaps religious stance. That is the reason for the Attenborough letter.

"Prof Dawkins oft-repeated claim that full-scale evolution is “as solidly demonstrated as any fact in science” is largely a rhetorical position, which well outruns the evidence.  Intelligent Design theory may not yet be the mainstream view of science, but it has a solid scientific evidenced base of which students have a right to be aware. A truly rigorous scientific approach to education would be to inform students of all the views, evidence and arguments surrounding the origin and development of life. Censorship is inherently anti-scientific."

Evolution is currently the only theory which explains all the data and evidence we have. And there is rather a lot of evidence. It is far from a rhetorical position. Until something comes along to falsify it is our only explanation. And should that happen, ID and creationism do not automatically become the default positions.

ID has been exposed in the courts as religion rather than science-it has been shown to have no solid science at all behind it. A truly rigorous scientific approach to education does inform students of all the valid views, evidence and arguments. What Noble doesn’t seem to realise is that until ID proves itself in the scientific world its views and arguments are not valid. If the unsubstantiated, faith based claims of ID were to be included in education then why not all the other equally invalid claims of astrology, clairvoyance or magic? There is no difference. Teach none or teach them all. Noble has to accept that.

Until ID comes up with some evidence there is nothing to present to students. Censorship is not the issue, protecting children from nonsense and propaganda is. We do not allow holocaust deniers into history classes. They deny the very real evidence to suit their political agendas. The evidence denied by IDers may be scientific rather than political, and their agenda may be religious, but in every other respect they are no different to holocaust deniers.

The inanity of this next statement left me speechless:

“No scientific theory needs or should have the compulsion of law. And no programme of science education can afford to rule some illegal, The proposition that a scientific curriculum should be the subject of legal or quasi-legal enforcement is based on a failure to recognise that all scientific theories are ultimately tentative questions.”

What utter nonsense. The curriculum is presented to children, of course it needs to be regulated and subject to some legal constraints. Children have a right, at least within schools, to protection from crackpot notions and propaganda, be it religious, political or commercial.

As for the notion that scientific theories are ultimately tentative - children are taught that, alongside the fact that the ones they are taught are pretty well supported by evidence. What Noble really means by that statement is schools do not single out evolution for special treatment merely because of his religious objection to it. If all scientific theories were to be subjected to the level of scrutiny that Noble wants for evolution there would cease to be any science left.


“If creationism and ID are unscientific, pupils should be allowed to explore the evidence if they wish to see why."

But there is no evidence. There is no science. There is nothing for them to explore. Education does not exist to give credibility to nonsense! As for ID, all Noble needed in that press release was a paradigm and a worldview and he’d have scored a full house in creationist word bingo. Though he may not realise it, with this press release Noble has proved beyond all doubt that ID and creationism are one and the same, and ID protagonists merely creationists.


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