Tuesday, 9 October 2012

New BCSE Committee Member and Spokesperson

After six years of giving up his time and making a very significant contribution to the BCSE, Roger Stanyard has decided it is time to pass on the baton.  The whole committee would like to express our gratitude to Roger for all his contributions over the last six years.  Roger will still be around on the forum from time to time so you can still say hello to him there.

We are delighted to welcome Michael Roberts to the Committee and as the new spokesperson for BCSE.

Here is a piece Michael has provided to give you some details of his background;

Why do I wish to be on the BCSE committee, especially as it has been called atheist so many times? To some it is contrary to my profession as a Christian minister, but I do not see it that way. I regard Creationism as both fundamentally wrong and destructive to science education and the church.
If I was given a pound for every time I have been accused of not believing the Bible or denying Creation I would be a multi-millionaire. As it I am a skint vicar :-)

I was brought up in a non-religious household. My father was a research biochemist and my mother had a maths and physics degree. From 14 I was determined to be a scientist and obtained a place at Oxford to read chemistry. At the end of my first year I changed to geology and graduated in 1968 – and became a Christian just before that. I took a post as a geologist in Uganda where I did some exploration and also worked underground in Kilembe Copper Mines. I was transferred to South Africa and mapped a few thousand square miles of Precambrian terrain, while looking for Copper and other base metals. The geology was fantastic ranging from about 2.5 billion year old gneiss to late Precambrian glacial deposits. I only found one fossil – a stromatolite – but probably walked over some Ediacara style fossils!

I felt a call to the Anglican ministry and returned home to study at Durham. Before starting I spent a month studying under Francis Schaeffer at L’Abri in Switzerland. I had become a keen evangelical and loved Schaeffer’s books. (Schaeffer later became one of the founders of the Religious Right.) Things began to change when I was advised to read creationist books. After a difficult morning worrying whether creationism was true, I soon realised just what creationism was – a farrago of science, nonsense and somewhat economical with the truth and replete with terminological inexactitudes. I soon got accusations of disbelieving the Bible but was helped by a fine American evangelical missionary couple, who are still close friends. Back in England no one had heard of creationism bar members of Christians in Science (RSCF actually) and my concerns were put on the back burner until the Arkansas trial of 1981. Meanwhile I had spent three years at theological college, got married, got ordained and was then vicar of a Liverpool parish. At that time Liverpool diocese had a science advisor Rev Eric Jenkins, who encouraged me and what was on the back burner boiled over and continued to boil.
As dealing with creationism is mind-numbing  and does one’s sanity no good, I tended to focus on the history of Science and Christianity with special reference to geology and evolution. I have made a special study of the Genesis and geology and aspects of Intelligent Design. As I used to live in Wales I also research and publish on Darwin’s Welsh geology. I have published various papers in journals from Evangelical Quarterly to the Proceedings of the Geologists Association, several book chapters and a book Evangelicals and Science.

I have given papers at conferences in Britain, Germany, Switzerland, Egypt and the USA. I taught a geology course for Wheaton College in the Black Hills in 2001 and each year lead the Harvard Darwin Course when they visit Wales and help in the FSC’s Darwin International Scholarship course in Shropshire and Wales. I gave papers at the annual Geol Soc of America conferences in 2008 and 2009.
Over the last 40 years I have personally discovered much about creationism in Britain, the USA, France and Egypt in particular. I have either heard or met many creationists either at meetings or one to one.
I am sure some will ask what I am religiously!!!! I have moved from my early conservative evangelicalism, but take a fairly conservative view of Christianity e.g. over Virgin Birth and resurrection. I regard Bible as authorative but not inerrant containing a wide range of literary styles. My views are similar to Alister McGrath and Bishop Tom Wright, but more conservative than Rowan Williams!

Since being ordained I have taken a succession of parish posts. After 6 years as a curate in Liverpool Diocese, I was a vicar in Walton and then for 14 years in Chirk, near Llangollen. Fanny, Darwin’s first girlfriend is buried in the crypt at Chirk. I was governor of Chirk Primary School (a county school). Since 2001 I have vicar of three parishes south of Lancaster – Cockerham, Glasson and Winmarleigh. These are typical rural parishes. Each parish has a church school and I am governor at each and chair of governors at one school. As well as doing vicar things of taking assemblies and occasional RE lessons, I sometimes help with science, especially on geology and fossils.

Ever since I came across Creationism in 1971 I have been very concerned about its bad effects, whether for education, science or the churches – I find my concerns interrelated but the BCSE is disinterested in the church as a matter of policy. My personal views on church schools are irrelevant to the BCSE, but church schools i.e. (government-) aided schools are obliged to teach science and not creationism. To do the latter is illegal, but has been done in both county and church schools. That needs to be watched and countered forcefully.

Sadly most churches have said little and done less about the scourge of creationism, though many church leaders privately say that it is wrong yet do nothing. I may tread on some toes there!!

My reasons for wishing to be on the BCSE committee are concerns over the dire effect of creationism on science and science education at all levels today. The government is confused about it and gives contrary signals especially over Free Schools. To allow or even tolerate creationism in science education will undermine the scientific and technological future of society, as well as destroy science education. It has already damaged science teaching in the USA, Turkey, Egypt and Brazil for starters and must be halted in Britain and elsewhere.

Finally I am also a human being with many interests.  These include travel and exploring our own country. We take holidays in interesting areas and for the last 5 years have been to the USA, where we also stay with friends which is more real. I do a lot of cycling and wild walking.

On Mt St Helens in 2009

I have walked much in Wales, the Dales the Lakes, some in Highlands, and a bit in the Alpes. In the USA. I have climbed two volcanoes Lassen Peak and Mt St Helens(see photo) swam in another - Crater Lake, hiked the Grand Canyon in a day. This year I climbed a couple of 10,000ft peaks in Yellowstone, two 14000ers in Colorado, as well as some others in Britain. In cycling I explore back roads wherever I happen to be. Wherever I am I take an interest in the culture, history, natural history and geology.


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  2. Well Michael

    You will no longer be able to claim that the BCSE is nothing to do with you.


  3. Oh Michael, in an idle moment I looked you up here (premier closing and all) and you gave me one more good laugh :-D
    Did you really spend a whole morning considering the question of Creation?!

    As I've had occasion to say before - I couldn't have made you up


  4. and I forgot to add - thanks and all best wishes :-)