Monday, 27 November 2006

CREATIONISM STRIDES ON

Creationism’s on the march, folks! According to today’s “Guardian”, an obviously well funded outfit calling itself “Truth in Science” [but which might more appropriately be named “Faith in Falsehood”], has circulated all the secondary schools in the country offering a free teaching pack including two DVDs and a manual purporting to present the ‘evidence’ for intelligent design as an alternative to evolution as the most convincing theory of the origins of life on earth [and presumably of the universe]. No fewer than 59 schools have accepted the offer, to the dismay of no less a person than the chairman of the parliamentary science and technology select committee, LibDem MP Phil Willis, who is “flabbergasted” that any head of science would give sufficient credence to creationist theory to be prepared to teach it as an alternative centralist theory alongside Darwinism. A government education minister recently stated that “neither intelligent design nor creationism are recognised scientific theories and they are not included in the science curriculum.” However, a university professor of thermodynamics who is on the board of “Truth in Science” demurely said “we are simply putting together a different case”.

All this has, unsurprisingly, got Darwinism’s stalwart advocate Richard Dawkins hopping mad. He has established a foundation to keep God out of the class room and to prevent “pseudo-science” taking over in schools. “Truth in Science”, however, maintains that they are not attacking the teaching of Darwinian theory – they just want alternative hypotheses to be taught. Needless to say, both “Truth in Science” and Professor Dawkins’ “Foundation for Science and Reason” are applying for charitable status. The latter, at least, is not favoured by the Church of England, which senses a whiff of campaigning rather than charity about the atheist pot, while remaining silent about his opponents’ Godly kettle.

This leads me to reflect on what the distinction is – if any – between education and indoctrination. Young children, and even teenagers [like all too many adults], do not have sufficient knowledge or experience to distinguish between sound reasoning and fallacies, and alas, logic is not usually taught in schools. So children tend to believe what their grown-up relatives and their teachers tell them, and are often discouraged for questioning or criticising. I well remember the rebukes I sometimes suffered from my well-meaning and loving parents for questioning things which grown-ups had told me but which I found hard to believe. When it came to religion, my family were conventionally C of E – not atheists or sceptics, but not expecting God to reveal himself to them personally through miracles or speaking in tongues either. I was confirmed in my ‘teens, but – like most people, I suspect – experienced no holy revelation or blissful ecstasy on making my first communion. I continued to be a conventional deist into my twenties, despite the somewhat repellent attentions of over-enthusiastic evangelical types at university. [Such people have, then and ever since, put me in hearty agreement with Katharine Whitehorn’s immortal quip that the trouble with so many born-again people is that you wish they hadn’t been born the first time.]

I finally became a sceptic when, through my reforming work in the 1960s, I had contact with many religious people of all denominations. Some were truly holy people, such as the great Archbishop Michael Ramsey, whom I was privileged to talk with several times, and Archbishop Anthony Bloom of the Orthodox Church. I admired and respected them, even though I didn’t accept the premises of their faith. But there was another breed of Christians who were pharisaically self-righteous, punitive and patronising. They were right and everyone else was wrong. And some of them – such as the strident “moral majority” campaigner Mary Whitehouse - were hardened fibbers while proclaiming their devotion to righteousness and truth.

These experiences convinced me that, whether devout believers are aware of it or not, all religion is a basically political activity concerned with controlling others, conducted in a rhetoric which they find useful because being spoken to in God’s name is intimidating to many who don’t really believe in him but feel impelled to touch their forelocks to the Deity, just in case [á la Pascal].

Articulate reasoning is important to humanity, because it is what distinguishes our species from others. There are limits to reason, and to scientific knowledge. But if yet more new generations continue to be taught that it is a mistake, or even “sinful”, to stretch their logical reasoning capacities to the limit, and more virtuous to believe six impossible things before breakfast, the human race will go on being in ever bigger trouble.

17 comments:

zola said...

Anticant : To agree with your general sentiment is easy for the likes of me but I cannot agree so easily with your polarisation of this necessary debate. I suspect ( unless one is GB Bush or Bliar ) this intelligent design thing is rather complex and not either/or. Not science or religion.
Afterall, as one prof Gillispie wrote a few years back after his research into geology as science - there is a bit of religion in science and there is often a little science in religion.
From another perspective the evolution research has still not, to my knowledge, grappled with the issues brought up by the Austrian Lamark.

anticant said...

Zola: I certainly agree that these matters are complex, but what is being sought here, it seems to me, is the undermining of scientific method in education. Surely you agree that this would be disastrous. Can you explain what you mean by "there is a bit of religion in science"? They seem like chalk and cheese to me.

Alan said...

More on TIS can be found at: www.bcseweb.org.uk
& more on creationism from a UK perspective can be found at:
www.creationism.co.uk (my website).

All the best,

Alan.

anticant said...

Thanks for the interesting and very useful links, Alan. Let's keep in touch.

billstickers said...

Anticant: "These experiences convinced me that, whether devout believers are aware of it or not, all religion is a basically political activity concerned with controlling others, conducted in a rhetoric which they find useful because being spoken to in God’s name is intimidating to many who don’t really believe in him but feel impelled to touch their forelocks to the Deity, just in case [á la Pascal]."

That could very well be true. I don't know if it is as I am not fully conversant with "all religion".

However, there is a great difference between belief/faith and religion. Religion being the human organising of faith into a club with additional human rules, rites and rituals.

I, for example, believe that Jesus Christ is my Saviour, but I'm in no way religious.

I only have one question for you regarding the distrastrousness of undermining scientific method in education:

Can you scientifically PROVE that evolution actually took place?

And one for Darwin:

Why did you call it the THEORY of evolution?

anticant said...

Bill, you are of course right about organised religion [and unorganised religion too: Islam isn't organised].

Yet again, you completely misunderstand scientific method. I have no desire to "prove" that evolution actually took place. I'm not entirely convinced, but on the evidence available it seems to be the most likely explanation [if one is needed].

As for Darwin, he can answer for himself [if you believe in miracles]. They buried him in Westminster Abbey, BTW.

billstickers said...

Then I DO completely misunderstand scientific method.

"Most likely" is a human concept. It doesn't really mean anything. I use it, for instance, to found my belief in God on, given what I know about my own physiology and the rest of the wonders of the universe.

Based on the evidence (zero to date) is there life in our universe somewhere other than on Earth? What's the most likely scenario? Seems to me the most likely would have to be that there is. Even though we have zero evidence of that. Oh, what to do.

And why couldn't God have created evolution? Bear in mind that it's the humans who are wrong when they date God's Creation to 4000 B.C, or whatever. The Bible doesn't state how old Adam was when he left Eden. Perhaps he was timeless. Neither does it state whether Adam walked upright or whether animal life was going on outside the garden in the interim.

My main beef with Darwinism is that apes still exist.

Anf you BELIEVE in evolution. It's not a proven fact.

anticant said...

Yes, you do completely misunderstand scientific method! I do NOT "believe" in evolution [there you go again]. I don't particularly care whether it's the "right" explanation. But it's the most plausible one around at the moment.

According to evolutionists, humans and apes are descended from a common ancestor. What's wrong with that?

And the Bible doesn't state who Adam and Eve's sons married, either.

billstickers said...

Plausible? Again, that's a human term. Your BELIEF is the result of your individual take on "facts" having run available information (to you) through your individual experience and memory bank. YOU think its plausible. I think God's Creation is plausible. We believe different things.

Again, nobody has a monopoly on the truth, on any subject, no matter how sure we are that we do.

So, where is this common ancestor? How can we be sure that there didn't used to be 3 species: Man, apes and a third that died out due to inadaptability to the envoironment? Why would the third necessarily represent the ancestor? Cos it fits the theory, that's why.

Cain and Abel. The Bible has a few thousand pages and presents a rough summary of events. Perhaps they married their sisters. Adam married his rib.

anticant said...

I'm not really bothered about how it all began. I'm much more concerned with the messy here and now. Why did there have to BE a beginning? Time is just a human concept. The universe may have always been there. If so, God wasn't needed to create it. And who or what created God?

As Pilate said, what is truth?

billstickers said...

Now you're getting somewhere. If you keep up that kind of thinking you'll end up KNOWING there's a God.

The immensity of it all dwarves all human theories.

God has already stated that we'd never be able to understand it.

anticant said...

God is a human theory.

billstickers said...

I hope you're feeling prrretty pleased with yourself, anticant.

anticant said...

I'm sure you are, bill!

billstickers said...

God is a human theory that He forewarned us we wouldn't understand.

anticant said...

billstickers still bickers.

billstickers said...

The ant forever bound to "I cant" never moved a rubber tree plant.