‘Induction over the history of science suggests that the best theories we have today will prove more or less untrue at the latest by tomorrow afternoon.’ Fodor, J. ‘Why Pigs don’t have wings,’ London Review of Books, 18th Oct 2007


Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Kroto fails to convince

Harry Kroto explains why Professor Reiss was ‘asked’ to resign from the Royal Society in the Guardian 'Blinded by a divine light Creationists such as the Rev Reiss don't have the intellectual integrity to teach science.' (28/09/2008) Kroto may be brilliant as a scientist in his own field, but his knowledge of the philosophy and history of science is not so hot.

Kroto in the Guardian

Kroto comments that ‘It is clear that there is almost total ignorance about the real issues involved and a truly pathetic understanding of science – the culture that created the modern world – from anaesthetics and penicillin to jet engines and the internet.’ Interestingly Professor Peter Harrison of Oxford has argued that the Protestant Reformation, with its commitment to the literal reading of Scripture, enabled the development of science away from the pre-modern symbolic interpretation. In other words it led to the literal reading of nature. If you lose that where will science end up? Atheism will ultimately lead science to post modernism and hence destroy it because it takes away the notion of objective truth. Christian theism on the other hand is the true custodian of science because of its commitment to truth as an objective reality.

Kroto speaks about ‘intellectual integrity’ arguing that the religious person somehow lacks such integrity. He comments that the ‘fundamental philosophical issue’ is ‘the scientific mindset’ where ‘science is based solely on doubt-based, disinterested examination of the natural and physical world. It is entirely independent of personal belief.’ ‘…that is to accept absolutely nothing whatsoever, for which there is no evidence, as having any fundamental validity.’ But atheists deep down have an emotional commitment to the non-existence of God. The anger expressed when atheists are faced with the Christian challenge reveals an underlying emotional need to deny faith; as former Westminster Chapel Minister RT Kendall said, deep down atheists hate God, which is why they get so angry when pressed.

Further there is no evidence for atheism; there is no evidence at all for the non-existence of God. The truly honest intellectual position from a scientific perspective is to say that one cannot know whether God exists or not when starting science, and then proceed from an assumption that a deity may or may not exist - but also to accept that science may provide clues to God's existence when nature is studied closely, which is what the design argument does claim. Science must also recognise that there is knowledge, including knowledge about God, that lies beyond science. Scientism, the belief that science is the only source of objectively verifiable truth, is a self refuting fallacy because that statement is not objectively verifiable. Atheism then is as much belief as theism. Kroto comments that ‘only those questions that can be formulated in such a way that they can be subjected to detailed disinterested examination, and when so subjected reveal unequivocally and ubiquitously accepted data, may be significant.’ But all of science is based on untestable foundational assumptions because it is impossible to develop an infinite regress of causality. Why must atheistic assumptions have priority over theistic assumptions? Does Kroto know absolutely that there is no God? Of course he doesn’t, it is an emotional response and one based on belief. Pretending that atheism is superior to other foundations for science does not represent intellectual integrity.

Having demanded that the atheist position must take precedence over theistic or religious influences in science, Kroto then wants to believe that this is a ‘freethinkers perspective.’ Hardly – it is another type of dogmatic hegemony imposed upon science, this time by atheistic belief.

Kroto wants school children to read Sam Harris’s ‘Letter to Christian Nation’ so that the ‘flock may understand what intellectual integrity and true humanity actually involve’ and ‘see that the really "vicious" people are the religious ones who are dragging us back into the dark ages, rather than humanists struggling to save the Enlightenment.’

Forgive me for mentioning where atheistic humanism led the world in the last century; to Marxism, Hitler’s fascism, Pol Pot, Lenin, Stalin etc etc. The removal of Reiss by Kroto, Roberts and Dawkins may be seen as a ‘vicious’ act against a man who desired respectful dialogue. Even Dawkins thought it a ‘witch hunt,’ although one he accepted. In a multi-cultural nation, how can atheists claim the sole right to dictate what is taught in science, and in such a dogmatic manner? Atheists such as Kroto need to provide a reason why science should hold to objective truth in a world without ultimate meaning and value.
Andrew S

Monday, 29 September 2008

Book Review of 'Creation or Evolution - Do We Have to Choose?

Book Review of 'Creation or Evolution – Do We Have to Choose?' by Denis Alexander. Reaction by Howard Taylor - September 2008

This is a good book highly to be recommended. For whether one agrees with his main thesis (evolution was God’s clever method of Intelligent Design) it is good to get to grips with the case that Theistic Evolutionists make. The Christian Faith of Denis Alexander shines through much of the book which is full of Biblical references with very helpful guides on how to approach the Bible and Genesis 1 in particular. (I hope though that his methods of interpretation don’t make the mistake of separating into non-interactive compartments the ‘spiritual’ and the ‘physical’.) It would be wrong of me to judge him even though I disagree with his main thesis, I am now going to give my main criticisms of his argument under various headings. The criticisms do not mean that the book is not a worthwhile read for people of varied opinions.

Title
The title is in the form of a question: Do we need to decide between creation and evolution? Actually this reviewer gives the same answer as Denis Alexander: No! Clearly one can be a Christian and believe both the fundamentals of the Biblical creation story and also believe that evolution was God’s clever way of accomplishing the biodiversity we have around us today. I was a once a Theistic evolutionist and I believe my Christian Faith was real. Denis Alexander is another good example of a person who believes in Christ and also believes in evolution. It should not be a certain dogmatic interpretation of the Bible that leads one to hold that evolution and Christianity are incompatible. I doubt evolution because I don’t believe it happened – at least to the extent of making the whole of vegetable, animal, and human life related.

Objection to Evolution.
I repeat that the reason I reject evolution now is not dogmatic Biblical creation but rather the weakness of the case for evolution as well as the strong very logical case against it.

Evolution and atheism.
Of course the theory of evolution, if true, does not prove atheism because it can’t tell us where matter and energy come from or how life got started in the first place. Many who support evolution, prophecy that a physical theory supporting the origin of life will be found one day but like all prophecies that hope is based on a particular belief system. We will turn to that later. It also does not claim to explain what consciousness and reason are or how they came about even though they are very important in understanding the human condition. But because evolution attempts to explain the development of our physical life, it does make reflection more comfortable for the atheist although it does not really back his position – the most basic constituents of human life being beyond evolution’s, or any scientific theory’s scope.

The Mystery.
Denis Alexander claims it is a mystery why so many people reject evolution. I don’t believe much of this rejection is a mystery at all. The fact is that many people have come to evolutionist talks and asked perfectly reasonable non-dogmatic questions. They have often asked them in a friendly polite way. But over and over again their questions have not been taken seriously but they have been accused of ‘junk science’ or similar bad positions when they have made perfectly reasonable points. When taken aback by such abuse, it is not surprising or a mystery why they turn against the theory of evolution. People supporting the theory of evolution would gain much more respect if they were more honest about its difficulties and not keep giving the impression to the general public – that the theory is all sown up, while admitting grave concerns about the theory when talking among themselves. In the main part of Denis Alexander’s book, though, he is not a bit like that. It is written in a kind, thoughtful and non-confrontational manner. But sadly he does use condescending remarks elsewhere in public forums. Also in the postscript he reveals something of his arrogant self. I did not want to use that word but he uses such terms as ‘dangerous,’ disgraceful’ and therefore ‘embarrassing’ to describe the ID people and anyone who dares to publicly doubt evolution. It is then, not a mystery that so many are turning against the theory. One should expect it.

The scientific establishment would be open to criticisms of the theory if the criticisms were at all valid. Prestigious publications such as The New Scientist would welcome articles criticising evolution were the arguments putting up a good scientific case. This is what Denis Alexander says. I doubt it actually. On the very day that I write this it is reported on the BBC web site “Professor Michael Reiss has quit as director of education at the Royal Society following the controversy over his recent comments on creationism. Last week Prof Reiss … said creationism should be discussed in science lessons if pupils raised the issue.” The Spectator has a blog with the heading: ’Secular Inquisition at the Royal Society’. Lord Winston who is a member of the Royal Society reacting to his stepping down said: "I fear that in this action the Royal Society may have only diminished itself. This is not a good day for the reputation of science or scientists. This individual was arguing that we should engage with and address public misconceptions about science - something that the Royal Society should applaud “. I have known many professional academic scientists in my time. The majority believe in evolution – not because they have examined the evidence – but because ‘everyone believes it’ so they must be right! The relatively few who have examined it are not convinced (this includes biologists). After many years of chatting with them and unsuccessfully suggesting they go public, I am convinced that many do not do so, because they do not want to put their head above the parapet for fear of their career being damaged in a serious way.

Phillip Johnson. DA says of Phillip Johnson that he stopped believing in evolution after reading The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins (true, so did I). He says he gave it up because Richard Dawkins uses the book to promote atheism (not true that he gave it up for this reason). He gave it up because he believed The Blind Watchmaker was a dishonest book covering up weak arguments with rhetoric. (I too was converted to the anti-evolution cause for the same reason.)

Chance and God’s Providence.
First he, like Richard Dawkins, denies that evolution is a chance process. He says Natural Selection is a ‘law-like’ process. This is partly true but natural selection is only part of the story. It does not change anything but rather preserves those changes which have happened at random and are beneficial to an organism’s survival.

Second, DA points out that all Christians believe the hand of God guides their lives yet their lives are made up of a myriad of seemingly trivial and chance events. Yet even these seemingly small events can have a major influence for God’s purpose for our lives. So DA rightly argues. Christians believe that when these small events have the potential for major Divine consequences, God actually intervenes to use them for His purpose. In many chance events – those which bear no significance – God leaves them to do their little job and that is all. He leaves well alone the ordinary chance events – which have no ultimate Divine purpose. The question is ‘Does He intervene in any of the seemingly ‘random’ mutations on which natural selection works? DA thinks No! So according to him evolution is built on a random process even if a non-random process then takes over. It is therefore for him, difficult to maintain then that our physical being was created in the purposes of God.

Speciation. He tells us that there is good evidence for this. He refers to different kinds of similar fish that live in the African lakes. They all were descended from a common ancestor but now cannot interbreed with one another. They have become different species, This is probably true, but that is not the point. Different species may emerge but that does not explain the existence of the fish as a whole animal in the first place. To make a case he would need to show how entirely new organs in the fish species had come about through the process he describes. This is crucial to the case he wishes us to examine.

Descent with variation. He makes a reasonable case for descent with modification. But that is a non-controversial point, Even if it could be shown that there was such a thing as descent with variation, it does not show that all species are related to one another. It would show that some species are related to some other species. It does not follow that all species are related to one another. That is another crucial point in the discussion.

Interpretation of Genesis 1. - Origin of Life. DA admits that there is no theory yet as to the origin of life. He makes a prophecy that one day there will be a theory. But like all prophecies it is based on a belief. If evolution contains the belief that life will be shown to have a physical origin then the theory is not metaphysically neutral even though it claims to be. Atheist evolutionists hold that there is only one kind of reality – the physical. Theistic evolutionists hold a similar view about created material. They hold that God only created one form of material and that is matter/energy. Granted that it is very important, it does not follow that it is the whole story of nature. Indeed Karl Popper and Bertrand Russell held that is was not. What is more they both believed that to fully understand the important physical world one has to realise that the non-physical and the physical interact. That is what anti-evolutionists are claiming. That has been the belief of most scientists down the ages. The all pervading belief that only the physical exists, or that all physical events have physical causes, is a new theory, not backed up by empirical verification or experiment. It is a prejudice.

The Argument from Design. I get the impression that DA is embarrassed by this ancient argument. But he should not be. The argument contends that the natural world is so complex and suited to our survival that it needed a Designer. Therefore there is a God who designed it. Although many believe that David Hume in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, attacks the argument from Design, actually he doesn't really. Most people regard the sceptical Philo as David Hume’s mouthpiece but Philo only criticises the use to which the Argument From Design is put, not the argument itself. He actually thinks that the universe exhibits design. His main point is that the kind of design that the designer uses is perhaps remote from the kind of design we find among human beings for example when we design a bridge. According to Hume (in the words of Philo) we cannot deduce anything about the character of God, or his method of design, from the natural world but that does not mean we cannot deduce there was/is a Designer. In fact in the third sentence of his earlier work The Natural History of Religion of 1751 David Hume actually says the following:

The whole frame of nature bespeaks an intelligent author; and no rational enquirer can, after serious reflection, suspend his belief a moment with regard to the primary principles of genuine Theism and Religion.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

The Knives are out for Palin

It’s incredible how quickly politics descends into character assassination. Within hours of Sarah Palin being chosen as running mate for John McCain in the presidential election race, journalists and Democrats were making personal attacks on Palin, rather than just opposing her political views. Even before she mounted the podium to give her first speech as the candidate for Vice President, she had suffered terrible jibes about her family. But the worst attacks were, believe it or not, from this side of the Pond rather than by Americans, so desperate is the left-wing establishment in Britain to see the back of Republican government in America. First they were incredulous at Sarah Palin’s decision to go ahead with her pregnancy when it was discovered that her unborn child had Down’s Syndrome. Surely that decision was a sign of Palin’s courage as a mother, and is something to be applauded? But liberal pro-abortionists are too selfish to consider bringing up a child that would be more demanding in time and effort, and might hamper their careers.

Then they accused her of hypocrisy, because her 17-year-old daughter is pregnant, and Palin, as a Christian, opposes sex before marriage. Did they stop to think that she might be hurt by the fact that her own daughter had failed to live up to the principles she believed in? How does that make her a hypocrite? It merely makes her a mother in distress, having to cope with a teenage pregnancy, like millions of other mothers of teenage girls. Then they went digging about in her past, looking for a skeleton in her closet. What was the best they could come up with? She once recommended that creationism should be taught alongside evolution in classrooms. According to one Times columnist (Sarah Vine, 4 Sept), this makes her some sort of lunatic. Well, forgive me, but aren’t there a few bigger issues to worry about? Her views on Iraq, Iran’s nuclear weapons programme, Russia’s invasion of Georgia or the global economic situation, for example? Is her belief in creationism the most damaging thing they could come up with? And in any case, she’s not applying for a job in science.

But of course, because she thinks students should be taught all the views on origins so they can make up their own minds, rather than just the single one promoted by atheists, it is automatically assumed that she believes the earth was created only 6,000 years ago. In fact, she has never stated that she believes that. She has said she doesn’t claim to know how the world was created. But that point aside, the Times attack shows a complete lack of understanding of the widely differing views of those who believe in a Creator. Some believe God used evolution. Of those who say he didn’t, some believe the world is billions of years old, some say it’s between 10,000 and 100,000 years old, and some stick to 6,000. But everyone is lumped into the same ‘loony fundamentalist’ category as soon as they mention anything about creationism.

Whatever your views on the age of the earth, there are some sound scientific reasons for remaining open-minded on this issue. All the dating systems used to establish the millions-of-years scenario are based on unprovable assumptions. While making those assumptions might be the only way that any scientific attempt at dating ‘deep time’ can be made, it is worth remembering what those assumptions are. Radiometric dating assumes that:

(1) the radioactive element decays at a constant rate
(2) the rock being analysed is not contaminated by infusion of excess end product
(3) the rock contained no end product when it was formed
(4) leaching of the parent element out of the rock sample did not occur.

These are not safe assumptions to make. For example, the Potassium-Argon, Rubidium-Strontium dating and Uranium-Lead dating methods all suffer from both leaching and contamination problems, because Potassium, Rubidium and Uranium salts are highly soluble, so leaching is possible. Leaching of the parent element out of the rock would dramatically increase the age of a sample. Recent studies of Mt. St. Helens rock known to have come from the 1980 eruption yielded erroneous dates numbering millions of years. Similar studies at the Grand Canyon found volcanic rocks dated at the top of the Canyon, which should be the youngest and most recent, were actually older than those found at the bottom! In fact, there are many examples of dating that do not give the millions of years required for evolution to be a viable theory, yet these are always rejected because it is assumed that they must be due to some kind of mistake because they don’t fit the evolutionary timescale.

While personally I am comfortable with the fact that the earth itself might well be millions of years old (for me, it doesn’t necessarily conflict with the Bible’s account of creation), it’s not something that should be so aggressively and dogmatically promoted by scientists as hard fact. And it certainly shouldn’t be used to question the sanity of a politician. By doing so, journalists only reveal either their lack of understanding of the scientific issues, or their prejudice against those who differ with their own assumptions.

Written by Andrew Halloway - a freelance editor, writer and publishing consultant, editor of ‘Good News’ newspaper and contributing editor of ‘The Delusion of Evolution’.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Steve Fuller in support of Michael Reiss and academic freedom

Steve Fuller offers his thoughts on the removal of Michael Reiss from his position at the Royal Society, and what it means for academic freedom.

Fuller states that the furore over Michael Reiss’s comments on creationism signify a worrying tendency that is bad for academic freedom and for science.

Read more >> Steve Fuller - Science shouldn't shut down discussion, Index on Censorship, 21/09/08

Andrew S

Ten more Darwin Quotes

Nick Spencer of Theos has an article in the Times Online ‘God, Evolution and Charles Darwin’ (17 Sept 08) in which he offers ten quotes from Darwin's life. [1]

Spencer thinks Darwin was one of the most brilliant scientists in history and ‘thoroughly decent, honourable and likeable.’ Whether Darwin was such a brilliant scientist is open to debate with persistent claims that his work was not all his own, (i.e. Roy Davies, The Darwin Conspiracy, 2008) but Darwin also got caught up in the racist zeitgeist thinking of the late nineteenth century that some of his free thinking friends were engaged in. Darwin was indeed a complex person with friends and acquaintances with various beliefs and worldviews. Darwin was perhaps agnostic, and was influenced by the progressive scientism of Comte.

Theos and Faraday are engaged in a research report to ‘Rescue Darwin,’ thinking he has been misunderstood. So in response to Spencer’s Darwin quotes, here are a few more that he might like to add to his report.

(1) When we descend to details, we can prove that no one species has changed …nor can we prove that the supposed changes are beneficial, which is the groundwork of the theory. Nor can we explain why some species have changed and others have not.
Letter to G. Bentham May 22, 1863

(2) With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilised men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.
The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered, in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more widely diffused. Nor could we check our sympathy, if so urged by hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with a certain and great present evil. Hence we must bear without complaining the undoubtedly bad effects of the weak surviving and propagating their kind; but there appears to be at least one check in steady action, namely the weaker and inferior members of society not marrying so freely as the sound; and this check might be indefinitely increased, though this is more to be hoped for than expected, by the weak in body or mind refraining from marriage.
The Descent of Man (1871) pp. 168-169

(3) At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes, as Professor Schaaffhausen has remarked, will no doubt be exterminated. The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla.
The Descent of Man (1871) p.201

(4) Last night Dicey and Litchfield were talking about J. Stuart Mill's never expressing his religious convictions, as he was urged to do so by his father. Both agreed strongly that if he had done so, he would never have influenced the present age in the manner in which he has done. His books would not have been text books at Oxford. - To take a weaker instance Lyell is most firmly convinced that he has shaken the faith in the Deluge far more efficiently by never having said a word against the Bible, than if he had acted otherwise.
Letter to George Darwin, October 21/22, (1873)

(5) P.S. Oct 22nd …I have lately read Morley's Life of Voltaire and he insists strongly that direct attacks on Christianity (even when written with the wonderful force and vigour of Voltaire) produce little permanent effect: real good seems only to follow the slow and silent side attacks.
Letter to George Darwin October 21/22, (1873)

(6) I should prefer the part or volume not to be dedicated to me (although I thank you for the intended honour), as that would, in a certain extent, suggest my approval of the whole work, with which I am not acquainted. Although I am a keen advocate of freedom of opinion in all questions, it seems to me (rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against Christianity and Theism hardly have any effect on the public; and that freedom of thought will best be promoted by that gradual enlightening of human understanding which follows the progress of science. I have therefore always avoided writing about religion and have confined myself to science. Possibly I have been too strongly influenced by the thought of the concern it might cause some members of my family, if in any way I lent my support to direct attacks on religion.
Letter to Edward Aveling (Son-in-Law of Karl Marx) 13th October, (1880)

(7) I could show fight on natural selection having done and doing more for the progress of civilization than you seem inclined to admit. Remember what risk the nations of Europe ran, not so many centuries ago of being overwhelmed by the Turks, and how ridiculous such an idea now is! The more civilised so-called Caucasian races have beaten the Turkish hollow in the struggle for existence. Looking to the world at no very distant date, what an endless number of the lower races will have been eliminated by the higher civilized races throughout the world.
Letter to W. Graham, 3rd July, (1881)

(8) It has often been said, as Mr. Macnamara remarks, that man can resist with impunity the greatest diversities of climate and other changes; but this is true only of the civilised races. Man in his wild condition seems to be in this respect almost as susceptible as his nearest allies, the anthropoid apes, which have never yet survived long, when removed from their native country.
The Descent of Man (1882) p. 188

(9) On his standard of proof, NATURAL science would never progress, for without the making of theories I am convinced there would be no observation.
The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin (Vol. II) p. 108

(10) ‘Origin of Species: The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life’ Full title of Darwin’s book first published in 1859

Sourced through Steve Jones’ website http://bevets.com/equotesd.htm with some corrections made after checking the Darwin Correspondence Project http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/

[1] http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article4772296.ece
Andrew S

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Dawkins digs himself in deeper

Why was Richard Dawkins battering away at his keyboard before breakfast on Tuesday morning (16 Sept. 08), before his toast, marmalade and English tea were cold?

Posted on his blog at 8:55am is a statement that he wishes to get into the press, apparently with some urgency. “I’m working on getting a version of this published somewhere in the British press” he said at 8:55 am.[1]

The statement appeared in the New Scientist at 6:52 pm with the disclaimer “Before Michael Reiss stepped down as director of education for the Royal Society, Dawkins sent New Scientist his thoughts on the creationism row that blew up last week.”

Dawkins - New Scientist Statement

But at 9:22 am Dawkins states that the Royal Society has issued a press release with his own adage. ‘The Royal Society has just publicly announced that Michael Reiss has resigned from his position of Director of Education. I have refused to comment to the press, other than to refer to my comment, posted above, BEFORE the news of his resignation was announced.’[2]

So between 8:55 am and 9:22 am Dawkins gets his thoughts emailed to the New Scientist, just before the announcement. It might seem then that the reason Dawkins was writing furiously during breakfast time was because he knew that Reiss had been forced to resign and wanted to manage the news in his favour by getting his statement out first; although I think Dawkins only digs himself, and the Royal Society, in deeper.

Lord Robert Winston, professor of science and society at Imperial College London, commented: "I fear that in this action the Royal Society may have only diminished itself. "This is not a good day for the reputation of science or scientists. "This individual was arguing that we should engage with and address public misconceptions about science - something that the Royal Society should applaud." Dr Roland Jackson, chief executive of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, said Professor Reiss's departure was a "real loss" and commented that the Royal Society should have ‘supported him’ to ‘further a reasoned debate.’

BBC 16-09-08 ‘Creationism biologist quits job

But what of Dawkins’ statement: Firstly, Dawkins does not think that Reiss’s actual statement is ‘inappropriate’ for the Royal Society, so his statement isn’t the reason Reiss should resign. Reiss was only asking for respectful discussions in the classroom reaffirming his own belief in evolution. Dawkins has himself also discussed creationism in the classroom with school children for his own television documentary.

Dawkins then divides scientists into two ‘camps,’ between the ‘accommodationists,’ who ‘‘respect’ creationists while disagreeing with them,’ and the ‘rest of us, who see no reason to respect ignorance and stupidity.’ Presumably though even the ‘accommodationists’ don’t respect what they perceive to be ‘ignorance and stupidity,’ but instead they are willing to show respect to those people they disagree with. Dawkins statement is vague and incoherent thus leaving room for interpretation, and the statement only makes sense if Dawkins was implying that it is ignorant and stupid people who should be disrespected. Therefore it would seem that he wants people to consider that it is acceptable to disrespect others on the basis of their beliefs. But Dawkins cannot say this openly because while he is insinuating incitement towards intolerant hatred and bullying behaviour he wants to keep his own hands clean in order to point the finger at religion as the source of intolerance and hatred. This rhetoric of his is dangerous because some will read it to imply that it is acceptable to disrespected people, not merely challenge their ideas. Dawkins is well practiced at writing such vague statements, and Christians have faced increasing personal disrespect and vilification for their beliefs because of this type of ‘couldn’t care less’ rhetoric that Dawkins engages in through much of his writing. This is also the basis for the attacks against Michael Reiss; it is prejudice.

Later in the statement Dawkins asserts that the respectful approach of ‘accommodationism’ is ‘on the brink of scientific dishonesty’ and ‘devious.’ Does Dawkins really believe that showing respect to people with whom one disagrees is dishonest and devious?

Dawkins comments further that to ask for Reiss’s removal on the grounds of his holy orders is ‘close to a witch hunt’ and he finds it a bit squeamish. However, he believes that a vicar cannot hold a position at the Royal Society as a spokesman; if the Royal Society is seeking to show respect to those they disagree with. How odd!

Dawkins states “Unfortunately for him [Reiss] as a would-be spokesman for the Royal Society, Michael Reiss is also an ordained minister. To call for his resignation on those grounds, as several Nobel-prizewinning Fellows are now doing, comes a little too close to a witch-hunt for my squeamish taste. Nevertheless -- it's regrettable but true -- the fact that he is a priest undermines him as an effective spokesman for accommodationism.”

While Dawkins finds this ‘witch hunt’ a bit squeamish he believes that Reiss should have a choice over what position he should resign from, stating that ‘Perhaps, rather than resign his job with the Royal Society, Professor Reiss might consider resigning his Orders?’ So while Dawkins seems to want to distance himself from a perceived ‘witch hunt’ he is merely holding the coats of those throwing the stones because he believes that Reiss cannot hold the position while being an ordained minister. Dawkins cannot wash his hands of the intolerance that he is whipping up through his books and statements.

Dawkins would have been better off enjoying his breakfast - as the saying goes, when in a hole stop digging.

The Royal Society comments in its statement that “Some of Professor Michael Reiss's recent comments, on the issue of creationism in schools, while speaking as the Royal Society's Director of Education, were open to misinterpretation. While it was not his intention, this has led to damage to the Society's reputation. As a result, Professor Reiss and the Royal Society have agreed that, in the best interests of the Society, he will step down immediately as Director of Education, a part time post he held on secondment.”

So let us get this straight, misrepresentation of a statement damages the Royal Society? But Dawkins reveals the real reason why Reiss was forced out. It was because Reiss was an ordained minister in the Church of England, and Dawkins and friends consider this unacceptable. Many will conclude that the Royal Society has damaged its reputation by its own actions.

There is also some irony that this attack on a Church of England vicar by the Darwinistas took place at the same time as Rev Dr Michael Brown of the Church of England has suggested that it ought to apologise to Darwin.

[1]Dawkins 1
[2]Dawkins 2
Andrew S

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Child abuse in the classroom?

The Daily Mail is reporting that a publicly funded research project 'No Outsiders' (funded to the tune of £600,000 by the Economic and Social Research Council) is calling for sex education, including exploration of gay lifestyles, to children as young as five. Of course the Daily Mail loves to stir up the news to sell papers, but the idea that adults should teach children as young as five to explore their sexuality strikes many as a form of child abuse. Make up your own minds whether the Daily Mail is stirring it up by reading the piece - Teach 'the pleasure of gay sex' to children as young as five, say researchers

The comments of Simon Fanshawe, who is making a documentary for BBC 3, are also of relevance to this discussion Simon Fanshawe - Homosexual U.K. Documentarian Says Gay Lifestyle a "Sewer" of Casual Degrading Sex, Drug Abuse and Misery

There is sad irony that secular humanism, which seeks to remove discussions about creationism in schools, instead reduces humanity to mere physical objects, thus losing sight of the soul and spiritual make-up and needs of children and adults. Human beings were created to be temples of God's Spirit, not objects of lust and selfish gratification. Christians then believe that all people are worthy of respect and honour. While Dawkins claims that educating children about creation in schools is a form of child abuse, the evidence would suggest that secular humanism is instead opening the door to real abuse because it leads to a loss of respect towards other people.

Greg Haslam, minister of Westminster Chapel was interviewed for the BBC about creationism in schools, and commented that;

"The materialist explanation of the creation has nothing to offer - if we came from nothing and go into nothing, then that encourages people to lead reckless and materialistic lifestyles... Evolution is a world-view that leads to futility. It's no wonder people are dissatisfied with it." (In Who are the British Creationists?)
Andrew S

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Reiss under attack from some Royal Society members

Some members of the Royal Society are attacking Michael Reiss for his recent comments that discussions about creationism should be allowed in schools. Clearly they are angered by this. Sir Harry Kroto and Sir Richard Roberts, both Nobel prize winners, and others, have demanded the sacking of Reiss as the Royal Society’s education director. This follows Reiss's claim last week that creationism should be discussed in schools' science classes if raised by pupils.

Roberts thinks it is; ‘…outrageous that this man is suggesting that creationism should be discussed in a science classroom. It is an incredible idea and I am drafting a letter to other Nobel laureates - which would be sent to the Royal Society - to ask that Reiss be made to stand down.'

Dawkins commented that the idea that a; ‘clergyman [can be] in charge of education for the country's leading scientific organisation – [is a] a Monty Python sketch.'

Kroto commented that; 'The thing the Royal Society does not appreciate is the true nature of the forces arrayed against it and the Enlightenment for which the Royal Society should be the last champion.'

So much for respect for people of faith and free speech in an organisation that is allegedly committed to non authoritarian science. Robin McKie, writing in the Guardian, commented in the headline that scientists must ‘nail’ the creationists.[1] This does make one wonder about the state of mind of some of these secular humanists who seem to have deep seated insecurities as observed by outward displays of intolerant language, and through seeking to eliminate their opponents.

At the end of the day the Royal Society’s motto is 'Nullius in verba' which translates, 'on no one's word of authority.' It seems though that it is perceived religious authority that some members of the Royal Society hate more than their own authority, which they seek to bring to bear on science. Or perhaps they are blind to this determined authority that they use to ban open discussion about origins in school science classes. Michael Polanyi instead argued that there can only be general authority in science based on freedom, truth, and conscience.[2] And that is something the Royal Society scientists cannot ‘nail’ down how ever hard they try.

As an aside, it is interesting to read the history of the Royal Society where Joseph Lister was arguing against the Flood geology of Nicolai Steno on the basis that there was a plastic theory at work in the earth that could generate fossils. Steno's Flood geology correctly predicted the organic origin of fossils. The plastic theory of fossil formation was later rejected, but a Platonic 'plastic theory' of evolution as a 'source of generation' under David Hume and Erasmus Darwin was developed instead.

[1] Robin McKie, Our scientists must nail the creationists Guardian, 14 Sept 08

[2] Polanyi, M., Science, Faith, and Society. Oxford Univ. Press, 1946.
Andrew S

Friday, 12 September 2008

Robert Winston Rejects Deterministic Science

Following Professor Reiss's comments, reported on this blog, Professor Robert Winston has now criticised 'science delusions' and 'deterministic' science at the British Association Festival of Science in Liverpool. He accuses militant atheists such as Richard Dawkins of damaging science with their rhetoric. It seems as though they are having an exiting time in Liverpool questioning some sacred cows.

Winston comments that; "Far too many scientists including my good friend Richard Dawkins present science as...factually correct. And actually of course that clearly isn't true." "I think that...it is actually...irresponsible. I think it poo-poos other people's views of a universe about which none of us know clearly or absolutely"

Rejecting a misplaced certainty in science, Winston commented further that the traditional "deterministic" approach to genetics is 'too simplistic.'

"We can't any longer have the conventional understanding of genetics which everybody pedals because it is increasingly obvious that epigenetics - actually things which influence the genome's function - are much more important than we realised . One of the most important aspects of what makes us who we are is neither straight genes or straight environment but actually what happens to us during development."

Clearly such evidence calls into question the type of neo-Darwinian explanation involving 'selfish genes' favoured by Richard Dawkins.

Winston also criticised the idea that science can be separated from technology and the application of science as he believes they are interconnected. Scientists must therefore have an eye on the application of science in their work.

Read the Guardian Science Blog 12 Sept. 2008 Winston - science delusions
Andrew S

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Professor Reiss and teaching creationism in schools

Professor Reiss, director of education at the Royal Society, has again argued that science teachers should allow discussions about creationism and intelligent design in schools. Banning such teaching he argued is counterproductive and alienates children from science.

"My experience after having tried to teach biology for 20 years is if one simply gives the impression that such children are wrong, then they are not likely to learn much about the science…"

Reiss is also an ordained Church of England minister. Speaking at the British Association, Festival of Science in Liverpool he commented that science teachers should consider creationism as an alternative world view, and not see it as a "misconception." He commented that good teaching is about respecting the students' views. "I do believe in taking seriously and respectfully the concerns of students who do not accept the theory of evolution while still introducing them to it."

Prof John Bryant, who is a retired professor of cell and molecular biology at the University of Exeter, agreed that alternatives could be admissible for discussion in science classes. "If the class is mature enough and time permits, one might have a discussion on the alternative viewpoints [to evolution]." (Although he doesn't think intelligent design or creationism should be placed on an equal footing).

Reiss was also critical of Prof Richard Dawkins for saying that teaching creationism is akin to child abuse. "This is an inappropriate and insulting use of the phrase child abuse as anybody who has ever worked [in this area] knows."

Professor Reiss is not a creationist, but a one-time 'evangelist' for Darwinism who now recognises that respectful dialogue is the way forward with the present impasse between evolution and creation. I think this is a welcome development that can only increase understanding of the complexity of biological life for both sides.

Read the articles in the press

Daily Telegraph article
Times online article
Reiss - Guardian science blog
Guardian article

Andrew S