‘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

Friday, 28 November 2008

Children are born with a belief in God

Researchers from Oxford's Centre for Anthropology and Mind have found evidence that children are predisposed to believe in God or a supreme being. This is because of a natural assumption that everything in the world exists for a purpose and was therefore created.

Dr Justin Barrett was reported in the UKs Daily Telegraph as saying that young children appear to have an inherent faith even when it has not been taught to them by family or school. Even children raised on a desert island without any external infuence would start out with a belief in God.

Commenting on the BBC Radio 4's Today programme he said;

"The preponderance of scientific evidence for the past 10 years or so has shown that a lot more seems to be built into the natural development of children's minds than we once thought, including a predisposition to see the natural world as designed and purposeful and that some kind of intelligent being is behind that purpose…if we threw a handful on an island and they raised themselves I think they would believe in God."

At a lecture at Cambridge University’s Faraday Institute, Barrett cited psychological experiments carried out on children that reveal an instinctive belief in children towards acceptance of design and purpose. This leads to a natural belief in creation rather than evolution, even when they are told differently by parents or teachers. Anthropologists have found that in some cultures children accept belief in God even when specific religious teaching is withheld. He commented;

"Children's normally and naturally developing minds make them prone to believe in divine creation and intelligent design. In contrast, evolution is unnatural for human minds; relatively difficult to believe."

Telegraph - Children are born believers in God academic claims

Andrew Sibley

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Support for Michael Reiss from unlikely sources

It is noticeable that many creationists and intelligent design supporters have written in support of Michael Reiss, despite the fact that Reiss claims to be a theistic evolutionist. The latest is a piece in the November issue of Evangelical Times by David Tyler, in which he welcomes Reiss’s call for respectful dialogue in the classroom so that the views of those who hold to different worldviews can be recognised, respected and treated fairly. Reiss has argued that disrespecting those who have different worldviews only turns children away from science and is therefore counter-productive to providing good science education. Many ID supporters and creationists broadly agree with this assertion and therefore welcome calls for respect in the science classroom.

What is also noticeable about the events surrounding Michael Reiss is the lack of comment and support for him from organisations such as the Faraday Institute (FI) and Christians in Science (CiS). A word search on the CiS website for ‘Reiss’ reveals only one entry in an article [1] merely as a mention of Reiss’s book under ‘Further Reading.’ On the FI website no results for Reiss were found.

One may wonder why there is such silence from CiS and FI when Reiss (who is a theistic evolutionist who held an important position) was recently treated so unjustly at the hands of some Fellows of the Royal Society. The article by Michael Poole and comments in the postscript of Denis Alexander’s book Creation or Evolution give some clues. Both quote Augustine, and use it to infer that creationists and intelligent design supporters are ‘disgraceful’, ‘dangerous’ and therefore an embarrassment to the gospel. This gives the appearance that some leaders in CiS and FI do not share Reiss’s calls for respectful dialogue, but instead wish to isolate IDers and creationists by misrepresenting their arguments and disrespecting their worldview. Poole's article has a prominent place on the CiS Home page and he seems to be the spokesman on education policy within the CiS.

I would love to be proved wrong on this, so perhaps if I have misunderstood the silence on Michael Reiss by CiS and FI then I offer my apologies in advance, but they need to demonstrate their support for Reiss and his call for respectful dialogue in the classroom through written articles on their websites to remove doubt.

[1] Michael Poole, 'Creationism, Intelligent Design and Science Education,' School Science Review, (90) 330, p. 123-130, September 2008 (and CiS Website)

Andrew Sibley

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Creationism and Intelligent Design in science classes

According to the Guardian twenty-nine per cent of teachers believe that creationism and intelligent design should be taught as science. This figure comes from an online survey of attitudes to teaching evolution in the UK conducted by Teachers TV. Nearly half of the respondents said they believed that excluding alternatives to evolution was counter-productive and would alienate pupils from science.

Read the Guardian article - Creationism should be taught as science, say 29% of teachers