‘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

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

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