‘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, 23 December 2008

Dawkins and a 'national disgrace'

According to a Mori poll in the UK, 29% of science teachers want to allow teaching of creationism in school science classes. Presumably that includes intelligent design, which is usually lumped into a ‘one-size-fits-all’ creationism. Furthermore, 73 percent of science teachers think creationism should be discussed in other lessons. Dawkins calls the fact that 29 percent of science teachers want to allow creationism to be taught in schools to be a ‘national disgrace.’

Richard Dawkins and Steve Jones give their views on creationism teaching poll

Quarter [29%] of science teachers would teach creationism

Firstly, I will leave aside the interesting question of how Dawkins might consider something to be a ‘dis-grace’ when he himself believes ‘grace’ to be a meaningless concept in the first place. But on the question of a ‘national disgrace;’ when a majority of teachers want to respect children’s worldviews in schools it is odd that something can be a ‘national disgrace.’ Or even for a large minority, surely they should have their views respected in a democracy. I would suggest that giving a small clique of secular humanists and atheists ‘carte blanche’ to dictate education policy that disrespects children’s worldview in a multi-faith society is the real national disgrace here. But Dawkins wants to re-educate teachers until they all accept evolution as fact, or if they don’t presumably to remove them from their jobs. It would seem that Dawkins and friends do not have much respect for a free society. AC Grayling has also called for an ongoing ‘war’ against religion in general, mainly on the basis that religion is the cause of war in the first place. I’ll let that one sink in.

Secularists' vital war on religion - AC Grayling

But what Dawkins cannot stand is that the reason that intelligent design is gaining ground is because science itself is advancing, and knowledge about the biological complexity of life is leaking out despite attempts to stifle knowledge by the powers that control science education policy. But if Dawkins is serious about preserving belief in evolution then he needs to stop children finding out about the incredible complexity of the cell. Here are a few tactics he could use to keep the sheep in check and maintain the Darwin dogma.

1. Dumb down biological science and hide knowledge about the degree of complexity of the cell until children are thoroughly indoctrinated into evolution.
2. Publish textbooks with out-of-date research or use already falsified evidence - they will be too young to know.
3. Use emotional, polemical and rhetorical arguments against intelligent design proponents and therefore use fear and peer pressure to stop children asking awkward questions, or investigating the evidence outside of the narrow curriculum and risk switching sides.
4. Misrepresent the arguments of intelligent design proponents, and use logical fallacies in criticisms of intelligent design. Furthermore, do not give children the skills necessary to recognise logically fallacious arguments.
5. Bamboozle and confuse children with fallacious arguments so that they give up science altogether – and the Darwin myth is preserved in them for life.

Towards a Human Ecology - Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI has caused controversy by saying that mankind needs saving from homosexuality.

The Pope commented in his address to the Curia, the Vatican's central administration, that behaviour beyond traditional heterosexual relations is "a destruction of God's work" and that the Roman Catholic Church had a duty to "protect man from the destruction of himself" and urged respect for the "nature of the human being as man and woman." adding that just as "The tropical forests...deserve our protection [so does] man...'

Quite predictably the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement responded with their own over reaction, denouncing the comments as "totally irresponsible and unacceptable in any shape or form." The implication being that freedom of speech does not extend to any negative comments relating to the effects of a gay lifestyle. The Rev Sharon Ferguson, said: "It is more the case that we need to be saved from his comments. It is comments like this that justify homophobic bullying that goes on in schools and it is comments like this that justify gay bashing."

No, the Pope did not seek to justify homophobic bullying, which would have been wrong, and Christians are called to love all irrespective of their lifestyle choices, but neither should discussions relating to the implications of a particular social issue be placed out of bounds. There are important questions that arise from a number of social movements such as militant feminism, the gay lobby, materialism, excessive capitalism and extreme environmentalism, and if these are allowed to develop without question will lead to the reduction of the human population and to greater social problems, and this by design of some of those involved in the movements (the environmental movement especially). The growth of gay sentiment though will reduce the birth rate in the west if unchallenged, and is focused to a particular age group in western culture implying that it is a lifestyle choice, not a matter of genes. In that light the Pope's comments are perfectly acceptable, although without reading the full text it is not possible to know if he made his comments in the wider context. I suspect he did from this phrase "What’s needed is something like a ‘human ecology’’; a perfectly valid argument that seeks to defend humanity.

Pope says humanity needs 'saving' from homosexuality Nick Allen, Daily Telegraph, 23rd Dec 2008

Monday, 22 December 2008

Christmas Contrast

Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, asks us to put away principles and remember unconditional love for individuals in a Telegraph article.

Put aside your principles and remember: all you need is love - Rowan Williams

Williams comments;

"But that's one reason why we tell this [Christmas] story repeatedly, the story of the "unprincipled" God who values what others don't notice, who relates to people we'd all rather forget, whose appeal is to everyone because he has made everyone capable of loving response. At least once a year we all – Christians or non-Christians – need to hear again that permission to be free from principles so that we can ask the question about specific human lives and destinies, about the unacceptable cost of programmes and systems when they are only about me and people like me.

And when that question is asked, says Karl Barth in his sermon, what begins to come through "the eternal light that requires nether fuel nor candlestick"."

Meanwhile over at the Guardian in 'Comment is Free' AC Grayling is rallying the troops for a continued war against religion.

Secularists' vital war on religion - AC Grayling

Sadly, the militant secularists fail to see the good in the Christmas story, but want to impose their philosophy on everyone else, even if it is by force and the denial of liberty for religious believers - as has happened under atheistic regimes around the world.

Grayling lumps all religious beliefs together, the good and bad, in his simplistic scheme and comments;

"Secularists in the west say to the apologists of the religions: your beliefs are your choice, so take your place in the queue. They also say: you've had it your own way for a very long time - and committed a lot of crimes in the process - and you still fancy yourself entitled, but you aren't. You don't smell too good at times, so don't try to tell me what I can read, see on TV, do in my private time, think or say. In fact, keep your sticky fingers off my life. Believe what you like but don't expect me to admire or excuse you because of it: rather the contrary, given the fairy-stories in question. And when you are a danger to the lives and liberties of others, which alas is too frequently the wont of your ilk, we will speak out against you as loudly, persistently, and uncompromisingly as we can."
Undoubtedly a lot of wrong has been done in the name of religion, but what of the good? And what of the bad done by the secularists? If I was moved to buy AC Grayling a Christmas present I think it would a mirror.

Andrew S

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Premier Radio - Unbelievable

Premier Radio - a radio station with a Christian theme - often has some interesting programmes. There are a number of items on the Premier Radio programme 'Unbelievable' that I found to be of interest.

Stephen Lloyd was on against Denis Alexander on the 29th November discussion Alexander's new book and what evolution theory means for Christianity. Also there was an item about the recent Dawkins vs Lennox Oxford debate on the 8th November. Also a programme discussion disagreements about Christian Zionism on the 6th December that may be of interest to some as well with Stephen Sizer and Geoff Smith.

You can listen if you scroll down the page and click on the items.

http://www.premierradio.org.uk/shows/saturday/unbelievable.aspx

Scientific American - who's telling the porkies?

The latest issue of Scientific American has an article by Eugenie C. Scott and Glenn Branch entitled ‘The Latest Face of Creationism in the Classroom’

Not being an American citizen it is perhaps not for me to comment on American education policy, but the article provides some humorous circular reasoning. At one point it says that evolution is not ‘scientifically controversial,’ and anyone who says it is, ‘miseducates students about evolution.’ Presumably if evolution wasn’t controversial the authors would not have felt the need to write the article. But in the article there is precious little evidence to justify their position, but lots of empty rhetoric.

"Vast areas of evolutionary science are for all intents and purposes scientifically settled; textbooks and curricula used in the public schools present precisely such basic, uncomplicated, uncontroversial material. "
But that sounds like; ‘evolution is true because we say it is true – and it’s in our text books – so there!’ Now am I supposed to be persuaded to believe evolution on that basis? And what about that NHM / OU text book entitled ‘99% Ape?’ a figure which is now known to be false, but taught as a ‘truth’ in popular level science?

But the statement goes on. “Telling students that evolution is a theory in crisis is—to be blunt—a lie.” Yeah right – but what of the evidence? Is it possible that some are instead ‘Telling lies for Darwin.’?

“Moreover, it is a dangerous lie,… Students who are not given the chance to acquire a proper understanding of evolution will not achieve a basic level of scientific literacy. And scientific literacy will be indispensable for workers, consumers and policymakers in a future dominated by medical, biotechnological and environmental concerns.”
Is that a veiled threat? Those of us who have bothered to look at evolution in depth and noted the scientific problems, paradoxes and oxymoron’s, are in a stronger position to be able to think freely, having resisted the “dumbing down” of education standards in the US and UK by those who wish to be philosopher kings. An interesting book by Peter Harrison, (The Bible Protestantism and Natural Science) has shown that science developed in the west because of a commitment to truth as a result of the Protestant Reformation. Christians are thus the guardians of truth in science, not enemies of science. Evolution needs challenging on logical grounds, for the sake of science, and should not be accepted on the basis of blind trust.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Creation dialogue with the EA?

The British Centre for Science Education (BCSE) forum sometimes makes illuminating reading. According to their website the BCSE 'is a group dedicated to promoting and defending science education in the UK.' Their main goal though is removing any discussion about intelligent design or creationism from the classroom.

I don't usually make a point of responding to them on this blog, but a response is in order to set the record straight from some of the latest comments on a thread entitled Paul Taylor comments on Dr. Denis Alexander

Michael Roberts comments "it is not Denis who has caused division. Over the years he has strived to be as peaceful as possible. The division is caused by those who have tried to force a YEC position on other Christians."

Another Christian contributor says "I still think think the YECs are going to cause a major split within the church Michael, along similar lines to the reformation with most (if not all) evangelicals siding with the YECs. The Evangelical Alliance appears to be completely ignorant as to what is happening. Some sort of statement of faith from them would go a long way in addressing the situation but they (the Alliance) don't seem to want to say anything, perhaps for fear of upsetting the YECs (who are bound to be scathing in their response). It really is a different way of looking at Christianity. ... Quite an appalling situation and one that the Evangelical Alliance really can't ignore."

For the record; there is a strong desire amongst many creationists and intelligent design supporters to engage in respectful dialogue with other Christians through the EA, and some of us have even made representation to the EA to bring it about. However, nothing has come of this, and the current Head of Theology is clearly in support of the theistic evolution position.

For some evangelicals there is a strong desire to make Christian faith respectable to the world, even if it means isolating their 'embarrassing' brethren; which seems to be the position of Roberts and Alexander. I believe this is deeply misguided theologically, and there is a tendency to place more trust in the words of fallible scientists than in the words of Jesus - who called for unity.

Many of us have argued that Christians must seek to end division through respectful dialogue so that the church can be united first, and I urge the EA to establish its own forum to facilitate this dialogue.

And there is a case for Christians involved in science to hold science and scientists to account. Science requires dialogue, but evolutionists seek to close down the debate. There is a need to question the basis of foundational assumptions in science. Alexander says that Christians should let secular scientists get on with their work unhindered [Creation or Evolution p.351]. But we are faced then with having to interpret Scripture on the basis of the findings of secular scientists and unquestioned assumptions. Frankly that is a very unsatisfactory state of affairs.
Andrew S