Hello, thanks, ideas for discussion and a poll!

All are welcome to this forum, which is for debating the teaching of creationism or intelligent design in schools. This forum can be boisterous, and you should not participate if easily offended.

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Is Britain MORE vulnerable to creationism than the US?

Oh sh*t, we're all going to be lumbered with the "GodSquad: Mental Branch" version of history.
6
86%
Phew, it's an American problem, quick hide behind our Evening Standards and pretend it isn't happening.
1
14%
 
Total votes : 7

Hello, thanks, ideas for discussion and a poll!

Postby Louis » Tue Oct 10, 2006 7:31 pm

Hello!

I'd like to say a big "thanks" to the people responsible for setting this British equivalent of the NCSE up. There are two reasons:

1) We desperately need it.

As Brits we are generally less litigious and we have less "constitutional protection" than the US does. After all one offical slant is that church and state in the UK are not seperate. Although in reality the level of seperation is very high. Surprisingly this might have been an advantage in the past in keeping creationism out of schools and universities. However, the world has changed. A combination of extreme postmodernist relativism, a reluctance to cause "offense", the knee-jerk respect religions of all stripes expect and get in public life, and the increase in vociferous, politically aware evangelists, make Britain a cherry ripe for the plucking.

We have to act and act now. The Vardy schools, "Truth" in Science ({cough splutter} have you read their website? No lies? Oh dear, there's a whole lot of cognitive dissonance going on there), and the current push for faith schools for a variety of faiths are the tip of a very scary creationist iceberg.

2) You've saved me a job! (Perhaps ;) )

I've been pondering (read procrastinating/working too hard) how best to do this for a while. I think we need to get a clear statement of purpose out (forgive me if there is one, I haven't fully explored yet) and we need to get the endorsement of said statement by both the Royal Society (and other scientific institutions) AND the major churches/heads of faiths in the UK (the archbish of Canters etc). This is definitely one way to steal a march on the creationist organisations etc, it's been highly successful in the USA.

Maybe even Der KatholischeKircheFuhrer (Papa Ratzi to you and me) could be persuaded to give endorsement in light of his predecessor's encyclical etc (although I don't hold out a huge amount of hope). One thing that will remove the carpet right from under the feet of certain engineering Profs in Yorkshire and car salesmen in the north east is the endorsement of the "established religions". Since Dr Rowan is pretty into reason and christianity (despite the vast theological double think involved) we might get his stamp. The RS and BI etc are bound to get on board.

There are other organisations like Sense about Science, Science Just Science, and the NSS etc that also might be amenable to coalition on this. One thing we need to get clear from the start with various organisations is that even though we may disagree vehemently on many things, on this we agree; the current scientific picture of how life on earth developed and continues to develop is accurate and factual, creationism is not. Or words to that effect.

Individuals like Dawkins, Attenborough, Andrew Marr, David Starkey, Phillip Pullman etc need to be lobbied/asked for their written support. It all starts from a statement. There are a variety of American and international organisations that have already done this, so we could crib our homework! The reason I think we should go for as diverse and widely known list of celebs and famous intellectuals/public figures/religious people is to show a wide diversity of people have a consensus on this one issue.

Another thing is that several of these internet organisations have started up recently. We need to take this a bit seriously. I am reluctant to duplicate effort because we need every pair of hands we can get. Taking a leaf of of Sense about Science's book in some ways might be useful, they seem to have a good amount of political acumen (unsurprisingly).

Apologies for the long first post. All the above is obviously just my opinion so feel free to call bullsh*t, argue, deride and generally dissect.

Cheers

Louis

P.S. I hope it's needless to say I am MORE than willing to do much/all of this myself. I have almost finished an intensely busy work period and I am very keen to use my spare time on certain causes I strongly support. So all the "we do this" crap above really does involve me personally doing some work, rather than chatting about it on the web. I should be free from outside commitments at the weekends aroung Nov/Dec time. Basics like letters etc can be accomplished before then.
"Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself. The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool."

R P Feynman
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Postby George Jelliss » Tue Oct 10, 2006 8:06 pm

The archbishop and the Pope have already expressed views against young-earth creationism, though not in very forthright terms, and I doubt that we will ever get much support from those quarters. Also their views don't frighten McIntosh and the evangelicals, since they hold the other churches in total contempt.

What worries me is the complacent attitude of the qualified scientists, who have only recently started to wake up to the problem.
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Hello, thanks, ideas for discussion and a poll!

Postby Anonymous » Tue Oct 10, 2006 8:11 pm

George Jelliss wrote:
The archbishop and the Pope have already expressed views against young-earth creationism,

The Roman Catholic Church's doctrine is totally against YEC. As a
result, although there are a small number of nutters in Italy and Malta,
YECs are very few and far between there, have no influence and are ignored.

What worries me is the complacent attitude of the qualified scientists, who have only recently started to wake up to the problem.

Agreed, although I believe we will find UK scientists waking up quicker
to the threat than the US scientists, who have taken a quarter of a
century to.
Anonymous
 

Postby Louis » Tue Oct 10, 2006 9:33 pm

George,

I'm not worried about frightening McIntosh, or indeed correcting him or his ilk in any way. That particular type of gent is so deeply using his rectum as a snorkel on this issue that attempting to change his mind is like sticking your arm up a cow's arse. At best the cow enjoys it, but whatever the cow's feeling, all you come away from the experience with is a shitty arm.

Erm, if you'll forgive the appropriate and accurate but vile and vulgar imagery.

Our efforts will never touch the McIntoshs of this world. The guy is a Professor at a University for feck's sake! It's not like he cannot nip across the road to the library and actually see for himself. The precommitted biblical literalists are pretty much beyond reach, despite the odd escapee from thier ranks.

Our efforts should be directed at everyone else, especially key decision makers, politicians and the like. You're right to hit on the complacency of the scientific establishment, as a scientist I can heartily agree that there is a problem there, but I would disagree that it's complacency. Scientists live in a world of data and evidence, the evidence is what counts not what someone says. Nullius in verbia (on the word of no one, or by no man's word) is the motto of the Royal Soc. What most scientists "feel"/"think" when they encounter creationism (for example) is simply confusion. The data is exceptionally clear cut, so why do these creationists keep touting obviously incorrect hypotheses?

Luckily we have a wealth of experience from the US and Australia, and to a thankfully lesser extent the UK, where creationist epidemics have come and gone and come back etc. I'm not worried about leading Andy McIntosh down a scientific road to Damascus (if you'll pardon the joke). I'm interested that the voices and claims of Andy McIntosh and Peter Vardy etc are put into proper context and openly confronted. I don't want to remove their religion from them, I don't want them to be denied the right to remove their children from the school system should they so wish. I DO want very much to prevent them being able to tout their demonstrably inaccurate claims about the observable universe as being scientific and teaching them in state funded schools as science, or even in RE classes that fail to provide context with regards to other faiths or evidence.

I am concerned with winning the minds of voters, not erasing the dissonance of the determinedly deluded.

One thing is exceptionally important to demonstrate is the accurate picture that creationists and IDCists are a fringe element of religious thought, attempting to shoe horn their specific faith views into an undeserved position within science education. There is no legitimate scientific controversy, these guys are political all the way. The scientific battle was won well before Darwin, old Chuck just gave the coffin a few final nails (massively crucial nails to be sure). This won't be won in this century on the scientific data because science has already won that battle. That was a battle in the 18th and 19th centuries. The data showed a creationist hypothesis to be at odds with observed reality. End of story.

The 20th/21st century battle is entirely political and the creationists/IDCists know this. Which is why they are so very keen to avoid doing any actual science. They know that fancy words, "truthiness" bullshit and sciencey sounding stuff will gull the public and scientifically illiterate politicians. What scientific idea was ever required to be shoehorned into school curricula BEFORE the evidence was in? Not a one.

Collecting the words of the pope and the archbish and the scientist and the journo and the politician into ONE place, into ONE campaign and into ONE agreed statement is vastly more useful politically than relying on the vaguely interested majority to actually research the issue before making up their minds. Don't get me wrong, I don't wish to patronise or dismiss people at large, quite the reverse, why should they be interested in an issue that on a day to day basis probably doesn't affect them obviously?

We need to act NOW, preemptively (well almost preemptively), because the Vardys of this world already have the ear of government. Appeasing nutters is a very easy way to deal with them, especially when the nutters have fat wallets and sly, comforting phrases.

We need to collect the disparate and diverse voices of key public figures and put them into one place, into one press release, into one double page spread in the Times (or what have you). That will create a) public awareness of the issue (although if the statement is not VERY carefully worded this could backfire), b) a very public body politic that could be used to challenge these people in court, which if we follow the US in any sense is where this will end up.

People like Johann Hari, Richard Dawkins, Steve Jones, Martin Rees, Susan Blackmore etc are already very publically speaking out. The one thing we lack that creationists have is a cohesive plan and framework for communication. That is precisely what the BCSE needs to be (as the NCSE is in the USA), a cohesion of various disperate and diverse parties who agree on this one issue alone. This is a very tough thing to acheive, but the only way we will have any success. We need organised, politically acute opposition to creationists NOW before things go wrong, not after like the USA. Let the literalists have their fearful little religion, but the place for it is not in any science classroom.

Louis
"Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself. The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool."

R P Feynman
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Hello, thanks, ideas for discussion and a poll!

Postby Anonymous » Wed Oct 11, 2006 9:30 am

Louis wrote:

Our efforts should be directed at everyone else, especially key decision makers, politicians and the like.

Quite correct. What is required though are some people with experience
of campaigning.

Mike
(one of the admins)
Anonymous
 

Postby Louis » Wed Oct 11, 2006 1:43 pm

Mike,

I have no formal experience but I'm keen, imaginative and not a total moron! I can try to exploit contacts and "old school tie" relationships if necessary.

My guess would be we need to make a statement first, hedged with all the usual caveats so we put the minimum number of noses out of joint, and mail it to a few likely suspects for comment/support. The few high profile ones would be a fairly good start. With Lord Taverne having recently started Sense about Science and with quite a few MPs being honorary NSS associates, my guess is we could get a few questions asked in parliament (not as hard as it sounds). Lobbying constituency MPs etc is never a bad idea.

One angle rarely tried is to poll the pharma/biotech industry. In a conflict between god and mammon, mammon always wins (as Lenny Flank says). Money talks, and "luckily" science education is in the news at the moment. From closures of university chemistry depts to shoddy GCSE standards, the UK is crying out for increased science standards etc. Making a clear link between diluting science education with well refuted religious bunkum and loss of potential earnings, investment in the UK and international competitiveness will sort most business/politcal people out right away.

Strong, clear links need to be made, and luckily they are there to be highlighted. MRSA and antibiotic resistance, hip operations and evolved bipedalism, genetic algorithms in CS, outbreak modelling and epidemiology etc. There are so many fields that require an understanding of evolutionary biology, we need to shout them from the rooftops.

Damn, gone on too long again, I've just got too many ideas!

Cheers

Louis
"Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself. The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool."

R P Feynman
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Hello, thanks, ideas for discussion and a poll!

Postby Ian Lowe » Wed Oct 11, 2006 2:03 pm

I like the way you think Louis - it has been one of my concerns in this
whole situation that the actual scientific strength of the UK will be eroded
away.

You only have to look at the chilling effect that Bush and Co's pandering to
the religious right has had on Stem Cell research in the States to see what
harm the fundies can do.

Ian.
Ian Lowe
 

Postby Louis » Wed Oct 11, 2006 2:43 pm

Ian,

Fundies having control of science funding is (forgive me) a fucking horror show. They are making big problems in the US from stem cells to NASA. It happens here too, look at the anti-GM lobby and the homeopathic medicine bunch, if you need a better example of people's irrational beliefs hindering science you will look hard to find it.

Crikey, I don't even think scientists should have too much control over funding, things get a bit "fashionable" if that happens. Although this does happen. Too great a business influence makes for excellent technology, but less good science on average. We need the tension between business, blue sky science, and trendy "hot science" which we currently have. Preferably with a large injection of hard cash!!

Cheers

Louis
"Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself. The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool."

R P Feynman
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Postby George Jelliss » Wed Oct 11, 2006 4:11 pm

It's not just YECs that oppose stem-cell research. There are quite a lot of perfectly orthodox religious believers that take that line. It's the whole "pro-life" lobby. This is one of the ways in which it is difficult to separate fundamentalist religion from moderate religion.

I should also have added that there are plenty of rational, secular, humanist people I know who oppose, or are extremely sceptical about, genetically modified food, myself included.
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Hello, thanks, ideas for discussion and a poll!

Postby Anonymous » Wed Oct 11, 2006 9:29 pm

Louis wrote:

Damn, gone on too long again, I've just got too many ideas!

Keep your ideas coming! We need enthusiastic people...
Anonymous
 


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