Creationism has been running rampant in America for decades, with its literal interpretation of the Bible, insistence that the earth is no more than 6,000 years old and insistence that science is somehow on their side. Now it’s being exported to Scotland:
A new creationist group that preaches the “scientific” theory of intelligent design has set up in Glasgow with the stated aim of promoting its beliefs to schools and colleges.
The Centre for Intelligent Design, headed by a Northern Irish professor of genetics, a vice-president of the Royal College of Physicians and a former school inspector, has already prepared the ground for a clash with authorities.
The group’s director, Dr Alastair Noble, told the Sunday Herald it was “inevitable” the debate would make its way into schools – even though the Scottish Government says teachers should not regard intelligent design as science.
“We are definitely not targeting schools, but that doesn’t mean to say we may not produce resources that go to schools,” Dr Noble said, adding that he had already been asked to speak in Scottish schools, and agreed to do so.
The C4ID, as it calls itself online, insists its views are purely scientific, but critics have pointed to the leaders’ fundamentalist Christian backgrounds and the leaps of faith inherent in their logic.
Now Noble is basically implying that he intends to target schools, and considering creationism and ‘intelligent’ design represent wilful renunciations of reason and an evidence based approach, I think the philosophy behind his centre needs to be exposed. So…
The terms used in design theory are not defined. “Design”, in design theory, has nothing to do with “design” as it is normally understood. Design is defined in terms of an agent purposely arranging something, but such a concept appears nowhere in the process of distinguishing design in the sense of “intelligent design.” Dembski defined design in terms of what it is not (known regularity and chance), making intelligent design an argument from incredulity; he never said what design is.
A solution to a problem must address the parameters of the problem, or it is just irrelevant hand waving. Any theory about design must somehow address the agent and purpose, or it is not really about design. No intelligent design theorist has ever included agent or purpose in any attempt at a scientific theory of design, and some explicitly say they cannot be included (Dembski 2002, 313). Thus, even if intelligent design theory were able to prove design, it would mean practically nothing; it would certainly say nothing whatsoever about design in the usual sense.
‘Critics’ have mountains of 100% conclusive evidence on their side to disprove creationism & ‘intelligent’ design in a heartbeat. No more than 6,000 years old? Erm radiometric dating proves that’s bogus. Adam and Eve were real? Erm we have an entire fossil record that proves that bogus and demonstrates evolution beyond any doubt whatsoever. Humanity was designed by an intelligent hand? We know that’s a complete load of garbage too:
Richard Dawkins, never a man inclined to say nice things about creationism or ‘intelligent’ design, doesn’t just break creationism apart with hard science, he does so by framing the way in which creationists approach the very idea of evidence (also in the cartoon below):
Its [president, Professor Norman Nevin OBE – a geneticist at Queen’s University in Belfast – told a meeting in the city earlier this year he believed Adam was “a real historical person”. He also said: “Genesis chapter 1-11, which indeed many Darwinists and evolutionists say is myth or legend, I believe is historical, and it is cited 107 times in the New Testament, and Jesus refers himself to the early chapters of Genesis at least 25 times.” In these books of the Bible, the universe is created in six days, God makes Eve out of Adam’s rib, and Noah saves the Earth by building an ark.
Folks this is a geneticist saying God makes a woman out of a man's rib. Cloning? In Bronze Age times? By a supernatural 'creator' for whose existence there has never been one iota's evidence? It's utterly appalling, but look at his MO:
Professor Norman Nevin, [who was part of our panel on last week's Sunday Sequence,] is one of twelve academics to have written to the Prime Minister and Education Secretary in support of Truth in Science’s controversial schools initiative. Truth in Science believe that children and youth people should be exposed to alternatives to Darwinism and evolutionary theory, and, particularly, to Intelligent Design Theory, and have sent teaching packs to every school in the country.
Take a look at Nevin’s hinted ‘evidence’ – circular logic, insisting that one event referred to in the Bible did happen because it was prophesied elsewhere in the same book. It’s kind of telling that he says he’s not ‘targeting’ schools, yet his history has been to target schools. But he’s not the only scientist coming out with this:
Dr Alastair Noble is a Glasgow University graduate who became a teacher and later HM inspector of schools. He is currently education officer for CARE, a Christian charity which campaigns for more faith teaching in schools.
Dr David Galloway, C4ID’s vice- president, is also vice-president of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, and a member of the Lennox Evangelical Church in Dumbarton.
C4ID has now set up a base in Glasgow and runs a website. The group is financially based in Guernsey, and apparently funded solely by backers in Scotland, England and Northern Ireland.
Dr Noble denied the theory of intelligent design – that a universal engineer, or god, created the initial spark of life then used physical laws and natural selection to develop it – was religious.
How can a front for creationism not be religious? Preposterous nonsense – these people are the vanguard of those who try to recast science to prove anything they like, when that’s not what science (in this reality at least) does. Talk Origins goes further in proving creationists’ religious agenda, by letting the words of ‘intelligent’ design’s founders and leaders speak for themselves:
The ID movement is motivated by and inseparable from a narrow religious viewpoint. In the words of its founders and leaders:
There’s a difference of opinion about how important this debate [advocating intelligent design] is. What I always say is that it’s not just scientific theory. The question is best understood as: Is God real or imaginary? (Phillip Johnson, “The Search for Intelligent Design in the Universe”,
“We are taking an intuition most people have [the belief in God] and making it a scientific and academic enterprise. We are removing the most important cultural roadblock to accepting the role of God as creator. (Phillip Johnson, “Enlisting Science to Find the Fingerprints of a Creator”,
Our strategy has been to change the subject a bit so that we can get the issue of intelligent design, which really means the reality of God, before the academic world and into the schools (P. Johnson 2003).
If Noble is right and ID/creationism does make it into schools then we have a problem. It would be teaching superstition as science, legitimising the misrepresentation of all sorts of fields such as geology and biology and championing ignorance over knowledge. And it’s another example of creationists using ‘established’ scientists to legitimise their fundamentalist nonsense.
“I think people are afraid of this debate because they sense it’s religion from the back door. They see it as an invasion of science with religion, but it most certainly is not that,” he said.
However, critics dismissed intelligent design as “a front for creationism”.
Paul Braterman, an emeritus professor of chemistry, now at Glasgow University, and a founder of the British Centre for Science Education, a campaign to keep religion out of science classes, said intelligent design was simply using God to plug the gaps that science has yet to answer.
Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, called on the Government to “keep a close eye on this organisation to ensure it doesn’t manage to wheedle its way into schools”.
James Gray, of the British Humanist Association, said the C4ID had a right to say what it liked, but guidelines were needed to “ensure this pseudoscience never finds its way into science classes”.
They should indeed be allowed to say what they like. But observe the resulting problem of what happens when literalist nonsense makes it into schools:
[Teacher] Erfana Bora [disagrees]. In her view, after learning both science and religion “Pupils then do, literally, make their own minds up as to what they believe”. She says pupils in her science class ask her all kinds of questions, such as “Do humans really share a common ancestor with apes?”. But, interestingly, she doesn’t say how she answers such questions. Does she tell them that, yes, humans almost certainly share a common ancestor with apes, or does she say that while scientists argue that this is so, the Qur’an says that it is not? This is important, because if it’s the latter then it’s a classic case of “teach the controversy”, even where there isn’t one. The implication that education is about allowing children to make their own minds up may sound honourable, but it is misleading.
Sure it is, and it’s an extension of the literalist crap littering the American public sphere too. FOX News for example will transmit the most outrageous lies under the auspices of ‘being fair and balanced’, yet what they do is act in a ‘fair and balanced’ way with arguments with no merit (often with no truth). As I’ve said on this blog many times, just because there are two sides to an argument, it doesn’t make them of equal validity. The same is very much true with Biblical literalism – teaching the controversy legitimises superstitious nonsense by equating it with scientific fact.
In 2007 the BHA successfully lobbied the UK Government to publish guidance on how teachers should deal with creationism south of the Border, but no such policy exists in Scotland.
Ann Ballinger, of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association, urged ministers here to clarify the situation, while the EIS union said authorities should ensure teachers knew their position regarding intelligent design in the classroom.
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said ministers would be against any moves to teach intelligent design in science classes, stating “we do not recognise the teaching of intelligent design in a scientific context”.
However, teaching unions and councils said they were aware of no formal guidance on the subject.
It should indeed be prevented, but considering it’s already de-facto taking place in schools which are quite happily afforded the freedom to do so, I don’t exactly know how. It seems unlikely that a creationist centre will find itself hindered in any way when successive governments are so keen to promote the idea of faith schools. We’re on a slippery slope here, kids. Faith is being given weight in society disproportionate to its weight. By all means we should be concerned by C4ID, but we should see it in context too.