Science Anarchy in the UK

The religion-science debate has been in full swing this week in the UK, with Professor Michael Reiss – Church of England minister, and Director of Education for that bastion of science, the Royal Society – resigning his position with the Royal Society in the wake of supposedly controversial statements he made about Creationism in the classroom. Atheists/secular humanists/materialists of all descriptions got themselves in a tizzy over the weekend when Professor Reiss suggested that teachers should be equipped to discuss Creationism if students bring it up in class. The automatic assumption by many seems to have been that Reiss was saying that Creationism deserves to be part of the curriculum. However, that was obviously not his intention:

Teachers should take the time to explain why creationism had no scientific basis, Prof Reiss said. He stressed that the topic should not be taught as science. This was more valuable than simply “banging on” about evolution, he said.

Prof Reiss, a biologist and Church of England minister, said he now believed it was more effective to engage with pupils’ ideas about creationism, rather than to obstruct discussion with those who do not accept the scientific version of the evolution of species.

Yes, that’s right – he dared to suggest that we *talk* to kids about different worldviews, if the topic comes up. So top-level scientists, such as Sir Richard Roberts, showed their skill at reasoned thinking by saying things like:

I think it is outrageous that this man is suggesting that creationism should be discussed in a science classroom. It is an incredible idea and I am drafting a letter to other Nobel laureates – which would be sent to the Royal Society – to ask that Reiss be made to stand down.’

Richard Dawkins, for his part, commented: “A clergyman in charge of education for the country’s leading scientific organisation – it’s a Monty Python sketch.” Seemingly ignoring the fact that there are lots of very good scientists out there capable of doing, teaching, and discussing good science (Reiss himself is a biologist).

Dawkins has since backed away slightly from his original comments:

Although I disagree with him, what he actually said at the British Association is not obviously silly like creationism itself, nor is it a self-evidently inappropriate stance for the Royal Society to take.

Scientists divide into two camps over this issue: the accommodationists, who ‘respect’ creationists while disagreeing with them; and the rest of us, who see no reason to respect ignorance or stupidity.

…Unfortunately for him as a would-be spokesman for the Royal Society, Michael Reiss is also an ordained minister. To call for his resignation on those grounds, as several Nobel-prize-winning Fellows are now doing, comes a little too close to a witch-hunt for my squeamish taste.

…Perhaps I was a little uncharitable to liken the appointment of a vicar as the Royal Society’s Education Director to a Monty Python sketch. Nevertheless, thoughts of Trojan Horses are now disturbing many Fellows…

Nevertheless, even his qualified comments have been taken to task by some, such as this critique. Also, scientist and British media darling Lord Robert Winston has also gone out of his way to take a shot at Dawkins and other ‘militant atheists’, agreeing with Reiss’s suggestions about engaging people in discussion, rather than belittling their worldview:

I would argue that the ‘God Delusion’ approach is actually very divisive because it is the one way surely of not winning over opposing views… Religious people can say, ‘look these guys just don’t understand us’.”

We need to be much more sophisticated in how we handle these problems in our society and I don’t think the propositions of Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and a number of other writers have really furthered useful healthy debate. I think actually they’ve limited it – that worries me.

Remember that Lord Winston has previously given qualified support for other heretical topics being discussed – although I think still unfairly singling them out as needing special attention: two years ago he commented on the inclusion of a parapsychology session at the BAAS forum: “It is perfectly reasonable to have a session like this, but it should be robustly challenged by scientists who work in accredited psychological fields. It’s something the BA should consider, whether a session like this should go unchallenged by regular scientists.” While I think he was riding an intellectual high horse during that particular controversy, he was at least open to discussion – something that could not be said for numerous other ‘scientists’ in attendance…

  1. Excellent overview
    Hi Greg;

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention. It’s a classic example of scientists becoming stage-managers and politicians. For the first time in my life, I feel some sympathy for Dawkins, who seems to have been misinformed or ill-informed when first asked for a reaction. But this incident is – alas – so typical of science these days, where it is all about dogma. They are now deciding what CAN be discussed, and what CANNOT be discussed, and this week, there is another such parody of arrogance going on in Malta, where the likes of Anthony Harding are debating how to deal with “pseudoarchaeology”. From their abstracts, it is unfortunately all too clear that they have certain convictions about “pseudoarchaeology”, which they treat – it is clear – as being on par with creationism.
    Harding in his abstract pretty much argues that science now has ALL the answer, and it’s merely filling in a few gaps. It brings back memories from Eco’s The Name of The Rose, whereby – I believe – the Venerable Jorge states that there is no such thing as exploration, but that there is merely a continuous reiteration of God’s rightfullness.
    When you look at a presentation by Tera Pruitt at the Maltese archaeology conference, she is actually offering insights on how archaeologists should “manage” themselves better with the media. In short, this is nothing about science, but all about defining their playing field, and telling anyone not invited, to stay out.

    1. The Scientific Inquisition
      The Leakeys have ruled palaentology in Kenya like dictators. A few years ago I think it was, several qualified palaentologists were detained by Kenyan police and deported, all because they have differing views on human evolution and migration, and Chairman Leakey didn’t want the competition finding anything that would unseat him from his omniscient power.

      Science is a religion, and this latest ‘controversy’ is just one more reason why I detest the dogmatic boors. They give genuine science and those who practice it a bad reputation.

      As for Harding and Pruitt, you’d think examining Malta’s wheel ruts and megalithic structures with an open-mind would be more important than entrenching their dogma and media charisma. It’s an inquisition, dogmatic persecution, not science. In this they’re no different to the Vatican attacking pagans.

      In regards to Professor Reiss, I note that many headlines continue to be sensationalist and distort the truth — ‘Creationist’ biologist sacked from Royal Society reads one. It’s only two-thirds into the article do you find out that Professor Reiss is not a Creationist, and that he opposes Creationism. He merely asks for teachers and scientists to discuss the issues with their students.

      Just goes to prove that their idea of education is to shove their opinions down everyone’s throats and not let anyone think for themselves. We get that from religion, thank you very much, we don’t need it from science.

      If only atheists could be scientists, then we’d still be living in the Stone Age.

      1. Science IS a religion!
        Should anyone doubt it, you just have to read the article I included today, about the Atheon (A call to worship at the temple of Science).

        It’s not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me…
        It’s all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

        Red Pill Junkie

  2. Very sad
    Children have many, many questions. If they are not allowed to ask them and for a discussion to ensue, then how are they to learn, gather information and be able to form a conclusion that satisfies them?

    No-one should have the right to stifle genuine and reasonable debate about anything – that’s the Mind Police in action again.

    It distresses me to hear things like this.

    Regards, Kathrinn

  3. Science or Self?
    Unfortunately, some evolutionists view the theory as a validation of their personal superiority. Among people, they reason, there must be fitter and more worthy examples. Intelligence is considered to be the ultimate end of evolution and they are the most intelligent. Never mind how arrogant and closed-minded such an assumption might be, it serves their egos well.

    Anytime you challenge their accepted version or its dependencies, you challenge not just their worldview, but their self-image, too. Hence, all the venom.

  4. Arrrrgh
    Dawkins, you DmF’k. I’m tired of you calling me a moron. Ohhh how I would pay for the opportunity to debate you publicly.

    The intelligence in “Intelligent design” may have nothing to do with “God”. It could very well be that the subatomic particle is the smallest unit of consciousness. You know as well as I do that this would explain the quantum problem and there is no evidence against the idea.

    THIS could be the guiding intelligence of a cells mutation: The inherent consciousness native to the cell itself, which is the sum of the particles of consciousness that compose it.

    Don’t believe such is possible? Why not? Schrodinger, Laslow, Bohm, biologist Bruce Lipton and a whole buncha other smart PHd’s all think it’s possible. They may not write as well as you, but let’s not makes the mistake your disciples make of equating clever writing style with intelligence.

    Whether or not there is a God is still, in this consciousness based universe theory, a completely separate argument, you moron. It’s like the guy who says: “I’m an atheist, so I don’t believe in life after death”. Life after death may or may not have anything to do with their being a God. Again, two separate issues altogether.

    I trade stocks for a living. One thing you learn right away is to keep your emotions out of it. Those who scream the loudest (like you) about which way the market is going are almost always wrong.

    Get of your frickin high horse before you are catastrophically humbled. Not by religious fanatics, but by science.

    1. Lead Me To The Idiot That Designed It!

      What you seem to want to call intelligent design is so inefficient that it is pathetic. If you want to see intelligent design, look at the “Mona Lisa”. But, in order to let students understand that it’s bunk and why it’s bunk, I would advocate that it be discussed in the class room along with Creationist Bunk, and other relevant bunk!

      What do you think?


      {You Can Teach People How To Think Or What To Think; But, You Can’t Do Both! It Is Better To Teach People How To Think!!!}

      1. cnnek,

        I’m trying to follow your argument. What is inefficient and pathetic about dashour’s definition of intelligent design?


        I don’t believe in belief!


        1. The Entire Natuiral Order!

          I’m not saying that there aren’t some positive points about the natural order. I’m saying that it’s the result of random selection in the evolutionary process. I can detect absolutely no design in it. It is on the whole a rather inefficient enviornment in which to live, with randon unconnected efficient processes at work in it. And, a design function would have done a much better job. γ€€

          What do you think?


          {You Can Teach People How To Think Or What To Think; But, You Can’t Do Both! It Is Better To Teach People How To Think!!!}

          1. I think that ‘random
            I think that ‘random selection in the evolutionary process’ could be described as an ‘intelligent’ approach to complex design issues.

            You may view it as ‘inefficient’ and ‘pathetic’, but it’s the only working system we know for creating life.

            Sure, humans can tinker with it, and try to take short-cuts, but I don’t think that as a result, we can take the credit for the process of creation/evolution itself, or that we can come up with anything better.


            I don’t believe in belief!


      2. cnnek, are you suggesting
        cnnek, are you suggesting that man can do a better job of designing life (creating from scratch) than nature has?


        I don’t believe in belief!


        1. In A Few Hundred Years, It Might Be Possible!

          With the progress being made in genetic research, there are going to be many things that we can do to improve ourselves, eliminate much disease, improve the enviornment, heal spinal injuries, etc.. Furthermore, when we finally colonize other worlds in this and other solar systems, it may very well be necessary to genetically alter ourselves in order to survive. In conclusion, I’m saying that science has the potential to do a better job. That is, if we don’t destroy ourselves first!

          What do you think?


          {You Can Teach People How To Think Or What To Think; But, You Can’t Do Both! It Is Better To Teach People How To Think!!!}

        2. not relevant
          To judge whether a design is any good, it is not necessary to be able to do it better yourself. Nevermind designing “from scratch,” whatever that means in the case of designing life.

          The intelligent design crowd seems to have a common problem, which I commented on in another context (conspiracy theories) recently – A lot of people look at a complex system, and cannot believe that there is no single entity behind it, controlling it or designing it.

          There are other related assumptions we make. If something moves, a first guess is that it is alive. If something shows complex behavior, there must be a purpose behind that behavior. These are probably old survival-oriented assumptions, from our days spent as prey in the wild.

          It is not how fast you go
          it is when you get there.

          1. This Is True!

            The problem, in my opinion, is that many people don’t understand that it is not relevant, and why it isn’t relevant. I mean, I don’t like discussing bunk anymore than you do. Unless, of course, we just feel like B#llsh#tting. But, in this case, I think that a good discussion could be productive, maybe not.

            What do you think?


            {You Can Teach People How To Think Or What To Think; But, You Can’t Do Both! It Is Better To Teach People How To Think!!!}

          2. The test of any design:
            It’s TIME.

            And that’s my professional opinion, as an industrial designer.

            Try to come up with a better design for a hammer. Or a chair, which hasn’t been altered in its basic components since the time of the Egyptians.

            Now, what I find interesting is that now, designers and other scientists are trying to come up with a “brute force” approach to come up with better designs for products or chemical components (e.g. medicines or antibiotics). They’re employing these supercomputers that create “dumb models” randomly, and then they test the models, and the better ones are mixed (or mated if you will) to create a new generation. So with the help of hundreds of thousands of hours of computer power, they try to replicate the same results you would obtain if you tested your ideas over hundreds, thousands, or millions of years.

            It’s an interesting idea, but the designer in me still thinks it’s cheating πŸ˜‰

            It’s not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me…
            It’s all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

            Red Pill Junkie

  5. We must be allowed to decide for ourselves
    No-one “knows” for certain how the universe was created, but that doesn’t stop us hypothesising.

    Creationism is one form, intelligent design is another. To know which it is necessary to move outside our universe, or find a spot within a vast amount of space which indicates where the thing that created the universe lodges!

    I am with Kathrinn on this. We ALL need to be able to debate the idea, but up to now NO-ONE can prove any of the ideas/concepts regarding the universe’s beginning!!!!

    I think it can be explained in science lessons but not if science insists that science is the only fraternity which knows the answer – it doesn’t! It could be discussed in religious lessons, although I have thought for some time that religion should not be taught in state schools at all. There are also several creationist stories which cover all forms of relgion, not just Christianity. So perhaps the debate should be looking at the differences in religious creation theories and then see the similarities, and look at Intelligent Design too. After this look at science’s own ideas and then perhaps the children would at least be aware of various possibilities and decide for themselves which they wish to believe.

    Of course, that would give ordinary people a chance to decide something as major as this for themselves, and in today’s world, the general populace are not meant to “think for themselves”, only believe what they are told even when it doesn’t make sense!

    This debate in the public arena at present is nothing but a lot of hot air, between factions who want to have their idea accepted, even though there is no idea that can be proven absolutely. Even the Darwin’s theory of evolution has many gaps which can’t be filled – possibly because the overall theory is flawed.

    Let each of us decide for ourselves.

    Carol A Noble

  6. Denial as science
    There are forces that want humankind to become totally blind to their reality and keep a free access to the mind. And their channels are those minds who are conditioned to take position outside of any potential argumentation that other than their train of thoughts can there be anything.

    Scientists of that kind are not scientists. You are not a scientist simply because you got a degree and University never made anyone intelligent.

    A scientist worthy of that title wants to see clearly, wants to see more, rather than wanting to be right at all cost, even at the cost of erring.

    We are in a soup of impressions and scientists are as blind as their nemesis, because they fall in the same trap that is belief.

    I am not speaking against science. Science is a process without emotional partisanship. But a human is a human is a human until he becomes a man.

    Science as we know it is not even the embryo of real science. IT has appeared on the surface of this globe quite recently. Yet, the masters of the dogma would have you believe that they have the answer.

    Atheists are believers as much as the religious are. The indoctrination patterns are the same, the forms used are different.

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