Big news for the battle against creationism in Britain: Professor Alice Roberts has thrown her weight behind getting creationism out of school science lessons. That’s what my New Statesman article was in response to. This is awesome because Alice is both a TV star and an academic with relevant expertise – she is one of two people I can think of who could say this and be taken seriously (the other is Brian Cox). At this point, I think Richard Dawkins coming out with a statement to this effect would be so unsurprising it would barely register.
Anyway, earlier this week Alice appeared on BBC2’s The Daily Politics to debate this. She actually mentioned me, which was nice. The episode is currently on BBC iPlayer (sorry international viewers, hopefully someone will get this on YouTube so you can see it). Alice’s segment starts at 1:17:12, and she mentions me at 1:19:50.
While I’ve got your attention, I’d like to ask a favour. The Skeptic magazine is hosting its annual awards. If you enjoy this blog, please vote for Leaving Fundamentalism (https://leavingfundamentalism.wordpress.com) in the Best Blog category. Go here to vote. Let me know if you do it so I can thank you.
W.A. Criswell’s Did Man Just Happen? is a creationist classic, first written in 1957 and revised in 1972, making it an early example of the modern creation movement.
It’s completely fucking terrible.
Now, I’m not aware of any creationist literature that’s good, but it’s hard to imagine much of it is worse than this. There are creationists who consider themselves rigorous scientists, and try to theorise workable creation models. Criswell is not among them. He was the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, and his argument consists almost entirely of assertion and irrelevancies. His characterisation of evolution is so far from what scientists actually think that the book could only be persuasive to someone who has never read any mainstream science, and never been taught to think critically. Such as – just for a hypothetical example – a student in Accelerated Christian Education.
Kirsty Newman blogs over at Kirsty Evidence, where she battles the forces of ignorance by advocating an evidence-based approach to international development and education. You’d think that someone with such a cozy relationship with science (and reality) would have little time for fundamentalism, and you’d be right. But in the post, Kirsty wistfully remembers the simpler times when the world was black and white, and thinking wasn’t required.
This weekend, my devout Catholic father-in-law is visiting. Before he arrived, my husband and I had our usual ‘little chat’ where he pleads with me to at least try not to antagonise his aging dad. And as usual, I set out with the best of intentions to be a respectful daughter-in-law…
I managed a good thirty minutes before, apropos the Woolwich murder, my father-in-law came out with this statement: “The problem with Islam…” (always a worrying start to a sentence) “…is that the Quran is so ambiguous that it can be interpreted in many ways and this leads people to violence”.
I couldn’t stop myself. I had to respond that this was just like the Bible – after all, the Bible is riddled with contradictions and contains a fair amount of violence. “Yes”, responded my father-in-law, “but the message of what you need to do in Christianity is clear” “Really?”, I asked, “But surely you just pick and choose what bits you follow? For example, you eat pork which is banned”. “Ah but the Old Testament was overruled by the New Testament” he replies. “So what about the rules in the New Testament that you ignore?” I query “For example, I note that people in your church have braided hair – was that not also banned?” “Well yes, but that was what Paul said, not what Jesus said”. “OK”, I rejoin, “but what about when Jesus said that you need to give all your possessions to the poor?” “Well that was just a message to one person” he replies “And in general we need to follow the spirit of that suggestion rather than the rule…”.
Those of you who are interested in my writing on education (nothing to do with religion, for once) might like a post I have written for Kylie Sturgess’s Token Skeptic. In it, I intemperately criticise Ben Goldacre’s advocacy of randomised controlled trials in education:
Ben Goldacre is a bit of a hero to me. Like a lot of people, I discovered Bad Science and skepticism at the same time and found something I wanted to be part of. But now Dr. Goldacre has stepped into my field – education – and, frankly, he’s made a total balls-up of it.
Since Ben Goldacre is perhaps Britain’s foremost scientific skeptic – a movement of which I consider myself a part – this may be an exercise in shooting myself in the foot.
Check it out here.