This is a guest post by Paul Braterman, Professor Emeritus, University of North Texas and Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Chemistry, University of Glasgow. Paul is a leading member of the British Centre for Science Education and enemy of creationism wherever it arises, and the author of From Stars to Stalagmites. He was the one who sent me the photos for my recent discussion of creationism in a Scottish primary school. Here, he expands on that information to reveal the extent of creationist influence in Scottish education. He begins with an appeal for assistance:
Please help. British Centre for Science Education are collecting evidence of creationist activity in UK education, and Scottish Secular Society of this and other abuses of religious privilege in education in Scotland. Please let me know, in confidence, of any recent specific examples you know of personally. Email psbraterman [at] yahoo [dot] com.
The past few weeks have seen two victories against creationism in the Scottish town of East Kilbride. Both are to be celebrated, but neither should have been necessary, and both represent battles that will need to be fought again and again, until there are major structural changes in how education is administered in Scotland. One has attracted attention at both local (BBC and tabloid and broadsheet newspapers) and UK national (Telegraph) level. The other one has taken place unannounced and almost unnoticed. But both are real, and both the result of publicity.
Earlier this week I hosted Adam Laats’ engaging argument that, while teaching Creationism in schools might be a bad move, it’s not something it makes sense to ban.
Now Adam has kindly posted my reply on his blog. For those of you that have the patience, there’s already a long debate with a committed creationist in the comments.
I think my argument is plausible, but at the same time, I don’t think that many people agree with me. I welcome your objections. In particular, what would help us to settle the question is a clarification of what is meant by “harm”, and what types of harm to children justify state intervention.
First, we need to get the misleading notion of parents’ rights off the table. Parents are humans, with human rights; children are humans, and they also have human rights. Parental rights are not human rights; they are rights that one human being has to exert control over another. Can you think of another instance where liberal democracies allow a person to act in this way? The only similar examples I know are slavery, imprisonment, and archaic ideas of marriage where ownership of a woman passes from her father to her husband. These do not seem like paradigms to emulate.
David Waldock is one of the most articulate commenters on this blog. His response to Monica Stringer’s defence of ACE was so comprehensive I didn’t bother to reply myself. David is an ex-ACE student, but he preferred not to write about his own experiences. Instead, here’s his analysis of where belief in Creationism will take you…
This was originally intended to be a comment on Jonny’s post “5 jobs a Creationist can’t do“, but after an extended conversation on Facebook, we thought my thoughts might be better presented as a post in its own right, extending the discussion.
First, I understand the position that Jonny is taking; all other things being equal, young earth creationism (YEC) is intellectually incompatible with many disciplines. However, there are doubtless people who identify as young earth creationists who are in those disciplines.
An example which springs to mind is nursing (I know of several nurses who believe in YEC), yet effective nursing requires acknowledging that microbes evolve in response to antibiotics. Does this mean these self-defined creationist nurses aren’t really nurses?
What I think is actually meant is that holding YEC beliefs requires one to perform intellectual gymnastics in some way, or to compromise one’s beliefs in order to function effectively within one’s chosen discipline. I note that Answers in Genesis explicitly give this advice:
“Because of the intense persecution and potential discrimination, some have chosen to keep their biblical views “under wraps” until they receive their degrees.”
What does this look like in reality?
Everybody who reads this blog knows I am an atheist, but I try to avoid attacking core Christian doctrines. Ultimately, I believe in co-operation. I would like to work with reasonable Christian people to build a model of education which is agreeable for everyone. I don’t (usually) see any benefit in attacking beliefs.
Yes, I attack Young Earth Creationism, but this is not a core Christian doctrine. It is not even a core fundamentalist doctrine, historically. Fundamentalism was kickstarted by The Fundamentals, a collection of essays affirming Christian beliefs. Not everyone who contributed was a Creationist. It did contain a Creationist essay by George Frederick Wright, but Wright’s views were complicated. In many writings, he expressed support for Darwin, and his Creationism was far from that expressed by Ken Ham, Duane Gish, Henry Morris, or Ray Comfort.
Plus, Young Earth Creationism is demonstrably false. So if you want to make that a core Christian doctrine, then I can say unequivocally that Christianity is untrue, and we can stop the conversation right here.
In general, I do not find the concept of God either plausible or useful. But there are certain expressions of God that, while I don’t believe them, I can see how an intelligent person could hold them.
But, I’m sorry, salvation through faith alone, the cornerstone of the Reformation, of fundamentalism, and of conservative Protestantism, is a pernicious, poisonous doctrine. I really want to co-operate with Christians, but if that’s your view, I don’t think we’re going to find common ground. Read the rest of this entry
I had to read this book because of the subtitle: How Not to Get Sucked into an Intellectual Black Hole. If ever there was an intellectual black hole, it’s my old belief in the Word of Faith.
Not all false beliefs are intellectual black holes. To qualify, a belief must be unreasonable. Reason is the mechanism that allows us to see falsehoods for what they are. If a belief stops people from using logical reasoning to examine it, then it is an intellectual black hole. How can you think against something which disables your powers of thinking?