Holyrood dinosaur makes International Business Times headline

John Mason, the Holyrood dinosaur, has given an interview to International Business Times UK, one of the world’s top 2000 websites, under the headline

Darwin Day 2015: Scotland’s creationist ‘dinosaur’ John Mason is fighting to take God back to school

With further memorable comments on creationism, miracles, and the age of the Earth.

Unfortunately, despite the headline, Mason is not fighting to take anything back. He is merely attempting to maintain the status quo. As I commented on the ibtimes site,

Scottish Parliament: Return to homepageThe shocking truth is that Mason is not fighting for change, but to maintain the status quo. He is reacting to attempts [Parliamentary Motion; Scottish Secular Society Petition] to get the Scottish Government to issue guidance to stop separate creation being presented in Scottish schools as a viable alternative to the established science of evolution and an old Earth. At present, no such guidance exists, and the Scottish Government, so far, is pretending that none is necessary.

Here, without cherry picking, is what Mason is reported as saying on the subject:

I don’t like creationism. It’s not a word that I ever use myself, like ‘fundamentalist.’ I’d see that as being a part of a package that’s more than a belief that god created the world. If that’s what you mean by creationism I’m fine with that, but I feel it has a lot of baggage. It gives a wrong impression.

I’m a mainstream Christian. The key thing is only that God created the world, I don’t get excited whether it’s six days or 6 million years. I don’t think timescale is important.

That’s why I put in the [Parliamentary] Motion with the option of God creating the world, be it over 6 days of six million years. That’s not fundamental to me. There are some things fundamental to Christianity, such as Jesus dying on a cross, but how long God took to create the world is not one of them.

In the words of the ibtimes reporter, Gareth Platt, Mason continues by insisting that neither creationism nor evolution can be proved by science. I want to press him on this… So, I ask my interviewee, how much proof do you need?

Paolo Veronese 008.jpg

The Wedding Feast at Cana, Paolo Veronese, 1653

None of these positions can be disproved by science. Science has to know its limitations. The Bible says Jesus turned water into wine. Science can look at that wine but, assuming that miracle happened, science could not tell us whether that wine was five minutes or five months to make.

If God creates miracles, science is out of its depth. I don’t think science can make a statement on where we’ve come from, it is based on the assumption that God hasn’t created a miracle.

To discover something means finding out things that are already there. My fundamental belief is that God created the world and all the rules of science, so science cannot find out that god doesn’t exist. I’m totally committed to the truth so I want science to find out new things. Other people start off with the assumption that god does not exist, so there are assumptions being made on both sides.

The idea of a God that creates the world is a very central belief to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. There’s nothing revolutionary about it. It is fundamental to the whole Christian belief that there is a creator, and Christianity would unravel if creationism was proved wrong.

I don’t see how you could be a Christian, Muslim or Jew and not believe that God created the world. Even those who accept evolution would say there was a God who set it in motion.

Concerning the East Kilbride scandal, Mason believes

that particular church probably went too far. It’s a privilege for any group to be operating in schools, we’ve got a long historical relationship between churches and schools and the state, [but] clearly we are now in a more secular society so the churches should be sensitive.

I am against abortion. I have no problem with gay rights, although I voted against same-sex marriage. But there’s a wider issue here. We’re trying to ensure that all minorities are respected, and there’s been more progress on some issues than others.

Let me comment briefly. I agree with John Mason when he says that we should be careful about how we use the word “creationism”, because it is so easy to slide from the general idea of God creating the world, to the specific anti-scientific belief that he did so more or less as described in some Iron Age document. Indeed, Mason does exactly that during the interview. That is why the Petition that I helped draft does not refer to “creationism”, but to “separate creation… as a viable alternative to the established science of evolution”

I also agree that if we assume a God who can do anything, it follows that he could have made a world that looks 4.5 billions (not just millions) of years old, within a universe that looks 13.8 billions of years old, in six days. I cannot imagine why he should wish to do any such thing, and indeed have said that I regard the suggestion is blasphemous, since it has him perpetrating the largest possible act of total deception. But let that pass. Perhaps John Mason has more insight into the mind of God than I do. However, if we are only supposed to teach those facts that could not be illusions resulting from a miracle, I don’t see how we can ever teach anything. After all, maybe the entire universe with all our memories was created only five minutes ago, by a God with a very twisted sense of humour. Science, I admit, can never disprove such a theory.

GodlessEvolution

From “How do we know God is real?”, handed out in School Assembly, Kirktonholme Primary, September 2013

I am glad that John Mason admits that at Kirktonholme, the church “probably” went too far. As I commented on the ibtimes website, the church handed out, to every pupil in school assembly, two books saying, among other things, that dinosaur graveyards were the result of Noah’s flood, that radioactive dating is a trick to discredit the Bible, that evolution is an indefensible theory, and that the reason so many people accept it is in order to justify their moral irresponsibility. It does indeed show a certain lack of sensitivity to tell schoolchildren that the Curriculum for Excellence syllabus is a lie and that their science teachers are tricking them.

As for his final sentence about minorities, I do not have the faintest idea what he means. I know that some of John Mason’s allies pay me the compliment of reading my posts, and would be glad if one of them would tell me.

About Paul Braterman

Science writer, former chemistry professor; committee member British Centre for Science Education; board member and science adviser Scottish Secular Society; former member editorial board, Origins of Life, and associate, NASA Astrobiology Insitute; first popsci book, From Stars to Stalagmites 2012

Posted on February 12, 2015, in Creationism, Education, Politics, Religion, Scotland and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Ashley Haworth-Roberts

    If Mason is really ‘not’ a creationist (or not a hardline young Earther which does appear to be the case), but simply a mainstream Christian, his issues should easily be remedied by him taking a science course with eg the Open University, or studying exactly how scientists arrive at their conclusions, or perhaps comparing the claims and methodology of creationists with the claims of mainstream scientists (including mainstream scientists who are Christian but not creationist). That should solve his problems. Science is not necessarily pro-atheism merely naturalistic. If his problems should however remain after doing the above, that would suggest to me that he is indeed a creationist (even if that word embarrasses him).

    Like

  2. That pamphlet, “How do we know God is real?”, should have killed this entire thing. That is not school material. Period.

    Like

  1. Pingback: Keeping creationism out of Scottish schools; the long, long paper trail | Eat Your Brains Out; Exploring Science, Exposing Creationism

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