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Answers in Genesis praises Scottish Government’s creationism teaching policy

Scottish schools: we don’t invite antivaxxers so we shouldn’t invite antievolutionists

There is still time to sign the petition calling on the Scottish Government to give this badly needed guidance:

Calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to issue official guidance to bar the presentation in Scottish publicly funded schools of separate creation and of Young Earth doctrines as viable alternatives to the established science of evolution, common descent, and deep time.

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Maurice Hilleman’s measles vaccine is estimated to prevent 1 million deaths every year (Washington Post obituary, April 13, 2005)

We don’t invite antivaxxers into our schools to present their “alternative point of view”. That is because what they say is untrue, yet dangerously persuasive, as shown by the re-emergence, thanks to them, of diseases such as measles that, in the industrialised nations at least, were almost extinct. No school would dream of hosting a debate between an antivaxxer and an immunologist, inviting pupils to make up their own minds. Nor would any school invite a group convinced of the wickedness of vaccination to send activity-filled buses. To do any such thing would totally undermine important teaching about health. The antivaxxers may complain that this is unfair, because although in a free society they have every right to express their point of view. Too bad; freedom of speech does not include the right to demand a platform, least of all the authoritative platform of a school assembly hall, and we do not give them that because they don’t deserve it.

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From Truth be Told; Exposing the Myth of Evolution, distributed to all pupils at Kirktonholme Primary, near Glasgow, September 2013

Yet this is exactly the way that we treat anti-evolutionists, whether they call themselves Creationists, Creation Scientists, Biblical Christians, or Intelligent Design advocates. It is almost impossible to determine the extent to which such creationism has influenced classroom teaching, especially as many Local Authorities regard the identity and affiliation of school chaplains as protected confidential information for Freedom of Information Act purposes. However, we note with alarm that the extreme anti-science West Mains Church was allowed to operate for eight years without question, that the Challenger Bus, which carries literature from Answers in Genesis, makes regular visits to many schools, and that at least two schools have organised debates or Q&A sessions with creationist speakers, thus placing creationism on an equal footing with scientific reality.

According to the website of PWAMM (People with a Mission Ministries), whose Challenger Buses pay regular visits to Scottish schools, and who sell Answers magazine, a publication of Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis,

The purpose of Answers magazine is to illustrate the importance of Genesis in building a creation-based worldview, and to equip readers with practical answers so they can confidently communicate the gospel and biblical authority with accuracy and graciousness.

“The purpose of Answers magazine is to illustrate the importance of Genesis in building a creation-based worldview”

PWAMM also offers schools materials for Religious and Moral Education, dealing with such questions as “what Christians believe the Bible is” (Primary) and “Information about the Bible; multimedia presentation summarising what Christians believe” (Secondary). I do not think it unreasonable to wonder whether these materials promote “a creation-based worldview”, with all that that implies, and how far they do justice to the wealth of Christian interpretations of the Bible, beyond mere blinkered literalism.

Present Scottish Government policy is to leave these things to the discretion of individual teachers. This is to place an impossible burden on them, especially as creationist utterances are liable to come from chaplains, who are not part of the teaching establishment, and may be put forward in contexts such as Religious Observance where they could hardly be challenged, or as part of professionally prepared packages for RME. Creationists are plausible, and well practiced in presenting their arguments. They commonly make direct factual claims, based on spurious science, which pupils (or indeed teachers without a background in biology) will not recognise as the untruths that they are. The creationist tactic is to pretend that their point of view as having an equal claim to be heard, thus appealing to reasonableness and fair play, and to maintain that the kind of policy sought in this petition is an unfair restriction of free speech. We would not accept such an argument from those who deny the benefits of vaccination, or the historical fact of the Holocaust, or that the Earth spins on its axis, and should not accept it from those who deny the reality of evolution either.

Join two Nobel Prize winners in petition to keep creationist teaching out of Scottish state schools

[Update of last Friday’s post]

Calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to issue official guidance to bar the presentation in Scottish publicly funded schools of separate creation and of Young Earth doctrines as viable alternatives to the established science of evolution, common descent, and deep time.

http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/gettinginvolved/petitions/creationismguidance  If you agree, please click on link to sign.

Sir Richard is among those presenting the 2004 Ig Nobel Peace Prize to Daisuke Inoue, inventor of Karaoke (photo: Improbable Research)

On Friday, Sir Harold Kroto was the first Nobel Laureate to sign this petition. He has now been joined by Sir Richard Roberts, FRS, now Chief Scientific Officer at New England Biolabs.

Sir Richard shared the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work onintrons and splicing in eukaryotic cells, i.e. cells of the kind found in all plants and animals, which unlike those of bacteria and archaea possess a well-defined nucleus. This, of course, gives him a direct interest in the mechanisms of inheritance, and evolutionary pathways.

Sir Harold with models of fullerenes. The simplest, C60, is shaped like a soccer ball

Sir Harold Kroto, FRS, Hon. FRSE, Nobel Prize winner, Professor Emeritus at the University of Sussex and Francis Eppes Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Florida State University, has lent his support to this petition from the Scottish Secular Society to the Scottish Parliament requesting guidance to preclude the teaching of creationism as factually valid in Scottish schools.

Sir Harold is best known to the general public for his part in the discovery of a new form of carbon, C60 or the bucky-ball molecule, for which he shared the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1996. But this represents only a small part of his interests in science and in science outreach. He is no stranger to Scottish affairs, being an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and his talk at the Glasgow Tron on science outreach in the age of digital communication remains fresh in the minds of those privileged to have witnessed it.

 Sir Harold joins human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Society Andrew Copson and President of the National Secular Society Terry Sanderson who have all signed the petition.

 The Scottish Secular Society gratefully acknowledges Sir Harold’s support.

But why, in the 21st century, is any of this necessary? Here’s why:

TruthBeTold (2)

This was handed out to all pupils at Kirktonholme Primary, a non-denominational school, last September

Creationist school chaplains and chaplaincy team members. Creationist appointees on Local Authority Education Committees. Openly Creationist organisations targeting schools. Scandal when Young Earth Creationist materials distributed in school assembly. And still the Scottish government lags behind England, and refuses to give simple guidance, to the effect that Creationism should not be taught as scientific truth. The Scottish Secular Society (a faith-neutral organisation) is therefore petitioning the Scottish Parliament

to urge the Scottish Government to issue official guidance to bar the presentation in Scottish publicly funded schools of separate creation and of Young Earth doctrines as viable alternatives to the established science of evolution, common descent, and deep time.

If you support us in this, click here to sign: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/gettinginvolved/petitions/creationismguidance The petition materials include details of how the Scottish Government has repeatedly refused to give guidance when asked, saying that the teachers themselves will be able to deal with the matter professionally. For details on why this is an inadequate response, and on why teachers themselves need protection from creationist pressures, read on: 1) Membership of Local Education Authority Education Committees By law, every local education authority in Scotland (the employer to whom teachers are ultimately answerable) has to include three unelected representatives of religious organizations. As of June 2013, these included four Baptists and five representatives of other infallibilist groups. Among these, the church of Rev David Fraser (Baptist, Clackmannanshire) recently announced the finding of Noah’s Ark; Michael Rollo’s Larbert Pentecostal Church/Assemblies of God (Falkirk) believes in biblical infallibility, bodily resurrection, and “the everlasting conscious punishment of all whose names are not written in the book of life;” Mark Fraser is Assistant Pastor/Youth Minister of The Bridge Church, Irvine (North Ayrshire), which believes in a literal lake of fire and in divine healing through the laying on of hands; Dr Nagy Iskander, of Westwoodhill Evangelical Church (South Lanarkshire) is an eloquent spokesman for Answers in Genesis and Young Earth creationism; while in the Western Isles the Church of Scotland Presbytery of Lewis, the Free Church of Scotland, and the Free Presbyterian Church vie with each other in their commitment to biblical literalism and, by implication, to the denial of evolution and deep time.

The Rev. David Fraser’s church  quotes experts 99.9% sure that they have found Noah’s Ark (this, from his Church’s web site, is just a scale model). The Rev. David Fraser sits, unelected, on Clackmannanshire’s Education Committee

 

 

DinoPicAa

From Truth be Told, one of the books handed out to children at Kirktenholme Primary

3) Other interactions of creationist organisations with schools People With A Mission Ministries (PWAMM) is an unashamedly Biblical Evangelical organisation – and why not? However, it operate the Challenger bus which regularly visits schools in the North of Scotland and the Isles, displaying there Answers magazine, a Young Earth creationist publication put out by Answers in Genesis, which also features on the PWAMM book store site (http://pwamm.com/eshop/index.php?app=gbu0&ns=prodshow&ref=ANSWERS). PWAMM also offers RME courses, which it claims to be compatible with the Curriculum for Excellence.

“The purpose of Answers magazine is to illustrate the importance of Genesis in building a creation-based worldview, and to equip readers with practical answers so they can confidently communicate the gospel and biblical authority with accuracy and graciousness.”  — PWAMM website

In all these cases, and no doubt in many others that have not come to our attention, people with the best of intentions will be bringing creationist convictions into schools, and creating an atmosphere where it is difficult or embarrassing for teachers to challenge them. And as we have seen, some Heads will actively welcome them, either because they provide volunteer help, or because the Heads assume that all whoever claims to speak in God’s name is wise and virtuous, or both.

 Creationists sincerely believe that what they say is true. Many go further, and say that believing in Creationism is an essential part of salvation. In England, they are no longer allowed to promote this corrosive nonsense at the expense of scientific reality. Scotland’s children, surely, deserve the same protection.

Nobel Prize scientist backs (will you back?) petition to keep Creationism out of Scottish schools

Calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to issue official guidance to bar the presentation in Scottish publicly funded schools of separate creation and of Young Earth doctrines as viable alternatives to the established science of evolution, common descent, and deep time.

http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/gettinginvolved/petitions/creationismguidance  If you agree, please click on link to sign.

Sir Harold with models of fullerenes. The simplest, C60, is shaped like a soccer ball

Sir Harold Kroto, FRS, Hon. FRSE, Nobel Prize winner, Professor Emeritus at the University of Sussex and Francis Eppes Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Florida State University, has lent his support to this petition from the Scottish Secular Society to the Scottish Parliament requesting guidance to preclude the teaching of creationism as factually valid in Scottish schools.

Sir Harold is best known to the general public for his part in the discovery of a new form of carbon, C60 or the bucky-ball molecule, for which he shared the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1996. But this represents only a small part of his interests in science and in science outreach. He is no stranger to Scottish affairs, being an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and his talk at the Glasgow Tron on science outreach in the age of digital communication remains fresh in the minds of those privileged to have witnessed it.

 Sir Harold joins human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Society Andrew Copson and President of the National Secular Society Terry Sanderson who have all signed the petition.

 The Scottish Secular Society gratefully acknowledges Sir Harold’s support.

But why, in the 21st century, is any of this necessary? Here’s why:

TruthBeTold (2)

This was handed out to all pupils at Kirktonholme Primary, a non-denominational school, last September

Creationist school chaplains and chaplaincy team members. Creationist appointees on Local Authority Education Committees. Openly Creationist organisations targeting schools. Scandal when Young Earth Creationist materials distributed in school assembly. And still the Scottish government lags behind England, and refuses to give simple guidance, to the effect that Creationism should not be taught as scientific truth. The Scottish Secular Society (a faith-neutral organisation) is therefore petitioning the Scottish Parliament

to urge the Scottish Government to issue official guidance to bar the presentation in Scottish publicly funded schools of separate creation and of Young Earth doctrines as viable alternatives to the established science of evolution, common descent, and deep time.

If you support us in this, click here to sign: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/gettinginvolved/petitions/creationismguidance The petition materials include details of how the Scottish Government has repeatedly refused to give guidance when asked, saying that the teachers themselves will be able to deal with the matter professionally. For details on why this is an inadequate response, and on why teachers themselves need protection from creationist pressures, read on: 1) Membership of Local Education Authority Education Committees By law, every local education authority in Scotland (the employer to whom teachers are ultimately answerable) has to include three unelected representatives of religious organizations. As of June 2013, these included four Baptists and five representatives of other infallibilist groups. Among these, the church of Rev David Fraser (Baptist, Clackmannanshire) recently announced the finding of Noah’s Ark; Michael Rollo’s Larbert Pentecostal Church/Assemblies of God (Falkirk) believes in biblical infallibility, bodily resurrection, and “the everlasting conscious punishment of all whose names are not written in the book of life;” Mark Fraser is Assistant Pastor/Youth Minister of The Bridge Church, Irvine (North Ayrshire), which believes in a literal lake of fire and in divine healing through the laying on of hands; Dr Nagy Iskander, of Westwoodhill Evangelical Church (South Lanarkshire) is an eloquent spokesman for Answers in Genesis and Young Earth creationism; while in the Western Isles the Church of Scotland Presbytery of Lewis, the Free Church of Scotland, and the Free Presbyterian Church vie with each other in their commitment to biblical literalism and, by implication, to the denial of evolution and deep time.

The Rev. David Fraser’s church  quotes experts 99.9% sure that they have found Noah’s Ark (this, from his Church’s web site, is just a scale model). The Rev. David Fraser sits, unelected, on Clackmannanshire’s Education Committee

 

 

DinoPicAa

From Truth be Told, one of the books handed out to children at Kirktenholme Primary

3) Other interactions of creationist organisations with schools People With A Mission Ministries (PWAMM) is an unashamedly Biblical Evangelical organisation – and why not? However, it operate the Challenger bus which regularly visits schools in the North of Scotland and the Isles, displaying there Answers magazine, a Young Earth creationist publication put out by Answers in Genesis, which also features on the PWAMM book store site (http://pwamm.com/eshop/index.php?app=gbu0&ns=prodshow&ref=ANSWERS). PWAMM also offers RME courses, which it claims to be compatible with the Curriculum for Excellence.

“The purpose of Answers magazine is to illustrate the importance of Genesis in building a creation-based worldview, and to equip readers with practical answers so they can confidently communicate the gospel and biblical authority with accuracy and graciousness.”  — PWAMM website

In all these cases, and no doubt in many others that have not come to our attention, people with the best of intentions will be bringing creationist convictions into schools, and creating an atmosphere where it is difficult or embarrassing for teachers to challenge them. And as we have seen, some Heads will actively welcome them, either because they provide volunteer help, or because the Heads assume that all whoever claims to speak in God’s name is wise and virtuous, or both.

 Creationists sincerely believe that what they say is true. Many go further, and say that believing in Creationism is an essential part of salvation. In England, they are no longer allowed to promote this corrosive nonsense at the expense of scientific reality. Scotland’s children, surely, deserve the same protection.
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