Lisburn Council promotes “an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion”

Yesterday the BBC’s Will Crawley noted the persistent questioning of the Education minister, Caitríona Ruane, by DUP MLA David Simpson on various aspects of the teaching of neo-creationism in schools, and his commenters pick up on some of the answers given. [scroll down] Meanwhile today’s Irish News reports [subs req] that Lisburn District Council has passed a motion proposed by DUP councillor Paul Givan who belives he has spotted a gap in those answers which might allow the teaching of neo-creationism as an alternative to evolution in post-primary schools – and not just, I’d suggest, in classes on religion. Adds This quote from the Belfast Telegraph report

In a statement the Department of Education said the teaching of alternative theories was a matter for schools. A spokeswoman said: “The revised curriculum offers scope for schools to explore alternative theories to evolution, which could include creationism, if they so wish.”

Adds 2 Today’s Newsletter reports that the Culture Minister, Edwin Poots, was among those supporting the motion.The gap appears to be between this answer

Mr David Simpson asked the Minister of Education, pursuant to her answer to AQW 928/07, under GCSE science specifications allowing for the explanation of theories other than evolution to explore the development of life on earth, what resource material will be made available to teachers wishing to explore other such scientific explanations with pupils. (AQW 74/08)

Ms Ruane: It is up to schools to decide what teaching resources they wish to use to deliver the curriculum, in accordance with the needs of their pupils and the ethos of the school. A range of organisations produce teaching materials that schools can choose to avail of. [added emphasis]

and this one

Mr David Simpson asked the Minister of Education, pursuant to her answer to AQW 928/07, what training will be given to teachers to help them to explore scientific explanations for the development of life on earth, other than evolution. (AQW 76/08)

Ms Ruane: Teachers are currently involved in a phased programme of training to support the introduction of the revised curriculum. Any in-service training for teachers follows the requirements of the statutory curriculum and GCSE specifications which do not include any specific reference to alternative explanations of the origins of life. The Education and Library Boards have not received requests from any school or teacher for support on this issue. [added emphasis]

Which, as the Irish News reports [subs req], has prompted the motion to Lisburn Council from Paul Givan

Although the council has no control over the cirriculum, Paul Givan of the DUP suggested that it ask schools in the area to consider teaching the theories.

Intelligent design theory claims that a supernatural designer was involved in the creation of life on earth.

Creationism teaches that God created life, although it does not try to explain how.

All 13 DUP and seven Ulster Unionist councillors voted in favour of the suggestion, which was opposed by Sinn Féin and the SDLP.

Mr Givan said his suggestion had been inspired by a question his party colleague David Simpson had asked education minister Caitríona Ruane in the assembly

He said Ms Ruane’s response had indicated that under the revised curriculum, schools were encouraged to teach pupils greater critical thinking.

“I think these ideas – and there is a disparity of opinions out there – should at least be given equality of treatment,” Mr Givan said.

My view of this should be clear to anyone paying attention. It’s a continuation of the attempts to entwined religion and science. In the US they, thankfully, have a legal ruling that such neo-creationism are non-science in the face of repeated attempts to foist these beliefs onto school science cirriculums – as noted here in December 2005.

The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts of this case makes it abundantly clear that the Board’s ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause. In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.

Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs’ scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.

To be sure, Darwin’s theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions. [added emphasis]

The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.

With that said, we do not question that many of the leading advocates of ID have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors. Nor do we controvert that ID should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.

Will we see such a definitive response to the same questioning of science here?

Update There’s a new post on this topic and the guidance to schools elsewhere.

  • joeCanuck

    Yes and if he had just one a little further, he would have discovered that 11111111111 x 11111111111 = 123456790120987654321.

    Oops, the symmetry has now disappeared. Bloody marvellous indeed.

  • K man

    Eranu, your post doesnt even deserve a response.

  • Dawkins


    Oops, the symmetry has now disappeared.”

    Shows how little you know, joeCanuck.

    As any Irish Jesuit could tell you, 123,456,790,120,987,654,321 is precisely the number of angels that can dance on the head of pint of Guinness.

    Back to the seminary for you, son.

  • joeCanuck

    I always thought there was something odd, to say the least, about those Jesuits.
    So they’ve known for some time how to square the circle and haven’t let the secret out. Sounds more like the Freemasons.

  • Sean

    Mathmatics is the absolute proof that evolution is the absolute truth

    Evolution works on a mathematicl symmetry beyond the comprehension of man and when we do finally comprehend the mathmatics all will be revealed

    And it wont be about an ethereal jew floating in the clouds surrounded by goofy people playing harps and flying on wings sprouted from their backs

  • Sam Hanna

    “Would you, as an ID advocate, allow for the possibility that the Bible is not the word of God?”


    You seem to havea bee in your bonnet about this as if you have stumbled on some magic vote winner. Of course, I accept my belief in the Bible is a pre-suppositional truth and therefore can be falsified. But, of course, I have tested it and proven it to be true to my mind.

    I am all for testing everything including the Bible

  • Dawkins

    Sam Hanna,

    At last! No bee in my bonnet, only suspicion when a chap repeatedly avoids answering a simple yes or no question.

    You still haven’t answered it though. You’ve talked about your “belief in the Bible” whereas my question referred to the Bible itself as being the word of God. Two very different propositions.

    Seems to me that “true to my mind” is a long way from the biblical or absolute “truth” beloved of Creationists.

    Be that as it may, can I take it that your answer to my question is “yes”?

  • Turgon

    Sam Hanna,
    I have read with great interest everything you have posted and as I have stated before I believe in six day creationism. In no way do I want this to be an attack and in a way I feel that any comments I make to you might be better placed less publicly, but since you and I both post here; I will place them here. I hope you are not annoyed or insulted by anything I say (well type actually).

    Intelligent design seems to me to pose many questions and makes many valid criticisms of evolutionary theory. It does not, however, in my view postulate much of an alternative other than to say that an Intelligent Designer was involved. As such it is difficult to present as a theory any more than six day creationism is a theory. Both of these theories are beliefs (and none the worse for that in my view). You are no doubt about to say that evolution is also a belief and again I have no complaint about that.

    The crux of my complaint (complaint is too strong a term) is what are we as evangelical Christians trying to achieve by discussing Intelligent Design and attacking evolution. I would submit that belief in a six day creationism is not a prerequisite of personal salvation nor a pretty conservative evangelical faith. Indeed to say such a thing is the case would be to give us some “work” to do in our own salvation which would to me (and I am sure you) be heresy.

    It is our job as Christians to present the gospel and make it as winsome as possible and put as few stumbling blocks as possible before anyone coming to faith.

    In the current climate in which we live here many may regard us as mad to believe in creationism and doubt evolution. I am not saying we should lie about our beliefs but I worry that making a huge issue of it puts people off the rest of our message, the vitally important bit namely the need of personal salvation.

    This is my concern, I express it no more strongly than that about aggressively opposing evolution.

  • Dawkins


    Respect! You’re a shining example of how a discussion like this ought to be conducted.

    Although a godfree chap, I’ve no difficulty with peeps believing in a 6-day creation or in fact something called Intelligent Design. Variety is still the spice of life in my book.

    But for me the trouble starts when attempts are made to place ID on a par with evolutionary theory and to present it as a science. Worse still, is when it’s brought out of the RE class, its proper place, and introduced into the science class.

    Religion has an unfortunate history of retarding the progress of science. I’m just afraid if we allow this new wave of pseudoscience to prevail we could retard it even more.

  • snakebrain

    “But, of course, I have tested it and proven it to be true to my mind.”

    Comment, exactement?

  • Sam Hanna

    “Religion has an unfortunate history of retarding the progress of science. I’m just afraid if we allow this new wave of pseudoscience to prevail we could retard it even more.”


    That is a typical straw man argument from a rather immature mind who has just taken first year philosophy. False religion ie Roman Catholicism with its superstition, maryiolatry, lucky bones and beads held Europe in the Dark Ages for centuries but Biblical Protestantism from the Reformation gave us the Middle Classes and the Scientific Revolution. Hence the fact that huge numbers of the greatest scientists who ever lived were literal 6 Day Creationists eg. William Thomson Kelvin, Michael Faraday, Gregor Mendel, Robert Boyle, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler etc. I have already provided a link to a 6 Day Creationist Scientist of today who is accepted as an expert in his field at NASA,

    With that list alone, you would have thought that someone like yourself would have engaged brain (assuming you have one) before making such a fatuous remark. What “academic” qualifications has “Dawkins” to mock such an acclaimed group?


    You are entitled to your view but I believe the Bible teaches a literal 6 day creation and I must defend that. Evangelism should never be an overriding concept over standing for the truth eg read Jude where contending for the faith comes first before the evangelism at the end of the chapter.

  • Comrade Stalin


    You seem to havea bee in your bonnet about this as if you have stumbled on some magic vote winner. Of course, I accept my belief in the Bible is a pre-suppositional truth and therefore can be falsified. But, of course, I have tested it and proven it to be true to my mind.

    Sam, we’ve been through this before, and the last time we had this discussion it was pretty clear that you had no idea what you were talking about and resorted entirely to quoting stuff off creationist websites.

    Let’s look at your perspective. How many different religions did you study and practice before settling on your present one ?

    By the way, doesn’t some part of the Bible warn about the danger of putting God to the test ?

  • Comrade Stalin

    False religion ie Roman Catholicism with its superstition, maryiolatry, lucky bones and beads held Europe in the Dark Ages for centuries


    I would like to explore this specific comment further. Can you explain to us what “superstition” means ? Can you explain how your own beliefs are free from superstition ?

  • Dawkins

    Sam Hanna,

    When you stoop to personal insults, we part company in the discussion. I rather hope Turgon remains on board. His debating style has a worthy place on Slugger O’Toole.

    But before I stop debating with you, Sam, this: stem-cell research is currently being retarded by the religious. This is the latest example in a long line of religious interference. It has to stop.

  • Sam Hanna


    I have already shown that true Biblical Christianity does not inhibit science so stop repeating this silly canard. Why don’t me humble and withdraw your silly remarks. You may like Turgon’s style as you can classify him in your mind to a nice but essentially looney guy because he falls into your trap of accepting the dichotomy between reason and faith.

    Stem Cell is for another topic – but as I am a Christian I will base my view on the Bible in this area like I do on polygamy, sodomy rather than what I “feel” at that moment in time like you.

    Comrade Stalin

    I slate the RCC for superstition as they mix up paganism, Gnosticsm and Greek philosophy to Biblical truth and snergised a new religion. They then use “tradition” which is none other than the quirks of very fallible and debauched popes to extract money out of the gullible to purchase and venerate bones, saints and idols like the pagans. We see this in N.Ireland where they can say the condemn murder yet give Bobby Sands a golden crucifix, condemn divorce yet give anyone named “Kennedy” amn anulment for a substantial donation!

    This is different from my beliefs as I base my whole life on a higher system of revelation alone that is outside of myself ie The BIBLE. You clearly, base yours on your personal reason alone – not a very trustwhile source I suggest.

  • snakebrain

    “We see this in N.Ireland where they can say the condemn murder yet give Bobby Sands a golden crucifix, condemn divorce yet give anyone named “Kennedy” amn anulment for a substantial donation!”


    Intelligent reasoned analysis there, backed by facts and sources to the hilt. I don’t know how I’m going to find a crack in that argument.

    Do you really expect to be taken seriously?

  • circles

    He doesn’t snakebrain – you just need to check out the loony NASA man he keeps going on about to realise that Sam’s grip on science and logic isn’t really too tight at all.

    On top of that he’s loosing control of his keyboard (“Why don’t me humble and withdraw your silly remarks” – made me smile).

    Why don’t me accept that even the gospels are based on myth that pre-dates them Sam (Come on – even Zeus had a penchant or impregnating virgins and setting his sons all over the earth);-)

    You’ve already said that you don’t accept that a person should not be stoned to death for not keeping holy the sabbath – so its a plain lie when you claim to base your view on the Bible. You simply pick the bits you like, and you are clearly imaginative enough to even pick the other bits that make less sense, but you’re not gonna buy the whole lot. No plucking out of those offending eye-balls for old Sam Hanna it seems. “God’s word is all well and good, but ahhh,I mean, you have to draw the line somewhere fellas”.

    Thanks for the hypocrisy anyway – not that different from the RCC after all then eh?

  • Sam Hanna


    Thanks for twisting what I said on the Old Testament laws. I don’t have a problem with the justice of any of them – I just don’t see them applying to the Dispensation that I live in as they were for a nation that had covenanted to follow the laws of God as a nation. Clearly the bits in the Bible that are addressed to angels or the devil of the nation of Israel do not apply to me – I would have thought that was so obvious that it would not require explanation save for the most immature of minds.

    Secondly, no doubt you are one of the liberal elite that scoff at the Bible laws and support those that give grown men the right to invert nature with each other and rip tiny babies apart by tearing their brains apart in the womb, while subjecting them to the most excruciating pain. So much for civilization!!

    AS for Zeus, try reading Greek history and world history and you will discover that montheism predates polytheism by many centuries. A good example is the temple of heaven in Beijing to the Onee God Shang ti – one of the oldest religious sites in the world.

    A little……

  • Sam Hanna

    “Intelligent reasoned analysis there, backed by facts and sources to the hilt. I don’t know how I’m going to find a crack in that argument.”


    You have a good name – a quick google will come up with the facts about the so-called “Holy Roman Church,”

    Jim Gibney, a senior Sinn Féin official, had just been in to see McCreesh. He was in good shape. Gibney was walking down t he corridor when he saw Sands’s door open. His mother, father and sister, Marcella, were alongside the bed. Bobby was wearing a crucifix given to him by Fr Magee on the Pope’s behalf.

  • Sam Hanna

    “the loony NASA man”

    How can you argue with reasoning like this – if a man like Michael Tigges wins one of the highest science honours in the USA of 2006 and is a 6 Day Creationist “Circles” (another good name for his mind) immediately labels him “looney.”

    Circles – why do you not just admit that everyone who agrees with you is (in Circles little world) “normal” even if they have a single figure IQ and those who disagree are daft. That is about the height of your arguments and logic.

  • snakebrain


    You have a good name”

    I’m glad you like it so much Sam. You might be intewrested to know that my inspiration for it came from reading about the structure of the human mind, the medulla and other lower regions of which correspond directly with the reptilian mind, and are responsible for primal instincts like the imperative to eat, to have sex, and so on. It is the home of the id, and the root of all desires.

    The reason this part of the human brain is structurally identical to the reptilian brain is, wait for it, common ancestry.

    I also like the Garden of Eden overtones. Tempting Eve with my flickering tongue. Yes Please.

    There’s also some ok techno music floating around out there under this moniker, but that’s probably not your scene.

    Thought you might appreciate some background as you liked the name so much.

  • Dewi

    I know i have said it before but a book called “Guns, germs and Steel” by a bloke called Jared Diamond is really worth reading – changes your mind on everything on world history – Ireland included.

  • joeCanuck

    “When you stoop to personal insults, we part company in the discussion.”

    Indeed Dawkins. This debate has been remarkably free of that until now. But, since Sam has lost the argument, I guess it was his last resort.
    You fought a good fight and totally demolished him.

  • Dawkins

    Thanks, Joe.

    I thought we might expand this argument at some stage — not the bickering of late but the argument this thread is (or was) all about. Science v. Reason in the classroom.

    Thankfully we’re not nearly as far along the ID road as the Americans. I doubt if we ever will be, but you never know. It could happen that someday we’d grow our own version of Billy Sunday (not to be confused with Man Friday, Baron Samedi, Ruby Tuesday or even Sheffield Wednesday), the snake-oil preacher who gave us these deathless words of wisdom when asked what was more important, God or education:

    “When the word of God says one thing and scholarship says another, scholarship can go to hell!”

    “If I had a million dollars, I’d give all but one to the Church and the rest to education.”

    No, I doubt it could happen here. But we, the godfree, must nevertheless be vigilant for our children’s sakes.

  • Dawkins

    Slightly red-faced I have to correct this:

    “Science v. Reason in the classroom”

    Should natch be “Science v. Unreason in the classroom”

    LOL @ self

  • Sam Hanna

    I have decided to present some evidence of ID from scholars in their field rather tahn argue with the unelightened.

    Jewish M.I.T. researcher, Dr Gerald Schroeder illustrates:

    Each cell in your body, is selecting right now approximately five hundred thousand amino acids, consisting of some ten million atoms, organizing them into preselected strings, joining them together, checking to be certain each string is folded into specific shapes, and then shipping each protein off to a site, some inside the cell, some outside, sites that somehow have signaled a need for these specific proteins. Every second. Every cell. Your body is a living wonder.

    Agnostic biologist Dr Michael Denton agrees: When in the history of science or engineering did such an advanced machine as the cell arise simply by “chance?” The complexity of the simplest known type of cell is so great that it is impossible to accept that such an object could have been thrown together suddenly by some kind of freakish, vastly improbable, event. Such an occurrence would be indistinguishable from a miracle.

    NICE TO HAVE SOME EXPERT OPINION talking sense instead of the drivel straw men argumentsthat have frequenting this debate. Now, no doubt, Dawkins and Circles think these men are mad also.

  • Donnacha

    Disappointed as I am to be left out of the above message (unlike the other thread on this topic) can I ask where exactly Dr Schroeder says that he believes that mankind was designed by God?