Creationism may come to science class

“Treating intelligent design as too obviously simple-minded to merit discussion is a mistake. Creationist beliefs are much more likely to be part of a complex set of related cultural ideas than a simple misconception”. The latest contribution to a Slugger favourite comes from the most august scientific body of all the Royal Society. Rev Michael Reiss, a biologist and RS director of education (his title at both ends of his name gives you a clue to where he’s coming from) makes an argument that isn’t quite what the headline suggests:”Leading scientist urges teaching of creationism in schools.” He doesn’t mean equal treatment for creationism; only for accepting a discussion if it comes up in science class, as he make clear on the Today programme 0.7`19 slot. In coverage of the debate, it’s the first time that I’ve seen reported how many believe in creationism. – one in ten children according to surveys. The other day I was looking at Charles Darwin ’s tomb in Westminster Abbey and recalled what was said by a bishop just after his death.
“Harvey Goodwin, in a memorial sermon preached in the Abbey on the Sunday following the funeral, said “I think that the interment of the remains of Mr Darwin in Westminster Abbey is in accordance with the judgment of the wisest of his countrymen…It would have been unfortunate if anything had occurred to give weight and currency to the foolish notion which some have diligently propagated, but for which Mr Darwin was not responsible, that there is a necessary conflict between a knowledge of Nature and a belief in GodŔ. A later, widely believed, rumour of a “deathbed conversion” to Christianity was denied by his daughter, who was actually present at his death.”

There’ll be many who’ll find this far too cosy and not actually true. But good old C of E. Rev Reiss is speaking in that tradition of calm dialogue rather than angry confrontation.

  • Morris Piper

    ‘”Leading scientist urges teaching of creationism in schools.” He doesn’t mean equal treatment for creationism; only for accepting a discussion if it comes up in science class’

    That’s hardly news. It would be far more shocking if people were urging us to bann talking (and thinking) about the subject

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Any sensible teacher should be able to summarise the scientific merit of Creationism, if required by the 10%, in a couple of prepared sentences -and then get on with the science class.

    With a larger % believing in Father Xmas and his gravity defying outings then a further prepared statement might also be required. It would be hard to better, to paraphrase the famous line from Star Trek, which is best delivered in Ulster Scots, “Ye canna change the laws of Physics” .

  • Greagoir O Frainclin

    Creationism / Cretinism, any difference bar a few missing links/letters a and o.

  • abucs

    Of course the discussion of creationism has to be had in the biology class.

    Darwin often talks about God the Creator and different sorts of creationism in his ground-breaking book – Origin of Species.

    To not have the discussion is to not discuss Darwin thoroughly IMHO.

    Teaching different types of creation, directed or undirected as true, is not the remit of biology. But the discussion to some degree, if it is raised, should be discussed for a comprehensive education and historically true appreciation of Charles Darwin the man, and the scientific field he pioneered.

    This should be done especially because the resulting social shifts from mindsets that have developed since Darwin, as a result of the theory of evolution, have had a massive impact on the western world.

    And this is the world students find themselves in.

  • pauljames

    As quoted by Prof. Reiss from the Department for Children, Schools and Families guidelines on the teaching of origins and creation,

    “Creationism and intelligent design are not part of the science National Curriculum programmes of study and should not be taught as science. However, there is a real difference between teaching ‘x’ and teaching about ‘x’. Any questions about creationism and intelligent design which arise in science lessons, for example as a result of media coverage, could provide the opportunity to explain or explore why they are not considered to be scientific theories and, in the right context, why evolution is considered to be a scientific theory”.

    Although it may be misconstrued as such and certainly the headlines may suggest it, this is not “Teach the controversy”

  • Congal Claen

    Evolution doesn’t deal with creation. The clue is in the word.

    The creation of the universe cannot be explained at present. Nor can the start of life. So, any scientific discussions would be fairly short. Unless there are a few posters on here who know more than the best of the scientific world.

  • bubbs

    Are all nationalists here anti-christian?

  • Congal Claen

    BTW, for the past 20 years cross curricular has been a big theme in teaching by government direction. Why the sudden concern?

  • willis

    I was taught the 3 main science subjects discretely, and I cannot remember if the scientific method was taught in one or all 3. My point is that I was not taught the method separately from the “facts”

    If it was proposed that the method was taught as a contrast to belief systems based on religious authority, and children asked which one had contributed to technical progress and which had hampered, you might get a lot of parents afraid that education was denigrating their beliefs.

    Be careful what you wish for.

  • abucs

    I hope the answer willis would be one came out of the other and as such they both had contributed to technical progress.

    grading my answer out of 10, what mark would you give me ?

    (i know i’m asking for it). :o)

  • Rory

    “Are all nationalists here anti-christian?”

    I can’t speak for all nationalists, Bubbs, but the ones I grew up among were all satanists. But then as we had to rely upon the christians for churches to desecrate and graveyards for our orgies and crucifixes for inverting and prayers for saying backwards we grew to depend upon them and eventually became quite fond of them – in a funny, satanist kinda way.

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Sammy,

    “Ye canna change the laws of Physics”

    Were you trying to be ironical here Sammy? To try and explain the apparent design or fine tuning of the universe some people have suggested a multiverse each with differing laws of physics and physical constants. Literally billions of universes. We just happen to be in one that supports life. BTW, none of these other universes is detectable and there isn’t a shred of evidence for them. Yet this is the best science can do at present.

  • Pete Baker

    Brian

    The Guardian had this article on the topic by Reiss yesterday.

    So when teaching evolution, there is much to be said for allowing students to raise any doubts they have (hardly a revolutionary idea in science teaching) and doing one’s best to have a genuine discussion. The word ‘genuine’ doesn’t mean that creationism or intelligent design deserve equal time.

    However, in certain classes, depending on the comfort of the teacher in dealing with such issues and the make-up of the student body, it can be appropriate to deal with the issue. If questions or issues about creationism and intelligent design arise during science lessons they can be used to illustrate a number of aspects of how science works.

    Having said that, I don’t believe that such teaching is easy. Some students get very heated; others remain silent even if they disagree profoundly with what is said.

    I do believe in taking seriously and respectfully the concerns of students who do not accept the theory of evolution, while still introducing them to it. While it is unlikely that this will help students who have a conflict between science and their religious beliefs to resolve the conflict, good science teaching can help students to manage it – and to learn more science.

    Creationism can profitably be seen not as a simple misconception that careful science teaching can correct. Rather, a student who believes in creationism has a non-scientific way of seeing the world, and one very rarely changes one’s world view as a result of a 50-minute lesson, however well taught.

    Interestingly, there’s a comparison to be made with a certain US political candidate

    In an interview Thursday, Palin said she meant only to say that discussion of alternative views should be allowed to arise in Alaska classrooms:

    “I don’t think there should be a prohibition against debate if it comes up in class. It doesn’t have to be part of the curriculum.”

  • Greagoir O Frainclin

    “Are all nationalists here anti-christian?”

    ….. ‘nonbelievers’ is the word!

    Are you a devout Christian, Congal Claen?

    Just this week scientists at CERN were kick starting an experiment that all creationists were very mute about.

    Thought maybe Sarah Palin might have had something to say about it given that she is in the news alot at the mo.

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=5547481422995115331

  • willis @ 11:16 AM:

    you might get a lot of parents afraid that education was denigrating their beliefs.

    Indeed: but that’s not an argument uniquely relevant to this thread. I have heard parents out when they were concerned about their little darling’s involvement in everything from

    Modern Languages (“Why’s he need it? He’s not going to live among them bloody Frogs ‘n’ Wops!”)

    to

    P.E. (“We don’t want ‘er lookin’ like one of them butch bitches yer see on telly!”)

    via, inevitably,

    anything with a social, moral, sex-education or hygiene aspect (“You sayin’ we ain’t clean and decent?/don’t know the difference between right ‘n’ wrong?”)

    Ultimately, in the English system at any rate, the responsibility for education rests on the parent, not on the school. Schools can only make the product available: they can’t force-feed it.

    By the way, if not word-perfect, those are versions of utterances made to me, not parodies.

    For a parody, try the acting Head of History at a London Girls’ Convent school who was told not to apply for the permanent post, because she wasn’t sound on the Reformation (i.e. she actually mentioned it, objectively).

  • Rory

    I see, if this report is to be believed, that Obama is not entirely one with Palin on creationism:

    http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/news/international/obama-defends-'creationist-psycho-bitch'-remark-200809111247/

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Greagoir,

    I’d consider myself Christian. Devout would be a push – regularly drink, gamble, swear, etc. I also consider myself a scientist. And I see no contradiction in doing so. I “believe” in evolution. However, there are many problems with it – no explanation for starting life for a start and not too many examples from the fossil record that I can think of with “in betweens”. That said, I reckon evolution happened in big jumps not gradually. There’s also the problem with natural selection that most seem to think explains it ie the selection has to already exist before you can select from it.

    I have nothing to fear from CERN. Fundamental particle physicists are already moving on to the reason why the universe appears so fine tuned. Nothing from CERN will change that. All they’re doing is trying to find the Higg’s Boson – and possibly more fundamental particles. The fact that many thought a black hole could be created and destroy the earth shows the level of understanding out there with the public – the same public that snears at religion. The ignorance is breathtaking.

  • bubbs

    “Are all nationalists here anti-christian?”

    I can’t speak for all nationalists, Bubbs, but the ones I grew up among were all satanists. But then as we had to rely upon the christians for churches to desecrate and graveyards for our orgies and crucifixes for inverting and prayers for saying backwards we grew to depend upon them and eventually became quite fond of them – in a funny, satanist kinda way.

    You are an inadequate tosser Rory. That was not asking about all nationalists, but the nationalists here (on Slugger).

    It seems, broadly speaking they have a chip in their shoulder with Christian teaching, and as far as I’m aware Genesis is not a major point of contention between Protestant and Catholic teachings.

    Greagoir O Frainclin’s reply that most nationalists (on here at least), are athesist is interesting. Although I would maintain that the contempt shown by some is anti-christian (as opposed to live and let live athesism).

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Congal Claen

    “there isn’t a shred of evidence for them”

    Probably best to stick to those theories in science class that there is at least a “shred of evidence for” – but as you say – no reason that there cant be a bit of cross curricular adventurism.

  • Greagoir O Frainclin

    Cheers Congael Clan,

    But in my opinion I find it kinda odd how religionists /creationists believe in an all knowing, all loving (but rather aloof) god, yet fail to notice the devil in the detail, that evidence of evolution is all around us, that life is a rather cruel affair where all creatures on the planet strive hard to survive in their short lives. Where pain and suffering is rife! Where it is dog eat dog. Definitely not the work of an all loving compassionate god!

    Besides a god that mixes the reproductive organs together with the bowels and bladder seems to be a bit of an amatuer designer at work.

    …and of course any notion of spirituality and godliness on the po faced pius types is always ruined when they like all mammals are mandatoried obliged to crouch and have a poo and fart, Pope Benny or Queen Liz is not infallible in this case either!

    Now there’s a thought!

    Maybe we are all just animals!

    We are born, we live, we die!

    Cest la vie!

  • cynic

    How does one reconcile a belief in an all powerful creator with the objectivity needed in the role of a professional scientist evaluating complex scientific issues?

  • Driftwood

    Hi Congael
    I believe we have debated this recently
    Rather than introduce any straw men, there are several varieties of Christianity, are you with the talking snake brigade or veer towards the Archbishop of Canterbury maybe the devil isn’t all bad type.
    ps I just scraped my O level Physics, but I don’t remember God being mentioned much during my revising.

  • bubbs

    “Now there’s a thought!

    Maybe we are all just animals!

    We are born, we live, we die! ”

    A thought is all it is

  • Rory

    “Inadequate tosser”, Bubbs? That’s not a very Christian thing to say. Is that because you are an inadequate christian?

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Sammy,

    “Probably best to stick to those theories in science class that there is at least a “shred of evidence for” – but as you say – no reason that there cant be a bit of cross curricular adventurism.”

    That means the scientific version goes out the window then for the creation of life.

    Hi Graegoir,

    If you noticed in an earlier reply I mentioned that i “believe” in evolution. However, as I also mentioned there are problems with it. As you seem to think evolution explains life, can you therefore explain how life first started?

    Hi Driftwood,

    I wouldn’t take the bible too literally. For example world created in 7 days. But, what is a day? Earth days have changed over time – getting longer due to the moon and increased mass. Is it some other day? Mars days only last about 8 hours. Some of the gas giants days take 100s of years. And that’s just in this solar system. Do I believe in a talking snake? No.

    O’levels – late 30s early 40s then?

    During your O-level physics you should’ve learnt about entropy. In chemistry as well. Essentially, entropy increases and the only reason anything happens is to increase entropy. So, for example, objects at the top of hills tend to end up at the bottom of them over time. Do I believe that the only reason life started was to increase entropy? No.

    In your O-level physics you would never have come to a point were the physics runs into a brick wall.

  • circles

    Are all Chistians here anti-nationalist? Or just anti-irish-nationalist

    And how do all you non-nationalist Christians feel about lions – regal symbol of her majesty or carnivorous muncher of your co-sky god followers?
    Sometimes you have to wonder – what kind of christain god would fashion a christian chomping beastie?

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Circles,

    Or you could ask why would any chemical reaction take place that kills itself of – all life originating from the same source or chemical reaction afterall.

  • Driftwood

    Early 40’s Congael
    My science education only really took off with the OU later in life.
    Have you read Victor Stenger or Steven Weinberg though?

    In terms of belief and science, I expect you have heard of Stephen Jay Gould and NOMA? And just out of curiosity, would your Christian beliefs be very similar to those of your parents?

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Driftwood,

    You seem to have read quite a bit! I’m a civil servant and even I wouldn’t have time to read just as much as you. I take it your higher up in the service ;0) The only I’ve ever heard of before is Weinberg.

    I’ve never asked my parents what they believe in so I don’t know. BTW, I’m not saying that Christianity explains everything. I’m just saying that you shouldn’t rule out supernatural intervention at this stage. Do you seriously believe that the universe/universes were created by nothing from nothing? I don’t accept that.

  • Driftwood

    Do you seriously believe that the universe/universes were created by nothing from nothing?
    Crikey, I’ll ring Jack Ferris and get back to you on that one.
    I suspect no-one on slugger knows how or why the universe came in to existence. But Christianity is pretty lame in that regard, as were all previous creation myths, and all the myriad current ones that exist worldwide that are the main sources of conflict on our pale blue dot.
    Science is the best form of explaining the universe we have. Beyond its limits everything is supposition.

  • I don’t want to be too pernicketty here, but is the term “Christian” at all appropriate in connection with creationism and “intelligent design”?

    As I understand, the entire basis for this reactionary and counter-intuitive heresy (which seems how is how it is regarded by most Romans, Anglicans, progressive Jews and Moslems I meet) derives from the pre-Christian Genesis and the Abrahamic God of Wrath. Of course, the Hellenistic Jew, Philo of Alexandria, a contemporary of Yeshua bar Joseph, was questioning it way back. He also had curious notions about “logos”, which were adapted by the early Christians, and about numerology — which were not.

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Driftwood,

    Jack has left!

    The Hebrew tradition suggests one god that created the universe. Evolutionists thought that the universe was a steady state. The Big Bang rather put paid to that. 1-0 God!

    “the main sources of conflict on our pale blue dot”

    But you’re an evolutionist! That’s the way we evolved surely. Survival of the fittest. Conflicts based on religion just carry on from prior conflicts. The source irrelevent. Communism, which was anti religion, killed millions. So, don’t try and blame mans’ ills on religion.

  • circles

    Personally i think its just supremely lazy and childish to explain everything we can’t currently explain with a big fat “It wos god what done it”.

    Before people would ask “Why does the sun rise”. Priest “Oh that was God that was”. People “Oh right enough then.
    Today “Why did life begin?. Priest “Oh that was God that was”. People “Oh right enough then”.

    Of course such a lack of progression would speak against any spiritual evolution of the species in the last 13 000 years or so. But nobodys perfect.

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  • Pete

    I have something to admit….

    I am a Unionist and an ATHEIST! Ahhhhhhhhh.

    I actually do have a chip on my shoulder about Christianity. Must come from those well meaning, but fluffy minded people trying to indoctrinate me when I was younger!

    If it is true that most nationalists are non-believers then I think I must be batting for the wrong side. SDLP meeting anyone?

    On topic… The headlines generated from this speech are a bit hysterical. I can certainly imagine creationism being talked about in science classes, but only in the sense that it should be pointed out that it is a faith and not based in science, but believe as you will… and on to photosynthesis.

  • Joe

    “Evolutionists thought that the universe was a steady state”

    Sorry, this is flat-out untrue. Neither Darwin’s work nor any subsequent work on evolutionary biology addresses the question of the origins of the universe, nor should they. That you’re willing to make such a startling and absurd claim suggests that your opposition to evolution is most likely the result of not knowing very much about it.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Congal Claen

    “That means the scientific version goes out the window then for the creation of life. ”

    If there are no scientific facts on creation then there will be no need to discuss the subject in the science classrom. Pupils can concentrate on the science of evolution – which informs us of the development of humankind – alongside studying the many other interesting scientific areas.

  • pauljames

    Ah CC
    Creationist bingo anyone?

    Abiogenisis-check
    incomplete fossil record-check
    entropy-check
    literal 7 days-check
    fine tuning-check

    lets see you go for the full house!

  • Big Maggie

    Tsk-tsk, pauljames, you left out the bacterial flagellum. For shame. And this was arguably the creationist ‘scientists” best shot.

    Speaking of creationists, only last week I was talking to a creationist Catholic priest, not many of them around for some reason. I suggested he lend me a piece of consecrated host so I could have someone run a DNA test on it. Well! If he told me once I was guilty of sacrilege he told me a thousand times.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Big Maggie,

    talking of hosts – whats your take on flavoured hosts to suit the needs of the new exciting multi-cultural Ireland? Chicken Tikka Massala?

    re.Catholic Priest creationists as a dying breeed.

    If there is a genetic link to ideology then this could explain( Bishop of Kerry etc etc excluded)the apparent diminishing numbers.

  • TAFKABO

    It may or may not be true that there’s not a shred of evidence as to how life began but the fact that life exists proves it did begin somehow.

    How anyone can point out the lack of evidence for the beginnings of life, and yet still call themselves a believer when there’s not only no evidence as to how God began but even that he exists in the first place.

    One nil to the scientists methinks.

  • Greenflag

    Rory ,

    Any eh money back guarantee or warranty on said ‘product’ or method ? Not that I’d need it but just in case Mustapha fourth wife Harry Flashman has an ahem uprising amongst his hareem :)?

  • Greenflag

    All life is one . We are all related – Bacteria Beans , Bananas , Bonobo Chimps , Bfb and Homo Sapiens even Dave and Harry and UMH :).

    The primordial ‘twitch ‘ which started everything that we see around us now from bacon to bactrian camels began some 3.8 billion years ago and is still going on . To get to where we are now ie Homo Sapiens ( I understand some may question the Sapiens epithet ) required a long series of random events everything from tectonic plates being in the right place at the right time to ice ages to at least three major mass extinctions of life 450 million , 250 million and 65 million years ago .

    Now if people want to believe in a creationist designer of the universe then we have to consider what sort of a ‘creator’ would plan three worldwide ‘extinctions ‘ over a period of 400 million years ?

    Would this be the same ‘designer’ who sends out intermittent ‘pulsars ‘ to destroy not just one star or planet but millions in a neighbouring galaxy .

    Sorry I just can’t accept ‘creationism ‘ Otherwise i have to accept the creator as a kind on 20 billion year old dysfunctional teenage hooliganesque maniac who gets his kicks from erasing entire worlds and galaxies just because he/she/ it is in the mood 🙁

    Richard Fortey in his somewhat comprehensive book Life gives a fuller expalnation of the past 4 billion years and his humourous insights help to relieve some of the detail which may not interest everybody .

    If ‘creationism ‘ is to be taught then ‘religious studies ‘ seems the appropriate place not science class .

  • pauljames

    In the Daily Telegraph Damian Thompson takes issue with Prof. Reiss’s excuse of creationism as a “worldview.” Not really the best use of language for someone charged with responsiblity for director of education for the Royal Society, but then again what else would you expect from an Anglican priest?

  • Reader

    Congal Claen: So, for example, objects at the top of hills tend to end up at the bottom of them over time.
    And yet, there are still hills. And there is life, too.
    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/therm/entropy.html

  • RE would seem to be a good place to discuss alternative interpretations of the accounts of Creation in Genesis – literal, figurative, and all points between.

    Science class would seem the place to discuss Evolution (since it’s on the Syllabus). An account of the, er, evolution of the theory, and a discussion of any problems with current theories, any gaps & outstanding questions, and so forth would also seem quite appropriate for a science class (come on – you didn’t think anyone has all the answers, did you?), depending on the knowledge and abilities of the kids (and as much to the point, the teachers).

    Philosophy is a good place for the discussion of first causes. And whether you believe in a God outside of Space-time, or the sudden coming into being of space-time in a big bang, you’re arguing about something beyond and outside of space and time in either case. Neither side has a knock down winner of an argument here.

    What I have no time for is the obscurantist hysteria of some anti-creationists who try to censor rational scientific discussion in case it “allows a creationist foot in the door” – or, for that matter, those who try to end a discussion with “creation is true because God says so”.

    There are intelligent people of good will, who look at the evidence, and come to different views about where it leads. If the debate is being carried on rationally, that’s fine. If people are bandying terms like “heretic” and “fundamentalist”, then they are at fault – whether they believe in natural selection, Noodly Appendages, or the hand of God as the ultimate cause.

  • Big Maggie

    Sammy

    My PP would damn you for all eternity for your sacrilege, or is it blasphemy? Chicken Tikka indeed!

    Notmyopinion

    There are intelligent people of good will, who look at the evidence, and come to different views about where it leads.

    Of course. Problem for the creationists is that they HAVE no evidence. Not a shred, nada. This is why creationism is on a hiding to nowhere. There is no evidence, new or old, only the dogma concocted using an Iron age book as inspiration. It´s all about as far from science as is possible. No thinking person can take it seriously and I consider that those who engage with creationists are by and large too polite.

  • Rory

    Greenflag,

    Any complaints should be referred to the Customer Relations desk which is situated near the front of the Afterlife department.

  • Big Maggie: “There is no evidence…; only… dogma…; as far from science as is possible… No thinking person can take it seriously…; those who engage with creationists are… too polite.”

    That makes you part of the problem, Mags.

    The real choice isn’t between right and wrong beliefs, it is between defending beliefs by reason on the one hand, and on the other hand, bolstering opinions by rhetoric, by contradiction, by ridicule, by sheer volume, or appeal to authority (whether that of a book or of current received wisdom).

    There are lots of good grounds to criticise obscurantist error – but the claim that “no thinking person can take it seriously” is not one.

    Don’t tell me – show me!

  • Driftwood
  • Driftwood
  • TAFKABO

    Notmyopinion.

    Sorry but you’re just another of those dreary types who think that they can stand back and say a pox on both your houses, as if that gives them some special level of integrity.
    Those of us who are vehemently opposed to creationism or anything which might allow creationism a foot in the door have good sound reasons for holding such opinions.
    Religion is a cancer, and those who would help propagate it are by and large devious and dishonest.

    Ultimately it comes down to this sleight of hand whereby the creationists suggest they are being nothing more than reasonable by demanding both sides be heard but the truth is such an approach will confer a legitimacy upon creationism, a legitimacy it does not merit. This legitimacy is what the creationists are really after, we do science a great disservice if we hold it on a par with fairy tales.
    Everything in its place, and if we’re not going to put creationism into the bin where it belongs, that doesn’t mean we should bring it into the science classroom.

  • Big Maggie

    notmyopinion

    The real choice isn’t between right and wrong beliefs

    True, it´s between belief and rational discussion. The supernaturalists can´t be moved from their faith-based nonsense but will try to impose it on others, innocent children in particular. The rationalist doesn´t impose. He says, ‘Here´s a new piece of evidence I´ve gathered to support a theory. What do you think?’ That’s the difference.

    There are lots of good grounds to criticise obscurantist error – but the claim that “no thinking person can take it seriously” is not one.

    It is you know. When the brain is engaged then error can´t win. It´s when the thinking person stops thinking and surrenders to faith that the trouble begins.

    Don’t tell me – show me!

    Show you what, my tits? Don´t you read the scientific journals? You should. Lots of valuable information to be found there. Or google `science news´.

  • Big Maggie

    … and as if the Churches and their dogmas weren’t ludicrous enough, I just came across this is the Daily Mail:

    The Church of England will tomorrow officially apologise to Charles Darwin for misunderstanding his theory of evolution.

    In a bizarre step, the Church will address its contrition directly to the Victorian scientist himself, even though he died 126 years ago.

    But the move was greeted with derision last night, with Darwin’s great-great-grandson dismissing it as ‘pointless’ and other critics branding it ‘ludicrous’.

    Church officials compared the apology to the late Pope John Paul II’s decision to say sorry for the Vatican’s 1633 trial of Galileo, the astronomer who appalled prelates by declaring that the earth revolved around the sun.

    The officials said that senior bishops wanted to atone for the vilification their predecessors heaped on Darwin in the 1860s, when he put forward his theory that man was descended from apes.

  • TAFKABO

    The officials said that senior bishops wanted to atone for the vilification their predecessors heaped on Darwin in the 1860s, when he put forward his theory that man was descended from apes.

    Except he didn’t say that, he said we share a common ancestor.

  • @TAFKABO – sure I can invoke a pox on the houses of intolerant bigots on both sides of a debate. That doesn’t give me any special integrity – but it’s a perfectly valid position. There are people who claim to support views I hold, but whose way of “supporting” those views makes me cringe (or rage, on a bad day).

    The facile nonsense that “Religion is a cancer” pretends that religion is somehow unique in its ability to excuse evil actions. Communism (with due apologies to communists who believe it has never been tried, even when it was in power) has been the excuse for terrible evil and oppression – even football has given rise to rioting, for goodness sake.

    Let us be honest with ourselves, and not blame belief systems for what is part of our nature as human beings. We are capable of great good, and great evil.

    Meanwhile, back at the subject – we should debate it rationally, rather than by flinging accusations of irrationality in a less than rational manner.

    @mags:
    When I said “don’t tell me, show me” I meant there is no point in merely claiming that your opponents are rational. What might help is showing how they are irrational – and by that I don’t mean showing the irrationality of some straw man argument.

    If you want credible, rational debate (rather than the dialogue of the deaf that we usually end up with), you have to take an honest look at the arguments on both sides, and address your opponents’ case at its height. Anything else is mere posturing – which cannot inform, and will not persuade.

    There are irrational enthusiasts on both sides (fundamentalists like Stephen Hawkings spring to mind), but with people of integrity and goodwill, debate is possible – and valuable.

    If science has any heresy it is this: the notion that debate should be censored.

  • Doh! That should have been:

    “there is no point in merely claiming that your opponents are irrational…”

    and

    “fundamentalists like Richard Dawkins

    I think I need some sleep 🙂

  • Congal Claen

    Anyone want to take time out from the sneering for long enough to explain to a poor deluded fool like myself how life came about then? While you’re at it how did the universe form? Or indeed how many multiverses do you believe in. Could be a Nobel prize in it for you! To reiterate, I’m a scientist, and I “believe” in evolution. However, that does mean I “believe” evolution explains the start of life.

  • Rory

    I think, Congal, that it has something to do with the boy putting his pee-pee into the girl’s pee-pee and jiggling about a bit while making funny noises.

    But don’t take my word for it – I was brought up an Irish Catholic.

  • Congal Claen

    did you miss the sneering part Rory? ;0)

  • Big Maggie

    Notmyopinion

    If you want credible, rational debate (rather than the dialogue of the deaf that we usually end up with), you have to take an honest look at the arguments on both sides, and address your opponents’ case at its height. Anything else is mere posturing – which cannot inform, and will not persuade.

    I’m not in the least bit interested in engaging with the creationist ‘argument’ because there isn’t one. America has given us lots of good things but there are certain US exports which are not worthy of debate. One is Mormonism, another creationism. Life is too short for me to discuss with a latterday saint whether Jesus came to America or not. Similarly anyone who takes their science from the Bible and rubbishes evolution loses me at the first fence.

    “fundamentalists like Richard Dawkins”

    Right, let’s play you at your own game. Dawkins is a SCIENTIST. In what way is he a fundamentalist? And how is he irrational? Can you quote him to back up that ridiculous charge?

  • neil

    Big Maggie, it wasn’t toolong ago when Dawkins was mentioned on Slugger creationist devotees were tripping over themselves to deride Dawkins credentials as a scientist. It’s a waste of time arguing with them, they will lie to you, they will say anything to back up their lies. All in the name of God.

  • Big Maggie

    Neil

    Amen to all of that :^)

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Big Maggie,

    “In what way is he a fundamentalist? And how is he irrational?”

    He makes the leap from evolution to the start of life. A leap that requires faith. That he does not countenance any other expalantion makes him a fundamentalist. He also believes in a materialistic start to the universe. Again, requiring faith.

    Incidentally, can you explain the start of life/the universe?

  • Driftwood

    Congal
    I got a bit lost here, but here’s a Physicists perspective.
    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/cosmo.html

  • Big Maggie

    Congal Claen

    He makes the leap from evolution to the start of life. A leap that requires faith.

    He does no such thing. He looks at the evidence for evolution and deduces that life started according to the theory. It’s no leap of faith. If a better explanation comes along, or if the theory is expanded/improved you can bet your rosary beads that Dawkins will embrace it. This is how science works.

    That he does not countenance any other expalantion makes him a fundamentalist.

    I wonder if you know the meaning of the word. Dawkins as one of the world’s leading scientists is open to all theories that explain the evidence. He rejects creationism out of hand because it’s not science, merely dogma in search of further dogma.

    He also believes in a materialistic start to the universe.

    In the absence of any evidence to the contrary can you blame him?

    Again, requiring faith.

    You didn’t seem to know the meaning of ‘fundamentalism’. I wonder if you’re unclear on the meaning of ‘faith’ as well. Sure seems that way.

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Maggie,

    “He does no such thing. He looks at the evidence for evolution and deduces that life started according to the theory. It’s no leap of faith.”

    Well then, furnish us with this knowledge.

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Driftwood,

    If life is so likely to exist would you not therefore expect other lifeforms to exist in the universe? That being the case, would you not expect that we would have detected some sign from these lifeforms?

  • I cannot waste my time reading all this long-winded discussion about science classes, teaching creationism.

    Why not teach pantheism? Why not teach reincarnation? Why not teach any popular misconception about nature?

    The sad thing about science today is that too few people know anything really important about it, and too few people are studying various aspects of it.

    Why cannot individual teachers deal with creationism when and if it comes up rather than having it dictated by outside interests? It’s bound to come up, given all the religious looneys of that persuasion we have running around these days.

  • Congal Claen @ 04:33 PM:

    There’s an essential logical inconsistency in that approach. It seems to amount to “element of incertainty” = “proof of divine creator”; whereas “doubt about divine creator” = “need to abuse”.

    As I have said before, I am no scientist. However, even I can make some sense of the popular science that New Scientist and Scientific American peddle. What I understand therefrom is the current theory (yes, a theory; but based more soundly than a prior assumption of an all-powerful divinity, with or without a white beard) of an “RNA world”.

    RNA is (again — forgive my amateur understanding and explanation) made up of nucleotides, which are pretty complex molecules in themselves. Each nucleotide is composed of nine or ten atoms of carbon, and a mish-mash of nitrogen, oxygen and phosphates. Each is, I repeat, a complicated molecule in itself; but there are umpteen other examples of complex molecules existing in nature.

    Then there was a guy prosaically called, if I recall correctly, Stanley Miller. In a laboratory jar, he created the soup that he believed were the gases of the early Earth atmosphere, and shot a spark through it. Bingo: amino acids! I think about a score of amino acids are needed to construct proteins; but our Stan managed a couple of them. Now, that was known when I sat in Science classes in a grammar school in the 1950s (which, as I say, is as far as my science eddikashun goes); so I reckon the theory has developed further; or been exploded. Perhaps the younger ones can help here.

    On the other hand, the one basis that is involved in theology is “a sense of the numinous”. The German theologian, Otto, coined that nealogism from a decent Latin word for “command” (numen was originally “a nod”: hence the nod that accompanied the imperial order “So be it”). “A sense of the numinous” comes down to our sense of awe when we stand gob-smacked before something beyond our comprehension. So: I feel just that, observing the working of a complex machine, or the skill of a supreme artist. That does not mean that I confuse “God” with G.J.Churchward of the GWR, or with Michelangelo. Just because I cannot comprehend it, does not make it divine. Indeed, it makes me proud to be human, a member of the species that did create the Castle class of locomotives and the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and will, one day, explain how smaller molecules became transmuted into nucleotides, nucleotides into RNA, and RNA into life.

  • Big Maggie

    Congal Claen

    Well then, furnish us with this knowledge.

    Sorry, what knowledge are you talking about?

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Malcolm,

    You need the DNA, RNA and amino acids for the bare minimum. The experiment you mentioned didn’t create all the 20 amino acids. We also think that the earth’s atmosphere didn’t have the same composition as that used in the 50s experiment, which was almost designed to create amino acids. Therefore, they’d be less likely to self assemble. However, there’s a big jump from amino acids to a self replicating organism.

    Anyhow, my point was that if life is so likely to exist why haven’t we detected messages from other intelligent lifeforms in the universe. Does it not seem unlikely thaw we just happen to be the most intelligent of the millions of other instances of life in the universe?

    Hi Maggie,

    You suggested science, more specifically evolution, explains how life started. I’m interested in that as I’ve never heard it before.

  • Congal Claen @ 05:45 PM:

    1. You need the DNA, RNA and amino acids for the bare minimum.

    No, you (whosoever that might be) don’t. As you recognise, these are all molecular constructs: their composition (and decomposition) is from (and to) simpler building-blocks. That we may not yet have comprehended their construction does not mean they cannot be naturally compounded. Indeed, all the evidence is that is precisely how they become compounded — naturally.

    2. The experiment you mentioned didn’t create all the 20 amino acids.

    No: that was admitted in my post. As I understand, half of the twenty amino acids needed to produce proteins are produced, again naturally, in the body. The remainder we acquire from foods, so again are produced naturally. By my reckoning that means that all essential amino acids are produced without some external divine supplier.

    3. why haven’t we detected messages from other intelligent lifeforms in the universe?

    Fair point. Perhaps we weren’t listening. Perhaps we didn’t recognise the message. Perhaps we weren’t tuned into the proper wave-band. Furthermore the ever-expanding bubble of our radio-signals has only been going for about eighty years. The nearest (and about only so far discovered, as of last year) Earth-type planet is at a distance of 20-odd light years. There and back again is forty light-years, so any reply from there may come in a Scouse accent. It must be getting pretty deafening out there by now, so time and electro-magnetism means interest is more likely. Watch this space?

    4. there’s a big jump from amino acids to a self replicating organism

    Which is self-evident. We seem to reproduce and replicate ourselves quite naturally, and even (as I recall) with some delight. Again, that proves it can be done: no magic wands, no divine guidance. That there is still a lot of room for future discovery is also apparent: I would not bet against human ingenuity and curiosity eventually puzzling it out.

    And that last point is significant for me. It’s a small jump from saying we don’t yet understand to assuming we won’t ever understand. There are too many good thinkers who ended up frying on religious bonfires (Giordano Bruno, for one notable example) because Mother Church extrapolated from don’t to won’t to shouldn’t try to understand. And that’s why creationism is truly dangerous: after all, if there can be no doubt about the origins of life, the universe and everything, we must stop people destroying their immortal souls by looking for forbidden knowledge. Yes?

  • TAFKABO

    I dropped out of the discussion when Dawkins was called an irrational bigot. Who has time to debate with those who don’t or wont grasp basic English?

    So the creationists think they have the rump card by explaining the origins of life by inventing a magic sky pixie, a magic sky pixie they singularly fail to explain the origins of.

    Where did God come from folks?

    Where is he now?

  • Big Maggie

    Congal Claen

    You suggested science, more specifically evolution, explains how life started. I’m interested in that as I’ve never heard it before.

    I suggested no such thing. You inferred it. Here’s Dawkins:

    ‘As yet, science is unable to definitively explain how life began here, or exactly how it evolved to its present state, but it can show that if life was created by an intelligent designer, benevolence wasn’t part of the package, at least as far as the vast majority of the animal kingdom is concerned – including ourselves.’

    You could say this is the position we occupy right now. It could be we’ll solve the riddle soon. But if the creationists continue to thwart honest inquiry (as their co-supernaturalists did for millennia) we could be in for a longer wait. I’m hopeful though.

  • Big Maggie

    Congal Claen

    You suggested science, more specifically evolution, explains how life started. I’m interested in that as I’ve never heard it before.

    I suggested no such thing. You inferred it. Here’s Dawkins:

    ‘As yet, science is unable to definitively explain how life began here, or exactly how it evolved to its present state, but it can show that if life was created by an intelligent designer, benevolence wasn’t part of the package, at least as far as the vast majority of the animal kingdom is concerned – including ourselves.’

    You could say this is the position we occupy right now. It could be we’ll solve the riddle soon. But if the creationists continue to thwart honest inquiry (as their co-supernaturalists did for millennia) we could be in for a longer wait. I’m hopeful though.

  • Big Maggie

    Apologies for the double posting, folks. I’d entered the wrong code – I think….

  • Pounder

    What a load of crap. Creationism may have a place in education (frankly I disagree fairy stories belong in pre-school), but that place is in RE where atheists like myself can chose to opt out. I’m not a scientist, I don’t have any letters after my name or anything. But one thing I do remember from Science is that any theory must be backed up with evidence via the method of exhaustive testing. How exactly do you test “um the sky pixie that talks to Charlton Heston did it all”.

  • Big Maggie

    Pounder

    This is why the creationists are on a hiding to nothing. They have nothing to propose but untestable dogma. They haven’t even the grace to call it ‘theory’ but ‘fact’. Pathetic really, but serious when half the USA falls for such lies.

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Malcolm,

    “No, you (whosoever that might be) don’t. As you recognise, these are all molecular constructs: their composition (and decomposition) is from (and to) simpler building-blocks. That we may not yet have comprehended their construction does not mean they cannot be naturally compounded. Indeed, all the evidence is that is precisely how they become compounded—naturally.”

    I’m willing to go along with that bar the last sentence.

    “No: that was admitted in my post. As I understand, half of the twenty amino acids needed to produce proteins are produced, again naturally, in the body. The remainder we acquire from foods, so again are produced naturally. By my reckoning that means that all essential amino acids are produced without some external divine supplier.”

    To my understanding they need to exist prior to life starting. That would mean they wouldn’t be produced in the body as the bodies wouldn’t exist. Neither would they get them from food as food wouldn’t exist yet. It’s the chicken and egg thing…

    “Fair point. Perhaps we weren’t listening. Perhaps we didn’t recognise the message. Perhaps we weren’t tuned into the proper wave-band. Furthermore the ever-expanding bubble of our radio-signals has only been going for about eighty years. The nearest (and about only so far discovered, as of last year) Earth-type planet is at a distance of 20-odd light years. There and back again is forty light-years, so any reply from there may come in a Scouse accent. It must be getting pretty deafening out there by now, so time and electro-magnetism means interest is more likely. Watch this space?”

    You miss my point. I was asking why we haven’t detected THEIR signals, not responded to ours. Earth is about 4.5B years old. The universe about 15B. Are you not surprised that we haven’t heard anything? Have no other lifeforms sent out signals from anywhere in those extra 10B years? Especially, when we hear from other posters on here that life is almost to be expected to exist. BTW, should we detect other intelligent life and we learn that they have absolutely no concept of a devine creator I reckon I’d start to develop serious concerns about it as an explanation of life. Not that I’m completely concern free at the minute…

    “And that last point is significant for me. It’s a small jump from saying we don’t yet understand to assuming we won’t ever understand. There are too many good thinkers who ended up frying on religious bonfires (Giordano Bruno, for one notable example) because Mother Church extrapolated from don’t to won’t to shouldn’t try to understand. And that’s why creationism is truly dangerous: after all, if there can be no doubt about the origins of life, the universe and everything, we must stop people destroying their immortal souls by looking for forbidden knowledge. Yes?”

    Agreed. However, we don’t understand at present. The evolutionary tale requires an element of faith. Whereas many on here think it has all been sown up.

    Hi Maggie,

    “I suggested no such thing. You inferred it.”

    You have already said…

    “He does no such thing. He looks at the evidence for evolution and deduces that life started according to the theory.”

    I’ve asked you to explain how evolution explains the start of life a couple of times. You haven’t. The reason being there is no explanation at present. Therefore, that requires a leap of faith. To prove me wrong all you have to do is explain it. I await with baited breath…

  • @mags: “I’m not in the least bit interested in engaging with the creationist ‘argument’ because there isn’t one.”

    Well then, you’ll have to excuse your opponents for not finding your bald assertions and refusal to engage all that convincing.

    @mags: “Right, let’s play you at your own game. Dawkins is a SCIENTIST. In what way is he a fundamentalist? And how is he irrational?”

    It’s quite possible to take a fundamentalist attitude to science (or philosophy, or religion, or computing). The history of science is littered with gentlemen (and not so many ladies) who refused to admit the possibility that they might be wrong. Richard Dawkins is simply among their number.

    To give him credit, he IS prepared to admit his science may be mistaken. He IS a good scientist – his work on the selfish gene (as an alternative way of looking at inheritance) offers very useful insights.

    But he’s a poor philosopher, and a lousy theologian. And when he drifts into those topics, his fundamentalist tendencies become clear. His “analysis” of fundamentalism is facile. His diatribes against all forms of religion are simplistic (from liberal to fundamentalist – he says they are equally dangerous). His assertion that it is somehow rational to believe in some nothing “before” space-time which spontaneously “causes” time to begin and space to appear out of nothing, and yet totally irrational to believe in a being outside of time who creates space and time is rather assuming what he claims to demonstrate.

    He is the modern day prophet of “scientific materialism”, and he is indeed a fundamentalist.

  • @Malcolm Redchap: “There are too many good thinkers who ended up frying on religious bonfires (Giordano Bruno, for one notable example) because Mother Church extrapolated from don’t to won’t to shouldn’t try to understand. And that’s why creationism is truly dangerous: after all, if there can be no doubt about the origins of life, the universe and everything, we must stop people destroying their immortal souls by looking for forbidden knowledge. Yes?

    Tragically, it’s the same attitude (you are wrong… you will mislead people… your teaching is dangerous… you must be burned – or fired) that is leading fundamentalists of the scientific materialist persuasion to (deliberately or accidentally) misrepresent Rev Michael Reiss’ comments on the discussion of creation in class, and call for his sacking.

    The same outrage against the unthinkable was seen when the Lawrence Summers, president of Harvard wondered aloud whether there might be differences in the variation and distribution, though not the average levels, of male and female aptitudes in science and maths – and was hounded out of his job.

    It is dangerous to shout down an idea for being unthinkable. The correct response to incorrect ideas is to show where and how they are wrong. Unfortunately, that’s not as easy!