I doubt if the inventor of all that we do here Tim Berners-Lee will have the Church of England in mind as he enters the debate on real science. He says the internet needs to find a way to help people separate rumour from science and supports the idea of a certificate of trustworthiness for websites that distribute information. He’s worried about people like the prophets of doom when the Hadron collider was switched on last week. Into the increasingly furious dispute between rationalism and religion angels fear to tread but not the dear old C of E. As the world of science prepares to celebrate the bicentenary of the birth of Charles Darwin, and the 150th anniversary of the publication of ‘On the Origin of Species’, the Church is devoting a section of its website to a sympathetic account of the relationship of faith to science. And what thanks does it get? An attack from the Mail on Sunday for apologising to Darwin and a big row inside the most august science body the Royal Society, as two Nobel prize winners have demanded that the Royal Society sack its education director, Professor Rev Michael Reiss, whom I defended last week.
The unfortunate Reiss, a minister as well as a scientist is being hammered for suggesting that questions about creationism should be answered in science class if thats where pupils put the question. As weve made clear he specifically denied that creationism and evolution should be taught equally.
According to the bishop of Swindon a pro-Darwin biologist by training interviewed in the BBCs Today programme, the debate over creationism has become confrontational because evolution equals atheism in America where as we know Christian fundamentalism has been on the rise partly as a response to the Islamist variety. The Cof E wants to remind people that not all Christians are fundamentalists. Seems like a good idea, and yes, it’s also an attempt to ensure that mainstream churches don’t get further marginalised. Faith and rationalism are not in the same category and attempts to confuse them can only end in grief.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London