The Telegraph, the Christian Institute and misrepresenting the AHS

The Atheist Blogger complains (Telegraph Caught Lying For Jesus) that The Telegraph has been somewhat lax with the truth in an article about the National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies (AHS). The Telegraph article (Atheists target UK schools) appears to be suggesting that:

The federation aims to encourage students to lobby their schools and local authorities over what is taught in RE lessons and to call for daily acts of collective worship to be scrapped. It wants the societies to hold talks and educational events to persuade students not to believe in God.

While I’d actually support such activities, it would appear that this isn’t what the AHS are up to.  In actual fact, the AHS are working to encourage open thinking among students – as The Atheist Blogger writes:

What the AHS actually wants to do is encourage interfaith discussion through a variety of events, focusing on both scientific and religious education, as well as supporting charity work. The aims of the current initiative are outlined in brief here:

  • To teach students how to debate and create dialogue between school faith groups.
  • Provide the school with fun and educational events and activities, including two student-led courses: ‘Perspectives’ in which a speaker from a faith group gives a talk followed by Q&A, and our ‘One Life’ course, which considers moral and ethical issues without god. Many events will also support the scientific curriculum.
  • Encourage charity volunteering.
  • Give students the experience of running a group and managing events.
  • Show students that it’s ok not to believe in god and encourage critical thinking.
  • Bring out issues concerning religious privilege in schools such as collective worship and incomplete or biased religious education.

Of course, the Telegraph isn’t the most liberal of newspapers, and it appears to have been on the receiving end of a communique from The Christian Institute. who’s Mission is presented on their web page:

The Christian Institute exists for “the furtherance and promotion of the Christian religion in the United Kingdom” and “the advancement of education”.

The Christian Institute is a nondenominational Christian charity committed to upholding the truths of the Bible. We are supported by individuals and churches throughout the UK.

We believe that the Bible is the supreme authority for all of life and we hold to the inerrancy of Scripture. We are committed to upholding the sanctity of life from conception.

So that’s OK then.  Well, perhaps not.  The Christian Institute sounds like it’s at the forefront of the “Christians as Victims” school of thought.  As they say in a news report about the Equality Bill:

Christian groups are concerned that the Bill will reopen many of the discrimination issues which have left Christians bottom of the pile when it comes to ‘equality and diversity’.

Actually, one might argue that the AHS are actually seeking equality for all, including those of no faith.  According to the AHS website,

The AHS will be seeking corrections from the Sunday Telegraph after the paper misrepresented the AHS’ new schools initiative, which encompasses fostering interfaith events, scientific and religious educational activities and charity work.

Bet they don’t get a correction.

Ken Miller on God, Darwin and Intelligent Design

Here’s an upcoming interesting lecture at the Faraday Institute in Cambridge:

God, Darwin and Intelligent Design

American evolutionary science expert Professor Ken Miller will give a talk next Tuesday about the increasing support of the anti-evolutionary Intelligent Design movement at the Faraday Institute’s termly public lecture.

“Professor Miller will argue that the popularity of this movement, which is pitted against Darwinian evolution, points to a profound failure on the part of the scientific community to articulate its own message effectively,” said Katie Turnbull, Communications Officer at the Faraday Institute. “He believes that analysing the appeal of this concept is central to developing an understanding of why evolution is still resisted a century and a half after the publication of On the Origin of Species.”

The lecture is free and open to everyone. It takes place at on Tuesday 28 April, 5.30pm in the Queen’s Lecture Theatre, Emmanuel College. The lecture will be followed by free refreshments and a chance to meet the speaker and browse the bookstall.

I don’t know whether it’ll be webcast; I know I’ll be unlikely to be able to make it on Tuesday, which is a shame – I’ve read about Ken Miller in the blogosphere.

Creationists vs Texas – “preposterously stupid”

PZ Myers has posted a link to a blog article (Evaluating Christianity – You Don’t Trust Creationists With Your Science Education… Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Trust Their Lawyers, Either), which dissects the legal action taken by the Institution for Creation Research against the Texas Higher Education Coordination Board (THCB).

Believe it or not, the ICR wish to offer Masters degrees in science.  Quite understandably, since the ICR are barking creationists, this was refused.  As a consequence, they’ve filed suit.  The blog article linked above makes amusing reading, as the filing appears to fail at so many levels. Here’s a nice quote from the blog:

There are no words to describe the vacuity of this argument. It is so preposterously stupid that I cannot imagine any second-year law student who has paid the slightest bit of attention in his Con Law class at a seventh-rate law school would make it.

One is left with the supposition that this is a legal brief filed with the intention of failure, in order to fuel their claims of persecution and cries of discrimination.  Presumably this is part of a longer-term strategy.

Student Arts Festival Exercises Christian Voice

A rather good sounding student arts festival began this weekend in St Andrews (BBC News –Students take to festival stage).  Included in about 70 performances held in 12 venues around the town, the On the Rocks event also showcases the talents of the local non-student community.  There’s a variety of performances, from Shakespeare to Peter Pan, and a film festival, complete with competition.  So, what’s the problem?

Well, it turns out that one of the performances is Jerry Springer: The Opera over which a considerable kerfuffle was raised a few years ago, when a production was aired on the BBC.  Perhaps that’s why the BBC News report focusses on this item.  It’s what’s generated another mouthing-off by bonkers christian agitator Stephen Green.  Of course his defeat in his blasphemy case against the BBC’s showing of Jerry Springer: The Opera not only revised UK blasphemy, but reputedly reduced him to the verge of bankruptcy.  Unfortunately his vile Christian Voice organisation is still active, and still upset by the Jerry Springer show, as the BBC report relates:

Christian Voice branded the university a “cess pit” and members will be handing out leaflets ahead of the performances.

National director of Christian Voice, Stephen Green, said: “The university and the students in it have rather lost touch with any notion of civilised behaviour.

“It’s all very well for the principal to bleat on about freedom of speech, but freedom of speech comes with responsibilities.

“It’s all very well for her to say we trust the students, but they don’t trust the students enough to mark their own exam papers so there’s a lot of duplicity and hypocrisy going on at St Andrews.”

I don’t know whether CV agitators will be handing out leaflets at the event, but I do wish the hypocritical twerps would just accept defeat and naff off into the distance. (For some more links about Stephen Green, see Stephen Green, Christian Voice and vaccinations, and also this Wikipedia page, which gives some more information on Stephen Green, Christian Voice, and their objectionable opinions and policies.)

Update:  Barrie’s also covered this story over at The Freethinker (Green resurfaces to protest against JSTO) – according to The Courier (Protests against Jerry Springer musical) there was one protestor on Saturday evening (a St Andrews theology academic), and about 20 CV drones, including Green on Sunday.

Stephen Green, Christian Voice and vaccinations

Stephen Green, the batty bloke behind Christian Voice, resurfaced this week (after a glorious period of silence) as one of the complainants over the Corrie-creationism brouhaha.  Coincidentally, I notice that The Lay Scientist, who’s been blogging lately about The Daily Mail and its bizarre campaign against vaccination (oddly this appears to be restricted to it’s UK operation – its Irish output takes the opposite view) has posted an amusing article about the ASA’s comprehensive slapdown of Christian Voice (Christian Voice, the HPV Vaccine and Freedom of Speech).  The final paragraph is:

This of course is the same Stephen Green who sued the BBC for blasphemy, who upon the abolition of blasphemy laws in 2008 threatened that Christians would have to “take matters into their own hands” if people said anything that might offend God or Christ. In other words this odious little creature, a man who believes that husbands should have the right to rape their wives at will believes in freedom of speech only when it applies to him. He is a disgrace, to fellow Christians and to human beings in general.

Some of the commenters follow those links and are pretty appalled by what they find.

The History of Everything

This blog is entitled “Wonderful Life” mostly because I find the world around me wonderful, in part because of what we do know of its origins, but also because of what we don’t (yet) know.  I don’t need to have any invisible creator to have instigated, directed or interfered in any way in the origins of life.  I noticed that PZ Myers of Pharyngula has posted this diagram (God’s timeline) of the history of the Universe (seen from a human perspective), comparing the scientific and creationist explanations: Continue reading “The History of Everything”

Coronation Street’s not real you know!

My regular perusal of Google News has hit numerous stories of outrage from Christians over a character in the venerable British TV soap show Coronation Street (for eaxmple see BBC News – Corrie comments spark complaints.  Now, I’m no soap fan, but I always thought the characters in these things were fictional characters.  In this case, I believe the character who has so offended the religious is called Ken Barlow.  Barlow, played by William Roache, supposedly delivered lines which intimated he disapproved of Christianity being taught in schools, and in particular he disapproved of creationism:

In the soap, while the Barlow family were preparing to go to church, Ken – played by William Roache – questioned his son Peter on why he was allowing his grandson, Simon, to be “indoctrinated” by the church.

He then went on to criticise Simon’s school for teaching creationism.

After the family returned from church, Ken began to tell his grandson that Jesus rising from the dead “may not necessarily be true” and that scientists think the Big Bang created the universe.

He argued it was important to teach his grandson humanism and give him another viewpoint to balance the teachings from the church.

The character was later seen in the pub saying he believed “children should be told the truth” and that Christianity was comforting because “that’s how they get their hooks into you, when you’re vulnerable”.

Well, nothing unusual there, one might have thought – if that’s the character, those are the lines.  But Ofcom and ITV received 23 and 100 complaints about it respectively!  Apparently one viewer wrote “To choose this script on the most holy day in the Christian calendar is insulting and greatly offensive.”

It’s a bit disturbing to find out that religious viewers are unable to realise that this is fiction, not fact, and to understand that others, even fictional characters may hold different views.

Update (16/4/09)  Hahahahaha!  Turns out Stephen Green’s one of the complainants (see New Humanist blog)

Easter messages

I’m back from family visiting during the easter egg break, which seems to be associated with a weird death cult originating in the Middle East a couple of millennia ago.  Bizarrely, during this festival the high priests (and slightly less elevated but no less deluded individuals) of said death cults are prone to releasing peculiar and illogical sermons.  Since these sermons aren’t restricted to their places of worship, but are thrust in my direction via several media, they do cross my radar.

Over in Germany, they are practised in dissecting bizarre claims about their 20th century history.  Death cult bishop Walter Mixa, the Catholic Bishop of Augsburg, is reported in Der Speigel Online (German Bishop Links Nazi Crimes to Atheism) as saying in connection with a “rising tide of atheism” that:

“Wherever God is denied or fought against, there people and their dignity will soon be denied and held in disregard,” he said in the sermon. He also said that “a society without God is hell on earth” and quoted the Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky: “If God does not exist, everything is permitted.”

He then went on to claim that the Nazi crimes against humanity were due to the perpetrators; atheism:

“In the last century, the godless regimes of Nazism and Communism, with their penal camps, their secret police and their mass murder, proved in a terrible way the inhumanity of atheism in practice.” Christians and the Church were always the subject of “special persecution” under these systems, he said.

Fortunately Der Spiegel has the experts on tap to disabuse the reader of this canard.  You can also read my take on the origins of the Holocaust on this blog (Did Darwinism lead inevitably to the Holocaust? – part 2).  I’ll leave the reader to refer to the rebuttals on the Der Speigel site (but recall the less than exemplary behaviour of Mixa’s particular death cult sect before and during WW2).  Apparently it’s not the first time Mixa’s said dubious things about the past:

The Easter sermon was not the first time that Mixa has made comparisons to Nazism for rhetorical purposes. In February, the bishop compared the number of Jews murdered during the Holocaust with the number of abortions performed over the past decades, according to a newspaper report. The bishop’s spokesman also responded to criticism of Mixa from Germany’s leading Green Party politician, Claudia Roth, who called the bishop a “crazy über-fundamentalist,” by comparing her words to Nazi propaganda.

Closer to home the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu,  leading spokesman for England’s very own death cult, pronounced on a varity of illogically linked topics in the news media.  He has this to say on the subject of football on Easter Sunday (BBC News: Football-free Easter Sunday urged):

Dr Sentamu, the former bishop of Birmingham, said there was a “time and a place” for football which was not on Easter Sunday.

He added:”Do not think…22 people chasing a ball around is all life is about.”

He’s fond of his history – adding that Aston Villa Church Bible Class formed a football team in 1874 and the members of St Domingo’s Bible Class began playing football at Stanley Park in Liverpool in 1884.

Anyway, onwards…Sentamu also complained that the bankers responsible for the current credit crunch ought to have heeded two century old advice (for which I cannot find a web link).  I suppose that’s recent stuff compared to the creed he peddles, so it seems up to date.

Finally, Easter Monday’s “Thought for the Day, as long as it’s not humanist” slot on Radio 4 was the usual nonsense (Platitude of the Day: Reverend Dr Giles Fraser, Vicar of Putney).

More moves to teach creationism in UK schools?

In a disappointingly titled article in New Statesman (Make space for creationists to have their say), Sophie Elmhirst reports that English schools are facing pressure to include creationism in science classes.  This, of course, follows similar moves in Hampshire which I blogged about recently.  The article does present both sides of the argument, but does I feel come over a bit sympathetic to the cause of the creationists. However, Terry Sanderson of the National Secular Society gets his oar in

The secularists, not surprisingly, are furious. “Talk about a misnomer,” says Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, of Truth in Science. “I get very angry about this organisation, which is introducing into people’s minds that there is some equivalence between creationism and evolution as scientific topics. There isn’t an equivalence – one is religion and one is science. They’re not the same thing.” He believes the problem goes back to the core of religious teaching in Britain. RE is the only subject that, despite being compulsory, is controlled by local authorities, not by the National Curriculum. What students are taught, and how those lessons might overlap with science teaching, is down to the local education authority under the guidance of the Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education, made up of local faith leaders and councillors. It is such councils that worry Sanderson: “They are often taken over by very enthusiastic religious people – they’re almost all clerics. It’s inevitable that they will try to push the boundaries of religious education into proselytising.”

The issue should be clear to any responsible educator.  Creationism is a religious doctrine, for which there is absolutely no evidence.  Evolution is science, and is supported by huge quantities of evidence.  There is no place for creationism in science classes.

Unfortunately, and in contrast to the USA, the UK has an established church so in my mind there’s not such a clear separation of church and state here.  Educators in the UK need to be very vigilant against the intrusion of religion into science classes.