The British Camp Quest

There’s a nice article at the BBC News site (Camp offers ‘godless alternative’) about the Camp Quest being held in the UK. Of course summer camps here in the UK are somewhat less established than is the case in the USA, where it would seem from news reports that they often have a broadly christian attitude.

You can find out more about Camp Quest at their website. I’ve been seeing quite a lot of negative comment about Camp Quest in the UK press, much of it rather viciously and inaccurately labelling it as some devious brainchild of Richard Dawkins and aimed at indoctrinating children away from christianity. In reality, Dawkins’ involvement was limited to a donation of less than £500 from the Richard Dawkins Foundation.

The BBC News report makes rather refreshing reading – the kids don’t seem to be suffering indoctrination and appear to be enjoying the experience, despite the poor weather. Indeed several families aren’t particularly opposed to attendance at more christian camps!

The whole focus seems to be on a rational approach to evidence. For example, the camp’s director is quoted:

“If the children were to come up with a question about creationism for example, we would discuss the evidence. We wouldn’t say, ‘Creationism is rubbish’… if they weigh the evidence and think there’s a good case for it.”

One neat touch is the “unicorn task” – the children are told that in the camp lives a pair of unicorns. Unfortunately, these beasts are invisible, can’t be heard, tasted, smelt or touched – furthermore the only evidence to support the assertion of their existence is an ancient dusty tome. The task is to devise a way to disprove their existence.

It’s this amusing task that’s aroused the ire of a churchman, who’s the lone protestor waving placards at the gates, who clearly understands the implications of the task…

I’m not particularly convinced that I’d have enjoyed going to a camp as a child – I’ve never been one for being organised, but perhaps this might have been the one…

Update:  I see a commentator at The Independent also labels Camp Quest as “Richard Dawkins’ five-day atheist summer camp” (Ellie Levenson: An atheist camp is a terrible idea)

Update 2: Note the blinkered nonsense in many of the comments here.  The comments get progressively more stupid, it seems to me (hat-tip – PZ Myers)

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