July 2010

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The controversial zoo which pushes a creationist agenda has apparently won an educational prize, says the British Humanist Association (BHA condemns “appalling decision” to give education award to creationist zoo).  The BHA says:

The BHA has strongly condemned the decision of the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom to award the creationist Noah’s Ark Zoo in Wraxall, near Bristol, a ‘Quality Badge’ in recognition of its educational programme.

The Council for Learning Outside the Classroom was established by the previous government to promote educational visits for schoolchildren. Its Quality Badge is intended to assist schools in identifying external organisations, such as museums, who are ‘committed to providing high quality teaching and learning experiences’. The Quality Badge was awarded to Noah’s Ark Zoo following a visit by assessors in June.

This absurd Zoo was much talked about last year (see for example Creationist zoo causes dismay in the ranks of the humanists, New Humanist article – a visit to Noah’s Ark Zoo and Creationist zoo suspended….  A so-called “zoo” which not only seeks to push creationism on visitors, many of whom are children, but seeks to discredit whole branches of science, such as evolution, radiocarbon dating and the like should not be awarded any kind of educational award.

Who are the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom?  Well, a quick Google search locates their website at http://www.lotc.org.uk, where we find the following:

Who are the CLOtC?

We are a registered charity existing to promote and champion Learning Outside the Classroom so all children and young people can benefit from increased opportunities for high quality and varied educational experiences. The Council took over responsibility for the Learning Outside the Classroom Manifesto in April 2009.

What do CLOtC do?

The Council champions learning outside the classroom and encourages young people to get out and about because research shows that children learn best through real life experiences.

The Council aims to be the leading voice for learning outside the classroom:

  • Influencing and challenging learning outside the classroom policy and practice
  • Raising the profile of learning outside the classroom and promoting the benefits
  • Providing support for education and LOtC professionals, aiming for high quality learning outside the classroom that meets the needs of young people

If an avowedly pro-creationist zoo can earn an LOtC award, one wonders what other awards have been made.  Vehicles for the propagation of falsehoods should not be awarded educational prizes. The very name Noah’s Ark Zoo should have raised alarm bells.

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The New Humanist blog is one of many web sites reporting on a fracas involving criticism via Twitter of Scientology (Welsh councillor in trouble for calling Scientology “stupid” on Twitter ). The synopsis of this story is that

When Cardiff councillor John Dixon visited London last year to buy a wedding ring for his wife to be, a stroll past the “Dianetics and Life Improvement Centre” on Tottenham Court Road (just round the corner from our office, as it happens) prompted him to make the following quip on Twitter:“I didn’t know the Scientologists had a church on Tottenham Court Road. Just hurried past in case the stupid rubs off.”

This has appeared to generate a bit of a problem for poor John Dixon, as the “Church” of Scientology made a complaint to the Welsh public service watchdog. As a consequence Dixon’s facing disciplinary action.

Problem is, as someone who’s read Russell Miller’s biography of Scientology’s founder L. Ron Hubbard (the wonderfully titled Bare Face Messiah), I’m rather inclined to agree with Dixon. It’s also why I place quotation marks around “Church”, and why I believe Scientology is complete claptrap and an exercise in generating a huge income. Herewith my modest contribution to the Streisand Effect.

On the other hand (and in a spirit of even-handedness), I suggest the core beliefs of most established religions are equally loopy.

(Originally posted at flies&bikes)

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A petition was raised at the UK Government’s petition site regarding the upcoming Papal visit to these shores – a response from the Government (presumably the new Cleggeron-led affair): HM Government. The petition was filed by Peter Tatchell:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to disassociate the British government from the Pope’s intolerant views ahead of the Papal visit to Britain in September 2010. We urge the Prime Minister to make it clear that his government disagrees with the Pope’s opposition to women’s reproductive rights, gay equality, embryonic stem cell research and the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV. We ask the Prime Minister to express his disagreement with the Pope’s role in the cover-up of child sex abuse by Catholic clergy, his rehabilitation of the Holocaust-denying bishop Richard Williamson, and his decree paving the way for the beatification and sainthood of the war-time Pope, Pius XII, who stands accused of failing to speak out against the Holocaust. We also request the Prime Minister to assure us that the Pope’s visit will not be financed by the British taxpayer.

As seems to be usual in the responses to such petitions, the HMG reply isn’t very forthcoming:

Pope Benedict XVI will visit the UK from 16 to 19 September at the invitation of Her Majesty The Queen. The visit is described as a Papal Visit with the status of a State Visit. The programme will include a number of pastoral events, which are the responsibility of the Catholic Church, as well as some significant official events, which will provide opportunities for issues of common interest to the UK Government and the Holy See to be discussed at the highest level.

The Holy See has a global reach and so is a valuable international partner for the UK Government. Our relationship with the Holy See enables us to address jointly a range of foreign policy and development issues. These include working towards delivery of the Millennium Development Goals, addressing the impacts of climate change, preventing and resolving conflict, and finding ways to encourage disarmament.

As with any bilateral diplomatic relationship, there are issues on which we disagree. The Holy See is clear on our positions on these issues. However, we believe that Pope Benedict’s visit will provide an opportunity to strengthen and build on our relationship with the Holy See in areas where we share interests and goals, and to discuss those issues on which our positions differ.

Since the visit has the status of a State Visit, and some parts of the programme are being organised by the British Government, a proportion of the costs of the Visit will fall to the Government. The costs can be divided into two categories: policing costs, which will be met by the State from existing policing budgets, and non-policing costs, which will be split between the Catholic Church and the Government. The total size of the costs at this stage is not confirmed but discussions are currently under way to decide the appropriate levels of contribution from the Government and the Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of England and Wales, and of Scotland. Other parts of the programme, such as the Masses and other pastoral events, are the responsibility of the Catholic Bishops’ Conferences. The direct costs of these events will therefore be borne by the Catholic Church.

None of this really addresses the request to dissociate the Government from Pope’s “intolerant views”.  It would seem that being the leader of a major and established cult empowers one to hold divisive and discriminatory views, and to express them widely.
Will the pointless HMG petition site survive the the Cleggeron onslaught of Government spending?  And why not get rid of it – I’ve never seen a response that indicates the Government takes on board any views expressed.  (The same might be said of the the Cleggeron Government’s website for citizens to suggest legislation for repeal). 

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Christopher Hitchens has recently been diagnosed with cancer, as has been widely reported.  I hope he makes a good recovery.  And what seems to be the typical response by catholic commentators?

Christina Odone (The Telegraph) is apparently praying for him. Pointless, and mildly irritating.  But Francis Phillips (Catholic Herald – Perhaps throat cancer will move Christopher Hitchens to a change of heart) takes it just a bit too far.  Aside from this (I wonder how effective prayer really is!):

[...] if my own doctor had broken similar news to me I would have been shocked, so he has my sympathy; prayers as well – a more practical remedy.

He suggests Hitchins will have some kind of last minute conversion:

Perhaps visiting his doctor will be a wake-up call for Hitchens?

The brief article is patronising and offensive.  And check out the comments that follow the article at the Catholic Herald.  Over at The Independent, however, Tom Sutcliffe reckons Hitchens might be finding the opinions of the christian axis amusing (Tom Sutcliffe: Hitchens baffles the godly – again).

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The Huffington Post is one of those website I rarely look at but become aware of though links from more rational blog sites. It does seem to have a reputation for publishing some of the more risible articles out there. David Klinghoffer of the Discovery Institute has now published more drivel trying to link Darwin and evolution to Hitler (David Klinghoffer: The Dark Side of Darwinism)

Hitler’s ideas, Dr. Berlinski carefully notes, “came from many different sources but no honest account will omit Darwin.” A reading of Mein Kampf makes that clear. Certainly, Berlinski says, the men who formulated Nazi ideology “weren’t reading the Gospels.”

Actually,an honest account reading Mein Kampf reveals no such thing.  One of the first postings I made on this blog addressed the supposed links between evolutionary biology and Nazism (Did Darwinism lead inevitably to the Holocaust?).  I see PZ Myers has had his say, as have the numerous commenters at the Huffington Post.
But I can’t see the Discovery Institute ceasing their line of nonsense.

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