September 2011

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C4ID’s Director Alastair Noble has come out fighting against proposals to legally prevent creationism in its many varieties being taught in school science classes.  His campaign, as ever, revolves around contributions to a variety of christian organs.  In the online christian magazine, Inspire, he has an article protesting against the proposal (Centre for Intelligent Design rejects ‘false claims’ of Dawkins and Attenborough).  [Note that while I can open that link using Firefox, Google Chrome cannot – at least on my computer]. As with many a christian website, commenting doesn’t appear to be possible.

With what appears to be a complete irony failure, Noble says:

“If this was about the integrity of science education,” says Dr Alastair Noble […], director of the Centre, “then they would be campaigning for students to have access to all the scientific evidence about evolution and origins – including the positive evidence for design in nature and the evidence both for and against evolution.

“Scientific theories are only credible if they take account of all the evidence. Science always moves on. The 30 scientists who have signed up to the ‘Evolution not Creationism’ statement are attempting to prevent students from hearing the rational, well-evidenced arguments that cast doubt on neo-Darwinism.”

Dr Noble is always portrayed as a scientist (he has a PhD in chemistry rather than a biological discipline), yet he appears not to understand how science works. Intelligent Design creationism is not a scientific approach.  It has no explanatory power.  It makes no testable predictions.  It fails at all points of a definition of a scientific activity.  He does say:

“Students also need to understand the provisional nature of the scientific consensus. Science is not done by consensus. Indeed, students should be aware that some crucial scientific discoveries were made by individuals who challenged the consensus. The reality of science is that one individual scientist with sound evidence can trump the consensus.”

Intelligent Design creationism has no scientific approach of collecting evidence and interpreting it in a way that generates explanatory hypotheses for further testing.  Its sole approach seems to be to identify specific individual cases where an ID proponent cannot see an evolutionary explanation, then proudly proclaiming that it must have been designed – “God did it” rephrased as “the Designer did it”. Unfortunately for Intelligent Design creationism, each and every case where such claims inferring design have ben debunked using evolutionary mechanisms to explain their origin, supported by a wealth of comparative biological data.

Another chemist (again, not a biologist) is quoted:

John Walton, Professor of Reactive Chemistry at the University of St Andrews, agrees: “There are many doubtful passages and leaps of faith in the molecules-to-man evolutionary narrative scenario. The authoritarian attempts by old generation scientists to suppress discussion of alternatives are ill-advised and go against the open spirit of enquiry science should foster.”

Leaps of faith!  My irony meter just leapt off scale. Walton’s language is amusing – he’s using the language of church here.  Yes, there are gaps in our understanding of the pre-biotic world (which actually doesn’t really fall within the purview of evolutionary biology).  But at least some scientists are trying to construct hypotheses that offer an investigative route into understanding chemical events that may have occurred billions of years in Earth’s history.  What do the likes of Noble and Walton offer?  Merely intellectual cowardice and a desire to invoke a supernatural entity.  And as an aside, who, or what is that entity?  It’s notable that with very rare exceptions, ID supporters are fervent christians.  Noble and his C4ID triumvirate are clearly active christians (Noble is a lay preacher) – why don’t they come off the fence and identify their god as the designer?

Noble’s closing line is

“Dawkins argues that ID should not be taken seriously because its main protagonists are theists,” says Dr Noble. “But we don’t hear him arguing that by the same token evolution should not be taken seriously because its main protagonists are atheists.”

I would strongly suggest Dawkins’ position is really that ID creationism should not be taken seriously because it is an entirely unscientific enterprise. One might recommend that those persuaded that ID creationism is science might take a look at Why Intelligent Design doesn’t cut it: A Primer.  Again in this context, there’s an interesting article by James Williams (a Lecturer in Science Education), written following what sounds like an exhausting series of interviews alongside Alastair Noble for BBC local radio (Intelligent Design Creationism is not Science ).  I strongly recommend this account of the interview and Noble’s failure to grasp the objectives of the Intelligent Design Wedge Strategy.

Footnote: Personally, I am uncomfortable with the notion of legal prohibition of the teaching of anti-science in science classes, but frankly the disinenguity of proponents of ID creationism makes such a proposition increasingly attractive.

 

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Michael Gove: "no wackoidal theories"

Here’s a bizarre story from the Daily Express (Express.co.uk – Home of the Daily and Sunday Express | UK News :: Ex-spies to root out fanatics in classroom).  Seems as though Michael Gove is sufficiently worried about Islamic extremists that he’s established a gang of ex-MI5 agents to keep tabs on some of the products of his stupid Free Schools policy.

“I’ve been crystal clear we should not have schools set up by extremists whether they’re Christian fundamentalists,Islamic fundamentalists or any other sort of outrageous and beyond-the-pale organisation.  We’ve set up a unit within the Department explicitly to monitor anyone who comes forward with a proposal for extremism.  It’s more rigorous in the allocation of public money than any previous government department.  In the last government, we had money going to extremist groups that was supposed to go to fight terrorism. Now we have a unit in place to prevent that.”

I wonder how he classes the Everyday Champions; proposal for a Free School?  You know, the church that plans to run a school with seriously defective science education…

Mr Gove also said believers in fringe scientific movements such as “creationism” which rejects Darwin’s theory of evolution were banned from setting up schools.  He said: “I’m passionate about science and I’m determined to make sure our country becomes more cohesive. I’ve said we will not sign any funding agreements with these organisations.  More than that, we are reviewing the science curriculum, the national curriculum overall, to make sure there’s no space for the teaching of wackoidal theories.”

Mind you, the article does read more like a spoof news site than a national newspaper…what’s with the “…anyone who comes forward with a proposal for extremism” and “…there’s no space for the teaching of wackoidal theories”?  Did a Government minister really use the phrase “wackoidal theories?  And if that’s true, how come the Everyday Champions’ proposal got as far as an interview?

 

 

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