May 2012

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I came across a credulous (or scientifically illiterate) article in The American Spectator (a conservative journal I’d never heard of before): Intelligent Design at the University Club. It’s by a journalist I’d never heard of before, Tom Bethell. It seems that Bethell attended a lecture by Stephen Meyer and organised by Socrates in the City, at which Meyer repeated his bizarre and unscientific proposition that DNA indicates that a creator designer must have initiated life on earth (see my review of Signature in the Cell). In my view it’s illustrative of the shortcomings of ID creationists. Bethell appears to have interviewed Meyer after his talk, the result being a farrago of pro-ID tosh, including this outline of the dear old Centre for Intelligent Design:

Internationally, ID is also growing. There’s a new Centre for Intelligent Design in London (C4ID). Affiliated with it is Norman Nevin, one of the leading geneticists in the UK. A number of full professors of science within the British system are also affiliated. The Centre has teamed up with Discovery Institute for various events.

Oh, a number of full professors of science are on board?  Not enough to make an impact on the literature, I guess. And while Norman Nevin is an emeritus Professor of medical genetics, he apparently delivers sermons espousing Young Earth Creationism. Of course, a general pattern in proponents of Intelligent Design proponents is that they are either (a) have no biological research experience (if indeed they have any qualification in science) or (b) hold strongly religious beliefs, or sometimes both. It’s quite clear that those qualities are entirely appropriate in pushing a re-branded form of creationism masquerading as science. And the triumvirate running C4ID clearly fall into that description. Nice to see that the C4ID, which is independent from the Discotute, has indeed teamed up with them for several events. But of course, C4ID isn’t based in London at all. But its output is almost all reheated Discotute material.

What are Bethell’s qualifications to push Intelligent Design creationism? Let’s look at Wikipedia for some clues.

Tom Bethell (born July 17, 1940) is a journalist who writes mainly on economic and scientific issues, and is known for his support of the market economy, political conservatism, and fringe science. He says that neither evolution nor intelligent design is falsifiable.

Bit of a flag there – “writes mainly on economic and scientific issues” – “support of […] fringe science” – “says that neither evolution nor intelligent design is falsifiable”.  According to Wikipedia he’s an HIV denialist. Whatever. His grasp of science seems shaky.

 

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The British Humanist Association has a useful overview of recent bids for faith-based Free Schools (Creationist Free School bids rejected before interview as other ‘faith’ schools advance to interviews). The article seems fairly upbeat about the failure of several bids from groups clearly planning to teach creationism as an alternative to scientific reality. 

Bids to set up creationist Free Schools have been rejected by the Department for Education (DfE). In particular, the DfE have turned down a high-profile bid from Sheffield Christian Free School, which would have been affiliated to the Christian Schools’ Trust (CST) network of largely creationist private schools. The British Humanist Association (BHA) has welcomed the news; however, at least 15 other proposals to open ‘faith’ schools in 2013 have advanced to the interview stage.

The fate of several specific bids for creationist Free Schools is summarised in the article:

I share the BHA’s concern about the general tendency for diverse and factional religiously motivated Free School proposals to be made. I also have a worry about school bids with a focus on barmpottery (as David Colquhoun puts it) suchas the three Steiner schools which have progressed in the application process. 

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That hotbed of UK Intelligent Design creationism and Discovery Institute wannabees, the Centre for Intelligent Design (C4ID) has been sending out publicity for another meeting at which Intelligent Design creationism will feature. C4ID Director Dr Alastair Noble enthusiastically writes:

I write to draw your attention to a fascinating conference on Design in Nature being organised by the Philosophy of Religion section of the Tyndale Fellowship in Cambridge.

Here is the doctrinal position of the Tyndale Fellowship Philosophy of Religion Section- very focussed on christianity – as is their Mission Statement. It is reportedly an academic society associated with Tyndale House, a residential biblical study centre in Cambridge.

Stephen Meyer and Steve Fuller will present aspects of Intelligent Design and the other speakers will explore some philosophical implications of the Design Argument. Details of the day and of the talks can be found at  www.tyndalephilosophy.org.uk/events. Information about booking is also available there.

Part of the background to this conference is the C4ID Inaugural Lecture given in London last November by Stephen Meyer which stimulated Tyndale Philosophy to follow up that event with a day conference to explore some key philosophical implications of the ancient question of Design in Nature and the re-emergence of Intelligent Design.

I wonder what’s meant by the re-emergence of Intelligent Design? Maybe that refers to a resurgence of ID twaddle in the UK and the establishment of C4ID, after the Kitzmiller case saw a pretty definitive slap-down for ID creationism in the USA back in 2005.

This will be a significant day conference, dealing with contemporary and controversial issues. I would urge you to attend.

In addition to Stephen Meyer and Steve Fuller, two other speakers are taking part, Stephen Clark (Emeritus Professor, Liverpool) and David Glass (University of Ulster). None of the four speakers appear to be biologists, which is about par for the course for this sort of event (though when I read the email, I wondered if the conference organisers were mounting their own version of Project Steve!).  This seems to be another of these events intent on convincing participants that there is any kind of controversy about evolution.  Other than in their own little world, of course – biologists just continue on their merry way working within the context of evolutionary biology and for the most part ignore these peripheral and generally religiously motivated voices arguing for a celestial designer.

Alastair Noble rounds off his email with another exhortation to buy the entirely risible pseudo-textbook “Explore Evolution”:

P.S. There is probably no other book on the market like Explore Evolution!  Click here to view a full-colour summary of  the book which will help you make up your own mind, from the scientific evidence, about the adequacy of Darwinism to explain the development and complexity of life.

Noble is probably correct when he says “There is probably no other book on the market like Explore Evolution!“, and for that we really ought to be grateful. You may recall that Explore Evolution was previously distributed by the very oddly and inaccurately named Truth in Science. There is a brief review of this short book by the BCSE, a lengthier deconstruction by the NCSE, and a review in the academic journal Evolution & Development. Suffice it to say, Explore Evolution is a deeply deceptive and dishonest treatment of the subject.  For Alastair Noble to peddle this misinformation is a poor show, and particularly so when he targets it at school students (as he has done in recent emails). Remember, he has a past (and possibly current) role as Education Officer with CARE – the Contact Us page for CARE in Scotland lists Alastair Noble as Education Officer.

Returning to the C4ID publicised meeting, it seems to have developed from the Meyer lecture back in November last year, which has attracted the attention of the Tyndale Fellowship.  It’s interesting to note that it’s to be held at the Tyndale Fellowship Philosophy of Religion Section (see links to their doctrinal position above).  Not bad for a supposedly scientific alternative to the rigorously investigated and experimentally supported science of Evolutionary Biology.

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