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A new visitor centre has opened at the Giant’s Causeway, after an earlier centre burnt down a few years ago. The Giant’s Causeway is an impressive site: thousands of basalt columns formed millions of years ago. Wikipedia has a succinct overview of the geological origins of the causeway:

Some 50 to 60 million years ago, during the Paleogene period, Antrim was subject to intense volcanic activity, when highly fluid molten basalt intruded through chalk beds to form an extensive lava plateau. As the lava cooled rapidly,contraction occurred. Horizontal contraction fractured in a similar way to drying mud, with the cracks propagating down as the mass cooled, leaving pillarlike structures, which are also fractured horizontally into “biscuits”. In many cases the horizontal fracture has resulted in a bottom face that is convex while the upper face of the lower segment is concave, producing what are called “ball and socket” joints. The size of the columns is primarily determined by the speed at which lava from a volcanic eruption cools. The extensive fracture network produced the distinctive columns seen today. The basalts were originally part of a great volcanic plateau called the Thulean Plateau which formed during the Paleogene period.

Giant’s Causeway (Wikipedia)

Unfortunately, news from Northern Ireland seems to be suggesting that the local evangelicals have got their teeth into the National Trust and have their ludicrous creationist misinformation incorporated in an audiovisual display. There’s little information as yet on how prominent this is, but it has the potential to be rather a shameful embarrassment for the National Trust. The Caleb Foundation (“Promoting the Fundamentals of the Historic Evangelical Protestant Faith”) are proudly proclaiming their success in inserting their dodgy version:

As an umbrella organisation which represents the interests of mainstream evangelical Christians in Northern Ireland,we have worked closely with the National Trust over many months with a view to ensuring that the new Causeway Visitor Centre includes an acknowledgement both of the legitimacy of the creationist position on the origins of the unique Causeway stones and of the ongoing debate around this. We are pleased that the National Trust worked positively with us and that this has now been included at the new Visitor Centre.

I’ve blogged previously about the Caleb Foundation -The Caleb FoundationMore creationism in Northern IrelandCreationist Claims in Northern Ireland (UTV News)Creationist claims in Northern Ireland (The Guardian), and the BCSE has a couple of articles about the Caleb Foundation – Part 1 and Part 2.

At this stage, it’s not clear quite how the evangelical and creationist viewpoint is projected, but it has received some media attention. Ulster TV reports Causeway centre gives creationist view. The National Trust come across as rather naive in that report:

The trust said that the exhibit gives recognition to the fact that, for creationists, the debate about the age of the Earth is still ongoing.

A statement read: “The Giants’ Causeway has always prompted debate about how it was formed and how old it is.

“One of the exhibits in the Giants’ Causeway Visitors’ Centre interpretation tells the story of the part the Giants’ Causeway played in the debate about how the Earth’s rocks were formed and the age of the Earth.

“This is an interactive audio exhibition in which visitors can hear some of the different debates from historical characters.

“In this exhibition we also acknowledge that for some people, this debate continues today and we reflect and respect the fact that creationists today have a different perspective on the age of the Earth from that of mainstream science.”

It appears that the Caleb Foundation “worked with” the National Trust to ensure that misinformation was presented at the Visitor Centre. This is potentially an astonishing and appalling lapse on the part of the National Trust.

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The British Humanist Association reveals why the Everyday Champions Church’s bid for a Free School was rejected (Everyday Champions Church Free School bid rejected due to creationism).  As the title of that blog article indicates, it was pretty much down to the ECC’s stance on creationism.  The Church’s leader, Pastor Gareth Morgan, made it pretty clear how the school planned to present creationism:

“Creationism will be taught as the belief of the leadership of the school,” Pastor Morgan said. “It will not be taught exclusively in the sciences, for example. At the same time, evolution will be taught as a theory.”

According to the BHA’s report:

The school’s bid was rejected on Monday, and the reason is now known. In having their bid rejected, the Church was told by the Department for Education that ‘The Secretary of State carefully considered your application, the views and beliefs of your organisation as set out in your application, your responses at interview and information about your organisation available in the public domain. He was unable to accept that an organisation with creationist beliefs could prevent these views being reflected in the teaching in the school and in its other activities. It is his firm view that the teaching of creationist views as a potentially valid alternative theory is not acceptable in a 21st century state funded school.’ The Church is now planning to re-apply for 2013, and is adamant that they would only teach the story of creation in RE.

It’s a little disheartening to hear that this bunch who clearly read the much (mis-) translated writings of a gang of bronze-age nomads as the literal truth of a supernatural entity are going to make a second bid to be allowed to interfere with the education of children.  Hopefully the next attempt won’t gain much more traction in the DfE.

Of course the wider issue here is that too many schools are faith schools of one kind or another.  I strongly support the BHA’s campaign against faith schools, though I fear in the current reactionary and socially conservative political scene it’s going to be an uphill battle.  See also the campaign to strengthen the prohibition of the teaching of creationism in science classes (Teach Evolution not Creationism).  In my view, the place for creationism  has its place in the curriculum: in Religious Education classes along with all the other creation myths that have been claimed over the millennia.

And as a postscript, the so-called Intelligent Design form of creationism is also not science.  It can propose no hypotheses, makes no testable predictions, and merely claims to infer the existence of an unproven supernatural entity.

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Hot on the heels of a Church of England faith school inviting a young earth creationist to present an alternative view of the origins of life and it’s diversity (which kick-started CrISIS), we have another example of a religious group with rather extreme views using a faith school to gain access to children (Schoolboy made to write ‘Sorry’ on piece of paper – then eat it – Parentdish).

This is pretty scary stuff – members of an evangelical church (the New Life Baptist Church) visited Ainderby Steeple  primary school, which is a Church of England school, for some sort of bizarre cultish event known as ‘Kidzone Roadshow’.  It’s reported that at least one child has been pretty seriously disturbed by the aggressive tosh being pushed by the evangelicals and, as in the case of the Exeter school, his parent got very little helpful response from the school’s head teacher when she complained:

[...] she complained to headteacher Fiona Sharp. She claims that when she confronted Miss Sharp over ­making pupils eat their ‘apologies to God’, written on rice paper, she was told: ‘That is what we do.’

Appallingly it seems that this isn’t a solitary example of such abuse of vulnerable children: the child was transferred to another school only to find the same religious crazies have a foothold there too.

Indeed, this may be quite widespread – the National Secular Society says it’s received several similar reports (Evangelical group made children “eat their sins”).  The vulnerability of faith schools to incursions from religious extremists seeking to indoctrinate children at an impressionable age is clear, and one further argument for the elimination of faith schools.

 

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Here’s a detailed overview from the National Secular Society about the latest claims of victimisation of Christians (Christian Legal Centre goes into bully mode as doctor claims religious persecution) that I blogged about recently.  Apparently the doctor’s practice requires to to actively opt-out from their evangelising.  This is even openly stated on an NHS website.  Isn’t that in itself something for the GMC to investigate?

 

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The Telegraph outlines a case where a Kent GP pushes christianity at his patients (Doctors can be Christians, too) – the mother or one of his patients objected to his pushing his religion:

All he did was to share his conviction that a commitment to the Christian religion could be one element that contributed to a recovery from illness (my emphasis). If the patients objected, or made it clear that they did not like the turn of the conversation, he dropped the topic.

The dear old Telegraph appears to think this complaint is unreasonable – at least if the GMC plan to take action, which they appear to.  It isn’t, the actions of this GP seem to me to be unreasonable – at least if the Telegraph’s report is in any way accurate.  Any road, (according to the Freethinker) the GP is apparently refusing to accept censure by the GMC and is taking the case to the Christian Legal Centre (the people who appear to have inexhaustible funds to support unwinnable cases on behalf of aggrieved christians) – though there’s no mention of their website.  That’ll be the end of that, I guess.

It doesn’t stop the Telegraph from spouting the irritating old canard that christians are unfairly treated in comparison to other religions.

Yawn.  This isn’t a case of someone professing a faith and being punished for it.  It’s actually a case of someone acting unprofessionally – to claim that a commitment to christianity (and presumably not any of the other odd belief systems in the world) aids recovery is, it seems to me, most unwise as medical advice!

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If you're not religious, say so in the 2011 UK census!

The British Humanist Association has been campaigning for UK citizens to accurately respond to the census question on religion.

Why should I answer the question at all? Well, this is a personal thing and I wouldn’t pressurise people into any specific answer or none.  But census data get used for all sorts of policy decisions, among them the role of religion in our everyday lives.  What tends to happen is that people confuse the cultural heritage with religious beliefs they do not hold to.

Why does it matter? The BHA has prepared a concise summary of how the 2001 census data on religious belief were used (or misused may be closer to reality.  We should not be logging ourselves as Jedi Knights as some kind or prank.  We should not say we are christian if we not longer practice the faith.  We should be upfront and truthful about our religious faith.

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Season’s greetings to the victimised former Archbishop

The Rev Dr Peter Hearty of the excellent ‘Platitude of the Day‘ website is clearly concerned that former Archbish Carey is rather upset at the (supposed) continued victimisation of christians in the UK*.  He thinks we should send Christmas cards to the poor old soul.

It’s been suggested that Lord Carey deserves a response to his Not Ashamed campaign. He’s obviously feeling a bit down, what with all this Christian persecution that’s going on. I think the idea of sending him a Season’s Greetings card, perhaps with a picture of some jolly penguins or some reindeer on the front, is an excellent way of cheering the old chap up.

Click over to Platitude of the day for more…and don’t be mean!

I think I may well just do the same…and I’m sure Lord Carey, ensconced in the House of Lords with the others who are there merely because they are senior figures of the Church of England will enjoy all those seasonal sentiments and images.

*Of course, not everyone agrees that there is any persecution.  The Bishop of Croydon disagrees (Bishop bashes Christian persecution complex).

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Paul Sims of the New Humanist magazine takes aim once again at the Noah’s Ark zoo (as featured on this blog also) in the Guardian: Creationists seek to insert their own brand of ‘truth’ into education.

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Just a quick note to observe the report over at the National Secular Society site regarding the likely expansion of faith schools under Michael Gove (Michael Gove in religious schools rethink | National Secular Society).  Turns out that our Education Secretary’s grand vision of widespread secession of academies from local authority control has been less successful than he had intended.  To try and rescue this situation, it appears that Mr Gove plans to relax the 50% rule, which meant that 50% of the pupils in a faith-based academy must be from other (or presumably no) faiths.

This is pretty outrageous, and one wonders whether Mr Gove watched Richard Dawkins’ excellent broadcast the other week (More 4) on the dangers of faith schools.  I imagine that even if he did, it would be ignored in the big push to roll out all those Tory policies that have been waiting in the wings since 1997.

 

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More grumblings from Christian Concern for Our Nation (More registrars under pressure due to homosexual civil partnerships – CCFON.org – Christian Concern For Our Nation), who seem to suffer from the delusion that their religious beliefs entitle them to discriminate against specific sectors of our population (thereby breaking the law).  Unfortunately the CCfON website doesn’t have a commenting facility.  CCfON write (my emphasis):

The investigation follows the case of Lillian Ladele, a registrar working for Islington Council who refused to conduct civil partnership ceremonies because they were against her Christian beliefs. She had also tried to change her rotas but homosexual colleagues complained and she later had to resign. She lost her claim for discrimination last December when the Court of Appeal ruled that her refusal to conduct civil partnership ceremonies breached equality laws

Of course this is taken as a “religious bar to office” by the Christian Legal Centre.  I say being Christian doesn’t bring with it the right to discriminate. I guess it’s all part of the “victim culture” that seems to be UK christians’ main plank in the argument that they should continue to receive favoured status in society.

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