Discotute mask slips

P Z Myers amuses me with his latest Pharyngula posting on Intelligent Design creationism: The Discovery Institute’s mask just slipped a bit more. The post includes a video from the Discovery Institute’s Stephen Meyer, who pontificates away about the existence of his god/creator. Meyer repeats once more the silly misrepresentations of Signature in the Cell, and really comes of the fence. Once more the Discotute claims that Intelligent Design creationism is science slip further away. As Myers says:

It’s been settled for a long time, but this is one more nail in the coffin: Intelligent Design is simply a front for religious pitchmen. And not just any religion, but far right Christianity.

I note that the video is linked with (produced by) Focus on the Family, and its “The Truth Project”. I somehow doubt their definition of Truth accords with mine.

A March miscellany

Here’s a miscellany of stories from around the web. Apologies for the inaction at this blog of late.

C4ID peddle paranoia in Shetland.

The BCSE blog occasionally features items under the banner Creation Watch. A recent report () details an event organised in Shetland by Glasgow’s very own Discotute wannabees, the Centre for Intelligent Design (C4ID). The event appears to have emphasised the bizarre blend of paranoia, religious fervour and bad science that characterises the Intelligent Design brand of creationism. Fortunately, a rational and scientifically educated BCSE member was able to attend and report back on the event. His/her concluding remarks are interesting:

The Q & A session finished with the elderly man thanking Noble for joining us [massive round of applause] and he encouraged us to visit the local Christian bookstore and express our own interest in having Dr. Noble return for another talk to answer our many questions. This explains why The Centre for Intelligent Design was in Shetland, they were invited by the church-goers!

I don’t feel Dr. Noble really answered anyone’s questions. He talked, a lot, and very loudly, but there was no real substance to his words. Surprisingly no one asked “Who or what is responsible for this intelligent designing?”. I wanted to but I did not feel comfortable enough to ask and Noble’s previous lack of really answering anyone else’s questions led me to believe he would not answer mine either. His loud confrontational tone of voice and his obvious contempt for real science really put me off.

Not once was a god mentioned, although there was a large display of Christian books available to buy.

I left with the same unanswered question. There was no ‘unlocking of the mysteries of life’ unless I was willing to believe some yet unnamed intelligent mind designed it based on inference. I felt the topic was shifted from the realms of science to another department entirely, the realms of religion.

There doesn’t appear to have been much new here from C4ID, they are just peddling the tired old canards of ID creationism. Apparently they are trying to get the BBC to broadcast the dodgy creationist video Unlocking the Mystery of Life. I don’t think replacing rational investigation with supernatural ‘explanation’ unlocks any mysteries whatsoever. Good luck with that, Dr Noble.

Stephen Meyer writes again

It appears from an article at Panda’s Thumb that Stephen Meyer, one of the architects of the Wedge Strategy, has penned another book. This time Meyer tackles the so-called Cambrian Explosion. Having ploughed through his Signature in the Cell (see No Signature in the Cell), I’m in no hurry to read more of Meyer’s religiously-inspired writing. Apparently it’s going to be entitled Darwin’s Doubt, though I suspect that Stephen Meyer’s Doubt may be a better title. The Wedge Strategy, of course, outlines the Discovery Institute’s game plan for replacing science with religion and gives the lie to the Discotute’s assertion that Intelligent Design isn’t merely a rebranding of creationism.

I suppose this book is why the Discotute was soliciting pictures of the Burgess Shale (An amusing exchange between a Discotute employee and a Geology professor).


I posted recently about a takedown of ENCODE’s claims regarding junk DNA (Takedown of ENCODE’s claims that 80% of the human genome is functional). Further publications have now emerged – see Larry Moran’s summary at Sandwalk (Ford Doolittle’s Critique of ENCODE) which hangs on a recent paper by Doolittle in PNAS (Doolittle, W.F. (2013) Is junk DNA bunk? A critique of ENCODE. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. (USA) an advance online publication on March 11, 2013. [doi: 10.1073/pnas.1221376110]).

Academic publisher suckered by Intelligent Design creationists

I noticed this story at the Panda’s Thumb developing over the last few days: Springer gets suckered by creationist pseudoscience – The Panda’s Thumb

It looks like some creationist engineers found a way to slither some ID/creationism into a major academic publisher, Springer. The major publishers have enough problems at the moment (e.g. see the Elsevier boycott), it seems like the last thing they should be doing is frittering away their credibility even further by uncritically publishing creationist work and giving it a veneer of respectability. The mega-publishers are expensive, are making money off of largely government-funded work provided to them for free, and then the public doesn’t even have access to it. The only thing they have going for them is quality control and credibility – if they give that away to cranks, there is no reason at all to support them.

The comments at Panda’s Thumb are rather informative:

  • The book is a conference proceedings, but not in the biological sciences
  • The conference was held in rooms rented from Cornell, but not promoted by Cornell or its academic community
  • The participants’ names are secret
  • Attendance was invitation only
  • At least one of the volume editors appears to be a creationist of the young earth variety

It would seem that Springer may be having second thoughts: the notification of this volume has now disappeared from their website.

This all seems to be part of the Wedge Strategy to gain apparent endorsement by the academic world. Similar conferences have been documented in ‘Creationism’s Trojan Horse‘.  Indeed similar strategies appear to be endorsed by C4ID, who’s conferences may only be attended by those sympathetic to ID creationism, and who recently organised a lecture in London by Stephen Meyer at which the names of those attending have been kept confidential.

UPDATE: There’s an update to this story at Panda’s Thumb. The story is also covered at Inside Higher Ed.

An evening with the Centre for Intelligent Design: why I didn’t attend.

Back in September, I received a plain envelope at my work address.  In it was an invitation to attend an event in Whitehall, London.  This invitation from Lord Mackay of Clashfern, was for an'”Evening lecture and supper with Dr Stephen Meyer”, which would feature a “careful presentation of the ‘fiendishly difficult’ problem of the origin of life and the evidence for intelligent design”, and was held on 17th November.  I’ve obscured my name from the image below (click the image for a larger version).

Interestingly, the front of the invitation was a little coy about the organisers.  It did surprise me that Lord Mackay, one of the more outstanding lawyers of the 20th Century (according to Wikipedia) would take an interest in intelligent design creationism.  But Lord Mackay was a member of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland until a rumpus developed following his attendance at a Roman Catholic colleague’s funeral.  From Wikipedia:

Lord Mackay of Clashfern is also remembered for an incident when he, an elder of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, attended the funeral Masses of two close Roman Catholic friends. On one of these occasions, Lord Mackay attended in his role as Lord Advocate as the deceased was a member of the judiciary. This was considered a grave offence by the Free Presbyterian Church authorities and he was suspended from church office, bringing about a split and the formation of Associated Presbyterian Church in 1989, which supported greater “liberty of conscience”.

Notably, the triumvirate  behind C4ID hold strongly religious views, and at least one is a lay preacher.

All is made clear on the reverse of the invitation, where the Centre for Intelligent Design logo is prominently displayed.  And indeed the accompanying letter is headed with the C4ID logo.  All attendees are to be blessed with a copy of Meyer’s book ‘Signature in the Cell’.

Bizarrely (as you can see), the reverse of the invitation uses a piece of puffery from  Thomas Nagel, Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy at New York University.  This, rather than being derived from an actual review of the book (which, it might be suggested, a Professor of Law and of Philosophy might not be best equipped to deliver) was actually Nagel’s submission to the Times Literary Supplement 2009 Books of the Year.

I haven’t read Meyer’s book, so receiving a copy would have been interesting.  I have, however, read a number of articles about the book, both supportive and dismissive (particularly those who take issue with Meyer’s (mis)use of information theory), together with a number of Meyer’s articles.  Most of these are un-refereed book chapters, though a recent review paper has appeared in the Biologic Institute house ‘journal’ BIO-Complexity (of which, more later in this article).  As an aside, the Discovery Institute has released a brief publication entitled ‘Signature of Controversy‘, which is a response to the many criticisms of Signature in the Cell and very largely figures the rather abusive and puerile writing of one David Klinghoffer.

It would seem that the topic of the lecture (entitled “Is there a signature in the cell?”) principally relates to the origins of life, and in particular, it would seem to relate to the difficulty Meyer has in understanding how the genetic code was able to arise in the first place.  Of course, once organisms with heritable genetic material were present on Earth, normal and well understood evolutionary processes would have given rise to the diversity of life on the planet.  I don’t suppose that is something Meyer subscribes to, since he is one of the principal architects (and an author) of the Wedge Strategy– the duplicitous strategy that aimed to supplant evolution with creationism by an extensive rebranding exercise.  The scheme came a little unstuck when the Dover school board in Pennsylvania, which was at the time influenced by creationists, attempted to force Intelligent Design into science classrooms.  The subsequent trial (Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District) ruled that Intelligent Design was a rebranding of creationism, that it was not a scientific approach and that teaching it in American schools was unconstitutiomal.  This judgement forced the Discovery Institute onto the back foot.  More recently, the Centre for Intelligent Design was established in the UK, based in Glasgow, apparently to regurgitate the DI line.

The Centre for Intelligent Design makes much of the supposition that only intelligence can bring about ‘information’.  Unfortunately from their point of view, increase (and decrease) in gene number and genome size are clearly observable, not only by comparative genomics studies of a wide variety of taxa, but by direct observation of within species genome variation. What’s more, those of us engaged in laboratory genetics are well aware of the kinds of genome changes that can occur even within the timescale of laboratory work.

In contrast to the ongoing efforts of science, one of the hallmarks of Intelligent Design creationism is that they don’t conduct novel research aimed at proving the existence of design.  How can they? – ID isn’t science and makes no testable predictions. What ID creationists do is to focus on individual cases where they assert evolutionary biology cannot explain how some feature arose (usually by claiming “irreducible complexity” or some such tosh) and claim that if evolution wasn’t responsible, intelligent design is the only alternative – a pretty dubious way of claiming evidence for ID.  Unfortunately for the likes of Michael Behe, each time one of these assertions is made, those pesky scientists come along and knock it down.  Examples include the bacterial flagellum and the vertebrate immune system.  The rather wonderful Nova TV documentary about Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District I linked to the other day (US TV Documentary – Judgment Day: Intelligent Design On Trial) demolishes those two canards of intelligent design creationism in a very accessible fashion.

From what I’d read of Meyer’s written output, it seemed likely that Meyer’s tack would be to claim that the probability of the appearance of a genetic code that enabled life to begin is so vanishingly small that it must have been designed.  What I have noted is a paper by Meyer (with his colleage  Paul A. Nelson) in the Biologic Institute house ‘journal’ BIO-Complexity.  The Biologic Institute is funded by the Discovery Institute and really fits the Wedge Strategy as an attempt to portray ID as a scientific discipline, largely by playing at science.  BIO-Complexity is an example: an apparently above-board journal website with quite specific aims:

BIO-Complexity is a peer-reviewed scientific journal with a unique goal. It aims to be the leading forum for testing the scientific merit of the claim that intelligent design (ID) is a credible explanation for life. Because questions having to do with the role and origin of information in living systems are at the heart of the scientific controversy over ID, these topics—viewed from all angles and perspectives—are central to the journal’s scope.

(I note that Kluwer, a respectable scientific publisher, originally planned a journal called Biocomplexity: its launch issue was cancelled due to a lack of submissions.  I don’t think this should be confused with the Biologic Institute creation.)  BIO-Complexity’s editorial board comprises a disparate collection of people who support Intelligent Design creationism or, it would seem in some cases, a more conventional young earth creationism.  To date, and through two years of publishing, only a handful of publications have been made.  And these are derived from members of the editorial board, and largely include members of the Discovery and Biologic Institutes (vanity publishing?).

Meyer and Nelson’s recent publication in BIO-complexity is really an objection to the work of Yarus and colleagues modelling how an RNA world could have come into being.  It’s not really a research paper, and kind of fits the ID strategy of knocking down science with the intention of allowing an ID ‘explanation’ to fill the gap.  This would be in keeping with Meyer and Nelson’s expertise (Meyer qualified as an earth scientist and has a PhD in Philosophy of science, while Nelson similarly has a PhD in Philosophy): Nelson appears in the past to have held young earth creationist views.

My particular scientific field is not related to the origins of life, and it’s always seemed to me that figuring out how life began on Earth is particularly challenging, especially as our understanding of likely pre-biotic conditions changes periodically. Nevertheless, the scientific approach is to try and figure out plausible hypotheses: if Meyer and Nelson have bona fide concerns about Yarus’ hypotheses, I’d be the last to censor them.  I’d be even happier if Meyer and Nelson had the science background sufficient to set up their own experimental programme.

An email communication from C4ID a week or so before the lecture said in part (the comment is mine):

At the request of some guests and to encourage open discussion, we wish to conduct the evening with a modification of the Chatham House Rule as follows:  Guests are free to report, formally or informally, on the content of the lecture, the nature of the issues raised at question time, and the identities of the host, lecturer and representatives of the Centre for Intelligent Design.  However the identities of all the other guests who attend and who may contribute to the debate should not be revealed unless specific permission is given by them to do so. [ It’s hard to see how the planned release of video recording of the event could avoid identifying attendees if they questioned the speaker] We thank you for respecting our wishes in this matter.

Quite what significance (if any) this holds I don’t know.  But one interpretation might be that attendance from individuals outside the obvious ID creationism circles was looking low, and the organisers felt this statement might encourage them to come along.  In the end, I chose not to attend, not because I have scientific objections to hearing Meyer’s message, but because I object to the Discovery Institute’s working methods, its deceptive Wedge strategy (of which Meyer is an author), and that attendance might be taken as offering support to ID creationism (despite C4ID’s intention that attendee identity be kept secret). I did not want to add apparent legitimacy to ID creationism my my attendance, even though my attendance would have been as a private individual rather than as a representative of my employer. Finally, I don’t believe that lectures delivered to lay audiences are the most effective way of communicating science (or, in the case of ID creationism, pseudoscience): I would much rather read the technical literature. Unfortunately, Intelligent Design creationists are unable to generate research of the kind that would find its way into the science literature.


Intelligent Design strategies

Barbara Forrest has published an interesting article on the absurd pro-creationist Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA) (Respect Requires Repeal | Louisiana Progress). Forrest has a particularly strong track record in exposing the antics of creationists in the USA and was an expert witness in the famous 2005 Dover trial, which exposed Intelligent Design as a cynical scam intended to circumvent constitutional prohibition of religious teaching in US schools. Since 2005, the push to include creationist teaching has become rather nuanced, with legislation couched in ‘codewords’ which to the unaware can sound entirely reasonable.  For example, as Forrest observes:

The LSEA permits teachers to use “supplementary” materials in order to promote “critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.”

Recent anti-science legislation in the US (rarely successful, except in Louisana) revolves around including weaselly code words like “critical thinking” (which means the opposite – uncritical acceptance of biblical passages), “teaching the controversy”, “strengths and weaknesses of evolution”, and now “academic freedom”.  But what’s this got to do with the UK? I was quite struck by Forrest’s comment that

Virtually every significant creationism outbreak in the United States since 1999 has been the product of DI’s [DI is the Discovery Institute] aggressive execution of its “Wedge Strategy” for getting intelligent design into public schools. Typically, DI operatives arrive on the scene after local Religious Right groups do the initial spadework, a pattern that DI followed in Louisiana, where its proxy, the LFF, had promoted creationism for a decade.

A recent development in the UK has been the establishment of the Centre for Intelligent Design in Glasgow.  I’ve blogged several times about this outfit, and its rather shallow attempt to portray Intelligent Design as some kind of scientific theory.  But if we look at the three main figures at C4ID, we see a particular religious focus.

Dr Alastair Noble, C4ID’s Director, holds a PhD in chemistry and has considerable experience as a teacher (and has held numerous posts in relation to teaching).  From the BCSE website:

Noble is an elder of the Cartsbridge Evangelical Church in Glasgow (see http://www.cartsbridgechurch.com) and a lay preacher.[…] He is also Educational Consultant to (and former Education Officer of) CARE in Scotland.  […] CARE describes itself as “a well-established mainstream Christian charity providing resources and helping to bring Christian insight and experience to matters of public policy and practical caring initiatives. CARE is represented in the UK Parliaments and Assemblies, at the EU in Brussels and the UN in Geneva and New York.”

Alastair Noble is the most visible face of C4ID.  However there is a President (Professor Norman Nevin) and a Vice President (Dr David Galloway), though Professor Nevin and Dr Galloway seem to keep a rather lower media profile than their Director.

Professor Norman Nevin OBE, the President of C4ID, is a retired medical geneticist.  As far as BCSE can find out, he is a biblical literalist:

BCSE has done a considerable amount of research on Professor Nevin’s position on creationism; it suggests that he is basically a hard line Biblical literalist. We’ve presented the evidence on our bog at http://bcseweb.blogspot.com/search/label/Nevin. It also suggests that he has some severe shortcomings in his knowledge of the science he seems to use to back up his creationist position.

Professor Nevin is an elder in the largest Brethren church in Northern Ireland (the Crescent Church in Belfast – see http://www.iguidez.com/Belfast/crescent_church/). It’s large by any British standards and is believed to have a capacity of some 2,000 people.

Dr David Galloway is, in addition to being Vice President of C4ID, a surgeon and the Vice President of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.  He’s a member of the Lennox Evangelical Church in Dumbarton.  According to the BCSE,

This church is about as fundamentalist as they get and openly promotes young earth creationism to children. It links to this web site – http://www.creationscience.com/onlinebook/index.html – which looks to be dedicated to promoting the work of young earth creationist Walt Brown.

Having said that, Dr Galloway’s website has a comprehensive (if incomprehensible to this reader) set of pages devoted to denying that life may have originated through natural processes and species evolved, again through natural processes.

So we have a trio of very religious individuals (from an evangelical and/or fundamentalist background), at least two of whom openly espouse creationism (I include Intelligent Design as creationism), running an outfit supposedly pushing a concept which they claim is not a creationist or religious concept, but one of science.

So, what’s this got to do with Forrest’s essay?  Well, Forrest’s observation that in promoting a creationist agenda, “Typically, DI operatives arrive on the scene after local Religious Right groups do the initial spadework” caught my eye.  Is this what’s happening in the UK?  I’ve blogged previously about the upcoming C4ID Summer School, to be held in what look to be rather splendid premises owned and run by the Elim Pentecostalists.  Looking at the instructors, one immediately notes the paucity of biologists – only two appeared to be biologists, and one of those is from the Discovery Institute.  Is this the beginning of the appearance of “DI Operatives” and their UK equivalents?

Once the summer school has been held, those of us outside the UK creationist and ID camp will no doubt find it hard to discover what went on at the summer school, as the application requirements are in places rather restrictive:

Applicants should be able to demonstrate an interest in and commitment to the design argument. One purpose of the school is to build a network of emerging professionals across the disciplines who are conversant with the arguments for intelligent design. Because of professional sensitivities, participation in the conference will be handled in strict confidence and with anonymity.

At the risk of offending the C4ID triumvirate, perhaps they are doing “the spadework”, and gearing up to invite “DI Operatives”, while at the same time building up a network of professionals that will be working behind the scenes to promote Intelligent Design creationism.  A secret network, by the sound of it.  All very George Smiley.

The Edinburgh Science Festival, Creationism and the Centre for Intelligent Design

The 21st Floor has a review by Keir Liddle of a debate on the creeping of creationism into schools, held as part of the Edinburgh Science Festival (EdSciFest: Creeping Creationism) – unfortunately I no longer reside there and couldn’t come along, but one of my BCSE colleagues Paul Braterman was there to take part in the event.  Keir’s take was that the evidence that creationism was encroaching into Scottish schools remains unproven.  This may be so, but there are indeed worrying developments nationally (see for example Creationism in an Exeter School).

It turns out that Dr Alastair Noble of the Centre for Intelligent Design was in the audience, and has penned a response to the debate, which can be read at the C4ID website (Creeping Creationism or Galloping Intolerance at the Edinburgh Science Festival?).  Noble complains that:

One speaker – a member of the Glasgow “Brights” compared “creationists” and “intelligent design proponents” to “Holocaust deniers” – a claim as silly as it is scandalous.

Actually, in my view it’s not scandalous.  It would have been had the accusation been that believers in ID creationism were anti-semites or Nazis, but really the statement isn’t that unreasonable.  The existence of the attempted genocide of the Jews by the Nazi German state is pretty incontrovertible (and generally uncontroversial).  There is plenty of documentary and physical evidence to support the existence not only of the “Final Solution”, but of the means by which it was to be achieved.

What I imagine was being said here (and I’d like to hear from those who were there) was that creationists (and I lump those who believe in the hopelessly unscientific ID version of creationism in that term) are essentially in denial of an enormous body of evidence that has been accumulated since “On the Origin of Species” was published over a century and a half ago.  To deny this body of evidence is akin to saying that because there aren’t any ancient Romans in Britain we were never conquered by the Romans.  Or, indeed, like those holocaust deniers who argue that the attempted genocide of the Jews never happened, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

I must call Noble on this statement:

Firstly, no matter how often it is asserted, intelligent design is not creationism.  The latter is a religious position; the former a minimal commitment to intelligent causation based on empirical evidence.  I know this is uncomfortable to the humanists, but if they wish to enter this debate they need to know what they are talking about.

Intelligent Design isn’t even Bad Science…it’s not science.  Intelligent Design is a parody of science devised by American creationists to circumvent constitutional prohibition of religious teaching in American schools. Given that the three main figures in C4ID (Noble, Nevin and Galloway) appear to have a particular evangelical religious viewpoint, it would be attractive to know exactly who or what they believe to be the “Designer”.

Alastair Noble may continue to proclaim that C4ID is not going to target schools, but given his roles in Scottish education, is this a stance that is likely to be maintained?  As Keir Liddle points out:

I’m not sure what Nobles definition of “targeting” is but I would include sending resources to schools perhaps falls under it… More research is needed to find out where these materials are being sent and where they are being used – only then will we know the true extent of the problem (or not) of creeping creationism in Scottish Schools.

Noble goes on to write:

If a scientific finding, like the vast banks of functional information in DNA (“the genetic code”), lacks a credible evolutionary explanation, as it does, the alternative of a source in intelligent mind must, at least, be worthy of consideration.  That’s the wholly scientific approach of making an inference to the best explanation – and one that is known to have similar explanatory power elsewhere, as, for example, in the generation of computer software or print media.  Now that’s getting to the heart of intelligent design, without invoking any faith position.

I think Alastair Noble (who has a doctorate in Chemistry) really needs to bone up on his biology if he takes seriously the view that the functional “information” in DNA lacks a credible evolutionary explanation.  he goes on:

If the science of origins cannot be debated freely in schools or anywhere else, then it’s not creeping creationism we should be concerned about, but galloping intolerance.

The science of the origins and evolution of life on Earth should be debated freely.  Unfortunately for Noble and C4ID, the crucial word there is science.  Given the origins of Intelligent Design creationism, its failure to make testable predictions, and its complete inadequacy as an means for explaining the diversity of life, it has no place in science education, or in any educational venue that seeks to propose it as science.

UK Centre for Intelligent Design organises first events

In a new post on their website Darwin or Design?, Britain’s own newly established Centre for Intelligent Design is pushing a speaking tour by intelligent design proponent Michael Behe.  This may well be the first action taken by Alastair Noble’s new venture.  According to Inspire Magazine, Michael Behe will be giving a series of lectures:

Behe’s Darwin or Design? What Does the Science Really Say? tour runs from 20-27 November and will comprise evening lectures at the Babbage Lecture Theatre in Cambridge and the Caledonian University in Glasgow, plus events in London, Belfast and Leamington/Warwick. He will also be the main speaker at a day conference (27 November) at Oxford Brookes University.

The tour is organised by the UK-based Centre for Intelligent Design, which exists to promote the public understanding of ID.

Behe’s testimony in the famous Dover v Kitzmiller case in the USA was equally famously shredded.  At the time I blooged about the establishment of the UK Centre for Intelligent Design, I wondered what they had the (then unused) http://www.darwinordesign.org.uk URL for – now we know.  The Oxford date is a day conference:

The day conference in Oxford on Saturday November 27th will deal with the range of scientific evidences for design in genetics and cellular biology and with some of the philosophical issues associated with intelligent design.  Other contributors to the conference will include Dr Geoff Barnard, formerly of Cambridge University’s School of Veterinary Science, and Steve Fuller, Professor of Sociology at Warwick University and an expert in the history and philosophy of science.

The lucky participants will receive a DVD. The British Centre for Science Education has a brief outlines of Geoff Barnard (an academic in the field of veterinary medicine) and Steve Fuller (a sociologist), both of whom appear to be Intelligent Design proponents. Interestingly, Fuller gave evidence at the Dover v Kitzmiller case.  The DVD that participants in the Oxford day conference receive is entitle “Unlocking the Mystery of Life“, and is made by Illustra Media, who describe themselves thus:

llustra Media produces video documentaries that examine the scientific case for intelligent design. Working with Discovery Institute and an international team of scientists and scholars (including Michael Behe, Guillermo Gonzalez, Stephen Meyer, and Lee Strobel), Illustra has helped define both the scientific case for design and the limitations of materialistic processes like Darwinian evolution. These documentaries include Unlocking the Mystery of Life, The Privileged Planet and Darwin’s Dilemma.

Clearly this enterprise represents an escalation in the UK of the wedge strategy so beloved of the Discovery Institute.

Discovery Institute takes the wedge strategy to UK schools

The British Centre for Science Education reports that Truth in Science (?) Issue Creationist Text Book to UK Schools.

Interestingly, one of the authors of this book, Explore Evolution,  is the same Stephen Meyer who’s book Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design was so enthusiastically reviewed by Alastair Noble, proponent of Intelligent Design.  The three authors are all Discovery Institute members; the book itself is published by the creationist run Hill House Publishers, who describe it as follows:

The purpose of Explore Evolution, is to examine the scientific controversy about Darwin’s theory, and in particular, the contemporary version of the theory known as neo-Darwinism. Whether you are a teacher, a student, or a parent, this book will help you understand what Darwin’s theory of evolution is, why many scientists find it persuasive, and why other scientists question the theory or some key aspects of it.

Sometimes, scientists find that the same evidence can be explained in more than one way. When there are competing theories, reasonable people can (and do) disagree about which theory best explains the evidence. Furthermore, in the historical sciences, neither side can directly verify its claims about past events. Fortunately, even though we can’t directly verify these claims, we can test them. How? First, we gather as much evidence as possible and look at it carefully. Then, we compare the competing theories in light of how well they explain the evidence.

Looking at the evidence and comparing the competing explanations will provide the most reliable path to discovering which theory, if any, gives the best account of the evidence at hand. In science, it is ultimately the evidence—and all of the evidence—that should tell us which theory offers the best explanation. This book will help you explore that evidence, and we hope it will stimulate your interest in these questions as you weigh the competing arguments.

Let’s be clear, there is no scientific controversy about whether evolution is true.  The dunderheads at creationist lobby organisations such as the Discovery Institute push this line of “it’s only a theory” without understanding (wilfully or not) the nature of the scientific process and the equally idiotic “teach the controversy” – there is no scientific controversy.  Sneaking these books into school libraries is deceitful, particularly given the language in the quotation above.

Read more at the BCSE page linked above.

From the Wikipedia page (Explore Evolution) – and this is a highly informative page that is well worth reading:

Explore Evolution: The Arguments For and Against Neo-Darwinism is a supplementary or enrichment biology text book written by a group of intelligent design supporters and published in 2007.
Its promoters describe it as aimed at helping educators and students to
discuss “the controversial aspects of evolutionary theory that are
discussed openly in scientific books and journals but which are not
widely reported in textbooks.” As one of the Discovery Institute intelligent design campaigns to “teach the controversy” it aims to provide a “lawsuit-proof” way of attacking evolution and implying creationism / intelligent design without being explicit.

The book is co-authored by three Discovery Institute members, Stephen C. Meyer, Scott Minnich and Paul A. Nelson, as well as illustrator and creationist author Jonathan Moneymaker and Kansas evolution hearings participant Ralph Seelke.Hill House Publishers Pty. Ltd. ( Melbourne and London), headed by creationist and butterfly photographer Bernard d’Abrera, is the publisher of Explore Evolution.

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