Human Species ‘May Split in Two’

(The creationists are going to love this!)

From the BBC (tho’ note that the research was carried out for the dodgy satellite channel Bravo – make of that what you will):

Humanity may split into two sub-species in 100,000 years’ time as predicted by HG Wells, an expert has said.

Evolutionary theorist Oliver Curry of the London School of Economics expects a genetic upper class and a dim-witted underclass to emerge.

The human race would peak in the year 3000, he said – before a decline due to dependence on technology.

People would become choosier about their sexual partners, causing humanity to divide into sub-species, he added.

The descendants of the genetic upper class would be tall, slim, healthy, attractive, intelligent, and creative and a far cry from the “underclass” humans who would have evolved into dim-witted, ugly, squat goblin-like creatures.

Evolutionary theory says that species become differentiated when two populations are separated by environmental factors. This could lead to the first instance of it happening because two populations just choose not to interbreed.

Are you Eloi or Morlock?


Dawkins Speaking Tonight

This doesn’t seem to have been advertised particularly well, but Richard Dawkins is speaking at the Institute of Education this evening. I’ve just got tickets – which is pretty amazing given how impossible it was to get tickets the last time I tried. The talk at the LSE celebrating the 30th anniversary of The Selfish Gene sold out in minutes.


Guardian Heresy

The Guardian potentially launches itself into controversy today by including a free wallchart which claims to illustrate the history of life on Earth. This blasphemous poster includes the ridiculous claim that there was life on Earth over 500 million years ago. This is clearly nonsense as any sane (and righteous) person knows that the Earth was only created in 4004BC.

The evolutionary process that is depicted is, of course, “just a theory” and I hope that the Guardian will be redressing the balance forthwith by publishing an alternative poster depicting the creationists viewpoint.


The God Delusion

Richard Dawkins’ new book, The God Delusion is published today and over the weekend the publicity machine started up. On Friday Dawkins was interviewed on Newnight. The interview will still be available from that site until tonight’s edition replaces it later today. The Newsnight site also has some extracts from the book and a discussion on some of the points. It’s good to see the number of rational people who are contributing to the discussion – but there are still a few religious types desperately clinging to their medieval beliefs.

Then the Guardian on Saturday had more extracts from the book and a review – they make it their book of the week.

Then on Sunday, Dawkins was apparently on the Heaven and Earth Show. I never watch the Heaven and Earth Show and the show doesn’t seem to be on the BBC web site so I don’t know what was said. Maybe I’ll try to track down a torrent tonight.

I haven’t read the book yet (I’ve got it on order from Amazon – got it for a tenner), but from what I’ve seen it’s an extension of the arguments that Dawkins’ presented so clearly in his documentary The Root of all Evil? earlier this year.

In a world where the voices of medievalism and superstition seem to drown out a lot of rational debate, it’s great to see Dawkins’ eminently sensible views getting such a lot of publicity.

Update: I’ve just found the Newsnight interview (albeit in a very dodgy aspect ratio) on YouTube.


Root Of All Evil Complaints Dismissed

Richard Dawkins’ programme The Root of All Evil? generated 23 complaints to Ofcom. The latest Ofcom bulletin is published today and it deals with these complaints (the relevant section starts on page 10).

In summary, the complainants considered that the programme:

  1. showed a negative portrayal of religious beliefs and called religious faith “a virus”, and that this was both offensive and harmful;
  2. contained inflammatory comments, slanderous remarks and atheist propaganda, which resulted in possible incitement to religious hatred;
  3. allowed an “ill-informed” presenter to treat religion with “ridicule and scorn”, and misrepresented religious views, which – along with disingenuous editing – offered no opportunity for debate. As there was no balancing programme on the same service, this resulted in an approach to the religious matters being explored that was not responsible;
  4. allowed the presenter to air bigoted, intolerant, biased and anti-religious views;
  5. attempted to promote religious (i.e. atheist) views by stealth;
  6. generally contravened Ofcom’s rules on due impartiality and due accuracy; and
  7. focused on the behaviour and beliefs of “religious extremists”, with little reference to moderate/mainstream religious belief and practice, and that therefore this was misleading;

(I particularly like the description of Richard Dawkins as “ill-informed”)

After considering the complaints carefully, Ofcom has decided that the programme was not in breach of its guidelines. This is, of course, a victory for rational thought over superstition.



Creationism in Schools

I’ve just spotted this article from Tuesday’s Education Guardian which talks about the teaching of creationism in schools and concentrates on the visit to the UK of mad Australian creationist John Mackay. Of course, Richard Dawkins can always be relied on for a good quote:

“The spread of Peter Vardy’s creationist beliefs into the academies run by the Emmanuel schools foundations is extremely worrying,” says Richard Dawkins, evolutionary biologist and author of The Selfish Gene. “In March 2002, Stephen Layfield – Emmanuel’s head of science – delivered a lecture in which he openly listed ways creationist teachers should provide alternative biblical explanations for evolutionary data. This is a man charged with the responsibility of teaching our children and whose department received a star rating from Ofsted. “We cannot afford to take creationism lightly. It is not an amusing diversion, but a serious threat to scientific reason. People like Mackay thrive by drip-feeding misinformation. We need a much more open public debate, both in schools and elsewhere, so that his ideas can be seen for the rubbish they are.”

And then today we have AC Grayling writing about religion and atheism. He includes a call to complately ban the teaching of religion from schools.

Let us challenge religion to leave children alone until they are adults, whereupon they can be presented with the essentials of religion for mature consideration. For example: tell an averagely intelligent adult hitherto free of religious brainwashing that somewhere, invisibly, there is a being somewhat like us, with desires, interests, purposes, memories, and emotions of anger, love, vengefulness and jealousy, yet with the negation of such other of our failings as mortality, weakness, corporeality, visibility, limited knowledge and insight; and that this god magically impregnates a mortal woman, who then gives birth to a special being who performs various prodigious feats before departing for heaven. Take your pick of which version of this story to tell: let a King of Heaven impregnate – let’s see – Danae or Io or Leda or the Virgin Mary (etc, etc) and let there be resulting heaven-destined progeny (Heracles, Castor and Pollux, Jesus, etc, etc) – or any of the other forms of exactly such tales in Babylonian, Egyptian and other mythologies – then ask which of them he wishes to believe. One can guarantee that such a person would say: none of them.

It’s a nice idea, but unfortunately it doesn’t stand a chance whilst the PM is a believer in an invisible sky pixie.

I’ll just add that to the list of reasons why Blair must go.


Steve Jones at the Royal Academy

I found a couple of reports of this week’s evolution lecture. Firstly a write-up from a blogger who was lucky enough to get in and secondly a review at The Register.

The Register also gives a link to a statement issued by the Royal Society about evolution, creationism and intelligent design.

Science has proved enormously successful in advancing our understanding of the world, and young people are entitled to learn about scientific knowledge, including evolution. They also have a right to learn how science advances, and that there are, of course, many things that science cannot yet explain. Some may wish to explore the compatibility, or otherwise, of science with various religious beliefs, and they should be encouraged to do so. However, young people are poorly served by deliberate attempts to withhold, distort or misrepresent scientific knowledge and understanding in order to promote particular religious beliefs.


Why Creationism is Wrong and Evolution is Right

I failed to get in to Steve Jones’s lecture at the Royal Society last night. Unfortunately, I didn’t fail to get in until I had been standing in the rain for over half an hour. Apparently there was room for 500 people in the hall and I estimate that at least 200 were turned away. It’s heartening that so many people were interested in the lecture, but I wonder if many of the people there were creationists turning up to argue with the sane people. There are certainly a lot of them on the discussion board.

If anyone was there or has pointers to any reports of the evening then I’d love to hear from you.

Update: Looks like the lecture is available online. I haven’t had a chance to watch it yet.


Creationism in Schools

According to the Guardian

Pupils in England will be required to discuss creationist theories as part of a new GCSE biology course being introduced in September.

If you must discuss creationism in schools then it belongs in religious education classes along with all the other superstitious nonsense. It certainly doesn’t belong in a science class.

Update: The same story covered by the BBC.


Secular Synchronicity

Since watching Richard Dawkins’ The Root of All Evil? I’ve noticed myself becoming less tolerant of religious beliefs. I really think that it’s time for rational thinkers to stand up and be counted. I’ve been discussing this with a few friends, but within my circle of friends that’s largely… er.. preaching to the converted. On the tube last night I was wondering what my next steps might be if I wanted to get really involved in the fight againt medievalism.

And then as I was leaving the tube station someone thrust a leaflet into my hand. It said “Catholicism for the Curious”. It seems that my local catholic church is running a month of events trying to draw more people into its clutches. It starts tonight with a talk called “Is there God after Dawkins?” There’s a web site too.

If I was the kind of person who believed in such things, I’d be thinking that this was all a sign and that I’m meant to go along.