Categories
science

Academics Fight Rise of Creationism at Universities

After what I wrote yesterday about the christian influence on education, there’s a good article in today’s Guardian about how creationism is on the rise in British universities.

In the United States there is growing pressure to teach creationism or “intelligent design” in science classes, despite legal rulings against it. Now similar trends in this country have prompted the Royal Society, Britain’s leading scientific academy, to confront the issue head on with a talk entitled Why Creationism is Wrong. The award-winning geneticist and author Steve Jones will deliver the lecture and challenge creationists, Christian and Islamic, to argue their case rationally at the society’s event in April.

“There is an insidious and growing problem,” said Professor Jones, of University College London. “It’s a step back from rationality. They (the creationists) don’t have a problem with science, they have a problem with argument. And irrationality is a very infectious disease as we see from the United States.”

Yesterday, I focussed particularly on what the christians are doing. But it seems that the muslims are at it too.

Leaflets questioning Darwinism were circulated among students at the Guys Hospital site of King’s College London this month as part of the Islam Awareness Week, organised by the college’s Islamic Society. One member of staff at Guys said that he found it deeply worrying that Darwin was being dismissed by people who would soon be practising as doctors.

Well, yeah. I don’t want to be treated by a doctor who disagrees with the fundemental scientific principles of human biology!

A 21-year-old medical student and member of the Islamic Society, who did not want to be named, said that the Qur’an was clear that man had been created and had not evolved as Darwin suggests. “There is no scientific evidence for it [Darwin’s Origin of Species]. It’s only a theory. Man is the wonder of God’s creation.”

He did not feel that a belief in evolution was necessary to study medicine although he added that, if writing about it was necessary for passing an exam, he would do so. “We want to become doctors and dentists, we want to pass our exams.” He added that God had not created mankind literally in six days. “It’s not six earth days,” he said, it could refer to several thousands of years but it had been an act of creation and not evolution.

Someone with views like that should not be allowed anywhere near patients.

And finally, there’s this

Most of the next generation of medical and science students could well be creationists, according to a biology teacher at a leading London sixth-form college. “The vast majority of my students now believe in creationism,” she said, “and these are thinking young people who are able and articulate and not at the dim end at all. They have extensive booklets on creationism which they put in my pigeon-hole … it’s a bit like the southern states of America.” Many of them came from Muslim, Pentecostal or Baptist family backgrounds, she said, and were intending to become pharmacists, doctors, geneticists and neuro-scientists.

It’s time that rational people stood up and said “enough is enough!” Where do I sign up to fight the forces of medievalism?

Categories
science

Britons Unconvinced on Evolution

Feeling smug about not being American is, of course, practically a national sport her in the UK. And one of the best things to be smug about is ridiculously high percentage of Americans who think that creationism (or “intelligent design”) is a reasonable way to explain the creation of the universe. People in the UK have moved far beyond those medieval beliefs – or so we like to think.

But where the US goes, the UK is bound to follow. And the BBC is reporting a survey that MORI have recently undertaken for the BBC’s programme Horizon. The results make grim reading.

Over 2000 participants took part in the survey, and were asked what best described their view of the origin and development of life:

  • 22% chose creationism
  • 17% opted for intelligent design
  • 48% selected evolution theory
  • and the rest did not know

39% of people believe in creationsism in one of its forms and only 48% of people believe in evolution. Those are very worrying numbers.

And one less reason for feeling smug about not being an American.

Update: Smylers rightfully points out some loose thinking on my part – which actually stmes from some loose questions on MORI’s part (or maybe loose reporting of the questions on the BBC’s part). The point is that evolution does nothing to explain the origin of life. It only considers the development of life. So if you’re asked what best describes your view of the origin and development of life then evolution shouldn’t really be considered a possible answer.

Personally I don’t think that most people would have considered the question that deeply. And most people see it as a binary choice – evolution or creationism. So I’m still very surprised and worried by the data.

Categories
science

One Side Can Be Wrong

It’s tempting to quote huge swathes of Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne’s article from today’s Guardian as it does such a great job of debunking the idea that “intelligent design” should be taught in science classes. But I’ll resist and just give you a couple of the best paragraphs. Here’s one good one

Intelligent design […] is not a scientific argument at all, but a religious one. It might be worth discussing in a class on the history of ideas, in a philosophy class on popular logical fallacies, or in a comparative religion class on origin myths from around the world. But it no more belongs in a biology class than alchemy belongs in a chemistry class, phlogiston in a physics class or the stork theory in a sex education class. In those cases, the demand for equal time for “both theories” would be ludicrous. Similarly, in a class on 20th-century European history, who would demand equal time for the theory that the Holocaust never happened?

And here’s another

If complex organisms demand an explanation, so does a complex designer. And it’s no solution to raise the theologian’s plea that God (or the Intelligent Designer) is simply immune to the normal demands of scientific explanation. To do so would be to shoot yourself in the foot. You cannot have it both ways. Either ID belongs in the science classroom, in which case it must submit to the discipline required of a scientific hypothesis. Or it does not, in which case get it out of the science classroom and send it back into the church, where it belongs.

Oh look, I can’t do it justice by giving you extracts. Just go and read the whole thing yourself.

Oh, and it’s good to see the Flying Spaghetti Monster in Pass Notes.