Tuesday, 20 December 2011

UK needs its own Dover Trial

We are now 6 years on from the historic Kitzmiller vs Dover Trial in which brave parents challenged a US school board's decision to teach 'Intelligent Design' (ID) as if it were part of some sort of scientific controversy.  By doing this the ID movement neatly tried to sidestep the obvious truth that ID is not science in any real sense.

Kitzmiller et al were pointing out that ID's backers had sought to avoid scientific scrutiny by advocating that 'the controversy', but not ID itself, should be taught in science class. They claimed that this tactic was at best disingenuous, and at worst a canard. The goal of the ID movement was not to encourage critical thought, but to foment a revolution which would supplant evolutionary theory with ID.

Tammy Kitzmiller

It seems obvious that we desperately need a 'Dover Trial' in the UK to counter the spread of irrational teaching in our new plague of 'faith schools'.  Things in UK are even worse than they were in US.  They are actually trying to teach ID and creationism as if they were science.  They do not even need to dress it up as controversy.

The problem is that the UK has no constitutional protections against the spread of pernicious supernatural beliefs throughout the state system, infecting the minds of our children while they are still vulnerable.  We have no constitution in the sense that USA has one.  Worse than that, we have no First Amendment guaranteeing the separation of church and state.

Most people in UK are probably completely unaware that USA even has a First Amendment.  It they are aware of any at all it is most likely to be the fifth, as a few Brits bandy the phrase "I'm claiming the fifth".  They use this expression to boast that they are not going to admit to an indiscretion that they are secretly proud about, but they probably don't know what the fifth is the fifth of.

Tammy Kitzmiller et al were fighting for rationality, as was their constitutional right.  UK rationalists have to fight even to gain that constitutional right, and the problem is that few people have noticed the impending problem.

UK in fact has state sponsored church, being one of only two countries in the world which appoints religious officials as part of our government.  The only other is Iran.  Aren't we in good company?  So things seem to be going from bad to worse as faith schools establish a new foothold, trying to drag the country back to the beliefs and technology of medieval times.

In the Dover Trial - and I think to the great surprise of many people - the conservative judge, Judge Jones, ruled in their favour, doing a great service to the young people of their nation.  A few of the findings leave it in little doubt that the Dover School Board lost the case with no hope of appeal.

"The overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID is a religious view, a mere re-labelling of creationism, and not a scientific theory."


After a searching review of the record and applicable case law, we find that while ID arguments may be true, a proposition on which the Court takes no position, ID is not science. We find that ID fails on three different levels, any one of which is sufficient to preclude a determination that ID is science. They are:
    1. ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation;
    2. The argument of irreducible complexity, central to ID, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation science in the 1980s; and
    3. ID's negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community.
    It is additionally important to note that ID has failed to gain acceptance in the scientific community, it has not generated peer-reviewed publications, nor has it been the subject of testing and research. Expert testimony reveals that since the scientific revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries, science has been limited to the search for natural causes to explain natural phenomena.

      Judge Jones headed off all hope of an appeal with a wisely worded paragraph.  (We could do with some wise judges in UK too!)

      Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board's decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.

      May Europe learn something from this sensible decision!


      Hilary said...

      Ok what I don't get is why the fear of ID? The Big Bang philosophy can hardly be called science now can it? And it's so outdated now even in secular scientific circles, they just don't admit it to the public! Either the origins of the Universe and of life are all taught as possibilities in science or none of them should be taught in science. The Big Bang philosophy was even postulated by Nahmanides one at that) back in the 13 century and no doubt earlier than that by others. It wasn't science it was philosophy! I really don't get the fear that atheists have of the possibility of their being a Grand Designer.

      Hilary said...

      oops for their read 'there' and I meant to add that Nahamides was a Jewish believer and was coming from the point of view of God creating the Universe. So the origins of the Big Bang philosophy actually have Christian roots which is interesting isn't it...well we knew that anyway but it is normally attributed of course to Lamaitre (not sure if I have spelled that correctly) a catholic priest and whilst I don't believe the Big Bang philosophy to be correct, I do find it interesting it came from people of faith not atheists :)

      Hilary said...

      Just to point out as well that the materialistic philosophy(that as far as I can understand your viewpoint is your philosophy) is exactly that - a philosophy, one among many! materialist philosophy falls down on a rather significant point - that it is extremely subjective whilst claiming to be totally objective! It is subjective because by nature it is subjective, as it is a philosophy of mind! A materialist of course might say a philosophy of brain :) It isn't a new philosophy, people have been discussing it since Plato's time and no doubt before. The thing is, it is impossible to escape 'having a belief' whether you believe a materialistic philosophy or God as revealed in Jesus. We are creatures who live our lives by 'believing' whether in the love/or loving of another person, be them partner, children, parents, or friends, or the belief that what we spend our lives doing is worthwhile, or even your own belief that engaging in dialogue with those who read your blog may be made to think a little harder or find solace in what you say here, it is nevertheless all based in your beliefs! We are created to believe! If this were not so, we would all be robots!

      Derby Sceptic said...

      Hilary: To answer a number of your points -

      I don't think there is a fear of ID per se, but of it being taught as science which it clearly is not as determined by the Dover trial amongst others.

      I do not believe ID, therefore do not fear it, and have my reasons why and can discuss these.

      Children, especially at the age at which ID is being introduced, are more likely to accept what they are 'taught' without question.

      I don't think the Big Bang should be classed as a philosopy, but as a theory. As with all theories it should be investigated and evidence sought to either support or counter the theory. By obtaining evidence theories can be strengthened, modified or dismissed.

      Based on your argument for materialistic philosophy being subjective, I don't see any difference from religion. Therefore you are correct, we all believe something. As atheists we take evidence as the basis for belief, with religion the holy book(s) and the teachings of the religious leaders are used as the basis for belief.

      Hilary said...

      ...and therefore science can be no more than a philosophy at best! My argument is not whether my faith in Jesus Christ is a philosophy or not, as right now, neither ID or creationism or any other teaching that a Creator created us all cannot be taught in science lessons. My argument is that, as such is the case, then neither should The Big Bang philosophy or any other explanation for the orgin of the Universe and of life itself.

      I am constantly astonished at this idea of teaching that atheists have as if whatever is taught in science lessons 1)must be believed and 2) will be believed. Children have the most creative of minds and they ask many many questions. They are never fooled by answers which don't satisfy and they rightly question relentlessly until they are satisfied. Education teaches children to question, to explore to expect new discoveries, etc. To 'teach' ID, or 'Creationism' or any origin of the Universe is not to tell the children 'this is how it happened' as those who teach the Big Bang philosophy teach (which I personally think is an appalling way to teach and should never be allowed) but to inform of the interpretations than different groups of people give to what is currently observed of the Universe. To provide information is to allow informed decisions to be made by the children. Children are often wiser than adults by a very long way and are not to be patronised. I say this with some passion coming from my own background and experience of teaching children for years. Believe me, they do NOT accept what is taught without question. Neither should they!

      Derby Sceptic said...

      I believe that in some schools ID and creationism IS being taught as science. These are perhaps the faith schools now but it can spread.

      If you believe that it is not, and feel that the Big Bang theory and any other explanation of the origin of the universe and life should not be taught as science then where do you believe they should be taught?

      Hilary said...

      I take the view that either they should all be taught in science or none of them should be taught in science as different interpretations of origins of the Universe. Other classes such as citizenship (respect for different beliefs and opinions is part of the citizenship program for example) or in religious education which very often is nothing like religious education but more ethics and reasons for ethical decisions of whatever belief/philosophy etc...

      I think much of what is taught in many subjects nowadays is really on the edge of not acceptable even some of the books studied for English literature. Amazes me the books chosen these days for and by the GCSE boards when there are so many other really brilliant writers around. I had to tutor a young lad through 'A Taste of Honey' a few years ago...I mean, whoever wrote that clearly wanted everyone else to lose the will to live as well haha I think that had to be one of, if not the worst book I've ever read!

      Derby Sceptic said...

      Hilary: RE classes are perhaps not like religious education, more like indoctrination in some cases. See the link ow.ly/7JTGL

      If you want to open up RE as the teaching zone for all explanations of the origins of the Universe and beliefs, I presume you are happy for it to include atheism, Wicca, Odinism, worship of Ra etc. I thought not.

      Science education is for teaching of that which can be theorised and then tested. As I stated before scientists are always open to a theory being modified or dismissed but this is based on evidence which is not only concrete but subect to peer review.

      Religious education is for spiritual matters where beliefs are involved but there is no hard evidence - the Bible is no more evidence for a god than the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is evidence for Vogons.

      Hilary said...

      I think there are separate issues here.

      1) I checked out your link and yes I agree that whilst schools have a legal obligation to provide an act of worship, it is not a legal obligation for students to attend. Mind you, as a teacher, I've been in many supposed 'acts of worship' that have been devoid of any worship or acknowledgment of God and have been entirely of an atheist and secular nature, so it goes both ways, as then those who would appreciate a real act of worship don't have one.

      I did once as a teacher cover an R.E class and was quite cross to find the work that had been left for the students was to 'write a prayer' which struck me as rather silly as about half the students declared themselves atheist, so I told them they didn't have to do it and I can't remember what I set them instead but I know it wasn't anything that would compromise their unbelief. Having said that I've also covered R.E lessons where christians have been laughed to scorn for declaring their beliefs so again, it goes both ways. What is needed is mutual respect.

      2) as for origins etc being taught in R.E classes, the reason I would suggest this is because in general R.E classes as I have known them cover now a very large area of beliefs...and yes actually quite a number of those you mentioned I remember as far back as my own R.E classes...and you might be surprised as to what sort of discussions do take place within the curriculum now.

      personally, I would rather Religious education stuck to Christian education without apology and unashamedly, with the option of those who do not wish to take part to have the option of taking a different class. However there then would also need to be options for those who do not wish to be subjected to such unbeliefs as are often thrust upon them during many and varied classes within education.

      Derby Sceptic said...

      Hilary: You would rather RE stuck to Christian education? What about other faiths?

      Plasma Engineer said...

      It doesn't matter what one side wants in this argument.

      RE stands for Religious Education.

      This means that the pupils should come out of the lesson educated about religion, without an opportunity to opt out.

      Had I been taught about religion instead of about christianity, I might have escaped from religion 30 years earlier.

      I think society owes it to the children to teach clearly and unambiguously that different parts of the world have different beliefs and that the local version has no more claim to be the truth than all the other versions.

      But we should teach equally clearly that all of the world has similar values of right and wrong, and that religions have no claim about those values.

      Hilary said...

      Ok let me clarify - I'd rather it be called Christian education. I think (my opinion) that Christian education should be taught as it is as David Cameron quite rightly said a Christian country. I have Muslim friends who came here 30 yrs ago because they felt safe being in a christian country. They don't feel as safe now that Christianity has and is being so constantly undermined.

      I do think there needs to be greater acknowledgment about the Christian faith in our land.

      In lands of other 'religions' not only is Christianity often not taught, christians are frequently murdered for being christians.

      There needs to be freedom of belief, freedom of speech and freedom to live according to one's belief or philosophy of life. Inevitably all those will clash at some stage and surely there are ways of working out the solutions with respect without denying the christian roots of our country.

      I'm not saying religions shouldn't be taught about, but in my opinion, they should not be given as much time in our classes as Christianity. If the present trend continues, we will be a Muslim country within 20 years - this is the plan of the most militant adherents of Islam and I doubt whether you would want that. Secularism will never keep out religion, whereas for as long as the Christian Faith is strong in the Uk, there will always be freedom of speech and freedom to have blogs such as this one. Those of different religions will feel safe here and free to practise their particular religions. If we ever become a Muslim country, all of that freedom will disappear.

      Plasma Engineer said...

      The Islamist threat (which is not necessarily the same as a Muslim threat) has not escaped me.

      What you are proposing sounds like a religious war though. I think I would prefer a secular state, guaranteed by constitution instead.

      Derby Sceptic said...

      Hilary - This country has been through a period of being a Christian country, before which it was a Pagan country and now it is becoming more diversified with an increasing number being of no faith.

      It will be interesting to see the results of the last census with regard to the question on religion but a recent survey of the young suggested that more than fifty percent stated they had no religion.

      We have to accept that the country is changing (evolving?). At one time the politics were either Tory or Whigs (Liberal), yet now we have three so called main parties, where the Liberals have lost out to Labour. The religious views of the country are also changing.

      I agree with Plasma Engineer regarding the Islamist threat. Remember the demands for Sharia law? We need a secular state with secular laws based on core values of right and wrong. Religion can have it's place for those who wish it but it should not be at the heart of the state.

      Hilary said...

      How d'you mean 'religious war' P.E well we wouldn't want that! Yes D.S I accept our country is changing and has gone through many changes...I agree it will be interesting to see the results of the last census.

      I think the problem is that a secular state based on laws of right and wrong leads to the interesting question of what does a secular state base those laws upon? It seems to me that any secular state seems automatically then to put a great number of restrictions upon those who are practising christians. Even France I have been quite shocked to learn how friends who are ministers of a baptist church there have been restricted in just about every activity they do under the name o Christ.

      I for one would not want a secular state as it is not as easy as simply saying that 'religion can have its place for those who wish' as how far does that go...even now christians can be arrested for declaring an opinion over certain issues and this is whilst the PM is saying we are a Christian country! Yet certain tv personalities can tell the world that certain types of folk be shot in front of their families and receive merely a request to apologise...

      The selling of Christian books would no doubt be restricted, Christian radio stations closed, churches limited in what activities could happen within the community...etc etc...and believe me, take the Christian faith out of a country and the moral basis goes too. There has been a direct correlation between the decline of Christian education being taught as such in schools including school assemblies, and the decline of respectful behaviour among the students. Core values of right and wrong...so, exactly what are these core values would you say? Without them being a direct reflection of the 'do not lie, steal, covet, kill etc of the ten commandments?

      Derby Sceptic said...

      Hilary: I will get back in more detail soon, but as PE has shown in other posts in this blog the ten commandments were restating values which existed before they were written.

      There are Scandinavian countries where religion is far less important, yet they have high moral values - Christianity does not have exclusivity when it comes to morals.

      Hilary said...

      How would you define right and wrong, good and evil, sins of ommission is something to take into account here, the food cycle, the ethics of so much...this comes back to the need for Jesus Christ as Saviour, His death to redeem us all from all sin, His resurrection to empower us to live lives free of condemnation, and His ascension to be interceding for us at the right hand of the Father in Heaven and the sending of the Holy Spirit to complete the work that He began on Earth. Happy CHRISTmas to all who read this and to all who don't :)

      Plasma Engineer said...

      The strange thing about 'right and wrong' is that they are not fixed and firm.

      Almost everyone agrees that murder is not altogether a good thing, that theft is not conducive to good community relations and that honesty is generally to be preferred.

      After that, things start to get a bit more woolly, and the church is not immune from this indecisive attitude. Women bishops? Gay priests? If the teaching of the bible is so clear, why is there any controversy over these issues for a start?

      Everything after "the need for Jesus . . . " means nothing to me, except, I agree, Happy Holidays!

      As for religious war (an earlier comment), I thought this sentence from lat evening of 22 Dec sounded as though christianity was the weapon to fight creeping islamism . . .

      "If the present trend continues, we will be a Muslim country within 20 years - this is the plan of the most militant adherents of Islam and I doubt whether you would want that. Secularism will never keep out religion, whereas for as long as the Christian Faith is strong in the Uk, there will always be freedom of speech and freedom to have blogs such as this one."

      Hilary said...

      Ah sorry for my lack of clarity, what I meant was that those practising genuine Christian Faith can live happily alongside those who declare no faith or profess religious beliefs of Islam, Hinduism etc...by saying 'where the Christian Faith is strong' I do not mean 'aggressive' I mean living peacefully etc...however, the more the Christian Faith is undermined and the more secularism stands up for Islamic rights which seems to be happening more and more, the more there is a possibility that Islam will take over.

      There are already zones in Bradford and London and I think Birmingham, chosen to be governed in the near future by Muslims in the UK because the population of those places is predominently Muslim. Any atheists living there will shortly feel the full force of being governed by such if this goes ahead. Some of the increase of Islamic influence has come through secular opinions chipping away at underminding the Christian Faith. Freedom of speech for muslims seems on the whole to be far greater in the UK than freedom of speech for Christians or freedom of dress code.

      Most muslims I am sure are peace loving people, who value their Christian friends very much, but I am sure that most muslims everywhere are peaceful loving people but under brutal regimes...which perhaps now with growing confidence as of the recent Arab Spring, such regimes are being challenged...nevertheless...there are many in this country who are pushing for the strictest of Islamic laws...

      Plasma Engineer said...

      Some of the loudest voices in the secular movement (like Maryam Namazie) are ex-muslims. As anyone would know if they took the threats of religious influence seriously, these people have a very large stake in opposing creeping islamism. It is simply a matter of life and death for them.

      Secularism stands up for secular rights and stands against all religious influence upon the law or the activities of the state. It would allo the peace loving muslims and christians to get on with their lives without prejudice.