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September 23, 2008

Creationism in Northern Ireland

by Feòrag

Northern Ireland: In these days of peace building, the DUP (a.k.a. Ian Paisley's lot) have mostly been presenting themselves as a respectable political party committed to the peace process. But, it seems, they still have a lunatic fringe, including one that is campaigning for creationism to be taught in Northern Irish schools.

Unfortunately, I cannot actually watch listen to the RTÉ video audio (thanks, Brian!) linked to below, and have to rely on Brian's description of the broadcast and commentary thereon:

I'm not sure how I missed this, but it would appear that parts of the DUP are proceeding up the wall, over it, building more walls etc. etc. I mean, I knew that a variety of the party members were bigoted idiots, but the notion of teaching creationism in schools and trying to get a Creationist reason for the Giant's Causeway put up in the visitors centre is many, many steps too far.

The story, it seems, has been brewing for some time. back in August, the Belfast Humanist Group expressed their concerns in a letter to the Belfast Telegraph. The first paragraph gives the worrying context to the letter:

The Belfast Humanist Group (BHG) wishes to express its deep concern about the comments made by the new chair of the Education Committee, Mervyn Storey MLA, about the teaching of creationism as scientific fact in schools.

He said: Creationism is not for the RE class because I believe that it can stand scientific scrutiny.

The scientific community almost universally disagrees with the Genesis creation story (as it disagrees with the Aztec, the ancient Roman, Hindu and other creation stories).

It is only a vocal, yet powerful minority that agrees with this view.

A couple of weeks later, and the story still had legs. According to The Newsletter:

DUP MLA Mervyn Storey – an avowed creationist – has rejected a call for creationism to be brought into the science class, while Belfast-based evolutionist Peter Bowler has said the idea may have some validity....

Obviously, all was not what it seemed from that first paragraph. The article concerned Michael Reiss' well-misreported comments on behalf of the Royal Society, and Storey clearly got it:

While there are some interesting aspects to Prof Reiss’ suggestion he appears to be suggesting that creationism be brought into the science class only in order to debunk it, he said. I do not believe that this is the way forward.

Instead, the chair of the Assembly Education Committee called for more scientific data to be given to pupils which calls into question the theory of evolution.

He will be waiting for a long time, seeing as the evidence presented by creationists has completely failed to stand up to even the most cursory scrutiny, and much of it relies on a deliberate and malicious misinterpretation of the facts. Which is what Peter Bowler, professor of history of science at Queen’s University, was hiniting at when he said:

It is a dangerous move but it may have some validity if it is done in such a way that creationism has to be examined as a science in a whole range of areas, said the evolutionist.

DUP wants creationism in schoolsRTÉ News, 23rd September 2008 (RealPlayer needed); Concern at teaching of creationism in schoolsBelfast Telegraph, 26th August 2008; Creationism call rejected by MLAThe Newsletter, 15th September 2008.

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Posted in Science Fiction at 12:30. Last modified on September 23 2008 at 13:17.
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Comments

1: Posted by: Andrew Dart | September 23, 2008 6:20 PM

I read about this a few weeks back and also felt compelled to comment on it's stupidity. If you are in the least bit interested here is what I had to say on the matter.

http://www.adart.myzen.co.uk/?p=240

2: Posted by: Freidenker | September 23, 2008 6:41 PM

I don't get it, how come the science curricula are always harangued by politicians? Even up here in fundie Israel, the fundies don't waste their time on public schools - they simply sidestep the issue, in an act of wonderful democracy (I say this without a hint of sarcasm, even though I despise the Jewish fundamentalism) - and simply BUILD their own goddamn schools! Sure, it means that about 60% of all youngsters don't go to a public school, but the fundies are so well, um, funded, that it doesn't really matter!

I don't think I have the right to tell people where to send their children to school, although I can voice my opinion about it - but it's DEFINITELY no politician's job to sneak his/her religion into taxpayer-money-funded public schools!

3: Posted by: Thomas | September 25, 2008 5:24 PM

There's a creationist museum that I drive past on my way to visit family up north. I've considered dropping in just to have an understanding of what anyone could possibly mean by "creation science."

I'm told that they went all out on the design and execution of the facility. It might be worth a look in that passing-a-car-crash kind of way.

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