Science Fiction: November 2006 Archives

November 27, 2006

Unintelligent Education

United Kingdom: A few weeks ago, we reported on a creationist group which had sent literature to British schools urging them to teach superstition instead of science. The Department for Education and Skills made a statement that neither intelligent design nor creationism are recognised scientific theories and they are not included in the science curriculum, and even the Prime Minister had something to say on the matter when he was interviewed by New Scientist:

[The teaching of creationism] can be hugely exaggerated. I've visited one of the schools in question and as far as I'm aware they are teaching the curriculum in a normal way. If I notice creationism becoming the mainstream of the education system in this country then that's the time to start worrying.

One correspondent wrote to point out that he was being somewhat complacent, and warned I'm sorry, Mr Blair. If we do reach that stage it will be too late, and another, James Williams Falmer of the University of Sussex School of Education, repeated the warning, with more detail:

Mr Blair's statement about his visit to the Vardy Foundation's King's Academy indicating that, as far as I'm aware they are teaching the curriculum in a normal way is surprising since Vardy schools have publicly accorded equal importance to creationism and theories of evolution. Indeed Stephen Layfield, the head of science at another Vardy academy - Emmanuel College Gateshead - backs lessons on creationism that contain factual errors and unscientific ideas on the relationships of living organisms. That is not at all what I would call normal science curriculum teaching. He is also a Director of the newly instigated Truth in Science movement, that appears to have sufficient funding and determination to distribute thinly disguised six-day creationist teaching materials to all secondary schools, masquerading as science lessons. They clearly intend to make creationist teaching in science mainstream.

So is the Prime Minister lying again, or merely mistaken? You see, it seems that some schools have not immediately binned the Truth in Science materials, and have even been using them!

Dozens of schools are using creationist teaching materials condemned by the government as not appropriate to support the science curriculum, the Guardian has learned.

The packs promote the creationist alternative to Darwinian evolution called intelligent design and the group behind them said 59 schools are using the information as a useful classroom resource...

...The DVDs were produced in America and feature figures linked to the Discovery Institute in Seattle, a thinktank that has made concerted efforts to promote ID and insert it into high school science lessons in the US. Last year a judge in Dover, Pennsylvania, ruled that ID could not be taught in science lessons. Intelligent design is a religious view, a mere relabelling of creationism, and not a scientific theory, he wrote in his judgment.

That judge is not the only one to see the materials as nothing more than religious propaganda.

But leading scientists argue that ID is not science because it invokes supernatural causes. "There is just no evidence for intelligent design, it is pure religion and has nothing to do with science. It should be banned from science classes," said Lewis Wolpert, a developmental biologist at the University of London and vice-president of the British Humanist Association.

And Phil Willis, a Liberal Democrat MP was also worried:

I am flabbergasted that any head of science would give credence to this creationist theory and be prepared to put it alongside Darwinism, he said. Treating it as an alternative centralist theory alongside Darwinism in science lessons is deeply worrying.

Except Intelligent Design is not a theory, which requires substantial evidence, testing and to be useful as a predictive tool—at most it might be an hypothesis (assuming there was any way of testing it). But even the Grauniad seems to have difficulty understanding that.

Revealed: rise of creationism in UK schoolsThe Guardian, 27th November 2006; Combating creationismNew Scientist Web Letters, 25th November 2006; Combating creationismNew Scientist Letters, 25th November 2006; Interview: Tony Blair on scienceNew Scientist, 4th November 2006.

November 23, 2006

Now science is 'the occult', too

United Kingdom: It's long been noticed that censorware used to limit internet access seems to reflect the subjective opinions of (often religious) company owners, and their tendency to block sites on feminism, religions other than evangelical Christianity, and lgbt issues. Has a correspondent to New Scientist's Feedback column fallen victim to more religious censorship?

HAVE creationists seized control of the UK's net filters? After buying Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion, Eliot Attridge thought it worth visiting Dawkins's website from the school where he works.

Unfortunately, the school has installed a net filter called Netsweeper which, Attridge discovered, blocks access to www.richarddawkins.net on the grounds that it is an occult site.

Amazed - as Dawkins is possibly the man least likely to be a proponent of occultism - Attridge decided to check his rating with another net filter called Sonicwall. This described Dawkins's site as religious, a categorisation Dawkins would probably find even more disturbing than the occult one. It all looks very suspicious.

Feedback: Richard Dawkins and the occultNew Scientist, 25th November 2006.

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This page is an archive of entries in the Science Fiction category from November 2006.

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