Depressing news today, coming after news yesterday that the Church of England was to apologise — quite literally — to Darwin himself.
Comments in red are mine.
From the BBC, and biased towards creationists! 😦
Widely believed in the United States, creationism – the belief that God created the earth and man in six days – is enjoying a resurgence of support in the UK, say its believers and its critics.
At first glance the Genesis Expo museum, in the naval town of Portsmouth, looks like any other repository of natural history exhibits: fossils of dinosaurs and unusual rock formations.
But focus on the narrative of the information panels alongside them, and you start to realise this is a museum with a difference – one dedicated to the theory of creationism.
The revelation that US vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin says creationism should be taught in schools has raised few eyebrows in the US. An estimated 47% of Americans reject outright Charles Darwin‘s theory of evolution, accepting instead the Bible’s account of the creation of the universe – as laid out in the first chapter of Genesis.
But in Britain, where a portrait of Darwin appears on the back of the £10 note, his theory of life evolving from primitive to complex structures by means of natural selection appears to be unchallenged orthodoxy.
Not so, say those on both sides of the creationist divide – a point amply proved by the existence of the Genesis Expo museum, to date Britain’s only creationist museum. The museum is the work of Britain’s oldest creationist group, the Creation Science Movement, which has built Genesis Expo to visibly challenge the theory of evolution.
In its walk-through display, fossils in glass cases purport to show that ancient animals – including man – did not evolve from lower creatures but were instead divinely created “after their kind” (Genesis Chapter 1, verse 21).
A picture of a landslide-causing volcano is used to counter the scientific understanding that rock strata took millions of years to build up. And throughout the display are scattered examples of “intelligent design” – complex creatures that “could not have evolved” as the result of natural selection. Unless you have an understanding of evolution, in which case you see quite clearly that they could…
Leading British scientist and author Dr Richard Dawkins has warned of creationist “brainwashing” in the UK – spurred on by an unwillingness of the authorities to offend religious sensibilities. His creationist adversaries say their ideas are beginning to gain wider acceptance within these shores as dissatisfaction grows with “materialist” evolutionary explanations of how life began. Replace the word “materialist” with the word “true”…
Much better than the US notes with that surely unconstitutional phrase, “In God We Trust”!
Museum curator Ross Rosevear describes himself as a “Young Earth” creationist, who believes that the earth was created in six days “less than 10,000 years ago.”
Standing before the museum’s prize exhibit – a mock gravestone inscribed: “Here lies the Theory of Evolution” – he rejects as “unreliable” the scientific tests that fix the age of the earth at more than four billion years. While he concedes his convictions are intimately connected with his Christian faith, he insists the evidence presented in the displays could convince even non-believers of the “fatal flaws” in Darwin’s theory of evolution.
“All we are saying is that it is not unreasonable to present an alternative explanation of how life began,” he says. For some, it’s an explanation that has gained a surprisingly wide acceptance in the UK. A 2006 survey for the BBC found that more than a fifth of those polled were convinced by the creationist argument. Less than half – 48% – chose evolution.
And while the Church of England this week issues a formal apology to Charles Darwin, after initially denying his theory, other churches – mostly on the evangelical Christian wing – adhere to old beliefs.
Justin Thacker, head of theology for the Evangelical Alliance, says research in 1998 found one third of the Alliance church members were “literal six-day creationists.” The other two thirds embraced evolutionary theory to a “greater or lesser degree” he says.
British creationist and curator of Genesis Expo, Ross Rosevear
“Since that survey was done, I’d say fewer of our members are out-and-out creationists – it has become more acceptable to embrace some form of Darwinism,” he says.
But Keith Porteous Wood of the Secular Society is unconvinced.
“There is no question that creationism is growing,” he says. “It is increasingly well funded, and well organised.”
The society says Britain is beginning to follow the lead of the US where supporters and opponents of creationism have joined battle – in the school classroom. Two years ago the government sought to clarify the rules on creationist teaching, following revelations that the head of science at one of its new academies was the director of an anti-evolution pressure group.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families says creationism is not included in the science curriculum because “it has no scientific basis… but it can be discussed in [religious education] lessons”.
But that ruling was questioned last week by an influential figure. The Rev Professor Michael Reiss, director of education at the Royal Society, says science teachers ought to be willing to talk about creationism if students bring the subject up. And, as barely any news reports have mentioned, himself a vicar…
He told the British Association Festival of Science in Liverpool that while making clear creationism is not accepted by the scientific community, teachers should convey a message of respect that does not “denigrate or ridicule” children’s beliefs.
It’s a sentiment that inflames the anti-creationist lobby, which sees any compromises in the classroom as a betrayal of children’s interests.
“Creationism is anti-science,” says Mr Porteous Wood. “Teaching it to children is a form of intellectual child abuse, because it gives them the wrong facts about life.” His passionate views echo those of Prof Dawkins, who last month accused teachers of “bending over backwards” to respect “prejudices” that children have been brought up with at home.
And secular groups also point out that while state school pupils are “protected” from creationist teaching, similar guidelines do not exist to cover children who attend private religious schools – Christian, Jewish and Muslim.
One such school that teaches creationism as a science is the respected Islamic Karimia Institute in Nottingham. “We teach what it says in the Koran, that God created Adam and Eve, and from them came the rest of humanity,” says institute director Dr Musharraf Hussain. “We do not teach that man is descended from a lower animal – we say that God created the different species on their own.”
This shared belief in the origins of man – and the universe – is uniting unlikely bedfellows in the anti-evolution cause. The Rev Greg Haslam, who preaches the creationist Christian creed to his 400-strong congregation at Westminster Chapel in London, welcomes the determination of Muslims to impart a religious-based view of the world.
“Science does not have to be taught in conflict with faith or religion,” he says. “I believe the current debate over creationism versus evolution is beginning to draw more and people over to our side of the argument.
“The materialist explanation of the creation has nothing to offer – if we came from nothing and go into nothing, then that encourages people to lead reckless and materialistic lifestyles. Evolution is a world-view that leads to futility. It’s no wonder people are dissatisfied with it.”
That, I think, is a matter of opinion, if not an outright calumny, but, whether or not people find the theory very encouraging or not, has no impact on how true or not it is! And the reporting by the BBC, I felt, was particularly unbiased and tendentious towards the creationist cause!
A man commenting on their site says:
I have long been at a loss to understand how it is possible to believe the evolutionary theory, riddled with holes and inconsistencies as it is, more that the creationist view. The facts we see in front of us fit the notion of a rapid creationist view far better than a long evolutionary one, and why the evolutionary theory is considered to be “science” but the creationist theory is not eludes me completely. It was partly a serious study of evolution that led me to conclude that I’d rather be the product of a creationary God than an evolutionary accident, and so embrace Christianity. I am so pleased I did, life has become so much less gloomy.
I, personally, find that evolution inspires me. Saying “I’d rather be the product of a creationary god than an evolutionary accident” does not make that view true! I’d like to believe that the noodley appendage of the Flying Spaghetti Monster brought me into creation, but that wouldn’t make it true. Evolution is not a belief system. The creationism view throws all of science out of the window — the age of the earth, physics, astronomy, geology, etc.
Evolution is a fact. It’s called a Theory, though. Why?
The colloquial meaning of “theory” can be used in the “just a theory” sense of “unproven”, not backed-up. There is another meaning to Theory, with a capital “T”, in the dictionary, of a systematically updated idea supported by vast and ever-growing quantities of information. That is the type of Theory that evolution is.
It doesn’t matter whether you think evolution is the most immoral, disgusting, saddening thing in the world (it is, in fact, not): it wouldn’t have any bearing on the whether or not evolution is true — and it is. Theory, with a capital, was used in a time when that secondary meaning was well-known. Now that it is not, we should not feel shy about using a colloquial word to describe evolution: fact. Most of this also comes down to a misunderstanding of what evolution actually is.