Dawkins gloats over boost to evolutionary dogma in schools
Another hollow victory for educational censorship
Published: 21 January 2012(GMT+10)
Richard Dawkins at the 34th annual conference of American atheists, 2008.
Photo: Mike Cornwell, Wikipedia
Richard Dawkins and the British Humanist Association (BHA) are celebrating this week.1 Following the launch of their ‘Teach Evolution, not Creationism‘ campaign in September last year, the UK’s Department of Education has revised the regulations relating to teaching about origins in government funded schools. Those ‘free schools’2 that teach creation or intelligent design (ID) in science lessons will, from now on, have their financial support withdrawn.
Despite the media furore, however, this comes as no surprise (see Timeline below). Shortly before becoming the UK’s Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove made the following statement on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show:
“Well, to my mind, you cannot have a school which teaches creationism. And one thing that we will make absolutely clear is that you cannot have schools which are set up which teach people things which are clearly at variance with what we know to be scientific fact.”3
Secularism not science
The recent refusal of the BHA’s president Polly Toynbee and its vice-president Richard Dawkins to debate William Lane Craig, a leading Christian apologist, must raise questions in people’s minds about the soundness of their arguments.
The BHA exists, primarily, to further the cause of secularism. They want to forge a new society where the thinking and values of previous generations, guided by Christianity and the Bible, are forgotten. Our morality and laws, they claim, should not be based on such religious myths; rather, they say, we should remodel our society based on more ‘rational’, secular ideas. Moreover, they know that if they can persuade people that science supports their position, they will have won a great victory. Particularly, if they can convince people that their existence can be explained entirely by natural processes—indeed, that no creator was necessary—they will have delivered a coup de grâce against those who work so hard to preserve our society’s Christian roots. And what better place to start than with vulnerable school children who know no better? Writing in The Humanist John Dunphy argued,
“I am convinced that the battle for humankind’s future must be waged and won in the [school] classroom by teachers who correctly perceive their role as the proselytizers of a new faith: a religion of humanity that recognizes and respects the spark of what theologians call divinity in every human being. These teachers must embody the same selfless dedication as the most rabid fundamentalist preachers, for they will be ministers of another sort, utilizing a classroom instead of a pulpit to convey humanist values in whatever subject they teach, regardless of the educational level—preschool day care or large state university. The classroom must and will become an arena of conflict between the old and the new—the rotting corpse of Christianity, together with all its adjacent evils and misery, and the new faith of humanism …
It will undoubtedly be a long, arduous, painful struggle replete with much sorrow and many tears, but humanism will emerge triumphant. It must if the family of humankind is to survive.”5
Those who have made an effort to consider the views aggressively promoted by the BHA will know that they are hard to defend. (See, for example, here, here and here.) Moreover, the recent refusal of the BHA’s president Polly Toynbee and its vice-president Richard Dawkins to debate William Lane Craig, a leading Christian apologist, must raise questions in people’s minds about the soundness of their arguments. Why, if the facts so clearly support their position, do they not confidently accept the challenge and grasp the opportunity to publically argue their case? And why, if the likes of Richard Dawkins know that science so clearly establishes the theory of evolution as being true, will they not publically debate representatives from creationist organisations such as CMI?
The rhetoric of the BHA and their fellow atheists is manifestly not based on reason or rationality; and this was, again, made clear in a short radio exchange that one of us (DS) had with the BHA’s chief executive Andrew Copson, shortly after the launch of their ‘Teach Evolution, not Creationism’ campaign.6 His response to my first statement was astonishing. I said,
“The people running this campaign want the youngsters to be taught that everything they see around them—all matter and life itself—came about through natural processes. Effectively, they want the youngsters to be taught that this is the only rational way to think. Now, since science has not shown this to be true, since the idea that everything came about through natural processes is not a deduction from science, this view comes out of a belief system. It is really the religion of scientism, and we should not be using science classes to indoctrinate youngsters in religious beliefs.”
“Well there are two misconceptions there in what’s just been said. Firstly is that this is somehow about the origins of life. It’s not about the origins of life; it’s about the origin of species. It’s about how living things came to have the considerable diversity they have in the world today, and it’s about the processes of natural selection that brought that about. So, to confuse the issue by saying it’s about the origin of life and if you don’t believe that the origin of life had a supernatural cause then you’re inflicting a naturalistic/scientistic view—that’s not what it’s about.”
However, in arguing that the debate is not about the origin of life (by which he means abiogensis—life from non-life), Copson is equivocating. My point was that the BHA and their fellow secularists want the school children to be indoctrinated into the belief that natural processes can explain the existence of “all life”. I was referring to the grand sweep of the evolutionary story of ‘molecules to man’. It was Copson who was confusing the issue by suggesting that the alleged evolutionary origin of the first life forms is not at issue here. It is fundamental to the debate because, as all informed evolutionists are painfully aware, known science indicates that abiogenesis could never happen without supernatural intervention.7,8,9 The BHA’s strategy of concentrating on the issue of natural selection as a causal factor in life’s diversity is a favourite bait and switch tactic of the apostles of secularism and evolution. They point to the scientific evidence that there are natural processes driving speciation—where new species arise from existing species of the same kind—and leave people with the impression that the same processes can create life in the first place.
The truth of the matter is that the BHA and prominent British atheists are desperate to keep school students in the dark about the scientific bankruptcy of evolution.
Moreover, how can Copson say that preventing teachers from discussing the inadequacies of evolution theory as an explanation for our existence and considering alternatives is not inflicting a naturalistic/scientistic10,11 view? This is patently absurd. And how can he claim to have considered our arguments and then suggest that we oppose the teaching of natural selection as science? We have made it very clear in many of our publications that we accept the reality of natural selection. (Of course, we also make the point that natural selection is not evolution as it doesn’t create new genetic information—it simply acts upon that which already exists.)
Andrew Copson is a highly intelligent, well educated and articulate man, with a degree from Oxford University. Why then, if he and his colleagues have the moral and intellectual high ground as they claim, do they resort to this kind of deception?
The truth of the matter is that the BHA and prominent British atheists are desperate to keep school students in the dark—not to mention the general public—about the scientific bankruptcy of evolution. And, as revealed earlier in the words of humanist John Dunphy, this is as much about marginalising Christianity itself as it is about propagating their own religious “faith of humanism”. The consequences for societies which, like Britain, are moving in this direction are baleful. T.S. Eliot wrote:
“If Christianity goes, the whole of our culture goes. Then you must start painfully again, and you cannot put on a new culture ready made … You must pass through many centuries of barbarism.”12
Of course, these poignant words are not the whole story. However difficult the days may prove to be in this struggle for the truth and authority of the Bible, we may still be encouraged and there is plenty that we can still be doing.
Call to action
The apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labour is not in vain.”13 Many reading this article (plus see the ‘Timeline’ below) will be incensed by these attempts of a vocal and powerful minority to stifle the truth, restricting freedom of speech on such vital issues. But what action will you take? This is certainly not a time for good people to do nothing, paralysed by a defeatist attitude.
It is high time that all Christian churches that see these things clearly recognise this as a call to arms. Churches need to be making sure that their young people are fully equipped to deal with the barrage of secular, anti-God philosophy that is drip-fed through the educational institutions (including those with academic excellence). Christian parents need to be more vigilant than ever in countering insidious humanistic propaganda that threatens their children—whatever form this takes. CMI is here to help. We provide a wealth of resources to help you counter evolutionary indoctrination. We are constantly adding to our Media Centre content—see the Creation Magazine Live shows, the Genesis Unleashed shows, our radio spots and CMI’s YouTube channel, CreationClips. Our online Parent’s Corner is packed with helpful articles, ebooks and study guides for parents and their children. For those who home-school—or who are considering doing so—check out the many excellent educational and curriculum resources available through our online webstore. And there’s so much more that all of us can do at a grass roots level—sharing Creation magazine, pointing Facebook friends to helpful information.
Remember that the eternal destiny of souls is what is ultimately at stake. Therefore, the frustrations and setbacks that we may encounter along the way are more than worth it: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”14
The following bullet points highlight some of the pertinent news items relating to the situation in the UK in recent years:
- September 2008— Michael Reiss forced to resign as director of education for the Royal Society, for suggesting that creationism and ID could be discussed in classrooms. He said “that in his experience it is more effective to include discussion about creationism alongside scientific theories such as the Big Bang and evolution.”15
- November 2008—A new poll in the UK found that 29% of teachers, surveyed via email, thought that creationism and intelligent design should be taught as science. And nearly 50% said they thought excluding these ideas from the classroom would alienate students from science.16
- March 2009—The Guardian newspaper (UK) reported on a survey of beliefs in creationism and ID across the UK, region by region. This revealed a national average of 17% “who believe that human beings were created by God in the last 10,000 years.” In total, approximately one third of those surveyed preferred creationism/ID as against evolution.17
- October 2009—The Guardian newspaper (UK) ran an article with the self-explanatory title: “Teach both evolution and creationism say 54% of Britons”—and this related to school science lessons!18 Pollsters, Ipsos Mori, had questioned thousands of adults from several countries on how they thought the theory of evolution should be taught in school science lessons. Referring to the same survey, the BBC reported that “More than half of adults in a survey of 10 countries thought school science lessons should teach evolutionary theories alongside creationism.”19
- April 2011—The Independent newspaper (UK) published a balanced article entitled: “Scientists and humanists fear creationist teaching is set to creep into more classrooms.” Commenting on the BHA’s intention to lobby the Government to include a requirement specifically to teach evolution in the English and Welsh primary school (elementary in the USA) curriculum from September 2012, ID advocate Dr Michael Behe stated: "It shows that certain people have an agenda to get children to think like them, to indoctrinate them on their side. And to prejudice young minds to one side before they’re capable of understanding is the opposite of education." The article continued, “Philip Bell, the chief executive of Creation Ministries International (UK/Europe), makes the same point. He goes on to say that when we consider the facts on which science is based, we do so from a worldview point [of view]. … Even so, he … has no qualms about teaching [evolution] so long as it is done ‘warts and all’.”20
- May 2011—Secular Humanists seek to ban origins debate in the UK education system. The so-called CrISIS campaign is launched against discussing creation. This was in response to CMI’s Philip Bell taking part in a Religious Education study day21 at an Exeter secondary school—albeit that a discussion of alternative views about origins is explicitly mandated within the National Curriculum guidelines for this subject!
- May 2011—Infighting between different humanist/atheist factions over their strategy to protect evolution from being questioned in state-funded schools. This spat between two groups of secularists was very illuminating regarding the real agenda of both parties to combat creationism (which is to inculcate atheism in students).
- September 2011—Heavyweights move to ban creation. Creation Ministries International was specifically named as a ‘threat’ to Britain’s school children, along with Truth in Science, by the BHA.
- 22 September 2011—Philip Bell contacted the BHA regarding the accusation that “Speakers from Creation Ministries International are touring the UK, presenting themselves as scientists and their creationist views as science at a number of schools.” He told them: “The facts are rather different. For the record, the majority of our speaking engagements are at churches and we visit schools only occasionally … When we do speak at schools, it is by invitation or has been instigated by someone known to the school locally and never solicited by CMI.” Adding that a CMI speaker had hardly ever addressed science classes—and that the adverse publicity we received earlier in the year regarding a school in Exeter had conveniently ignored that it was a Religious Education study day (not science)—Philip asked whether the BHA would “be prepared to issue a clarifying statement to that effect? If you value truth and integrity as much as you claim, this would be a necessary step for you to now take.” At the time of publication of this article, CMI has yet to receive a reply.
- 15 January 2012—The British Government’s Department of Education is reported to have “revised its model funding agreement … [so that] … funding will be withdrawn from any free school that teaches what it claims are ‘evidence-based views or theories’ that run ‘contrary to established scientific and/or historical evidence and explanations’ [i.e. evolutionary dogma].” This, in turn, “has been seized upon by anti-creationists who are pressing for wider concessions from the government” (emphasis added).22
- November 2012—The British Government announces its intention to revise the ‘Free Schools Funding Agreement’ again, so as to make the teaching of evolution mandatory. Henceforth, ‘Free Schools’ will be required to “make provision for the teaching of evolution as a comprehensive, coherent and extensively evidenced theory”.23
Clearly, the BHA members and other ardent secularists will not be satisfied until Christianity itself has been driven completely from the education system, and ultimately from public life in general. Recall these pertinent words of John Dunphy, quoted earlier: “It will undoubtedly be a long, arduous, painful struggle replete with much sorrow and many tears, but humanism will emerge triumphant” (emphasis added).24 This is fighting talk but it is a vain confidence on the part of godless. Man-centred philosophical reasoning (for that is what humanism is) is in stark contrast to the certain hope of all true Christian believers. Jesus said, “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”25
References and notes
- Doward, J., Richard Dawkins celebrates a victory over creationists. Free schools that teach ‘intelligent design’ as science will lose funding, The Observer, 15 January 2012; www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/jan/15/free-schools-creationism-intelligent-design?INTCMP=SRCH. Return to text.
- In the UK, ‘free schools’ are schools that have been set up by parents, teachers, charities and voluntary groups. They are partly funded by the government, but have a greater degree of autonomy than other government schools. A number of these are ‘faith schools’, some of which are run by Christian groups. Return to text.
- Andrew Marr Show, Sunday 14th Feb 2010, BBC 1. Return to text.
- Philosophical naturalism is the view that nothing exists beyond the material universe and its physical laws. Return to text.
- Dunphy, J., A Religion for a New Age, The Humanist, Jan.–Feb. 1983, 23, 26 (emphases added), cited by Wendell R. Bird, Origin of the Species Revisited, vol. 2, p. 257. Return to text.
- Breakfast with Steve Le Fevre, 21 September 2011, BBC Radio Bristol. Return to text.
- CMI has refuted the charge that life’s origin is not a problem for evolutionary theory at creation.com/15-questions-responses-1, in the first of our “15 Questions for Evolutionists”; see creation.com/images/pdfs/flyers/15-questions-for-evolutionists-s.pdf. Return to text.
- creation.com/hawking-aliens-life-by-chance. Return to text.
- creation.com/origin-of-life-the-polymerization-problem. Return to text.
- Scientism is the belief that the methods of the physical sciences are applicable or justifiable in all fields of inquiry. This however is an assumption and not a deduction from science. Return to text.
- To quote The Skeptic’s Dictionary, “Scientism, in the strong sense, is the self-annihilating view that only scientific claims are meaningful, which is not a scientific claim and hence, if true, not meaningful”; www.skepdic.com/scientism.html. Return to text.
- Eliot, T.S., Notes Towards the Definition of Culture, Faber and Faber, 1948, p. 122. Return to text.
- 1 Corinthians 15:58, ESV. Return to text.
- Romans 8:18, NKJV. Return to text.
- Quoted in http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/7612152.stm, accessed 18 January 2012. Return to text.
- www.guardian.co.uk/education/2008/nov/07/creationism-intelligent-design-religion, accessed 18 January 2012. Return to text.
- www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/mar/02/charles-darwin-creationism-intelligent-design, accessed 18 January 2012. Return to text.
- www.guardian.co.uk/science/2009/oct/25/teach-evolution-creationism-britons, accessed 18 January 2012. Return to text.
- http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/8322781.stm, accessed 18 January 2012. Return to text.
- www.independent.co.uk/news/education/schools/scientists-and-humanists-fear-creationist-teaching-is-set-to-creep-into-more-classrooms-2264294.html, accessed 18 January 2012. Return to text.
- For 16 year old students studying for their GCSE in Religious Education (General Certificate of Education). Return to text.
- www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/jan/15/free-schools-creationism-intelligent-design?INTCMP=SRCH, accessed 18 January 2012. Return to text.
- Walker, P., Free schools must teach evolution, minsters announce, The Guardian, 30 November 2012; www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/nov/30/free-schools-teach-evolution-ministers. Return to text.
- See ref. 5. Return to text.
- Matthew 16:18, KJV. Return to text.