Can’t teach creationism because it is ‘religious indoctrination’? Then stop teaching the big bang and evolution for the same reason!
Published: 1 April 2021 (GMT+10)
Following reports of government action against a Jewish private school in the UK, Stephen Evans, chief executive of the UK’s National Secular Society (NSS), was quoted as saying, “Schools that teach creationism as science are prioritising religious indoctrination above the educational rights of the children they teach.”1
Following is an open letter to Mr Evans.
Dear Mr Evans,
It was recently reported in the UK that a Jewish private school has been hit by government action for teaching creationism in science. Bnois Jerusalem Girls School has been served with a ‘statutory notice’ and one of the things for which it was reprimanded and considered “inadequate” was that creationism “is also taught in geography and science, which is not appropriate.”
Given your expressed anathema to “religious indoctrination”, I’m sure that you and the National Secular Society will want to take vigorous action to stop this same practice when it occurs elsewhere, namely wherever the big bang and evolution are taught as science.
Why do I say this? Because the big bang and evolution are both articles of faith of the religion of Humanism and teaching them as science is, therefore, “prioritising religious indoctrination above the educational rights of the children”, as you put it.
Yes, Mr Evans, Humanism is a religion.
Humanism is a religion by dictionary definition
Here is a dictionary definition of religion:2
“Religion - noun
- a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
- a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects:the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.
- the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices:a world council of religions.
- the life or state of a monk, nun, etc.:to enter religion.
- the practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith.
- something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience:to make a religion of fighting prejudice.”
Note that, while the definition alludes to a possible belief in a supernatural being as the creator of the universe, this is not a mandatory requirement of a religion. The Buddhist religion, specifically identified in meaning #2, would be a religion that does not have this belief.
The documents that define Humanism, namely, the Humanist Manifesto (HM), the Humanist Manifesto II (HM II) and the Humanist Manifesto III (HM III), certainly comprise a “set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe” and “contain a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.” Moreover, these documents set forth “a specific fundamental set of beliefs … generally agreed upon by a number of persons.” Finally, Humanism represents a “body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices.”
So, Mr Evans, Humanism is a religion—by definition.
Humanism self-identifies as a religion
However, if that is insufficient substantiation for you, Humanism also self-identifies as a religion.
In the Humanist Manifesto
The third paragraph of the original Humanist Manifest states:
“Today man’s larger understanding of the universe, his scientific achievements, and deeper appreciation of brotherhood, have created a situation which requires a new statement of the means and purposes of religion. Such a vital, fearless, and frank religion capable of furnishing adequate social goals and personal satisfactions may appear to many people as a complete break with the past. While this age does owe a vast debt to the traditional religions, it is none the less obvious that any religion that can hope to be a synthesizing and dynamic force for today must be shaped for the needs of this age. To establish such a religion is a major necessity of the present. It is a responsibility which rests upon this generation. We therefore affirm the following:”
After listing 15 “affirmations”, it concludes,
“So stand the theses of religious humanism.”
In the Humanist Manifesto II
The final paragraph of HM II includes this sentence:
“These affirmations are not a final credo or dogma but an expression of a living and growing faith.”
This clearly identifies Humanism as a faith and the preceding statements as a credo/dogma, which terms are usually associated with faith/belief/religion.
In a book entitled: Humanism: A new religion
One of the signatories to the first manifesto, Charles Francis Potter, wrote a book entitled ‘Humanism: a new religion’. That seems pretty explicit.
In an article in the official publication of the Humanist Society
In 1983, noted Humanist John J. Dunphy wrote an article in The Humanist, the official publication of the Humanist Society, entitled, A Religion for a New Age, in which he wrote:
“ … 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 …”
The title of the article clearly identifies Humanism as a religion and the use of the term faith in the last quoted sentence affirms this. And the thrust of this entire paragraph is that teachers are to prioritize the teaching of
Even in Wikipedia
Even Wikipedia (currently) has a page on “Religious Humanism”
So, Mr Evans, it is unarguable that Humanism is a religion.
What are the doctrines of the religion of Humanism?
Having clearly established that Humanism is a religion, it behooves us to examine the doctrines of this religion to ensure that schools are not teaching them in science and thereby “prioritising religious indoctrination above the educational rights of the children they teach.” These doctrines are set out in the three Humanist Manifestos.
The Big Bang and deep-time evolution are the first and second tenets of the religion of Humanism
The first two “affirmations” in the original HM3 are:
“FIRST: Religious humanists regard the universe as self-existing and not created.
“SECOND: Humanism believes that man is a part of nature and that he has emerged as a result of a continuous process.”
The first of these is clearly a reference to the secularist’s Big Bang—complete with an explicit rejection of any supernatural creation ex nihilo, such as is described in Genesis. The “continuous process” in the second is equally clearly a reference to the slow and gradual process of evolution over alleged billions of years of ‘deep time’, with mankind ‘emerging’ in the relatively recent past. These clearly establish the big bang and evolution—in the goo-to-you-via-the-zoo sense—as tenets—or doctrines, or dogmas—of the religion of Humanism.
It is noteworthy that there are no equivalent “affirmations” concerning gravity, electromagnetism, or quantum mechanics. It is apparently not considered necessary for Humanism to affirm these things—only the big bang and evolution—clearly indicating that the former (e.g., gravity, etc.) are matters of science, but the latter are not, and must be affirmed as a matter of faith.
Moreover, these two dogmas are apparently considered to be so fundamental to Humanism, that they are the very first two that are set out at the very start of the very first document that defines Humanism—the ‘Old Testament” of Humanism, if you will. These are the equivalent of “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” in Genesis, except, instead, they say, in effect, ‘In the beginning, the universe created itself and after that life, in particular human life, happened by accident’. More about this later.
But aren’t the big bang and evolution proven scientific theories?
Now, a typical reaction to this might be: ‘But the big bang and evolution are scientific theories, proven by science to be true.’
If one does not have any background in the sciences—and from the NSS website I see that there is only one individual listed that has a science degree—it is understandable that one might hold this erroneous position, since it is widely held amongst people not well-versed in the sciences. Let us, then, examine it carefully.
Not everything that gets called ‘science’ is actually science
First, it is important to understand that not everything that gets called ‘science’ is of the same character. Consider physics and cosmology.
Theoretical cosmologist, Dr James Turner, said, “The goal of physics is to understand the basic dynamics of the universe. Cosmology is a little different. The goal is to reconstruct the history of the universe.”4
Thus cosmology, which is where the big bang fits, is actually the study of history, using science as an investigative tool. It is akin to the way forensic science, that we see portrayed on police procedural TV shows, is used to try to solve crimes. By observing evidence in the present, the forensic scientists try to construct a history that explains that evidence. But as we know from those police shows—and real courtroom trials—there is often more than one history that explains the evidence, and some histories do a better job of that than others.
A reliable eyewitness account, or a report recorded by a reliable scribe (e.g. a police report), is the best way to determine which history is correct. The reason for this is that, while methodological naturalism (allowing only natural causes) might be a wonderful tool for the laboratory sciences, it is a lousy tool for history. Explaining how something works has nothing to do with explaining how something came about. Think of the 747 jetliner, for example. Knowing how it flies tells us nothing about how it was designed and built.
Millions of people around the world accept that Genesis contains just such a report, provided by a reliable eyewitness (God) and recorded by a reliable scribe (ultimately Moses), regarding the origin of the universe and of life on Earth. The history it contains provides an excellent explanation of the observations that science uncovers. Kids in science classes ought to be made aware of this, just as jury members are made aware of different explanations of the evidence at a trial, so that they can decide which history provides the best explanation.
Science is all about doing repeatable, controlled experiments
Second, as Dr James Gunn, professor of astronomy at Princeton University, said, “Cosmology may look like a science, but it is not a science. A basic tenet of science is that you can do repeatable experiments, [as per the scientific method] and you can’t do that in cosmology..”4
Sir Francis Bacon (1561–1626) developed the scientific method. It is rooted in doing repeatable experiments to test predictions made by theories. One of the characteristics of these predictions, as pointed out by philosopher of science Karl Popper, is that they need to be falsifiable. That is, it needs to be possible to design an experiment that could generate evidence that contradicts it. If this is not possible, then the theory is arguably not science.
Dr Gunn may have been having a bit of fun at the expense of his colleagues, but his statement is nevertheless true. If we combine this with Dr Turner’s quote, we get a statement of considerable import:
‘The goal of physics is to understand the basic dynamics of the universe. Cosmology is a little different. The goal of cosmology is to reconstruct the history of the universe. Cosmology may look like a science, but it is not a science. A basic tenet of science is that you can do repeatable experiments, and you can’t do that in cosmology’
Physics and cosmology are of quite different character. Theories in physics can be tested by repeatable experiments because physics studies how the universe currently operates. Theories in cosmology—especially theories about the origin of the universe—can’t be tested by repeatable experiments because cosmology is about the history of the universe and hypothesized historical events cannot be tested by repeatable experiments. This is why the big bang has to be affirmed as a matter of faith.
With some straightforward word substitution, this important statement becomes equally applicable to the life-sciences realm:
‘The goal of biology is to study the basic dynamics of living things. Evolution is a little different. The goal of evolution is to reconstruct the history of life on earth. Evolution may look like a science, but it isn’t a science. A basic tenet of science is that you can do repeatable experiments, and you cannot do that in evolution.’
This echoes what famous evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr also said:
“Evolutionary biology, in contrast with physics and chemistry, is a historical science—the evolutionist attempts to explain events and processes that have already taken place. Laws and experiments are inappropriate techniques for the explication of such events and processes. Instead one constructs a historical narrative, consisting of a tentative reconstruction of the particular scenario that led to the events one is trying to explain.”5
You can’t do repeatable experiments in cosmology or evolution because they are studies of history. It’s like trying to do a scientific experiment to test the theory that Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon. This might be true, but science can’t prove it.
Science can’t prove anything to be true.
In fact, science cannot—and does not—prove theories to be true. In the Popperian sense, science can only prove theories to be false, and it sometimes struggles to do even that. This is why a theoretical scientific prediction must be unambiguously falsifiable, and this is why evolution and the big bang fail to qualify as ‘science’.
I suspect that is probably quite different from what you—and many others—believe to be the case. It is, nonetheless, true, as confirmed by the editors of Science after a correspondent wrote in:6
“The title of the 6 May News of the Week story ‘At long last, Gravity Probe B satellite proves Einstein right’ (p. 649) made me cringe. I find myself frequently repeating to students and the public that science doesn’t ‘prove’ theories. Scientific measurements can only disprove theories or be consistent with them. Any theory that is consistent with measurements could be disproved by a future measurement. I wouldn’t have expected Science magazine, of all places, to say a theory was ‘proved’.”
To which the editors replied:
“Bennett is completely correct. It’s an important conceptual point, and we blew it.”
The correspondent was Dr. Charles L. Bennett, Professor of physics and astronomy at Johns Hopkins University who, according to his page on the university website, earned his PhD at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and led NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) mission, the early results of which were recognized by Science magazine as the 2003 “Breakthrough of the Year.” So I think that we can accept that Dr Bennett understands science. And the editors of Science agree.
Observing results that are consistent with a theory does not prove the theory is true since the same results might also be consistent with some other theory. For example, suppose you hypothesize that eating a large pizza will fill your stomach. You then do an experiment to test this theory by eating a large pizza and … behold … your stomach is full. But, clearly this is not the only way that you might fill your stomach. Your stomach would also be full if you ate a large steak-and-kidney pie. Observing that someone has a full stomach does not prove that the person ate a large pizza.
Observations that are inconsistent with/contradictory to predictions prove a theory to be wrong.
However, observing results that are inconsistent with the theory does prove that the theory is wrong. Thus, if you were to eat a large pizza and your stomach was not full, you could unequivocally conclude that your theory was false.
Concluding that the big bang and/or evolution is correct based on observations that are consistent with the predictions of the particular one being considered is simply a classic logical fallacy. These same observations may be—and, indeed, are—consistent with predictions derived from the Genesis account of creation. That being the case, these observations cannot be used to assert that either is true—only that the observations do not indicate that either is wrong.
If numerous experimental results are consistent with a theory and there are no inconsistent results, as is the case for, say, the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics, then our confidence that the theory is, in fact, correct, can be very high. However, this is not the case for either the big bang or evolution.
In fact, there are a large number of observations that are inconsistent with—indeed, flat out contradictory to—the big bang and evolution. There are far too many of them to deal with comprehensively in this note, so I will highlight just a couple, using quotes from secular scientists.
According to the laws of physics, neither the big bang nor evolution can actually get started
As I am sure you are aware, according to the big bang, the universe allegedly started with a quantum fluctuation. But did it? David Darling, BSc physics, PhD astronomy, said:
“ … But there is a very real problem in explaining how it got started in the first place. You cannot fudge this by appealing to quantum mechanics. Either there is nothing to begin with, in which case there is no quantum vacuum, no pre-geometric dust, no time in which anything can happen, no physical laws that can effect change from nothingness into somethingness; or there is something, in which case that needs explaining.7”
As I am sure you are also aware, according to evolution, life allegedly started by the chance combination of inert chemicals into amino acids and then the chance polymerization of these amino acids in just the right sequences to produce the proteins necessary to create the first self-reproducing organism. However, Paul Davies, PhD physics, said:
“While amino acids are written into the laws of nature … proteins are not … throwing energy at amino acids won’t make proteins any more than putting dynamite under a pile of bricks will make a house. … We now know that the secret of life lies not with the chemical ingredients but with the logical structure and organizational arrangement of the molecule … biological information is not encoded in the laws of physics and chemistry … [and it] cannot come into existence spontaneously. … There is no known law of physics able to create information from nothing.”8
These are rather serious issues! The origin of both the universe and of life, both essential events for the big bang and evolution to be true, are impossible according to the laws of physics. Humanists just seem to accept on faith that these things happened, despite them being impossible. Sure sounds like they believe in miracles, don’t you think? They really are no different from those folks who accept the miracles in the Genesis account of these origins—except the miracles in Genesis have a Miracle Worker (God) whereas those in the big bang and evolution do not.
You need to help stop this “religious indoctrination”
Since you are upset by the “religious indoctrination” (your words) being done at religious schools, now that you are aware that equivalent religious indoctrination is being done at each and every other school in the country, I am certain that you will want to take vigorous action to correct this.
You can probably solicit assistance from the Humanists, since, like you and the NSS, they are also great advocates of separation of church and state, or, as they more aptly put it, separation of ideology and state.
The Ninth doctrine in HM II states:
“NINTH: The separation of church and state and the separation of ideology and state are imperatives. The state should encourage maximum freedom for different moral, political, religious, and social values in society. It should not favor any particular religious bodies through the use of public monies, nor espouse a single ideology and function thereby as an instrument of propaganda or oppression, particularly against dissenters.”9
I hope, sir, that you can fully appreciate the import of this statement!
It says that there should be no aspects of any religion/ideology in state policies. It says that the state should encourage maximum freedom—not discourage it, never mind actively suppress it as they are actually doing in this case. It says that the state should not use public monies to favour any particular religion. Yet this is exactly what the state is doing with the requirement to teach the two doctrines of the religion of Humanism—unbalanced by presenting any evidence that runs counter to these doctrines. And it says that the state should not espouse a single ideology. Yet, again, that is exactly what the state is doing and, thereby it is acting as an instrument of propaganda for the Humanist religion and simultaneously as an instrument of oppression of other religions/dissenters, in this case the Jewish faith/Jews.
The infiltration of the religion of Humanism into the affairs of the state goes well beyond the teaching of its doctrines in science class. Other doctrines of this religion include: moral relativism, situational ethics, the right to abortion, divorce, euthanasia, and suicide, and the adoption of world government, international courts, cooperative planning of the use of world resources, and worldwide wealth redistribution. It is clear that the government of the UK, indeed Western governments in general, are gradually and insidiously “using public monies [to] espouse a single ideology and [are functioning] thereby as an instrument of propaganda or oppression, particularly against dissenters.”
Now is the time for action!
Mr Evans, now that you have been apprised of the situation, as the Chief Executive of the NSS, an organization dedicated to ensuring the separation of ideology and state, I’m sure that you will want to take immediate action to have this religious indoctrination stopped posthaste. I look forward to reading a press release expressing your opprobrium at the egregious, mandated teaching, as science, of the doctrines of the religion of Humanism, which, as you say, amounts to, “…prioritising religious indoctrination above the educational rights of the children.”
Creation Ministries International would be pleased to assist you in any way that it can, perhaps by explaining to people how the observations across all branches of science are consistent with what would be expected from the history contained in Genesis while there are many inconsistencies with the history implicit in the big bang and evolution.
Jim Mason, BSc, PhD
References and notes
- Hazell, W., Jewish private school hit by Government action for teaching creationism in science, inews.co.uk/news/education/jewish-private-school-government-action-creationism-831496, 15 Jan 2021. Return to text.
- dictionary.com/browse/religion, last accessed Jan 2021. Return to text.
- Humanist Manifesto I, americanhumanist.org/what-is-humanism/manifesto1, last accessed 29 Jan 2021. Return to text.
- Cho, A., A singular conundrum: How odd is our universe? Science 317:1848–1850, 2007. Return to text.
- Mayr, Ernst (1904–2005), Darwin’s Influence on Modern Thought, based on a lecture that Mayr delivered in Stockholm on receiving the Crafoord Prize from the Royal Swedish Academy of Science, 23 September 1999; published on ScientificAmerican.com, 24 November 2009. Return to text.
- Bennett, C.L. Science Title Misstep, Science 332:1263, 2011. Return to text.
- Darling, D., On creating something from nothing, New Scientist 151(2047):49, 1996. Return to text.
- Davies, P., Life force, New Scientist 163(2204):27–30, 1999. Return to text.
- Humanist Manifesto II, americanhumanist.org/what-is-humanism/manifesto2, last accessed 29 Jan 2021. Return to text.