26 August 2006
Creationism and Evolution in Leicester again
Some members of Leicester Secular Society, I should add, don't agree with me on this, but say we are committed to freedom of religious worship and to free speech, so long as we get to put the other side of the story. And we are getting to put the other side in a constructive way, as in conjunction with Leicester University, we will be welcoming the geneticist Professor Steve Jones, on 7th November. The title of his talk will be the same as that he presented to the Royal Society earlier this year: Why Creationism is Wrong and Evolution is Right.
The need for continued vigilance against the encroachment of creationist ignorance is emphasised by an Opinionpanel Research survey conducted in July this year which found that more than 30% of UK university students believe in creationism or intelligent design. This is the starting point of an article by A.C.Grayling in the Guardian: Reason Lost, which has atracted extensive comments.
I quote a comment (though I know some of our members will also disgree with this) by Laurence Boyce: "... I think that the problem lies firmly with 'faith,' and with our beloved religious leaders who habitually pollute our rational discourse with their unjustifiable demand that we should 'respect' their ridiculous, contradictory, and unfalsifiable belief systems. The creationists are right! The entire basis of Christian theology - the fall and the redemption - simply gets blown away by Darwinism. Viewed in this light, nice mainstream 'moderate' religion is merely the blood supply feeding the cancer of so-called religious extremism.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world creationists continue their little encroachments on the road to a new dark age:
The NY Times reports that evolutionary biology has vanished from the list of acceptable fields of study for recipients of a federal education grant.
Christians in Kenya are pressurising the country’s national museum to hide their world famous collection of hominid bones that provide evidence of human evolution. Bishop Adoyo said all Kenya’s churches would join the campaign to force the museum to change its focus when it re-opens after refurbishment next year.
Finally, the Pope has retired his official astronomer, Father George Coyne, after a series of public clashes with other cardinals over the theory of evolution. The NSS points out that this comes only weeks before the Vatican hosts a seminar to examine the impact of Darwin’s theory on the Church’s teaching of Creation.
On the positive side: It is reported that geneticists have identified the brain genes that gave us chumps a head start on the chimps.
But you're quite right -- the university also has freedom, and it could, and indeed should, have freely rejected any such request. Because it has the freedom not to be complicit.
I emailed the Union and got a reply which says, in short:
"... as a Students' Union we are happy to encourage free speech within the law. The booking will not contravene this, and it is clear policy that the Students' Union does not associate itself with the views held and expressed in privately booked conferences in the building."
and: "We do not anticipate this will have any impact on the reputation of the Universtiy in the field of education or science."
In short, complacency, if not complicity.
Ken Ham himself came out and spoke with me for a few minutes. Subsequently he published his own version of our talk on his site. A link is included in the above report.
I think the picket was worth holding. If only to help show the creationists that their are people who laugh at their stupid ideas.