Thursday, 25 June 2009

Creationist Museums

There's an interesting three-part account here of a visit to Britain's own 'Creationist Museum' in Portsmouth. It doesn't compare to Ken Ham's 27 million dollar museum (or theme park)in Kentucky, though they have equally absurd exhibits. It's all rather sad really. Does anyone know if young-earth creationist views are widespread in Hastings, say in the evangelical christian churches?

Monday, 22 June 2009

Science and Evolution; How Timely!

In light of our fascinating talk from Dean; this quote from the BHA e-letter is very timely.

Consultation on the new Primary Curriculum in England: Science and evolution!
What is the issue?
In January 2008 the Government commissioned a review looking at both the organisation and content of the National Curriculum taught in primary schools in England. The review was lead by Sir Jim Rose. His final report was published on 30 April 2009.

The changes that have been proposed by the Rose Review have now been put out to public consultation. The consultation is being conducted by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA). The public consultation will run until 24 July 2009, after which point the Government will consider how to proceed.

Our position
The BHA broadly welcomes the proposed new curriculum. However, we have particular concerns regarding the new ‘scientific and technological understanding’ area of learning, which is one of six new ‘areas of learning’ that have been put forward as the new structure of the curriculum.

Our main concern is that the ‘scientific and technological understanding’ area of learning makes no requirement for pupils to learn about and investigate the concepts of natural selection and evolution. We believe that the theory of evolution – arguably the single most important idea underlying the life sciences today – must be included in the primary curriculum."

This certainly ties in with Dean's observation that science can only make sense when underpinned by evolution. The item goes on:

"The wealth of new educational resources on evolution available for children of primary school age demonstrates their ability to grasp the simpler concepts associated with it, and a basic understanding of evolution will help lay the foundation for a surer scientific understanding later on in children’s school life.

With 2009 being the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species, the omission of evolution from the curriculum of primary schools is scandalous.

What can be done?
Please write to your MP, urging them to support the inclusion of natural selection and evolution in the primary curriculum. You can use our online facility to email your MP directly at

Please also make a submission to the QCA’s public consultation, which you can do by downloading the consultation questionnaire online at

You can read the BHA's own response to the consultation at

Here the BHA not only make more detailed comments about other weakness in ‘scientific and technological understanding’, but also in some of the other areas of learning. If you agree with the BHA's comments in these other areas then please do consider responding to these sections of the consultation as well....
Please copy any submissions you make or correspondence you enter into on this subject to Paul Pettinger at the BHA ( or by post to British Humanist Association, 1 Gower Street, London WC1E 6HD)."

Let us hope that common sense and enlightened thought win the day.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Did god survive Darwin?

Many thanks to Dean Morrison who gave a very interesting presentation under the heading “Did God Survive Darwin?” on Thursday 18th June 2009.

Dean’s talk was wide ranging, giving an historical perspective, and discussing how breakthroughs in scientific discovery have been received by religious organisations. He also described the evolutionary process in straightforward terms.

Dean is clearly very knowledgeable on his subject, having obtained his science degree in Edinburgh and been actively involved in scientific groups ever since. However, he put across his argument in terms that the non-scientific of us could understand and provided pictures and statistics to demonstrate his points.

In conclusion? God has survived Darwin, but is now seen very differently by most people. Although creationists still accept Genesis as a literal re-telling of history, many believers now see their god within the context of evolution (such as the provider of the “soul” or the being who started the whole process).

The answer to the question posed, therefore, brought a wry smile to some of the members present.

God has survived Darwin, but only by evolving.

Thank you again to Dean.

Friday, 12 June 2009

The Accomodationism Debate

On his blog "Why Evolution is True" Jerry Coyne gives 17 links to the current debate on Accommodationism which make interesting reading, and may be relevant to our meeting on 18th June.

His main argument, in his original article, is that some scientific organisations are biased in their support of those who consider evolution philosophically compatible with religious belief, in the hope of encouraging other religious believers to come to the same accommodation, while at the same time asking those who take an atheist viewpoint to be quiet and not rock the scientific boat.

BHA Urges Response to Consultations

The BHA is urging Humanists to respond to two consultations, though the deadline for one is already very close.

1) Consultation on broadcasting advertising rules on family planning centres and condoms Deadline 19 June

2} Consultation on New Guidance for Religious Education in England Deadline 24 July

I hope to attend the meeting of East Sussex Sacre in Eastbourne on 7th July, as an observer, and will report my experiences at our 9th July meeting, which will be a discussion on the whole area of Religious Education.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

A Day Out at Conway Hall

I've just got back from the Darwin, Humanism and Science one-day conference at Conway Hall. It was more a series of lectures than what I would call a conference. The highlight of the day for me was the introductory speech by Richard Dawkins in which he took the famous last paragraph of Origin of Species as his theme and wove eloquent variations on it line by line.

There were then two lectures about the attempts of young-earth creationists to subvert the teaching of science, and in particular evolutionary biology. James Williams of Sussex University advocated the teaching of evolution from an earlier age to avoid young minds being filled with misconceptions that are difficult to overcome at a later stage.

Two, more philosophical, talks covered the difficulty of teaching evolution, caused in the first place by its non-intuitive nature and secondly by its supposed implications for morality. To counter the charge of immorality levelled at Social Darwinism, Michael Schmidt-Salomon advocated "Evolutionary Humanism" as a worldview, which he traced back to Julian Huxley.

The last talk, by Babu Gogineni of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, warned us against the rising fundamentalism of followers of the Hindu religion.

A. C. Grayling closed the day with some thoughts on Humanism and Science which he connected to C. P. Snow's "Two Cultures" lecture given 50 years ago.

An irritation throughout the day for me was the presence of a simultaneous translation booth at the back of the hall which was not adequately soundproofed. I had to struggle to listen to the speaker and ignore the translator.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Date Change for June Meeting

Unfortunately there has been a clash over booking of the Notley room at White Rock Hotel, so Dean Morrison's talk will now be a week later, 18th June. The Hastings Environment Network also meets at the White Rock for what they call "Green Drinks" normally at 8:30pm, but they have booked the room on 11th June for a committee meeting. I hope we can come to an arrangement to avoid such clashes in future.

Edit: The Hastings Observer today (5 June) has a report of our May meeting on page 32 and a notice of our June meeting on page 26 under the title "Group to discuss the big questions". Unfortunately both still give the wrong date, despite a correction sent five days ago. I will be at White Rock Hotel on 11th June to catch any people who come there for our meeting. Anyone else who cares to come along for a chat in the bar is welcome.

Today I've also sent out the June Newsletter to those whose addresses I have, and also notified the correct date to everyone else whose email address I have.

Edit: 12 June. The Hastings Observer doesn't seem to have reported our change of date for this meeting in today's issue. However their two mentions last week of our proposed 11th June meeting did not result in anyone new turning up yesterday! On the other hand, perhaps everyone interested checked with our blog to make sure of the date. Getting regular publicity is a problem.