Tag Archives: religious twaddle

Poll finds 29% of science teachers are irrational

Never mind the facts, feel the belief.
You may remember that I mentioned an e-mail survey of teachers (and education professionals) a few weeks ago (Talk about mad scientists) which revealed that 29% of them thought that creationism should be taught as science. At the time I was a little sceptical about the value of the survey because it wasn’t exactly done with the greatest scientific rigour.
But an Ipsos/Mori poll reported in The Guardian (Would you Adam and Eve it? Quarter of science teachers would teach creationism), which surveyed 923 science teachers, also came to the figure of 29%. The per­centages for this poll and the other would appear to be coincidental, al­though you’d expect that in spite of differences between them, the results for a poll of science teachers would reveal that far fewer would teach creat­ionism.
Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean that those who would teach creationism necessarily believe it. They might have pragmatic reasons for making such a choice; or they might think it’s fair, but that also means that every other creation myth should be mentioned, otherwise there’s no fairness. There’s no harm in discussing creationism in Comparative Mythology Class, but it shouldn’t be mentioned in sciences classes because it then appears to have some degree of importance or credibility. Since no one talks about Hittite creation myths or Tongan creation myths in such classes, why should creat­ionism be regarded as any different?
But there’s no excuse for thinking that this sort of material belongs in a science class no matter what the reason is.

Talk about mad scientists

But 70% seem sane and rational.
Creationism should be taught as science, say 29% of teachers, says the story in today’s Guardian. But things are not quite as they seem. That’s 29% (about 350) of 11% (1210) of the total number of education professionals (10,600) Teachers TV tried to survey via e-mail. In other words, that’s the view of 29% of those who actually responded. The survey doesn’t seem to have been restricted to science teachers either. The low response may have been because a lot of the recipients of the mail message didn’t consider the subject relevant to their area of education.
I don’t know much about stats or the science of conducting surveys, but it’s hard not to conclude that the information gathered in this particular survey is of rather dubious value.

So many an idle bone

But Pagans never deviate into Sense.

Never let it be said that rationality ever had anything to do with religion. According to the story Give us back our bones, pagans tell museums, pagans are asking for bones and relics from pre-Christian sites to be returned to them because the presence of these items in museums is “an affront to their religion”.

Well, if Christians can’t get opt outs on adoption laws, then why should pagans expect to be treated any differently? Once again, some religious group seems to think that secular society should make a special exception for it.

“We would like people to reconsider their relationship with the bones,” said Paul Davies, reburial officer for the council. “We view them as living people and therefore they have rights as people. Because the ancestors can’t give their consent in this way, the council speaks for the ancestors.”

I assume that Davies doesn’t mean that each bone is a living person, but rather the skeleton. (Sorry, cheap shot.) Nonetheless, the bones are a.) dead; and b.) still dead no matter how hard you want it to be otherwise. I’m sure the gravedigger in Hamlet would ensure that Davies would be speaking by the card and ready to undo his equivocation. If you ancestry is Anglo-Saxon or Celtic, claims on bones can only go back so far, before which no one in modern Britain can have any claim at all.

Holger Schutkowski argues

“What would be lost is quite simply the only direct source material we have to find out about people in the past. There is nothing more direct than the human remains,” said Holger Schutkowski at Bradford University, who is head of the British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology. “There is no evidence that today’s pagan groups have any direct and uninterrupted linkage with belief systems in the past … So I think it is an unjustified claim.”
Some scientists say modern pagan groups have no right to represent the bones. “They would like to see themselves in a position where they can represent prehistorical remains in Britain, but this is just not the case. They are actually not speaking for anybody,” said Prof Schutkowski.


His [Schutkowski’s] view is far from universal. Some in the museum community say it is unfair for scientists to impose their world view on pagans. “We think that there is actually an intellectual argument for pagan claims to be taken seriously,” said Prof Bienkowski [deputy directory of the Manchester Museum], “It is a different world view which, actually, like the scientific world view can be neither proved nor disproved. It is actually our responsibility to take those views into account.” What right, he asks, do scientists have to speak for the bones either?

It’s all still boiling down to the same thing. A religious group seems to think that it holds some sort of privileged position in society to which the rest of us ought to accede.

A busy week

In the world of atheism.

The theme of The Guardian’s commentisfree section this week seems to have been topics circling around religion and atheism which have attracted large numbers of comments. The ones about religion came in for a ham­mering, particularly Richard Buggs’ Intelligent design is a science, not a faith. Well – Dick – you’re 50% right. ID isn’t a faith. A.C. Grayling wrote an article (Cruel faith) that was a response to the rather limp protests against sexual discrimination laws that were discussed in Parliament this week. Mark Vernon talked some veritable nonsense about this in Calm your outrage. Actually, it could be a bit embarrassing for homophobic atheists to find that they’re in the same boat as the fundamentalists. I can just imagine the love.

Dave Hill not only opened his mouth in Hate the sin, not the sinner, but the way he swallowed his feet suggested that he actually had six to eight of them. You unnatural freak, sir.

The contempt shown by liberals like Polly Toynbee and AC Grayling for all religious sentiment sounds as blinkered as the bigots they berate.

Patently untrue. Richard Dawkins may be a bit virulent, but most atheists aren’t out to see the wilful and deliberate destruction of religion, though we have no issues with it withering and dying, and being excluded from interfering in the secular world where it doesn’t belong.

Gareth McLean had something a little more intelligent to say on this subject in Discrimination beyond belief.

Meanwhile, I find I missed this story about evidence for the passage of modern humans into Europe being pushed back another 5000 years.

Here we go again

That’s right. The whole thing’s a conspiracy.

I was over on the technoranki charts clicking on links at random when I found this entry on a blog called nourishing obscurity. We have to go down a few paragraphs before we get to the good stuff.

But the most glaringly obvious question fails to be asked – how did the life-giving aminos come about in the first place? No one wants to ask this question because they’re more comfortable in the omnipotence of scientific a-theistic theory and they don’t want to ask any question which might lend support to a theistic theory.

Try “it happened by chance”. There was no aetiology or Prime Mover; there’s no teleology either. I’m an insensible particle which happens to bump into another insensible particle. Just by chance, we form an amino acid. Things bump into other things all the time. Nature takes its arbitrary course.

And yet, even in these very findings, scientists who have studied the particles have admitted they were previously wrong. Galileo and Copernicus both had the same problem of entrenched scientific thought and the populace as a whole lapped up what the scientists gave out in learned journals and accepted fallible men’s theories as unassailable fact.

Absolute nonsense, my dear sir. If the writer had the faintest idea of scientific method, he’d know that we have theories; new facts come to light; we modify our theories. Lather, rinse, repeat. The writer’s view seems to be that once a new fact comes to light, the whole theory collapses and can only be saved by Intelligent Design. (Press #1 for Dramatic Chord; or press #2 for Choir of Angels.)

To start out with the premise that there can be no intelligent force and to build your argument from there is highly suspect empiricism. Whatever happened to the open mind? And what of the counter-theory that this explosion of amino carrying particles was the method used by the Intelligence [for which there is more than enough literary reference to support the existence of] to carry out the operation?

Sentence One: The writer is also making an assumption. Arguments are based on facts; facts may be subject to change as the evidence from the particles collected by Stardust shows. His “intelligent force” isn’t a fact; it’s wishful thinking that requires faith. If you accept the initial assumptions, then the logic is sound; the logic remains sound even if you don’t, but the argument becomes invalid. I’ve observed this before about BoethiusConsolation of Philosophy.

Sentence Two: The statement cuts both ways. How is the author’s position more open-minded than that of a rational person? Does he accept both views (clearly not) simultaneously and hope that the paradox doesn’t give him a headache?

Sentence Three: if I’m an Intelligent Designer, why am I being so random about creating life? Consider the recent news about the human genome being packed full of apparently redundant information. If I’m not some mere programmer producing the next generation of bloatware, why is my creation so imperfect at a level at which it has no say in the matter?

Part in brackets: Hilarious. Literary evidence is a real killer. Elizabeth Bennet is direct proof that the early 19th century existed. Or that Jane Austen existed. Perhaps both.

Again, it’s not the findings which are in dispute but their interpretation and the swiftness with which the voices who made it into print seized on the findings as evidence of non-Intelligence is stunning in its lack of logic and its clear agenda.

All right, we surrender. You saw through our ploy. It was all done to discredit Intelligent Design. (Press #1 for Dramatic chord; or press #2 for Choir of Angels.) Your superior logic, which I’ve clarified for the benefit of right-thinking Cyberians everywhere, has argued us into submission. Premises, assumptions [Inferences? –ed.], conclusions – every one a fatal arrow at the heart of the rational scientific establishment. [Obi-wan senses a little sarcasm. –ed.]

Undeserved status

Neither theory nor science.

It appears that Ironia has been busy again after my comments last week on creationism in connection with the IELTS class, and after Green Bamboo was returned as a search result for this term the next day.

Creationism is rearing its unscientific head in schools in the UK according to this article in The Guardian. Several of the statements in the article are making creationism and intelligent design sound like scientific theories, albeit slightly left field –

PR packs spread controversial theory
“neither intelligent design nor creationism are recognised scientific theories”
“Neither intelligent design nor creationism are recognised scientific theories and they are not included in the science curriculum.”

While I understand the general thrust of the second and third statements, they imply that at some level creationism and intelligent design are scientific theories, but they have no official support. The statement should be something like “Neither intelligent design nor creationism are scientific theories and are not part of  the science curriculum”.

As for the first statement, the keyword there is “theory”. Why? Well, it’s because creationism and intelligent design assume that the hand of the God of the Christians is behind evolution and that aspects of religious belief can be science. But a theory is an idea that we try to prove through research and gradually refine as we attempt to approach the truth. The problem for the creationists is that their so-called theory makes them sound like agnostics because any good theory has an implicit element of doubt. The creationists shouldn’t have any doubt, because if they doubt they’re questioning the word and will of God. And the Pope isn’t going to like that.

A critique of the Theory of Evolution wouldn’t hurt, but not when there’s an ulterior, unscientific motive behind it.

Fortunately, the article includes this comment by Lewis Wolpert.

But leading scientists argue that ID is not science because it invokes super­natural causes. “There is just no evidence for intelligent design, it is pure religion and has nothing to do with science. It should be banned from science classes,” said Lewis Wolpert, a developmental biologist at the University of London and vice-president of the British Humanist Association.

Actually, I think I ought to have the IELTS class read the article. It’ll be good practice for them. Does Uncle Angel have an ulterior motive? Perish the thought. As if I would. I mean, what sort of devious scoundrel d’you think I am? [Do you really want us to answer that? –ed.]

Sugar and spice and all things nice

So that’s why babies look like storks.

I see the Royal Society has launched an attack on the teaching of Creationism as science. That’s fine by me, but I regard this is an American issue. I would’ve thought that Britain and Europe would be beyond such mock pseudo-science.

Of course, the article in The Guardian has the obligatory I’m-a-total-dickhead quote:

David Rosevear, of the Portsmouth-based Creation Science Movement, said yesterday that he was not surprised at the Royal Society’s move. “It is an atheistic faith position,” he said. “Atheism is as much a religion as the Church of England and they pursue it with real vigour … Not all scientists are evolutionists but they have to go along with it.”

Er, dumbarse, atheism isn’t a religion. Perhaps the argument goes

Atheists believe there are no gods; therefore, atheism is a religion because it still requires belief.

Thus, religion is belief, but if I apply the definition so casually, every time I believe something, I’m creating a religion. All right, that’s trivialising it, but the claims of Creationists are intellectual trivia masquerading as scientific theory.

The Gospel of Judas.

Now this, at least, was some interesting news. The Gospel of Judas has been translated and reveals an alternative early Christian view of Judas Iscariot. Instead of Judas being the great betrayer, he was actually helping Jesus liberate himself from his earthly body.

Of course, it’s a possible example of Christian exegesis. For instance, the Song of Songs is some X-rated ditty, but with a little exegesis, it becomes a deeply spiritual. Yeah, you keep telling yourselves that.

Open the vents!

Pope’s head overheats.

I’ve just seen this headline over on Google News UK:

Only in welcoming God can mankind find humanity and peace.

The European world did that some time ago. But look what happened – intolerance; schisms; Crusades; Reformations; Counter Reformations; Northern Ireland; In­tel­lig­ent Design… The party never ends.

The Pope is right, of course, but not in a good way. I am reminded once again of the Borg from Star Trek.

The pain! The pain!

And then there’s this from The Scotsman newspaper (my italics; probably because it depends on how the theme renders quotations).

BRITAIN’S digital music revolution will be increasingly driven by the over-50s as the affluent “silver surfer” generation migrate their music col­lect­ions onto MP3 players, industry experts said today.

I hope that’s a more-or-less direct quote from some semi-literate record company exec and not some sub-editor letting such an abomination pass through without comment.

The correct verb is transfer. Migrate is an intransitive verb, and thus un­gram­matical in this sentence. But I predict that eventually in American English (which is the most likely source of such a usage), all verbs will be used transitively or in­trans­itively without due care and attention, and there will be no passive voice because MS Word tells people not to use it.

A couple of theories about language.

About once every 500 years, the changes in the English language ac­cum­ul­ate to a sufficient degree for the language to enter a new phase. In the early 21st century, we’re at the start of the new phase (not that we can see it, of course, since language change is an on-going process) because it’s 500 years since the start of the Modern English period. The 500 years before that was the Middle English period, and the 500 before that, Old English. Before that, we spoke various dialects of West Germanic and English didn’t exist.

Anyway, that’s my theory.

My other theory is that the Old English period is the period when the in­sular dialects of West Germanic (i.e., those spoken on the damp and fog-bound isle of Britain), became increasingly separate from their Continental cousins. In other words, the English language as a language (and not just a dialect of someone else’s language) didn’t really exist before about AD 1000.

Thinking man’s crumpet from late Antiquity.

I was doing some reading about Hypatia of Alexandria yesterday. I found a reference to her on a website about Epicurus, although she wasn’t an Epicurean. She was born in Alexandria some time in the second half of the 4th century (perhaps between 455 and 470). her father, Theon, was the last director of the museum in Alexandria. She herself was a mathematician and philosopher, and both popular and well-connected. She may have been married, but that’s uncertain.

She was murdered by Christian fanatics in 415. It was rumoured that she was preventing the city’s Prefect, Orestes, from being reconciled with Bishop Cyril. According to Socrates Scholasticus, she was taken to the church of Caesarion, stripped naked, and beaten to death with tiles. Her body was then removed to Cinaron and burnt. Although Socrates was a Christian, his account is basically sympathetic to Hypatia.

John, the Bishop of Nikiu, sensationalised the story somewhat. Hypatia is now a witch, and she was first taken to the church before being dragged through the streets until she died.

Socrates’ account may have been coloured by his attitude towards Cyril, and that may explain why Hypatia’s death has all the hallmarks of Christian martyrdom.

The account in The Suda follows the same sort of line. It mentions her beauty and chastity. It also adds a tale about one besotted admirer whom Hypatia “cured” by waving some used tampons in his face.

The version by the Bishop of Nikiu seems to be aimed at the groundlings. Hypatia is taken to the church before being dragged around the streets until she died. If she’d been murdered in the church, the church would’ve been despoiled by the blood of an unbeliever. It may also be being implied that Hypatia was given the chance to convert.

Hypatia’s death was never avenged. The emperor “was angry, and he would have avenged her had not Aedesius been bribed” (The Suda). Not long afterwards, Orestes left Alexandria and Cyril had won the day.

No one knows what part Cyril played in Hypatia’s death, but he’s unlikely to have been upset. There had been human rights violations on both sides. According to The Suda, Cyril was jealous of Hypatia’s popularity.

[H]e was so struck with envy that he immediately began plotting her murder and the most heinous form of murder at that.

But her death in this version is mere assassination. Well, it is The Suda after all.