Jewish Chronicle – I do not think we should teach creationism in schools


This one’s by Abraham Hilsenrath on the Jewish Chronicle.

It is rather puzzling to hear non-Christian and Islamic creationists, we often forget that Jews share the same creation mythos and while they may pay lip service to the story they don’t “actively” believe in it.

But there are conservative Jews who do if we think about it. The difference is that Jews don’t try and foist creationism on schools as much as Islam and Christianity do.

Like many other politics students, I often enjoy watching Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons every Wednesday at noon.

As this inconveniently conflicts with my politics lessons in school, I turn to the medium of the Daily Politics Show, which couples the ever-entertaining Commons debates with further argument and discussion between guests of opposing political persuasions.

On February 5, a particularly entertaining PMQs – including the usual back and forth between David Cameron and Ed Miliband – was followed by a segment on Professor Roberts, who put forward her argument that creationism has no place in science lessons in schools.

It really does not. We don’t teach astrology in physics either. Because creationism is bullshit, it is bullshit coated in the veneer of religion so we must respect it. It’s proponents couch their arguments in religious canon and assume it’s a valid counterpoint to hard science. Where complete ignorance is valued as an alternative viewpoint to understanding.

They have to, they have to make it a debate, they have to make it about choices because frankly their entire spiel is that creationism is an equal and valid choice to study in the same way that wearing a cloak of eagle feathers is an equal and valid choice to the jet powered airliner.

Now, while I am willing to meet the Professor up to the point where I agree that religious belief should not be confused with the discipline of science, her presentation, despite generally remaining along her line of argument, had a distasteful aura surrounding it that brought up a few questions for me.

It’s distasteful because it is humble pie.

If we are to assume that the ultimate truth in the universe is “a god”, then it is not the men who pray in their various temples to whatever gods  they believe in that are closest to that truth but the scientist who does not hold that truth as a sacred and taboo principle.

Firstly, there was her point that avoiding the teaching of creationism is “being honest with our children” and that “presenting creationism as a scientifically valid concept is nonsense”.

There is no evidence what so ever for creationism any more than there is evidence for wizards. Saying Bethlehem or Jerusalem were ancient cities ergo “Jehovah” is like me saying that Kings Cross station has a platform 9 and 10 so Harry Potter and his wizard world are real and we should register known wizards lest we have another He Who Must Not Be Named.

If we are to agree that Jesus Christ rose from the dead then we must also agree that Harry Potter did the same thing too.

I am being silly, I know Harry’s story was based on sacrifice themes bound in the myth of Jesus.

While many people may not believe in creationism, to imply that religious people are liars for teaching creationism to their children would be, to some, harsh and unfair and, to others, an attack on their right to freedom of religion; take your pick.

No, we prefer to call them ignorant and incorrect. We understand that there is a selective blindness and bias when it comes to things we believe in and so creationism while incorrect is being taught as a lie only in the sense that it is incorrect and false. However the people who do wish for it to be taught believe it is true and that learning about magical origins of humanity is a more useful endeavour than working hard to understand the fundamental mechanism of the universe through observation, repeated experiments.

Now the problem is that doing the latter has resulted in our entire world of fantastic technology. Just 5000 years ago we thought the acme of technology was bronze and the majority of humans may have still used chipped stones. While we understand the process today, our ancestors used a similar process unconsciously to make slow but steady progress.

So why would we teach the process that does not work. Reading the Torah or the Bible or the Koran or the Gita does not give you an understanding of the forces that allow you to build a church. That was science. It doesn’t allow you to understand the forging of your icons. It doesn’t till the land, it doesn’t touch the stars.

It is all science. We are so hell bent on making our kids worship the gods we choose, that we have forgotten that it was not assuming the divine that has created the world we live in. That we pay lip service to imaginary beings we created on devices that would be simply unfathomable by the creators of our modern superstitions.

You are free to worship whatever and whomever you choose providing it does not harm anyone or break the law. However you may do so in your houses or in your temples to your gods. Not in our temples to our education. It is harsh, it is unfair, but ultimately life is harsh and unfair. Religion is not sacred, it is bound for criticism and in this case the criticism is that religion is “so wrong” that it’s not worth teaching in a science class.

If you want us to teach religion in our science class then we will request that we use creationism as an example.

It’s simple. Creationism is a load of waffle that boils down to “God Did It By Magic, Now Pray Harder”. There is no mechanism, there is no elegance, there is no evidence. It does not even meet the criteria for a hypothesis or an observation, yet you wish us to teach our children?

A quick internet search (alas, I do not have the manpower for an appropriate survey) will find you plenty of examples of modern day religious scientists.

An article from the Guardian indicates a large number of scientists that suggest compatibility between religion and science, including Peter Higgs, Brian Cox, and many Nobel Prize winners (for one name amongst many others, Einstein).

Yes, but if you asked Brian Cox if this means that Astrology is a valid belief since it is compatible with some of our understanding of the Universe then he would call you an idiot.

And I like the fact that you bring up Einstein. Einstein is very intelligent. We can agree with that statement. But would you trust him to remove an appendix? Why not? He is smart.

Because it’s not what his speciality is. Einstein was not a biologist.

Indeed, there is even an online book entitled “50 Nobel Laureates and Other Great Scientists Who Believe in God”.

So what? I know a Nobel Laureate who thought that IQ is related to genetics which is why Africans are so “backwards” (Crick). Does that make him right? A Nobel Laureate means he is recognised for a piece of work (DNA) and it doesn’t mean everything he says is now true.

And I am pretty sure that belief in a god is different from “Creationism”.

The simple fact is that while Professor Roberts can disagree with the compatibility of science and God, it is overly dismissive to refer to it as nonsense and, in what I consider to be her harshest comment: “creationism has the potential to ruin a scientific education”.

Yes, yes it straight does. Creationism is anti-thetical to the core concept of biology. And that’s a pillar of science. Now Biology may not be as theoretically sciencey as Physics or traditional as Chemistry and Biologists may look like they are faffing about with bacteria and worms and looking at weird plants and animals but I assure you it is a science. There are other sciences like Geology, Astronomy and the like that all are anti-thetical to the idea of creationism too.

Your science education begins at school, creationism may not harm your ability to answer a test but it will harm your ability to think outside the box when it comes to science and what we know and use principles to answer questions.

There are several reasons why this last statement should be ignored. While I, as a humanities student, am not the best example, there are many people – observant or otherwise – who believe in God and creationism and who like to study the sciences.

Yes, but there are way more people who do not believe in your particular god and who study science.

Nobel Laureates aside (of which Professor Roberts is not one), I have many friends enjoying the sciences while retaining their own religions. My school and others have many examples of this; it is not as if religious schools have particularly below-average performances or participation in the sciences.

This is going back to those people who suggest that my statements were less valid because I never spoke for TED (why would I? I am not a leading voice in my field, I am still trying to get qualified and my field is hard to get to the top of so it takes time). You can read science and still believe in a god, but you cannot read god and think you are doing science.

The difference is that god and religion yield to science. Creationism is demanding that science yields to your god.

Simply answering a test is not the be all and end all of science.

Let’s take an example. Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye. Ken Ham has done precious little apart from ensuring a generation of kids is a lot more ignorant than they should be. Bill Nye has tried to teach science to everyone. That is the difference between creationism and science.

Comments

  1. M can help you with that. says

    They always bring up Einstein…but Einstein was, depending on when you asked, either an agnostic or a Spinozan pantheist (which is a naturalist with bells on). Not, as you point out, that any particular brilliant scientist agreeing with a proposition makes it right; but even the examples they try to claim aren’t actually with them.

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