The Early Days of a Better Nation

Monday, February 02, 2009

More evolution

In association with IoI, Humanism Scotland, and the National Library of Scotland
Should schools teach creationism?
Venue: National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh, George IV Bridge, EH1 1EW
Date: February 11, 2009
Time: 18.30
Tickets: Free
Booking: Reservation required from 0131 623 4675 or email


Alex McLellan, Founder and Executive Director of Reason Why
Dave Perks, Head of Physics at Graveney School in London
Christopher Brookmyre, Novellist, including Boiling a Frog
Julian Baggini, writer and philosopher
Marc Surtees, Paradigm Shift
Chair - Dr Tiffany Jenkins, Institute of Ideas

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Hmm, will have to change some plans but will try to make this one as well. It's a topic that fair gets my blood pumping and I reckon Christopher Brookmyre could be wonderful in this setting if let off the leash.

I don't like the phrasing of the question though. There's no doubt about whether or not creationism should be taught, the question is where. Try to teach it in science classes and I'll go ballistic. But in a comparative religion class alongside other creation myths like the dreamtime? Bring it on, I'm sure it'll be a fascinating class (FYI I've been contemplating training as an RMPE teacher for the past couple of years)

Good way to spend a potentially chilly Wednesday evening if you ask me.

You have to remember that the question is phrased to annoy everyone. The IOI is not in it for a quiet life, rather they want to foster discussion, to the extent of helping such a bankrupt ideology as Creationism to get some air time.
Book your ticket soon, I expect it to be well attend by our local nutters, the Edinburgh Creation Group.

I wonder if Ken has any opinion on the IOI?

If that gets you fired up, you can leap on a train and come down to Leicester, where on the evening of the 12th, Leicester Secular Society are hosting a talk (in Secular Hall, natch) by Michael Reiss on 'Science, Religion and Education'.

Chris Williams

Is there such a thing as empirical studies on the curriculum? Best to say creationism should be studied, analysed, rather than taught.

Guthrie: my opinion of the IoI is that I've never been able to figure out what they think they're doing, but I'm happy to take part in their events, when asked and if I can.

Neal, there is no set course in anything like empirical studies on the curriculum at present (at least not in Scotland) but there is a certain amount of leeway within RMPE to introduce certain elements of critical thinking and the like. That leeway seems to be growing every year despite the pro-religious bent of the SNP, hopefully a trend that will continue.

And I agree, creationism should not be taught in the same way as multiplication but analysed and discussed. No sense hiding it under the carpet - I always reckon the best way to discredit a ridiculous idea is to subject it to as much public scrutiny as possible in order to expose its countless flaws. That's why I never understood the laws in Germany against holocaust denial - let these people speak out so we know who the idiots are and we can take them to pieces in the spotlight...

May we never cease to be amazed. Last week, the Norwegian prime minister announced that the debate was over (which debate? nobody had heard about any debate before he announced that it was over), and that the government had concluded that Norway should implement a law against blasphemy.

This has understandably peeved off quite a few people like me who would like to take the debate first, thank you, and the polls show some 90% of the people being against it, with the remainder split 5%/5% between pro and "undecided".

The religious remind us all the time that we should take them seriously and not write them off as a conquered and disarmed enemy, no matter how much we would like to.

Ken & Gurthrie: Has anyone ever been able to figure out what the RCP and it's various dangly bits thought they were doing?

John: having observed that tendency since it was a mere strand of DNA inside the International Socialists in the early 1970s, I remain baffled. The RCP itself was straight Trot-ultra-left. As for the post-RCP and its various dangly bits, what they think they're doing is this: the collapse of the Soviet bloc (and the failure of the RCP itself to supplant the traditional left) ended internal conflict in the West over political fundamentals, and exposed a complete lack of positive vision for society once the spectre of the Soviet threat was removed. Hence all the phenomena of panics, greenery, terror threats, etc. It's not so much a dark age as an age in which everyone is afraid of the dark.

So there has to be a humanist resurgence before anyone can sensibly talk about socialism again. Until that happens, all forms of socialism are inevitably recuperated into austerity chic: the left criticises capitalism for its good sides, not its bad sides.

The developments the ex-RCP regard as positive in recent years are: the immigrant rights marches in the US, the Nepalese Revolution, and Obamania (though not Obama).

I think that the element of truth in what they say is warped by their origin as sectarians, and by the joys of contrarianism.

If you go then prepare to be astonished by Marc Surtees. He's a lovely chap but, like many people motivated by faith, debating with him is a frustrating experience. Last time we had him give a talk to the Edinburgh Fortean Society he tried to argue with me that there was no way to actually prove that the solar system was heliocentric rather than geocentric. I'm not 100% sure that he was being serious.

Thanks Ken, that sort of makes sense. It seems a terribly one sided and narrow view of society though.
As someone who came of age well after the cold war ended,* all I can say is what a load of mince. Nowadays it looks to me like they are being contrarian, whilst having worked out that its a great way to get funding from rich companies and the gvt.

Meanwhile I know a number of people of varying degrees of leftwinginess with positive ideas for the future, only they lack such things as a party to vote for or a revolutionary organisation trying to overthrow said parties.

* my first general election being '97, and no I dind't vote labour.

Ken, that's the nicest interpretation of the ex-RCP's behaviour I've ever seen.

Personally I tend to think that brother James and his pals are just nutters, but there you go. :-)

Die spammer die!

Just deleted some comment spam. Carry on.

I don't know if anyone else attended the debate last night but it was massive fun. In previous dealings with Mark Surtees I hadn't realised quite how "Paradigm" shifty he is. Extremely disingenuous of him to call himself a biologist and go on about how he accepts some elements of darwinism without admitting once that he's not just a creationist but actually a YOUNG EARTH creationist. I imagine the statement that he believes that the world is only 6000 odd years old would have got the biggest laugh of the night.

Ours was a good evening, thoroughly free from any slipperiness. I recommend Michael Reiss as the kind of vicar it's good for secularists to talk with.

Chris Williams

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