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Richard Dawkins: 'Growth in creationist beliefs a problem for schools' - Comments

HoyaSaxa87's Avatar Comment 1 by HoyaSaxa87

australia is a religious country? learn something new every day.

Mon, 07 Apr 2008 05:16:00 UTC | #148377

Quetzalcoatl's Avatar Comment 2 by Quetzalcoatl

HoyaSaxa87-

apparently, Australia is supposed to be a Catholic country.

At the risk of sounding like a blind follower, I agree with what RD has said. There are a few creationists espousing their agenda in the UK, particularly a guy named Vardy, who made his money selling used cars(!) He's funded or is funding creationist "educational" ideas.

Emmanuel College is his handiwork:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2002/mar/17/schools.religion

Mon, 07 Apr 2008 05:21:00 UTC | #148380

PrimeNumbers's Avatar Comment 3 by PrimeNumbers

I used to live near a Vardy school. I'd meet a friend on the bus comming home from work. He worked at the Vardy school. He was a Christian, but a good one in the sense that his morals were better than his God's, a genuine nice person. I think his opinion of the "Christian" school was that it was very un-Christian, other than at face value, but the morals and ethics behind the scenes were suspect.

Mon, 07 Apr 2008 05:27:00 UTC | #148383

MedMonkey's Avatar Comment 4 by MedMonkey

I recently found out that a friend and classmate at my medical college is a "Young Earth creationist". It is still hard for me to understand how someone obviously intelligent and at all curious on the matter should be satisfied with myths and superstition.

Is the perception that the number of followers of this ideology is actually growing, or is this mere conciousness raising?

Mon, 07 Apr 2008 05:35:00 UTC | #148387

Vadjong's Avatar Comment 5 by Vadjong

It's not just Xtian schools, either.
Richard might have mentioned Saudi Arabia and Turkey, as well.

Mon, 07 Apr 2008 05:36:00 UTC | #148388

black wolf's Avatar Comment 6 by black wolf

I wish they'd stop labeling people 'Darwinists'. If any label is needed, they should use the term 'evolutionary biologist', or at least mention that neo-Darwinian evolution is very much more sophisticated and detailed than what 'Darwinism' implies. The dishonest and/or ignorant activists out there will pounce on any possibility to associate modern scientists with Social Darwinism and immoral eugenics.

Mon, 07 Apr 2008 05:38:00 UTC | #148390

Quetzalcoatl's Avatar Comment 7 by Quetzalcoatl

MedMonkey-

I think consciousness raising has a lot to do with it. We're far more aware of creationist influence now than we were before.

Mon, 07 Apr 2008 05:39:00 UTC | #148391

DeepFritz's Avatar Comment 8 by DeepFritz

Us Australians really are too lazy to be bothered to be religious...

If Moses was Australian he would have gone up the mountain with a slab - and after finishing the slab he would have come down with one commandment... BUGGER IT!

Mon, 07 Apr 2008 05:53:00 UTC | #148392

Epinephrine's Avatar Comment 9 by Epinephrine

If we want to replace use of the word "Darwinist" we need to come up with something nearly as simple. "Gene-centred evolutionist" or "modern evolutionary synthesist" are too cumbersome. I agree though that it's unfortunate, since the gene-centred view isn't exactly what Darwin was suggesting.

Mon, 07 Apr 2008 05:55:00 UTC | #148393

black wolf's Avatar Comment 10 by black wolf

Is the perception that the number of followers of this ideology is actually growing, or is this mere conciousness raising?


Creationists are getting more and more organized, grasping any opportunity to found more faith schools and tax-exempt organizations. They use these to promote and sell their material, which in turn persuade more gullible and uneducated parents to offer their children.
Unfortunately, I get the impression that the large moderate churches are very content in blinding out attention to this accelerating process, as if it were an insignificant fringe group that would vanish in time. Atheists and a few moderate Christians are trying to raise awareness and have been doing so for years, but maybe the churches want to wait for a full-fledged creationist theocracy to emerge before they decide to turn their energy to the problem. Because that would be the point when they start suffering, when creationists get the laws changed to abolish religious freedom, and the old churches find themselves labeled 'false converts' and 'cults'. It seems as if the established mainstream clergy have never read the proverb:
When they came for the Jews, I didn't speak up, for I am not a Jew.
When they came for the homosexuals, I didn't speak up, for I am not a homosexual.
When they came for the communists and socialists, I didn't speak up, for I was never one of them.
When they came for the democrats, I didn't speak up, for most of them didn't share my faith.
When they came for me, there was no one left to speak up on my behalf.

Mon, 07 Apr 2008 05:55:00 UTC | #148394

Vadjong's Avatar Comment 11 by Vadjong

Well, the consciousness raising happens over "on the other side". Believers are told accepting evolution is denying God, for no small part because Richard, as a biologist, has come out for atheism.
There is a chance, I hope, that, once the sheeple learn a bit more and actually start thinking about it, more of them will eventually come to the right conclusion.
You can fool a lot of people some of the time, etc.

Mon, 07 Apr 2008 05:55:00 UTC | #148395

Pattern Seeker's Avatar Comment 12 by Pattern Seeker

As an American, it seems the only things we export these days are wars and religious stupidity.

Sorry, 'bout that.

Mon, 07 Apr 2008 06:03:00 UTC | #148396

black wolf's Avatar Comment 13 by black wolf

Believers are told accepting evolution is denying God, for no small part because Richard, as a biologist, has come out for atheism.


I think that assessment is inaccurate. Creationist ministries have started up increased activity decades ago, long before RD even wrote his first book. They surely use Dawkins as a scapegoat to point at, but he's just a convenient opponent for them to build their divisiveness on. It's a good thing that at least some politicians have awoken from their slumber. But still far too many think that openly opposing creationism is somehow against religious freedom, or that science can never relate to religious claims.

Mon, 07 Apr 2008 06:06:00 UTC | #148397

Quetzalcoatl's Avatar Comment 14 by Quetzalcoatl

Black Wolf-

but the first part of Vadjong's statement is still accurate. Telling believers that certain ideas are unchristian is an effective method of control. The problem is getting politicians to believe that opposing creationism and religious oppression (ie treatment of women in Islamic countries) is not a bad thing. Perhaps if it were made clear to them that a large number of moderates would probably support them, they might be prompted into doing something.

Mon, 07 Apr 2008 06:10:00 UTC | #148398

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 15 by Cartomancer

It seems as if the established mainstream clergy have never read the proverb:
When they came for the Jews, I didn't speak up, for I am not a Jew.
When they came for the homosexuals, I didn't speak up, for I am not a homosexual.
When they came for the communists and socialists, I didn't speak up, for I was never one of them.
When they came for the democrats, I didn't speak up, for most of them didn't share my faith.
When they came for me, there was no one left to speak up on my behalf.
The sentiment is sound, but it is even more powerful in its proper context. This "proverb" is actually an adaptation of a famous poem by the German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemoeller, who was imprisoned at Dachau during the second world war and narrowly escaped execution at the hands of the Nazis. His colleage Dietrich Bonhoeffer was not so lucky. Niemoeller was concerned about the inactivity of the mainstream German church and intellectuals in the face of increasing Nazi totalitarianism. The actual version goes something like this:

First they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak out - because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak out for me.
Does seem a tad reductio ad hitlerum to equate creationists with the Nazis (though they appear to have no such scruples in return) but the principle of making an early stand to avoid letting the problem get out of control is similar I guess. Admittedly Niemoeller was not the whiter-than-white resistance hero that postwar America painted him to be - he was actually a top-ranking German U-Boat commander during the first world war, and much of his early theological writing is sharply anti-semitic (though not murderously so). His main concern also seems to have been protecting the German protestant churches from falling under Nazi control, rather than liberal humanitarian decency, though his stay in the concentration camps did change his mind on a lot of things.

Mon, 07 Apr 2008 06:12:00 UTC | #148399

hungarianelephant's Avatar Comment 16 by hungarianelephant

Er ... what Richard said doesn't appear to have anything to do with the title or opening paragraph of this article.

He was asked about a problem, and he gave an example of feedback that was being received from schools. What he didn't say was that this was a problem for the school. And it isn't necessarily. Children come to school with all sorts of erroneous beliefs, and it's sorta kinda the job of the school to teach the kids how they have it wrong.

Mon, 07 Apr 2008 06:25:00 UTC | #148400

Charles Bradlaugh's Avatar Comment 17 by Charles Bradlaugh

Re the Niemoller quote: in fact he didn't say 'first they came for the Jews' he said, historically accurately, 'first they came for the communists.' (in terms of order of persecution after 1933.)

there is an interesting discussion in a book called 'the Holocaust and Collective Memory' by Robert Novick on how this quote has been 'adapted' to suit certain agendas- for example, in Boston 'then they came for the Catholics' has been added!

Mon, 07 Apr 2008 06:33:00 UTC | #148403

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 18 by Cartomancer

for example, in Boston 'then they came for the Catholics' has been added!
Given the extent to which the Vatican was in Hitler's pockets at the time, that's a pretty bold and anachronistic claim to make!

Mon, 07 Apr 2008 06:36:00 UTC | #148405

beebhack's Avatar Comment 19 by beebhack

Pattern seeker: "As an American, it seems the only things we export these days are wars and religious stupidity."

Oh, I dunno. The new R.E.M album's pretty good....

Mon, 07 Apr 2008 06:37:00 UTC | #148406

RobDinsmore's Avatar Comment 20 by RobDinsmore

@ hungarianelephant

The problem comes from the fact that these children will cry "offense" because the teacher refuses to acknowledge their erroneous beliefs. Another problem is that even if they are taught evolution they are still so strongly biased against it. You can't show someone the stars if they refuse to look up.

Mon, 07 Apr 2008 06:40:00 UTC | #148408

artificialhabitat's Avatar Comment 21 by artificialhabitat

Good to see some attention being drawn to this problem in the UK. I think it's very tempting to see creationism as an American disease and ignore the growth of such views in this country.

I regularly encounter creationists, or at least individuals with creationist leanings, at my university. Admittedly my sampling is biased (being an active member of a student atheist society tends to bring you into contact with such individuals) but we disregard their existence at our peril.

Complacency can be a very dangerous thing.

reductio ad hitlerum


Thankyou for that little gem. I shall now be on the lookout for opportunities to use it.

Mon, 07 Apr 2008 06:41:00 UTC | #148409

Quetzalcoatl's Avatar Comment 22 by Quetzalcoatl

RobDinsmore-

depends what their age is. If they're young enough, they'll go home and ask their parents, then their parents will cry "Offense!"

Mon, 07 Apr 2008 06:44:00 UTC | #148411

CambrianExplosion's Avatar Comment 23 by CambrianExplosion

hungarianelephant, that may be true but isn't part of the problem how the attitude toward what parents wish to teach their children - such as YEC - is softening? Rather than a firm "no, that's wrong," we now must mollycoddle those with beliefs counter to the available evidence. IIRC, was there not recent legislation that would allow a student to receive a passing grade as long as his incorrect answers were justified by a religious tradition? I.e., you could write "6000" for your answer on the Earth's age as long as you also write "* I am a Christian."

The combination of increasing magical thinking, as well as our liberalization and gone-too-far multiculturalism, have in a way formed a crucible.

Mon, 07 Apr 2008 06:44:00 UTC | #148412

hungarianelephant's Avatar Comment 24 by hungarianelephant

20. Comment #156253 by RobDinsmore on April 7, 2008 at 7:40 am

The problem comes from the fact that these children will cry "offense" because the teacher refuses to acknowledge their erroneous beliefs. Another problem is that even if they are taught evolution they are still so strongly biased against it. You can't show someone the stars if they refuse to look up.

No, those are perceived problems with certain religious parents. Children are told they are wrong about all kinds of stuff and they seem to come through unscathed. Let's not create a bogeyman when there are already enough problems to deal with.

Edit:

23. Comment #156257 by CambrianExplosion on April 7, 2008 at 7:44 am
that may be true but isn't part of the problem how the attitude toward what parents wish to teach their children - such as YEC - is softening? Rather than a firm "no, that's wrong," we now must mollycoddle those with beliefs counter to the available evidence. IIRC, was there not recent legislation that would allow a student to receive a passing grade as long as his incorrect answers were justified by a religious tradition? I.e., you could write "6000" for your answer on the Earth's age as long as you also write "* I am a Christian."

The combination of increasing magical thinking, as well as our liberalization and gone-too-far multiculturalism, have in a way formed a crucible.

Even assuming all this is true - and we're building on sand here - all that demonstrates is that there is a problem in the school and with the philosophy of schooling. It doesn't make for a problem for the school.

Mon, 07 Apr 2008 06:45:00 UTC | #148413

rod-the-farmer's Avatar Comment 25 by rod-the-farmer

I fear I must take issue with statement in the article that

the belief, which states that the Earth did not evolve following the big bang but was instead created by God

This implies a direct connection between evolution and the big bang. (Plus they left out abiogenesis, AND that it was LIFE that evolved, not the Earth itself.) I don't believe any such connection has been made by biologists OR cosmologists. Conflation of the two makes it easier for the religious nutters to paint all of science as anti-religion. I suggest we need to correct this impression, whenever it surfaces, in either debating partners, or in the media interviews.

Whenever I discuss the big bang theory with anyone, I use the analogy of a few aerial still photos of a crowd leaving a sports stadium. You cannot SEE movement, but by comparing the two photos it certainly looks like most of the individuals are moving away from the building, and fanning out. That is what we see when we look at the universe - everything is moving away from each other, in 3D. The only conclusion we can draw is that at some time long ago, the universe was compressed together and something "blew" it apart.

I also agree with bad wolf that calling us Darwinists is neither good nor true. After all, we don't call ourselves Copernicans. The helio-centric theory has long since been proved. And Darwins' ideas back then have seen some updating in 150 years. More, and better evidence.

Mon, 07 Apr 2008 06:46:00 UTC | #148414

Pattern Seeker's Avatar Comment 26 by Pattern Seeker

beebhack-

I can agree there. But they were due...

The problem is one of our greatest musical exports, Frank Zappa, is
dead.

Mon, 07 Apr 2008 06:49:00 UTC | #148415

riki's Avatar Comment 27 by riki

I think you'd have a hard time selling any form of ideology to Australians, unless it involves beer or sport. Also, kids aren't as gullible as we'd like to think.

Mon, 07 Apr 2008 06:50:00 UTC | #148416

Quetzalcoatl's Avatar Comment 28 by Quetzalcoatl

Rod-the-farmer-

I noticed that as well, but I think it's just bad phrasing on the newspaper's part. You are right, though.

Mon, 07 Apr 2008 06:51:00 UTC | #148417

Ian (South Africa)'s Avatar Comment 29 by Ian (South Africa)

I think that you'll find that Australia is a largely secular country with at best a vague Anglicanism used by most people to define their religion if cornered. It is certainly not a Catholic country. I think that they are a vocal minority at best.

The fundamentalism comes to us courtesy of the U.S. and is an extremely vocal but vanishingly small minority that are more often than not seen as rabid mongrels that deserve a bloody swift kick up the arse.

Mon, 07 Apr 2008 06:58:00 UTC | #148420

black wolf's Avatar Comment 30 by black wolf

Thanks Cartomancer. I did know about the context, but didn't have the exact Niemoeller association in mind. I thought about adapting the original poem to the present situation even more, but I thought that would have been unfair. I settled with a sort of middle-ground paraphrasing just to get my post done.
The ironic thing about it is that it's the creationists who constantly paint themselves as the persecuted whenever their attempts at expansion and legislative influence, as well as educational demands, get thwarted by rational and law-abiding institutions.
I often find the American education system very unsatisfying structurally. I still don't understand why school boards in the US are apparently based more on electing polemically skilled members by the public than taking their academic qualification or experience into account. They often seem to be more like a council of parents who make decisions based on their ideological opinion instead of factual information. What I don't get is why they are the ones entrusted with composing a curriculum, instead of having a select council of actual pedagogically and scientifically informed and experienced experts to do this. It seems to me almost like having a court of law where the judge, lawyers and attorneys all get replaced with randomly chosen juries.

Mon, 07 Apr 2008 07:01:00 UTC | #148421