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The Caleb Foundation, Lobbying for Theocracy (Part 1)
The second part of this report is at Caleb Foundation Part 2
By Roger Stanyard, British Centre for Science Education
(The second Part of this extensive report can be found on our wiki at Caleb Foundation Part 2. We have several reports on creationism in the province such as Paisley's Party Backs Creationism in Schools, Update On Northern Ireland (2010), the Centre For Intelligent Design (2010) and Northern Ireland Creationist Flareups (2010).)
"At every point where such issues are touched upon by the curriculum equal status must be given to creationist belief and evangelical Protestant thought."
- The Caleb Foundation attempting to impose its theocratic views on every child irrespective of parental belief.
The Caleb Foundation is a hardline Northern Irish evangelical lobbying organisation formed in 1998. It now looks as if one of its main immediate mission in promoting creationism in the province. It is a political organisation that is closely linked to the Democratic Unionist Party, Ian Paisley's Free Presbyterian Church and the Orange Order (particularly the Independent Orange Order). Its tentacles are all over the place. It is claimed to represent some 200,000 people in the province- we can't substantiate this apparently wildly exaggerated figure.
There is little doubt that Caleb is a fire and brimstone and deeply conservative organisation with ambitions to see Northern Ireland become a fundamentalist Protestant theocracy, with its people and friends in charge. Caleb's position is detailed in its response to a proposed bill of rights for Northern Ireland. It can be found at
http://billofrights.nihrc.org/submissions/submission_355.pdf. Amongst the bigotry is the claim that "The right of the state is delegated by God and the responsibilities of the state are to govern in accordance with the will of God." That's isn't even remotely democracy. It's Christian Fascism. Specifically it is Dominionism.
Caleb cannot accept that the state must be secular to allow anyone to hold and practice whatever religious beliefs they feel comfortable with. The price of religious freedom is freedom from religion. One cannot exist without the other.
Anyone see the crass hypocrisy here? Caleb hates the idea of people having rights it disagrees with but is using the Human Rights argument to get creationism into schools, museums and the Giant's Causeway visitors' centre.
Until 2007 its chairman was the late George Dawson, a central power broker in the Democratic Unionist Party. Since 2009 its chairman has been well connected DUP member Wallace Thompson. This is a deeply conservative organisation. There are no women at all involved; it is anti-gay and, it appears, exceedingly anti-Catholic. Comments on its web site suggests it has has huge disdain for liberals and it clearly has no respect for (or knowledge of) science.
There is no formal membership system where the public can join the Caleb Foundation or select its officers; the handful of preachers involved appear to appoint themselves. So much fr democracy. The BCSE has failed to find out how it represents parts of public opinion in the province. The Foundation is not registered with the Charity Commission but that's no surprise as it is a political lobbying organisation.
The Caleb Foundation has been of concern to the BCSE for some years – we appear to be the first organisation to have drawn public attention to just how extreme it is. In fact, for the two years before 2010 it appears to have been a bit in the doldrums; that has, though, changed since Wallace Thompson was appointed as chairman. It is now a vigorous lobbying organisation in the province, appearing to concentrate on education and the province's public museums. It's revived an issue we thought to be dead – presentation of creationism at the Giant's Causeway Visitors' Centre.
Why everyone should fear the Caleb Foundation
Northern Ireland's hardliners don't understand compromise or accept loss of face. They would rather lose everything than accept either. One person's gain is always another's loss. “Give an inch and they will take a mile.” Never. No surrender. No.
The Caleb Foundation is unique in that it is the only creationist organisation we have ever come across which thinks that getting creationism into museums and schools is a human rights issue. Its basic argument is that if someone thinks the moon is made of green cheese, that person's rights are being abused if it isn't taught as facts in schools and presented as fact in museums.
Let's see what Chris Hedges (author of the book called Christian Fascists - Hedges is a Christian, btw) has to say about Christian Fascists:
"Those who embrace this movement see life as an epic battle against forces of evil and Satanism. The world is black and white. They need to feel, even if they are not, that they are victims surrounded by dark and sinister groups bent on their destruction. They need to believe they know the will of God and can fulfill it, especially through violence. They need to sanctify their rage, a rage that lies at the core of the ideology. They seek total cultural and political domination. They are using the space within the open society to destroy it. These movements work within the confining rules of the secular state because they have no choice. The intolerance they promote is muted in the public assurances of their slickest operators. Given enough power, and they are working hard to get it, any such cooperation will vanish. The demand for total control and for a Christian nation and the refusal to permit any dissent are on display within their inner sanctums. These pastors have established within their churches tiny, despotic fiefdoms, and they seek to replicate these little tyrannies on a larger scale."
(The full article from which this is a quote is The Christian Fascists Are Growing Stronger by Chris Hedges in Truthdig 7th June 2010.
This is Paisleyism and it's ugly offspring, the Caleb Foundation, to a T but it is an exaggeration when it comes to Northern Ireland; the political reality of the province is that it is utterly divided. There are no compromises or alliances with Catholics as there are in the USA. The Caleb Foundation represents people who want the province to stay British. It's about hardline, uncompromising Protestant supremacy (which is what the Democratic Unionist Party is at heart). The Catholic Church represents people who mostly want it to be part of the Republic of Ireland. The gulf is huge.
Intelligent people of all persuasions should be deeply disturbed about the Caleb Foundation. It is deeply unrepresentative of the society and culture in which it operates; one of its biggest aims is to get creationism into school science lessons and Ulster museums yet none of the people behind it appear to have any science backgrounds or training whatsoever. Indeed, the ignorance of science of its members is striking. They are scientific dunderheads.
It has no scientists at all on board. The Caleb Foundation consists almost entirely of fundamentalist and strict Calvinistic pastors from tiny denominations and with a strong propensity to sell or use bogus theological qualifications. The notable exception, Mervyn Storey MLA (a politician), is what Americans would call a high school drop out.
It's a classic hardline anti-intellectual Northern Irish sectarian organisation, deeply anti-Catholic and pompously absurd in its claims about being Christian. As far as we can make out, fr from being Christian, it is an exclusive sectarian organisation for ultra-Calvinists only and, like the Orange Order, doesn't want Catholic members. Basically "clear off if you are a Taig". Catholics, though, shouldn't feel offended. It doesn't like most Protestant denominations either; too liberal, you see.
For further background on creationism in the province see our section on Creationism in Northern Ireland
The Foundation came to our attention in 2007 after comments made on a BBC Radio Ulster programme by David McConaghie, one of its founding members. However, in researching it we soon found extensive links to other organisations in the province and, indeed, on the mainland of Britain.
David McConaghie (press officer for the Caleb Foundation) is rather a frightening person. He is noted for his very aggressive and semi-articulate “style” of debating. His debating style is basically to shout people down.
Orangeman, preacher, lobbyist and political activist Pastor David McConaghie who is scientifically illiterate.
He was minister of Maghaberry Elim Church but switched to Paisley’s Free Presbyterian Church. He is also a member of council of the hardline Evangelical Protestant Society and involved in the Independent Orange Order. He pushed the fundamentalist cause in the Civic Forum. He's also chairman of the Democratic Unionist Party in Upper Bann and adviser to David Simpson, the DUP politician. In other words he was instrumental in wrecking the career of Ulster Unionist Party politician David Trimble. Fingers in a lot of pies, then.
He was minister of Maghaberry Elim Church but switched to Paisley’s Free Presbyterian Church. He is also a member of council of the hardline Evangelical Protestant Society and and a senior member of the Independent Orange Order. He pushed the fundamentalist cause in the Civic Forum. He's also chairman of the Democratic Unionist Party in Upper Bann and adviser to David Simpson, the DUP politician. In other words he was instrumental in wrecking the career of Ulster Unionist Party politician David Trimble. Fingers in a lot of pies, then.
He was seen in some circles as one of the contenders to replace Ian Paisley as moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church. He is regarded as a social conservative and is certainly a fundamentalist. Like all ideologues, his ideology is never wrong. Only people are wrong.
"I find it really annoying when I hear ecumenists saying that people like me are fostering hatred.........Ecumenists, say they are tolerant, but they apply a double standard. They have to accuse me of being anti-Catholic. They can't see me as acting out of conscience, of adopting a rational, intelligent, mature position. They criticize the tenets of the faith that I hold, yet they say they are not anti-evangelical or anti-Protestant." – David McGonaghie
The Evangelical Protestant Society is seen as another extreme organisation. There is some interesting background here. It is well connected to the main Orange Order as well as the smaller Independent Orange Order.
The Caleb Foundation is riddled with creationism – it publicly endorses teaching of creationism in school science lessons. Indeed, there was a statement there (as at 4th January 2006) that a “A new Creation Lobby Group is being formed in Northern Ireland. More details to follow!” (It isn't clear whether a creationist group was being formed within the Caleb Foundation of whether this was a reference to Creation Outreach Ministries.)
Caleb also dislikes William Crawley (BBC Radio Ulster presenter who is highly authoritative on and critical of creationism) as can be seen from this page on its web site - http://www.calebfoundation.org/page8.htm. Crawley does not suffer creationist fools gladly.
The Caleb Foundation wrath for Crawley no doubt stems from their general dislike of "liberal" organisations like the BBC to the fact that Crawley is a mainstream, intellectual, Presbyterian.
Getting Creationism into schools
This is McConaghie’s position in teaching creationism in schools (notice the comments we have put into bold type) -
"Some twenty years ago in ‘O’ Level Biology my teacher began his teaching of evolution by saying that there are two basic theories of how everything came into being – first that God made everything. He said that no one believed that any more and he would show us what really happened. Recently I have been contacted by parents whose children have been subjected to disturbingly similar teaching methods."
BCSE Comment: There you have it - his science comes from O level biology. It's that level of science intellect your dealing with.
"Children from an evangelical background have their faith denigrated in the classroom."
BCSE Comment: He's lying here. Many evangelicals accept evolutionary biology and the old age of the earth. However, fundamentalists always resort to a crude martyrdom complex to get creationism into the science lesson. It's an old and tired trick.
"Evangelical teachers find themselves having to teach things contrary to their consciences. This is because evolutionary thinking dominates education."
BCSE Comment: That's their job. It's what they paid to do. They are not paid to use the science lesson as a private platform to push their own personal views on religion, politics or any other subject matter. If they want to teach creationism, nobody is stopping them doing in in a Sunday school. There is also the obvious question in a deeply sectarian and divided society about pushing creationism onto Catholic children, especially in the secular schools. This is not a minor issue. Either such schools are secular or they are, if they push creationism, Protestant and religious. Which are they to be under the Caleb Foundation's scheme of things?
In any event, this is just a cheap rhetorical trick of pulpit bullying – make people feel guilty because they are undermining “decent God-fearing folk”. It's bogus - there are no known science teachers in Northern Ireland who are being forced to teach evolutionary biology or geology against their will. After five years of research, the BCSE has only been able to identify three young earth creationist science teachers in the whole of the UK and none of these have said they object to teaching mainstream science. The population of the UK is seventy times larger than the nominally Protestant element of Northern Ireland.
McGonaghie is absurd. He wants to force all science teachers into teaching what they don't believe – his religious beliefs – but screams how hard-done-to unnamed non-existant “creationist” science teachers are because they are forced to teach what they don't believe. This is not even remotely an intelligent argument. “I'm a unionist man, amazed at what I am....”
The Caleb Foundation claims that "This is indefensible and fundamentally wrong. The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is explicit – children have the right to be educated in accordance with the religious and philosophical convictions of their parents (Article 2 of Protocol 1): not those of the Department, the Board of Governors, or the Curriculum authorities – but those of their parents."
BCSE Comment: So? This argument wouldn't stand up for five seconds in a court of law. McConaghie can't have it both ways. Either creationism is a scientific position and therefore stands irrespective of religion or is a religious position and therefore with no claim to be taught as science. He's saying here it is the latter.
In 2007 the Caleb Foundation claimed it "has met with the Education and Library Boards, the Dept of Education and Head of Education at CCEA. The Education Officers and Departmental civil servants appeared willing to seek for ways to resolve this scandal. Regrettably the CCEA’s Head of Education’s attitude could only be described as evolutionary fundamentalism. His mind was closed to anything but evolution."
BCSE Comment: Notice the rhetoric here. It's a "scandal" - the martyrdom complex scam at work again. The Caleb Foundation got what it asked for - to be told to push off. Notice the very "Christian" smear on the individual involved - "closed mind". This is from someone who is scientifically illiterate. The Caleb Foundation's press officer is not exactly what some would describe as a "gentlemen and a scholar".
"Thus our children suffer indoctrination and attempted social engineering. They are told that the origin of the universe occurred independently of God. They are told that the earth, the processes that have shaped the world and the origins of life are the product of billion year old processes and blind chance."
BCSE Comment: The scientific ignorance displayed here is utterly risible. The theory of evolution is not a theory of blind chance because it is the theory of evolution by natural selection. That selection is a rigorous process determined by environmental factors and competitive pressures and therefore, by definition, not blind chance.
McConaghie’s position is even more dishonest than that. He is accusing others of organised "indoctrination" and "social engineering". Apparently science teachers, then, are really evil Guy Fawkes-style conspirators aiming to get at children of Northern Irish evangelicals. It's wackjob conspiracy theory.
It's a pity that Pastor McGonaghie does not understand the ninth commandment. It does not include a coptout to lie or smear in the name of religion.
The Caleb Foundation goes on to add that it "has again written to CCEA. We have requested a meeting with the new Direct Rule Education Minister and have already met with the former Chair and Vice Chair of the Assembly’s Education Committee. Our demand is simple - At every point where such issues are touched upon by the curriculum equal status must be given to creationist belief and evangelical Protestant thought."
BCSE Comment: Notice, again, the local self-righteous rhetoric "demand" - not "ask" or "request" but "demand". It's exactly the same mentality as "no surrender", "not an inch", the recipe for an ungovernable, violent province. See the above comments by Chris Hedges.
BCSE Comment: Well, the Caleb Foundation says that you can do something to help its cause for bogus science. Specifically, ask for "equal time" for bogus science in the science classroom and for parents to complain when evolution is taught. This is a dead give-away. It simply does not want the theory of evolution taught in schools.
"Write to CCEA (Clarendon Dock, 29 Clarendon Rd. Belfast BT1 3BG) and complain about the curriculum, demanding equality of time and legitimacy for creation."
BCSE Comment: See the first line of this report to se precisly what Caleb is really demanding.
"Write to your local MP/Assemblyman and do the same. If your children are taught evolution complain to the Board of Governors of the school. If needed we shall be willing to accompany you. Contact your local Independent Methodist Pastor."
BCSE Comment: Read the pastors will bully the school into submission. This is exactly why some Catholics don't want the de-segregation of education in the province - because they believe Protestant pastors call the shots in "secular" schools.
[The issue is somewhat more complex than this, though. Nationalists may fear that de-segregation will undermine cultural issues such as Gaelic sports and there look to be strong vested interests in the Catholic Church which favour continued educational segregation. Northern Ireland is the last place in Britain where the Catholic Church retains full control over its schools.)
"On each occasion remind them of the ECHR. Remind them also of the requirement placed upon schools to provide a breadth of education and that this is not possible where one of two competing views is granted dominance."
BCSE Comment: This is a tired and old creationist scam. There is no "equivalence" between creationism and science. One is a religious position with no science at all, the other is universally accepted science. There are simply no practising scientists anywhere in the UK in the key subjects of evolutionary biology or geology that accept creationism.
There's a standard question to ask creationists when they spout this "equivalence" canard. I've never ever found a creationist willing or able to answer it (I've asked hundreds of times). They always run away. The question is:
"If, as the creationists claim, creationism is a valid scientific position like the scientific theory of evolution by natural selection, what is the scientific theory of creationism and how can it be tested with the scientific method?"
If the creationists have a case, it should only take a minute to reply or a paragraph or two at most in writing to answer this. A very moderately well informed layman should, if the creationists are right, do this standing on his or her head. That creationists never do is because they can't (neither can you, reader).
The Ulster Museum Affair
The Caleb Foundation has bragged that it was behind a campaign to get creationism into the then (2010) newly refurbished Ulster Museum. It appears that the Caleb Foundation pressurised the Culture Minister Nelson McCausland to himself put pressure on the head of the museums in the province. It's all, though, stunningly incestuous as McCausland (himself a creationist) is a member of the creationist Democratic Unionist party which itself is closely connected to the Caleb Foundation. Wallace Thompson, head of the Caleb Foundation, is also a member of the DUP and appears to have lead a delegation at the end of 2009 to see McCausland.
According to the BBC, “The Caleb Foundation say they wrote to Nelson McCausland and to the NMNI chief executive Tim Cooke...to express their concerns about about the Ulster Museum's Nature Zone exhibits. They regard Nelson McCausland's controversial intervention as a direct and positive response to their initial communication with the minister.”
Caleb, though, shot itself in the head by demonstrating utter scientific stupidity – it issued a press release stating “We fully accept that the theory of evolution is the view of the majority of scientists, but it is important to note that evolution is a theory and not a fact. A visit to the Ulster Museum would not give that impression.....” This standard ignorant fundamentalist boilerplate has been pulled to shreds in excruciating detail time and time again.
Evolution is both a fact and a theory. It is a fact because speciation (formation of new species) has been repeatedly observed. It is a theory in that the theory of evolution by natural selection is a tested explanation of the differences between species. The term theory as used by professionals does not mean what some unqualified dunderhead means (such as up in the air, not really accepted and unproven).
Precisely it means that it is an explanation that has been thoroughly tested and not found to be wanting. The testing is by the scientific method - again, not something that is produced by strange boffins in white coats. Science is a methodology, not body of knowledge. The scientific method is a pragmatic and well tried approach that has been developed over many centuries.
Thus the Caleb Foundation clearly doesn't even understand simply science. It doesn't surprise the BCSE. As far as we can make out, there are no scientists anywhere in Northern Ireland in the key areas of evolutionary biology or geology who are young earth creationists. In fact, the BCSE can only trace two practising scientists in any discipline who are both YECers and resident in Northern Ireland.
Nevertheless, vacuous rhetoric seems to be the Caleb Foundation's stock in trade. They have described the museum has having a “lack of balance [about evolution] which has tipped sidewards so far, it has fallen right over.” This is from a Foundation that is scientifically illiterate! The same report says that the Foundation told McCausland that they were “appalled” at the exhibits which were “wholly misleading propaganda”. (See http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2010/jun/19/creationism-northern-ireland)
It seem that anything and everything that contradicts young earth creationism is, in the eye of the Caleb Foundation, “wholly misleading propaganda”. Caleb's arrogance is preposterous. Its web site lists what it doesn't like at the Ulster Museum. This list is absolutely astonishing and appears to include any mention of anything being more than 6,000 years old (taken from http://www.calebfoundation.org/page14.htm):
NATURE ZONE: Triceratops -65 million years; Nickel iron – a fragment of the core of the planet – 1 billion years; Collision with another planet; “Every living thing on earth owes its existence to the elements and compounds found in the original mixture of dust and ice from which the Solar System was formed”; Allende meteorite – 4,560 million years ago – very beginning of the Solar System.
ORIGIN OF LIFE: Four billion years ago earth was very different from today.
STROMATOLITES: “Two billion years ago the only life on earth was microscopic bacteria and blue-green algae”.
CEPHAOLODS: Molluscs have changed little in 400 million years.
STARFISH: In a display cabinet of 40 exhibits, 17 are allocated dates of 15 -480 million years old.
BIVALVES: In a display cabinet of 44 exhibits, 27 are allocated dates 1 450 million years old.
COELACANTH: It’s claimed that fossil rocks are 300 -800 million years old. Yet a modern coelacanth is displayed and we are told they are still found.
PLESIOSAUS: Cast of skeleton dated as 200 million years old.
ANTHOPODS: Half a billion years – the most successful and diverse multi-cellular animal on earth. There are 8 exhibits all dated 200-510 million years.
EXTINCTION DISPLAY: “Most plants and animal species that have ever lived on earth are extinct, thanks to evolution”.
There is a major section called MODIFICATION BY DESCENT: “Evolution is the natural process that makes sense of living things around us and, indeed, of ourselves”. “Evolution is a fact, based on changes seen in fossils and in living things today”. “The appearance within our lifetime of bacteria resistant to drugs, and of animal and plant pests resistant to insecticides, shows how evolution continues today through the ‘survival of the fittest’”. “There is a theory of evolution which combines our knowledge of biology, genetics and fossils to explain the processes that underline the facts of evolution”. “Scientists constantly test their ideas by predicting the relationships between different organisms, many of which have since been confirmed, and they refine the theory as new discoveries are made”.
DINOSAUR EXTINCTION: “For more than 100 millions years, dinosaurs ruled the land. During that time many different types flourished for a while, and then were replicated by newly-evolved types”; “A Modern Dinosaur?” – “Recent discoveries have shown that at least some dinosaurs had feathers, and that birds are direct descendants of one group of carnivorous dinosaurs”.; “Tyrannosaurus Rex” – “One of the largest predators of all time”… “living around 70 million years ago”.
EVOLUTION – ADAPTATION OR DESIGN?: “In evolution, however, organisms are limited by what they inherit from their ancestors and by the properties of the biological materials of which they are made”. [A legitimate question for us might be ‘how then can one species become another?’]
ICHTHYOSAURS: A picture is shown of a “reconstruction of later Jurassic (155 million years ago) ichthyosaur”.
COUSINS AND ANCESTORS: “Humans are not descended from chimpanzees, or from any of the great apes living today, but we are related to them. They are our distant cousins”. In exhibit no 5 in this section, we read, “the first mammals evolved around 230 million years ago. They were small, shrew-like insect eaters. One of them was the ancestor of all mammals alive today, from the tiniest shrew to the biggest whale, and even us!” Also, man is related to sponges, sea squid and bacteria, and newts. In exhibit no 11, we read, “by 380 million years ago, animals with jaws, lungs and four limbs had evolved. These early four-legged amphibians are the ancestors of many animals alive today, from newts to humans”.
FOSSILS AND EVOLUTION: This argues in favour of rock layers of different ages.
FOSSILS – LIFE OF THE PAST: Under a heading, “The Importance of Fossils”, we are told, “only a tiny fraction of living things become fossils”. [We could therefore argue that a massive amount of evidence is simply ignored!]
HOW EVOLUTION HAPPENS: “Eyes and wings have reached their present state through countless small changes over many millions of years”.
THE POWER OF FLIGHT: “Pterosaurs, or flying reptiles, were the first to take to the air more than 200 million years ago, but they became extinct 65 millions years ago.”; “Birds conquered the air more than 140 million years ago”.; “Bats first flew more than 50 million years ago”.
IRELAND: There is a major time-line section dealing with the geological origins of Ireland – a “geological odyssey in eleven episodes”.; Under a heading “DEEP TIME” we read, “Planet earth was formed more than 4500 million years ago”; “… the young earth suffered its greatest catastrophe – a collision with another planet, perhaps half its size. The resulting debris formed the moon”.; Slightly dubious headings are used – e.g. “Rock of Ages” where we read that “the oldest rocks in Ireland were formed 1780 million years ago”; and the “Fiery Furnace”.
With that list of complaints, no wonder the Caleb Foundation is known as the Caliban. A bunch of obscure scientifically illiterate, politicised priests wanting to form a theocracy.
The second Part of this extensive report can be found on our wiki at Caleb Foundation Part 2