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The Centre for Intelligent Design – Britain's Latest Creationist Organisation
The Rev. Dr. Lenny Flank's law: "The ability of a creationist to shut his mouth about creationism's religious motive is inversely proportional to the legal necessity of their doing so."
This report is intended to be a report of record covering the British Centre for Science Education's research in the Centre for Intelligent Design. Our objective is to make as much information and analysis as possible available in the public domain. The BCSE is the most authoritative organisation in Britain on the country's creationist and Intelligent Design movements.
The Centre for Intelligent Design was launched in September 2010 to promote Intelligent Design. Whilst it has attempted to distance itself from getting Intelligent Design into the school classroom and from religion, it looks to be closely following the thinking of the Discovery Institute in the USA. Moreover, the people behind it are clearly deeply religious. We believe that the organisation has closely aligned itself with the strategy of the Discovery Institute.
The Centre for Intelligent Design does not propose to either undertake or finance research into Intelligent Design. It's an advocacy or public relations operation. The small number of people running the Centre all appear to be socially and politically well connected within the regions they live and work. However, the initial number involved is small – probably no more than five and only one of these is based in England. The Centre is head-quartered in Scotland.
The Centre looks to be a “Mark 2” version of the failed Truth in Science. The latter is openly a young earth creationist organisation which pushes Intelligent Design. The Centre for Intelligent Design makes no mention of young earth creationism although at least two people running it are believed to be YECers.
Extensive research by the BCSE has failed to identify any widespread support for the centre amongst scientists or academics. However, we have established that there are strong past and recent connections between its core founders and the British young earth creationist movement.
The Centre is registered in Guernsey as a charity. However, whilst its finances are not known, it has said it is not getting money from the USA. The decision to use Guernsey appears to relate to recent changes in local tax laws there.
The “Intelligent Design” science it is promoting is lifted almost entirely from the writings of leading Discovery Institute fellows such as Bill Dembski and Michael Behe. That work has no standing in scientific circles.
How Dangerous is the Centre for Intelligent Design?
The National Secular Society has warned that the Centre for Intelligent Design could damage education in Scotland, because Scotland lacks the safeguards against creationism established in England and Wales. From our own analysis, the Northern Irish “secular” (de facto Protestant) education system in Northern Ireland is also in danger because the creationists are much better organised and more powerful than in Scotland.
Terry Sanderson, President of the NSS is quoted as saying “The Scottish educational establishment needs to set up safeguards, similar to those which already exist in England and Wales, to ensure that creationism doesn't get into science lessons and create confusion in children's minds."
Noble retorted to Sanderson: "We're about giving visibility to an argument that needs to be heard and which is shouted down before anyone gets an opportunity to hear what it is" (see http://www.christiancentury.org/article/2010-11/secular-society-warns-against-intelligent-design-scottish-schools). Which is one of history's more preposterous claims. Precisely what Intelligent Design is and claims has long been widely known, even amongst teachers. Truth in Science has spent the last five years ensuring that every school science teacher in Britain gets Intelligent Design material. The Discovery Institute is basically nothing but a giant and well funded evangelical public relations scheme for promoting Intelligent Design.
The NSS's view is that the Centre has targeted Scotland because it does not specifically state in the Scottish curriculum that teaching creationism as science is not acceptable. This is not the case in England and Wales, where teaching of creationism/Intelligent Design in science lessons in state schools is banned by Ofsted. The latter says “Intelligent Design is a creationist belief that suggests that the biological complexity of human beings is evidence for presence of a God or an ‘intelligent designer’. It is sometimes erroneously advanced as scientific theory but has no underpinning scientific principles or explanations supporting it and it is not accepted by the international scientific community.” There is no equivalent statement for Scotland.
Both the BCSE and the NSS have common ground in believing that CID's claim of not aiming at schools is utter hogwash.
The Association for Science Education, which represents science teachers in British schools, is even more scathing about teaching Intelligent Design - see http://www.ase.org.uk/documents/on-science-education-intelligent-design-and-creationism. ASE thinks "ID has NO grounds for sharing a platform with scientific theory.........(it has) no underpinning scientific principles or explanations.....It is not accepted as a competing scientific theory by the international scientific community....It is not science at all....ID has no place in science education of young people in school." Later on it adds that "ID with no foundation in scientific methodology cannot be classed as science not even bad or controversial science." Put another way, that says there is no point in even discussing it in science lessons using "teach the controversy" type scams.
Moreover, as the proponents of Intelligent Design say it's science, not religion, it has no place in religious education either (not even Sunday schools or Christian Union meetings!).
What to do - Lobby
Is there anything people in Scotland can do about the Centre for Intelligent Design? Yes. Lobby. Write to both Michael Russell MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Lifelong Learning (email: Michael.Russell.email@example.com), to Learning and Teaching in Scotland (the principal curriculum body) and your local MSP asking them to make it explicitly clear that there is no place for ID in science classes in order to prevent the Centre infiltrating schools. There are some draft standard letters at http://www.thetwentyfirstfloor.com/?p=1302.
Northern Ireland, though, is a much more difficult case to handle because education is overwhelmingly segregated. There is almost certainty no possibility of Catholic schools being converted to ID by the obviously Protestant Centre for Intelligent Design. However, our research on the province suggests otherwise for “secular” (read Protestant) schools there and the problem is not helped by the largest political party (the DUP) being openly creationist. Northern Ireland desperately needs its own well-organised local pro-science, anti-creationist movement.
The current Minister for education in the regional government for Northern Ireland is Caitríona Ruane MLA (Sinn Fein). Her email address is Caitriona.Ruane@sinn-fein.ie.
If anyone is under any doubt that creationism is a problem in the province, then read our new Update on Northern Ireland
An alternative approach may be to join the local all-Ireland branch of Christians in Science - see http://www.cis.org.uk/ireland/committee.html - which defends mainstream science. Religious believers are amongst the most vocal and effective in combating creationism. CIS is also truely non-denominational in that it is open to Catholics as well as Protestants. Denis Alexander, who was so bitterly attacked by Norman Nevin of the Centre for Intelligent Design (and bluntly described by Nevin as not a Christian), sits on the main executive committee of Christians in Science (see http://cis.org.uk/about/committee). One suspects that there is no love lost between CIS and Norman Nevin and his creationist associates.
Christians in Science is basically the British equivalent of the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA) - an organisatin that has long been highly effective in criticising and debunking creationist "science".