BBC Radio Interview
The following is a transcript of an interview with Roger Stanyard of the BCSE and Andy McIntosh of Truth in Science that was broadcast on BBC Radio Manchester's main morning news programme on 13th September 2006. The interviewer was Terry Christian.
Christian: Where did we come from? It's the eternal question, isn't it? A Manchester MP has sparked debate over the teaching of creationism in our schools. Blakley's Graham Springer has highlighed concerns of the British Centre for Science Education over books sent to every school in the United Kingdom by the creationist group Truth In Science. Well we're going to hear from both groups now. First of all Roger Stanyard for the BCSE. Good morning, Roger.
Christian: So what's the problem? First of all what is creationism? Saying we come from Adam and Eve?
Stanyard: It's basically a religious fundamentalist movement...it sets the literal word of the Bible that the world was created 6,000 years ago and the Noah's Arc story is absolutely true, there were 17,000 animals on the arc and there's been no such thing as proper evolution; physics is wrong; the world is not four and a half billion years old it's only 6,000 years old, and it's in complete contradiction with all of mainstream science. Despite the many claims from creationists it is largely not accepted by anybody in mainstream science .
Christian: Do they all believe exactly that, the world is 6,000 years old and that there were dinosaurs and that they're just a bit of evidence planted there by the Devil to divert us from the true course?
Stanyard: It's a bit more complex than that, there's actually two groups, main groups within the creationism movement. One is called Intelligent Design and what they believe in, that somehow God interfered and set the genetic code in the human body, or the bodies of animals, at indeterminate times in geological history on it. They deny that it has anything to do with religion. But there's another core group which are usually called "Young Earth Creationists" who are explicitly religious in their orientation. What they argue is that anything that contradicts the Bible is wrong and indeed that extends outside of science as well. So no, it's not a unified movement, there's a lot of...
Christian: (interrupting) So which of these movements is handing out the books to schools? Is it the Intelligent Design people or is it the religious fundamentalists?
Stanyard: There's absolutely no doubt that the people behind Truth in Science are pretty well all Young Earth Creationists and very prominent Young Earth Creationists but they're pushing Intelligent Design and we think it's because nobody amongst the public is going to accept Young Earth Creationism. It's a smokescreen. What they're trying to do is deflate live science so thay can prosyletise their religion within schools.
Christian: And what do you want to see happen?
Stanyard: It's going to be a very, very long battle, it's probably going to take a couple of decades, but essentially it's to keep science as science in the classroom. For children in chemistry, physics, biology, geology, geography and so forth, are only taught proper science: they're not taught religion. We're talking here about fundamentalist evangelical Christian religion.
Christian: But they would say your beliefs in Darwinism are fundamentalist because, you know, all the great scientists in the past, they actually believed in Intelligent Design, didn't they? Because they thought everything fitted so well in the world.
Stanyard: No, in the last 150 years, "Darwinism", if you like to use that term, has become the central paradigm of biology and the sciences associated with it. And what's more, it's not just Darwinism, it's such areas as cosmology, physics and so forth. Which we basically believe from that that the universe was created thirteen and a half billion years ago, the earth four and a half billion years ago`. So it's not limited to Darwinism. I think, you know, we're talking here about mainstream science and moreover it's not an issue between Christians and scientists. Most practicing Christians accept the theory of evolution on evidence. An extreme group within the Christian movement, which is rejecting science because it contradicts the Bible...
Christian: [changes to McIntosh] Do you accept Roger's criticisms?
McIntosh: Well, obviously, I don't at all. He's not speaking as a scientist, he's speaking as someone who runs a web site.which if you look at it, isn't really building up scientific arguments. We're interested in having science discussed. More properly...
Which science are you a professor of?
McIntosh: I'm a professor of thermodynamics at the University of Leeds.
Christian: Right, thermodynamics. Are you religious?
McIntosh: I do have religious beliefs, but that's not what we're obviously seeking to discuss here. We are seeking to discuss the science. Just as Roger Stanyard rightly said, Darwinism is a paradigm and there are other paradigms. Look at the science.
Christian: Such as?
McIntosh: Clear away some of the false views that it's somehow a science versus religion debate.
Christian: So you don't believe in evolution then?
McIntosh: Can I just finish the point? You always have people come with different views, but that should be left behind as one considers the science. and what we're saying, and what we've actually sent round the schools, is just a pack for people to critically appraise the evidence. To see whether evolution really does fit it and we would suggest that actually evolution does't fit a whole body of evidence.
Christian: So which evidence doesn't evolution explain?
McIntosh: Well, evolution can't explain the origin of information, That's one of the huge hurdles of the evolutionists'...
Christian: (interrupting) What do you mean by that?
McIntosh: Well, intelligence is always needed when you have a machine present, and a machine like a computer obviously needs a designer. You can never get round the software which is needed to actually run a machine. Now it's not exactly similar but there is a similar principle in nature in that right at the basic level there is coded information. Now evolutionists try to say that this information came about by some materialist argument but really materialism doen't actually answer the question.
Christian: [...] just by accident so because you say a dolphin's very intelligent but if it had two hands and a thumb it might bde able to do more but it's not as if it was one of those sub-sets of evolution where...it's enough fit to survive but not for it to flourish the way we do?
McIntosh: Yes, well, Clearly there is changes within creatures. Nobody is saying that, but you never get changes making something which was never there before. That's the important point.
Christian: Well, I don't know. How did a wolf turn into a Chihuahua? Because we know you don't have to go back that far when all dogs were wolves.
McIntosh: Well the parallel for that is quite easy to understand because artificially we can select different types of dogs by breeding and it's exactly the same in nature. Of course [an] ecological force is there which actually caused variation within the dog "kind" and they've all descended from a basic wolf. And we can do the same, we can mimic a bit of that in artificial selection, when you actually breed different strains and mate them off with one another, you can eventually reduce the size.
Christian: (interrupting, incomplete words)
McIntosh: (interrupting) Let me just say, if I may, you never get a Great Dane from a Chihuahua, that's the point.
Christian: Maybe in a million years.
McIntosh: I don't think you would,
McIntosh: I think the science is against you.
Christian: We could have a bet, but neither of us would be around to pick it up, would we? I was going to say, why did you send the packs to schools?
McIntosh: Could I just say, make one other point? This point about dinosaurs. Of course we believe in dinosaurs. I think you gave the impression that nobody believes in dinosaurs.
'Christian: No, but some don't, do thay? You have got a few swivel-eyed loons, haven't you, knocking around who are like bussed-in from the 11th century knocking about who believe stuff like that.
McIntosh: We know that dinosaurs existed, we have no problem with that.
Christian: Okay, I've got Roger Stanyard. There you go, you've got... he's saying, it's nothing to do with religion, really. It's just that he doesn't believe in a science of Darwinism.
Stanyard: Well, I disagree with this intensly on this. Let me put it to you slightly differently. If there was a scientific foundation to Creationism and Intelligent Design, why is it the university where Professor McIntosh teaches, has had to introduce compulsory courses in Genetics and Zoology, to debunk the very ideas that he's putting forward on this? I note from his personal web site at (name witheld for legal reasons) that no paper that he has ever had published on Creationism is listed as one of his academic papers there. The very university that he's teaching at is questioning the central views that he's promoting around schools in the UK.
Christian: Are you just censoring...
Stanyard: He's an educator. He's paid by the public and he's going out telling children and teachers that what they're being taught in science is wrong. Now what happens if they apply to (name witheld for legal reasons) University, with poor O-level and A-level grades because they accepted his version of science? A very very serious letter here I have Professor McIntosh as the case with your colleagues elsewhere in the movement that the universities are working out and not making reference to your fundamentalist science...there's the case of Professor Burgess, who's involved in your movement, there on it, a very very serious letter...but I think the public should be questioning this...
Christian: Quickly, Professor McIntosh
McIntosh: Well,he's obviously not speaking as a scientist, because he hasn't actually looked carefully at the papers that both Stuart Burgess and myself and others have written. There are actually some which will query the paradigm that Darwinism provides and say that there is another way of looking at the evidence. Just recently there has been journals which we've both been publishing in. He hasn't looked far enough.
Christian: Okay, listen, I'm going to have to leave it there. So you think everything's been made by God. That's what you're saying, isn't it Professor McIntosh?
McIntosh: We are certainly saying there is evidence of design, we're not going to actually quibble on that argument in the scientific arena - that moves into religion when you start doing that.
Christian: Let that come later. Thanks very much, and Roger Stanyard from the British Centre for Science Education. Thank you very much for joining us this morning. Is it going to run and run, Darwinism versus Creationism? Are we all, did we all spring from apes? Well some people you meet didn't spring far enough, did they?
The audio of the interview can be heard here.
BCSE comments: Roger Stanyard was acting as one of the two spokesman for BCSE in the above interview. We point out that of the then 83 members (see note 1 below) of the BCSE forum, many are qualified scientists and include people with post-graduate qualifications, including PhDs from leading universities. Like Truth in Science, we include members with a diversity of backgrounds including three ordained ministers, two of whom also have science backgrounds. The position that BCSE takes on science is determined by the considerable scentific and other expertise of its members.
We would also add that our membership includes many who have a formal background covering evolutionary science.
The vast majority of BCSE members are professional, managerial and business people who well understand, between them, pure and applied science and their applications. It also has a close working relationship with the National Center for Science Education in the USA.
We are pleased that Professor McIntosh has brought up the subject of qualifications, because we are interested in knowing what qualifications he & other members of TIS had that gave them authority in the area of evolutionary biology. We would also like to ask what status does Dr John Blanchard's PhD have. We would also like to know how Profesor McIntosh's position in the interview squares with his public position that that it doesn't matter what qualifications you have: if you contradict the bible, you're wrong.
BCSE is not a one-man band. BCSE originated as a project of BCSE member Alan Bellis and has a core managerial team of moderators.
Note 1: It appears to be common practice for people who have signed up to public email forums to be described as members. It is certainly the case with Science Just Science and several of us are proud to be described as such by SJS. Our own view is that both SJS and BCSE are significantly more substantial that mere email forums. Both have wiki-based sections that members contribute to, formal structures and are active in public campaigns. Moreover, anyone joining the forums is clearly aware that this is the case.
However, BCSE has now dropped the definition as we now have a written Constitution which, of necessity, requires people to vote on key issues. We now define members as people who are able to vote within the framework of BCSE. Voting entitlement is dependent on a financial contribution to BCSE. As is standard practice amongst voluntary organisations such as the Biblical Creation Society we do not disclose total membership numbers. However, as at 4th November 2006 105 people had signed up to our public forum, indicating growing public interest in our movement. Membership of BCSE is not conditional on signing up to the forum.
The Times, 3rd October 2006
The Times October 03, 2006
State of science in our schools
Sir, The British Centre for Science Education is deeply concerned about the teaching of pseudoscience in place of science in schools in the UK.
We are a new pressure group that aims to keep science and only science in the science classrooms of the UK. In particular, we are alarmed at the launch of a creationist religious group called Truth in Science (report, Sept 29). It is aiming to get creationism taught in science lessons in schools.
Truth in Science recently sent free materials to every school in the UK. We urge teachers to treat this material with extreme caution. It is full of scientific errors and misrepresentations and fails to tell the recipients about the groupís creationist beliefs and objectives. Attempts to deliver this material in a science classroom may confuse children, and could well place their future academic success at risk.
Truth in Science is pushing supernaturalism as a viable alternative to the accepted science regarding the origins and development of life on this planet and established geological knowledge that the Earth is very old.
This is at its heart a theological debate fit for a religious education class, but not a science class.
British Centre for Science Education
Observer Newspaper 1st October 2006
I can barely Adam and Eve it, but creationism's catching on over here
Sunday October 1, 2006
Not the smallest of the crimes of the Bush administration is to allow an affectation of cultural superiority to sweep Europe. By now, you must know the list of our alleged virtues by heart and the odds are you accept our moral pre-eminence as incontestable.
The Christian right wants an end to abortion, a rolling back of homosexual rights and the teaching of creationism to gullible children in state schools. These primitive beliefs put Republicans outside the bounds of civilised discourse to everyone who matters except Tony Blair and he'll be gone soon. The rest of us can savour the antics of Baptist churches and Deep South demagogues as one of our greatest voyeuristic pleasures - the pornography of the politically literate. Every time a film crew comes back with footage of tele-evangelists milking their flocks, the seductive thought that there is no moral difference between Christian fundamentalism and Islamism becomes a little more appealing.
To be told that it is easier for creationists to get at children in Britain than the US is as shockingly incongruous as opening a paper and reading that more prisoners are executed in Devon than Texas. Yet British scientists trying to uphold basic intellectual standards are starting to believe just that.
It isn't that Britain has anything comparable with the US creationist lobby. The Roman Catholic and Anglican churches accept evolution, although there are signs from polls that the people likely to found Muslim schools do not. The organisations that are pushing biblical literalism in Britain are obscure. I doubt if one person in 1,000 will have heard of Truth in Science, Answers in Genesis, the Emmanuel Schools Foundation or the Creation Science Movement.
Typical activists describe themselves as 'street proselytisers', and tour the country giving lectures in nonconformists chapels and preaching from soap boxes in shopping centres. They look like living fossils, but researchers for the British Centre for Science Education show that they can be surprisingly effective.
Truth in Science has established a website and sent information packs to every school. Its suggested coursework for teachers to base lessons around is very slick and includes powerpoint presentations, video clips and arguments questioning that life could have emerged without a creator. If the group is to be believed, more teachers have thanked it for their help than phoned to say they had thrown their packs in the bin.
As in the United States, old-time creationism is dressed up in the pseudo-scientific garb of intelligent design. Instead of appealing to the literal truth of Genesis, smart creationists point to the complexity of molecular structures as evidence that only an omnipotent creator could have conjured life into being.
Stephen Layfield, head of science at the fundamentalist Emmanuel College near Middlesbrough, explained that teachers who say the 'Genesis account may be actually historical and true stand to meet with a barrage of criticism and scorn'.
Talking about molecular structures or gaps in the fossil record, however, deflects the derision. More important, it appeals to teachers who have no religion but suffer from what you could call the BBC fallacy. 'We teach the theory of evolution,' they say to themselves, 'so we should balance that by also teaching the theory of intelligent design.' They don't understand that you can't have balance between truth and falsehood. Those who claim you can are putting themselves in the same camp as Holocaust-deniers from the far right or deniers of the Bosnian concentration camps from the far left who, when confronted by incontrovertible evidence, always try to wriggle away by saying :'I'm just trying to put the other point of view.'
Andrew Copson of the British Humanist Association is emphatic that the infiltration of British schools would be impossible in the United States. Because we don't separate church and state, he says, we can't simply say that it is illegal to bring God into the classroom. We therefore condemn ourselves to fighting endless minor science wars in the school labs. Last year in the US, by contrast, a federal judge ruled that a Pennsylvania school board's policy of teaching intelligent design in high-school biology class was unconstitutional because it was clearly a religious idea that advances 'a particular version of Christianity'.
His judgment showed that the great push by American Christians to challenge Darwin was doomed to fail and most of the other Christian initiatives look like going the same way. We are well into Bush's second term, but abortion is still legal and homosexual rights remain. Europeans enjoy their fantasy of the American dystopia too much to notice what is in front of their noses.
The Republicans used religious passions to push largely working-class American Christians to vote for Bush, then gave them next to nothing when he was in the White House. Perhaps one day their brains, honed by millions years of evolution, will work out that they have been taken for fools.
The Independent 12th October 2006
(http://education.independent.co.uk/schools/article1836323.ece - based on material and advice supplied by BCSE.)
Does creationism have a place in the classroom?
Secondary schools are being lobbied by a new group that attacks Darwin's theory of evolution. Some teachers are planning to adopt the creationist materials, others are fighting them. Nick Jackson reports
Published: 12 October 2006
Creationists are targeting schools A creationist group, Truth in Science, has targeted thousands of secondary schools in the UK with an information pack that is being used by believers and unwary teachers to bring religious dogma into science classrooms.
It is falling on fertile ground. In January a poll revealed that less than 48 per cent of Britons believe in the theory of evolution, 39 per cent believe in creationism or intelligent design by God as a better explanation, and more than 40 per cent believe that these theories should be taught in schools. Truth in Science claims to have received hundreds of responses from teachers saying they plan to use the packs.
Ridiculed in the scientific community and condemned by the US courts as a religiously motivated movement, you would expect advocates of intelligent design to be keeping a low profile. But believers in the supernatural creation of life on earth look stronger than they have for many years in the UK. Which is why scientists are so concerned about what looks like the beginning of a new "soft power" offensive by creationists here.
How can they get away with it? Intelligent design has been denounced by scientific bodies across the world as religion masquerading as science, and Truth in Science's pack has been condemned by the Royal Society and the Department for Education and Skills. However, the Government cannot control what resources schools use and Truth in Science has cleverly exploited an apparent loophole in the national curriculum, which encourages teachers to discuss and criticise scientific theory, to argue that the Government supports the teaching of the intelligent design "controversy".
Some teachers welcome the opportunity to give exposure to intelligent design. Nick Cowan, former head of science and now a chemistry teacher at the Blue Coat School, a grammar school in Liverpool, wants the packs used in lessons there. "Darwinism is a religion," says Cowan, a creationist and head of the Christian Institute, a charity devoted to the promotion of Christian faith in the UK. "The debate between evolution and intelligent design is not a debate between science and religion, it's between religion and religion."
The pack has also been met with outright scorn. Graham Wright, head of science at North Bridge House, an independent school in north London, says the pack sent to him went straight into the bin. But he is concerned that some well-meaning teachers, convinced by talk of changes in the national curriculum, will include the pack in lessons. "If I showed this to children, of course they would be convinced," he says. "There's no doubt about that at all."
Other schools are being more open-minded. Before receiving the pack, Maria Fidelis, a state-funded Roman Catholic convent school in Camden, north London, did not teach intelligent design. Now they plan to use the videos.
Ann Marie Horrigan, a chemistry teacher, reviewed one of the DVDs for the school. Before looking at it, the department was suspicious, but Horrigan was impressed. "I thought it was excellent," she says. "I'd recommend it. The graphics were excellent. We'll probably teach it at A-level."
The pack, seen by The Independent, consists of two DVDs and a leaflet. In the leaflet, Truth in Science claims that the Government and the national curriculum encourages students to study intelligent design as a criticism of Darwin.
But the Department for Education and Skills says that while students are encouraged to consider alternative scientific theories of evolution, intelligent design is not one of them, for the simple reason that intelligent design is not science. "We wouldn't endorse these packs," says a spokesperson. "The fossil record is evidence of evolution. Creationism and intelligent design are not scientific theories."
The Royal Society agrees. "The theory of evolution is supported by the overwhelming majority of scientists, based on evidence acquired through experiment and observation," says Professor Michael Reiss, director of education. "It would therefore be misleading for school pupils to be given the impression that there is scientific controversy."
Truth in Science claims that "the theory of intelligent design is the current number one alternative to Darwinism as a scientific theory of origins", despite the fact that it has not yet produced any original scientific research. It is only the first misleading statement of many in the research packs, says (name witheld for legal reasons), a biology PhD at (name witheld for legal reasons) and anti-creationist activist who has reviewed the packs. He has found 21 factual errors, misrepresentations, and flawed arguments in the DVDs. "They show fancy graphics," he says. "But there's no positive evidence put forward in support of design."
Central to the argument is the figure of Dr Michael Behe, a biochemist convert to intelligent design. In the DVDs he argues his theory of irreducible complexity, the claim that some organisms are too complex to have evolved. Last year Dr Behe had to admit in a US courtroom not only that such organisms could be the result of evolution, but that intelligent design had the same scientific legitimacy as astrology. (name witheld for legal reasons) is worried. "The packs are done in a way that if you look at it and don't understand the subject well it could be quite convincing," he says.
In the DVDs, the bacterial flagellum, a tiny molecular motor, is put forward as an example of this discredited irreducible complexity.
(name witheld for legal reasons) is disturbed, as are other scientists, by the fact that an argument, dressed up in scientific language but with no scientific credibility, is being sold to schoolchildren. "Key Stage 4 is not the place for new theories that are not that accepted," he says. Peer review does not count if it is done by 14-year-olds.
Professor Andy McIntosh, head of Truth in Science and a thermodynamics professor at (name witheld for legal reasons), defends the initiative. He claims his organisation is first and foremost a scientific, not a religious one. "We're not flat earthers," he says. "We're just trying to encourage good scientific discussion. We want to see an open discussion of these matters." He blames intelligent design's failure to achieve academic respectability on a cabal of evolutionists at the top of the scientific hierarchy.
If this really is about opening up scientific debate, then where is the harm? The strategy of teaching the "controversy" of intelligent design is very familiar in the US. When a Pennsylvania school board tried to introduce the controversy last year it was slammed by the courts. "The tactic is at best disingenuous, at worst a canard," said US federal judge Judge Jones, a Republican and a Christian. "The goal of IDM [the intelligent design movement] is not to encourage critical thought, but to foment a revolution that would supplant evolutionary theory."
The controversy in the US has largely been fomented by the Discovery Institute, a non-profit educational foundation funded by evangelical Christians. The DVDs distributed by the British company feature several prominent members of the Discovery Institute. In 1999 a leaked Discovery Institute fundraising document revealed the group's aim to be to defeat scientific materialism and its "destructive" moral, cultural, and political legacies.
And Professor McIntosh's comments on scientific discussion sit uneasily with remarks he made in the Evangelical Times in 2004, around the time he was setting up Truth in Science. Then he said that he could not accept any other account of the origins of life than the creation recorded in Genesis. Getting creationism into schools was, he argued, the best way to convert non-Christians.
"How do we reach these complete outsiders?", he asked. "We have to define and declare these biblical concepts from square one. That is why creation becomes important, because it immediately declares God's ownership of the world and ourselves." Truth in Science says these are simply Professor McIntosh's personal opinions.
Steve Layfield is another of Truth in Science's six directors and head of science at Emmanuel College in Gateshead. In a speech at the Second Conference of Creation Activists in 1998, Layfield gave advice to evangelical teachers who wanted to slip creationism on to the agenda without consulting parents, governors, or the Government. The speech ended with a quote from Corinthians: "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."
In 2000 Layfield explained why bringing God into the origins of life was so important to him. "A proper awareness of this show of Divine power inspires humility and awe-filled worship in all who are confronted by it," he said. Layfield was unavailable for comment. Truth in Science claims he has since changed his mind, but then the media was never part of the softly-softly tactics he advocated.
The British Humanist Association argues that this religious agenda in school science must be stopped. It is calling on the Government to make its position clearer to schools. As schools minister, Jacqui Smith denounced intelligent design's scientific credentials. Intelligent design is not part of the curriculum. But examination guidelines do encourage criticism of scientific theories that could be used to include teaching intelligent design.
The BHA wants Alan Johnson to get the message across that creationism has no place in school science. "The Government shouldn't be lax about this," says Andrew Copson, in charge of education at the BHA. "They need to tell teachers and change the guidelines to make this clear."
Although the UK government has subsequently spelt out its position, creationism is on the rise in England and Northern Irelend.