Sunday 22 August 2010

A creationist bleats about Dawkins (again)

In the light of Richard Dawkins' latest TV programme on More4, Faith Schools Menace? the Creation Science Movement has posted an article about Dawkins and the British Humanist Association on its website: "Richard Dawkins, the BHA and a New Inquisition".
Dawkins in fact wishes to abolish faith schools, but he acknowledges that their teaching standards are often better than secular schools. So good in fact that he would be willing to lie to get his children into one. He comments that he does not blame those atheists who pretend to be religious in order to get their children into the best faith schools, and comments that as he has 'absolutely no belief at all, I wouldn't be betraying anything' by lying and pretending to be religious.
Dawkins' point was that he would be prepared to lie about his lack of religious belief in order to counteract the inequitable availability of state schools. Faith schools discriminate against children whose parents have contributed to the funding of these schools. It's wrong that such children should be arbitrarily excluded.
What Dawkins fails to understand is that the quality of the education in faith schools is to do with their ethos.
What the (anonymous) author of this article fails to mention is that the "ethos" of the school is only part of the story. Faith schools practice selection on the basis of parents' religion. As was made clear in the programme, such selection tends to filter out less able children due to their background (their parents' willingness to do what it takes to gain admission for their offspring is a major part of that background).
Dawkins own words reveal that he is willing to destroy the very thing, the inherent values, that make faith schools so good.
As outlined above, it's not the inherent values that are the cause of good league-table performance.
The BHA has lobbied the Education Secretary Michael Gove and reports suggest that the policy developed will seek to exclude 'extremist groups' from taking over schools, and furthermore there would be no creationism taught in science classes.
Quite right too.
Andrew Copson of the BHA is concerned about the 'dangers of the influences of fundamentalist groups in our school system.' Presumably he doesn't mean to imply that the BHA owns the school system by use of the word 'our', but the faux pas is evident nonetheless.
This is a telling criticism that exposes CSM's misunderstanding (or deliberate misrepresentation) of the state school system. Voluntary aided faith schools are state schools. Over 90% of funding for these schools comes from the taxpayer — they are indeed our schools.
He is perhaps too blinkered to know that true pluralism must respect those who have different religious beliefs to his own and allow them to have an equal voice in education.
Andrew Copson is not the one who is blinkered. In the matter of education funded by the taxpayer, "those who have different religious beliefs" are not entitled to "an equal voice". In the case of voluntary aided faith schools, they are entitled to — at most — 10% of a voice.
The BHA wants us to believe that secular humanism is religiously neutral, but it is not. It is instead biased in favour of atheism.
First, atheism is not a religion. Second, the author of this article clearly doesn't know the definition of "secular" (1. not religious, sacred or spiritual; 2. not subject to or bound by religious rule; Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 11th ed).
So the BHA's claim that it seeks to develop 'totally inclusive schools for children of all faiths and none' is entirely bogus. The BHA wants atheistic humanism to have a dominant position in schools and by its actions wishes to treat those who have religious and scientific convictions about creation as second-class citizens.
Not "atheistic humanism", secular humanism; there's a difference — see the definition above. It's entirely right that state-funded education should be secular in nature, without giving preference to any religious belief over another. As for scientific "convictions" — these need to be ratified by the scientific community before they are included in the school curriculum.
We wonder why the BHA should have such influence in society that greatly exceeds its popular mandate, especially when advocating such extreme views. Christians and other religious groups greatly outweigh the membership of the BHA.
Popular mandate? BHA members are not elected by the British public, but neither are Christians and other religious groups. The BHA, however, recognises that Christians and other religious groups have disproportionate influence in society, and therefore seeks to bring that influence down to more equitable levels.
Children must be given the opportunity to learn skills in the critical analysis of complex arguments and data; skills that are the hallmarks of true education.
This is precisely what the BHA is campaigning for.
We would ask that children and students be allowed to learn skills in critical thinking within the science class and be allowed to question the problems with evolution while respecting their faith. Anything less is not science, but humanistic, religious dogma of a fundamentalist nature.
Children and students should indeed be encouraged to learn critical thinking skills, but primary and secondary education science classes are not the places to discuss theories that have no evidential base. Creationism is not science, it is religious dogma of a fundamentalist nature.