Saturday 14 August 2010

Should Christianity be silent? Ann Widdecombe projects

Once again I'm reacting to a post on the New Humanist blog — this time it's about a Daily Express article by Ann Widdecombe. I responded in the comments to the Express article, but apparently their commenting system accepts plain text only, so my carefully formatted HTML appears very untidy. (I've pasted the properly formatted version below.)
Has anyone noticed that what the opponents of religion really want is that Christianity should be silent?
What I have noticed is that Christianity is definitely not silent, and that as soon as opponents of religion raise any objection to Christianity's lack of silence on matters with which it has no business to be concerned, they are labelled "strident" or "shrill" or "militant" (or in this case, "bigoted").
Those who run the zoo have established workshops which cover the national science curriculum but do not include discussion of religion and do not promote the extreme creationist view that the world was created 6,000 years ago. In other words it is a moderate, education-focused organisation that challenges children’s minds and produces evidence from fossils.
That the zoo promotes a slightly less extreme version of creationism does not make it "moderate". It may be "education-focussed", but that's because it has a religious agenda it wants to get into British science classes. Creationism and "intelligent design" are not science.
In short the British Humanist association does not believe that children should be allowed even to discuss creation or to be exposed to any evidence that might support it.
I'm a member of the BHA myself, and I'm not aware of any prohibition on children being allowed to discuss any subject at all. As for children being exposed to "evidence" for creation, there isn't any. The only authority for creationism is in scripture, but the Book of Genesis is not a science textbook.

With regard to scientific testing of the efficacy of prayer, most properly conducted tests are negative, but this is a distraction anyway because whenever negative results are obtained, the religious can explain them away (God is not susceptible to testing; it's impossible for an omniscient deity to conform to the protocols of a randomised double blind clinical trial; how do we know that other people who are not part of the trial aren't praying for opposing results. And so on.) I'm not surprised that Ann Widdecombe should cherry-pick a supposedly positive test of prayer while failing to mention the many that have shown no effect — her grasp of scientific method was exposed in her TV programme about Mosaic Law: she prefers to believe the Exodus took place (because it's in the Bible) despite there being no archeological evidence for it.

She is probably right in saying that the BHA and NSS will be vocal during the Pope's visit in September.
It is as well therefore to understand their bigoted approach from the outset.
I believe the bigotry of Ann Widdecombe's church of choice was clearly displayed in her debate with Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry in October last year.
That Ann Widdecombe accuses opponents of religion of wanting Christianity to be silent is a classic piece of projection.