A recent blog post reported on some of the articles in the New Scientist’s God issue. One or two things have prompted me to write more about this, from a feminist perspective: Men and the religion versus science thing. Feel free to comment, here or there.
This is not an apologia for god. Religious claims still wither under rational scrutiny and deserve no special place in public life. But it is a call for those who aspire to a secular society to approach it rationally – which means making more effort to understand what they are dealing with. Religion is deeply etched in human nature and cannot be dismissed as a product of ignorance, indoctrination or stupidity. Until secularists recognise that, they are fighting a losing battle.
It’s a pity that the words “secularists” is used, as so often these days, as synonymous with atheists or anti-theists, which isn’t what it means. See the BBC site for a definition of secularism, which notes, correctly,
You may be surprised to know that while most secularists are atheists, some secularists are actually believers in a faith. While they believe, they don’t think that belief is a reason for special treatment.
However, it is true that many anti-religionists, like many religionists, make no effort to understand “what they are dealing with”. Whether the contributors to this issue of New Scientist can enlighten us is debatable.
One is Justin L Barrett, author of Born Believers: The Science of Children’s Religious Beliefs, which makes the controversial claim that children “arrive in the world with a strong, cognitively driven propensity for religious belief ‘preinstalled’.”
If you watched BBC Four’s Storyville, Meet the Climate Sceptics, last week, you may have been exasperated by the arguments put forward by leading climate change deniers Lord Christopher Monckton and Telegraph columnist James Delingpole. Monckton has been to the USA and Australia to talk to the climate change deniers on TV and at public meetings, where he’s been received with huge enthusiasm. Delingpole has also been to the USA, where he’s appeared on right-wing TV host Glenn Beck’s programme, rubbishing the science behind climate change. His scientific ignorance, as displayed on another BBC Four programme recently, Horizon – Science Under Attack, doesn’t inhibit him. He had the cheek to argue with Nobel prizewinner Sir Paul Nurse, President of The Royal Society, that he was wrong about climate change. These two ignoramuses, and others like them, attract a lot of attention in climate change sceptic circles because neither they nor their audiences understand the science of climate change, and they don’t want to understand it. Unfortunately, scientific ignorance is widespread, even among those who’d like to believe that the sceptics are wrong. For many, it’s just too difficult. This is why a video by US high school science teacher Greg Craven is so clever. You don’t need to understand the science. Craven offers a simpler argument about acceptable risk; which is the greater risk, economic damage or global disaster? Watch his YouTube video, and make up your own mind.
It’s on James Hazell’s programme, 26th October, about 35 minutes in. You have 7 days to listen.
I was on BBC Radio Suffolk today, talking about the MORI poll that shows 54% of Britons think creationism & ID should be taught in school science lessons.
You can listen again via the website. It’s on the James Hazell programme, from about 10.10am. The other contributor was Prof. Michael Reiss, who resigned from his role as the Royal Society’s director of Education over the issue.
Listen to the phone-in after the interviews.
Richard Dawkins has struck a book deal with Transworld, part of the Random House group, with a title aimed at teenagers, due out in autumn 2011:
Aimed at the adult and young adult market, the book addresses big questions about the natural world, including What is a Rainbow? Why are there Seasons? and Who Was the First Man and the First Woman? Each question is answered first by myth and legend, and then by lucid scientific explanation.
The Prime Minister’s Office has responded to an e-petition that read:
We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to include the teaching of evolution by natural selection in the new national primary curriculum.
Details of Petition:
Scientists are agreed that all todayâ€™s living organisms have evolved over millions of years from simpler organisms. This evolution is best explained by Darwinâ€™s theory of natural selection and its subsequent refinement. Natural selection is the most powerful tool for understanding living things. The current draft curriculum includes living things but omits evolution and natural selection. These ideas are needed to lay a foundation for later studies and to help children see their place in the living world and the universe.