May 2006 Skeptic bites postman?
it take for the media to consider a skeptical view of the paranormal
as worthy of reporting? In my last commentary I bemoaned the lack
of skeptical television programmes. I’ve
checked and the last overtly skeptical programme on British television
was “Secrets of the Psychics” (Open
Media) which I’m
told was broadcast in August 1997 (24th August to be precise).
Among others we had contributions from Mike
Hutchinson and Ian
I remember meeting up
with Mike, Ian and Lewis
Jones in a Chinese restaurant near Euston
station shortly after the show was aired. There the director, Alex
Marengo, told us just how difficult it was to get this programme
made. All sorts of obstacles were put in his way and some material
see the light of day for legal reasons.
Contrast this with the veritable assault of paranormal drivel
we are bombarded with now.
Most of this codswallop
could be comprehensively dealt with if a comparable amount of
air time was given to a skeptical examination of these ludicrous
claims. I don’t just mean on television
either. Here’s an article run published by the East
Psychic tells police death fall girl was murdered
DETECTIVES are to reopen a five-year old case after a psychic
claims that the girl was raped and thrown to her death from a tower
A leading psychic has confirmed to the grieving mother, Janet Spencer, a hairdresser
from Bow, what she always suspected, that her daughter Marissa was brutally
murdered by people she knew and trusted.
The medium Helen Davies, from Barking, described how a gang including a woman
and two men were involved in the rape and death of her daughter.
She said Marissa was killed and then thrown off the tenth floor block on the
Gascoyne Estate in Homerton, in a bid to make it look like suicide.
"The gang, who are involved in some sort of drug dealing," said Ms
Spencer, " They put a picture of Marissa's nine year old daughter into
her pocket to try and make it look like she was feeling depressed and wanted
"After throwing her body off the block, the gang visited her home in Hackney
Wick to clean it and remove any forensic evidence" added Ms Spencer at
her home in Bow.
Assuming this is accurate I find the report
very disturbing. Perhaps the tragic death of Marissa wasn’t suicide, I really
don’t know, but there is nothing new in the above report
to suggest it wasn’t.
Why is it that a) psychics feel entitled
to meddle in police matters and b) when they do it gets them
uncritical press coverage? I suspect it is deemed newsworthy
only because a psychic is involved rather than simply because
the case has been reopened. There is no comment from a police
spokesman confirming that this is the case and I therefore conclude
the story originated either from the family or the psychic. I
accept from the family’s point
of view that whatever gets the case re-examined is considered a
good thing but any evidence provided by a psychic could just as
easily incriminate innocent people as guilty ones. Crimes are solved
by evidence not psychics.
So can we assume from this that the police
pay serious attention to psychic claims? If so why? There is
no evidence to indicate psychics have any real ability and even
if there was it wouldn’t
automatically follow that this particular person was in fact psychic.
My own hypothesis is that they (psychics) are ordinary people who
just basically make things up, but despite their lack of scientific
credibility the media is ever eager to pass on what ever piffle
leaves their mouths.
As Jam once sang, “And
the public gets what the public wants..” Well at least
43% of it does.
Other news BBC News reports, “More
than half of Britons believe in psychic powers such as mind-reading
and premonitions, a survey suggests.” Well not exactly, 43%
of 1006 Reader’s Digest
subscribers believe – which is probably not the same thing.
Could it have read, “Less than half
of Britons now believe in the paranormal”? It would have been just as correct.
Sun tells us of a minor skirmish between
magician Derren Brown and Derek Acorah in the Ramada Jarvis Hotel,
Swansea . Derek is reported as asking Derren, “Why
are you always slagging me off?” Derren’s response we are told was, “That’s
the way I am. I’ve never seen your show but I’ve reservations
about you.” Harsh words indeed. Just in case Derek and I
meet again let me be clear, I have seen his show and I think he
has the psychic ability of a peanut. My own observations lead me
to believe that he is nothing more than a mixture of poor acting
and a fertile (or is that febrile) imagination.
But enough of my moaning. If
you have a thirst for reason check out the following;
View from Number Eighty. Michael Shermer has switched from
being a environmental skeptic to the position that global warming
is being driven by human activity. This goes to illustrate that
skeptics are not close-minded but listen to the evidence. Good
for you Dr Shermer.
Exposure. Read ‘The Eureka moment’.
Like Derren Brown Yvette Fielding seems to have doubts about
Derek Acorah and you can hear her saying so.
25th May 2006 Homeopathy
and other debates
are constantly being reminded the National Health Service (NHS)
does not have an infinite supply of money and therefore doctors
can find themselves in the unenviable position of having to refuse
their patients of possibly life saving treatment simply through
lack of cash. This provides we skeptics with an alarming example
of our inability to insulate ourselves from the stupidity of others.
Imagine being told that Herceptin could
save your life but alas the money has already been spent on an
unproven treatment that as far as current scientific research
goes could not possibly work. Of course it’s never put
in such black and white terms but if the NHS, which of course
is funded by the British tax payer, continues to waste money
on this mythical treatment, it is a realistic example of what
is already happening. Hence a group of eminent scientists and
physicians has finally had enough and has written to a letter
asking NHS Trusts to think again before wasting valuable resources
on unproven treatments.
On the same day the Prince of Wales, who is unlikely to ever be
refused treatment for lack of cash himself, is urging them to do
just the opposite.
But despite this temporary blip the enduring
myth that homeopathy actually cures illness seems set to continue.
On Radio Four this week there was a brief debate between Professor
Michael Baum, a leading breast cancer specialist at University
College London and Dr Peter Fisher the clinical director at the
Royal London Homeopathic Hospital. As I listened to this I began
to wonder what influence this might have on other members of
the public. If you haven’t
taken the trouble to look into this subject then it probably sounded
like there were equally valid arguments on both sides. Just as
Professor Baum (rightly in my view) pointed out the lack of credible
evidence for homeopathy Dr Fisher simply argued that there was
evidence a plenty. So Joe and Josephine public could be forgiven
for coming away thinking “the argument rages on”.
This seems to be how the media works these
days. If there is any given topic up for discussion then the
first thing they do is get in two opposing experts and get John
Humphries (or whoever) to play the Devil’s Advocate with each expert in turn. Now unless
one of them turns around and says, “Actually
a good point. I’ve changed my mind, ‘subject X’ is
a load of nonsense after all”, the debate inevitably ends
in indecision. Robert Kilroy-Silk’s daytime television programme
worked exactly this way and never felt obliged to come to a conclusion;
which was just as well as the same old subjects came up week after
Perversely this apparent even-handedness
has its own built
in bias. Let’s say I have developed a treatment for irritable
bowel syndrome that requires my ‘patients’ to bathe
in icy cold water for 1 hour a day whilst sipping elderberry wine.
The media get wind of this (probably from me) and invite me on
their show, but in the interest of balance Professor Jones is asked
for his expert opinion. At this point the debate itself is largely
irrelevant because regardless of the scorn heaped on my crackpot
treatment by Jones I have succeeded in getting valuable air time
for something that is entirely worthless. And all I have to do
to counter Jones’s scientific analysis is throw in a few
anecdotes and I’m home dry.
The same goes for ghost hunters, witches (white or otherwise),
mediums, faith healers or anyone else with a slightly dotty story
Why are there no televisions programmes
thoroughly examining such claims from a sceptical standpoint?
According to Randi when he did the ‘Psychic Investigator’ series in 1991 believers
wrote in in droves to complain and thus it was condemned to a single
series. For the foreseeable future this continued regurgitation
of palpable nonsense seems set to continue. As ever scepticism
doesn’t sell, instead more detritus is going to be heading
our way in the shape of the Baby Mind Reader. Good grief!
Olgilvy claims he can read the minds of babies. If he could prove
it he could win a million dollars but no matter because today GMTV
kindly provided him with 10 minutes of free publicity to help
the viewing figures for his new series and boost the sales of his
book. He was ever-so-politely interviewed by Lorraine Kelly and
rather than give him a real test they got him to give a demonstration
to a member of the public (Tamara Winkworth). Sceptic Mark Duwe
was in attendance and given but a short time to try and restore
some sanity. Can we hear what Derek actually said to Tamara? Of
course not! Instead we just hear her impressions of the reading
and anecdotal stories from Derek about just how good he is from
this Mark is supposed to be able to come up with a critique.
The fact that as evidence this is entirely
seem to matter and once you have a TV series you’re pretty
much immunized from further criticism in the media. The only thing
that will get you off air are bad ratings - not science.
Joe Power On the night of the Lennon
séance I took part (briefly)
in a discussion on Anita
Anan’s show on Radio Five Live.
Also taking part was Joe Power who was the medium on the nauseating
Lennon ‘pay per view’ séance. At the time Mr Power
couldn’t tell us the wonderful message that he felt couldn’t
fail to impress Yoko Ono. As we now know the trite message was, “Peace… the
message is peace”. So we are supposed to accept that John
Lennon’s spirit responded to a pay per view TV show and basically
told all of us to give peace a chance. Complete pap!
Knowing I might be speaking with yet another
psychic claiming to be a top UK medium I had a look at his website.
The home page humbly states, “Joe Power is the UK 's
finest psychic medium profiler who is renowned for his involvement
in helping police solve high profile crimes. ” An impressive
claim indeed. He actually helps the police solve cases
then? Alas his modesty is such that he doesn’t provide any further details
of the murders he helped solve. I also couldn’t help wondering
if he ever worked on low profile cases, perhaps they aren’t
This is fairly old news of course but then an article appears in
The Daily Mirror ( 06/05/06 ) with the headline,
“TV PSYCHIC: SALLY ANNE TOLD ME KILLER'S NAME”.
Joe Power goes several steps ahead of medium Ben Murphy (see
and actually names the killer of Sally Anne Bowman. The Mirror story
“Mr Power, 39, has told police the
killer could have the surname White and first name Stephan or Stephen.
He might live in a block of flats by railway lines and have been
in a park before the murder.
And Mr Power
believes the killer, who he thinks is a delivery driver aged between
24 and 26, met part-time hairdresser Sally Anne through the friend
of a friend.”
If the Mirror quotes Power accurately then
it’s worth emphasising
some of the wording.
“… the killer could have
the name…” So
he could have a different one?
“He might live in a block
of flats…” But
then again he might not.
“… who he thinks is
a delivery driver…” So
what if he thinks it.
Psychics, unlike the police, seem to be unencumbered by any responsibility
in issuing such details.
Suppose there is a “Stephen White” who
lives in Croydon? His name has now been brought in to the public
arena and may already be considered guilty as charged by some.
Are people now actively seeking someone with that name?
The police are quoted as saying, "We
don't actively seek the help of psychics but we never turn down
information of any sort."
Which to me sounds like police will feel obliged to waste their
precious time following this up.
I’m gaining quite a file
on psychics professing to give valuable information to help solve
such mysteries. So far none of the following have managed to provide
information that has cleared up an unsolved case.
And now Joe Power (early days though eh)
April 2006 More Detective Work? As
a skeptic I find some things hard to talk about because I really don’t
want to cause offence. A case in point was the endorsement of psychic
Dennis McKenzie by Kevin Wells in his book ‘Goodbye
Dearest Holly’. A parent who has lost a child is understandably
emotionally raw and I don’t think any skeptic would want to
deliberately add to their distress, but misinformation about the
effectiveness of psychics in assisting the police is a growing concern.
Once again another psychic feels
compelled to ‘assist’ the
police by providing information that they cannot know and will, at
the very least, serve as a distraction. The latest case is a medium
called Ben Murphy who has made certain remarks about the murder of
Sally Anne Bowman and having made them Sally Anne’s mother
is now begging the police to take heed of his words of wisdom.
Following a group meditation session which involved staring into
flames he is reported to have said;
"Sally first showed me how a man grabbed her from behind.
"He was wearing gloves and a hooded top, but his face was blanked
out. He had stabbed her quite a few times.
"She then showed me a handbag with some writing on the side
and also some of the things from her bag - a phone, some keys.
"At this stage, the members of the circle were listening and
three or four of them mentioned a lipstick or lip balm. Sally Anne
then showed a man in his bedroom taking a clear bag containing a
few of her personal items out of a wardrobe.
"From the bedroom she showed me a park. In the park she showed
me a small hill where there was a tree and a man kneeling down at
"She said that these items are buried here and the man comes
back to look at them.
"I was also given the name Justin while in meditation.
"She gave me the actual experience of being covered in blood.
"I was lying at an angle as if my back was in arched position
and the blood running up my face and into my hair.
"She also showed me a shoe print which had been left in blood."
The police, quite rightly, have
not acted on this and are relying on more fact based detective work
e.g. asking a number of local men to voluntarily submit to DNA testing.
If we look at the information provided by Mr Murphy and his group
what have we got?
Well a vague description of how
Sally Anne was attacked along with comments about “a handbag” (but
not actually specified as belonging to Sally Anne). Then we are told
about a “man in
a bedroom” but no precise information like an address. I think
we can assume that the murderer probably has a bedroom.
the bedroom she showed me a park. In the park she showed me a small
hill where there was a tree and a man kneeling down at the tree.”
Does this mean you can see the park from the bedroom? They can see
a small hill and a tree but are awfully light on further detail.
However we are given a name, but only a first name “Justin” and
it is by no means clear just who “Justin” is, only that
he was “given the name”. If by some chance anyone involved
with the crime is called Justin this will be claimed as a massive
hit whether it be the murderer, his brother, father, uncle, landlord
I’m sure Mr Murphy and his fellow spiritualists are sincere
in wanting to help but despite public perception that psychics help
solve crime the actual evidence is that they do not. In fact they
A police spokesman said: "We
get a lot of calls from spiritualists, but we deal in fact."
In a way it’s lucky for the
spiritualists that the police do not take them seriously - otherwise
they might find themselves arrested for trying to pervert the course
April 2006 21
Grams I recently took part in a debate with Ross
Hemsworth (see: Audiomartini)
hosted by Rick Wood. During the debate Ross mentioned that something
on this website was incorrect. Surely not? Specifically Ross drew
my attention to the following;
“Mia also seemed to think that immediately
after death the human body weighs just a tiny bit less. This
weight loss being due to the departing of the spirit body. Chris
French assured her this was not true.” (Original commentary here)
The point I made at the time was that this is absolutely correct
in that Chris French really did assure her this wasn’t true.
However I confess I didn’t really know much about the actual
research Mia Dolan was alluding to – so I decided to look
The original experiment was carried out by Dr Duncan MacDougall
who worked in Haverhill , Massachusetts . The experiment was carried
out in 1907 (not 1926 as Ross thought in the interview) when the
good doctor set up a weighing machine and a specially converted
hospital bed. He ran six human experiments in all having carefully
selected patients who were unlikely to thrash about while they
His basic premise was that ‘souls’, if they existed,
should have substance because if they hadn’t then how could
the personality survive with nothing to support it. In his own
words it had to be a “space-occupying substance”. Interestingly
it was a similar question posed by myself that lead Ross to mention
this example. The problem is whether the ‘soul’ (and
indeed much paranormal phenomena) is physical or non-physical.
If it is non-physical how can it interact with physical material?
How could a ghost reflect light so that you could see it or a spirit
cause a change in temperature? Alas, despite all the mediums in
contact with the dead, this has never been explained. On the other
hand if the soul is physical, and if it weighs 21 grams it must
be, why can it not be detected by science?
Dr MacDougall results were not entirely consistent. His first
patient showed a loss of three quarters of an ounce (which I make
21.26214234375 grams). The next was somewhat difficult to ascertain
as he was unsure as to the exact moment of death, nevertheless
a small weigh loss was recorded. The third lost and ounce at the
point of death but, strangely, lost another ounce a few minutes
later. He felt the forth test didn’t provide accurate data
and the but the fifth was rather interesting in that the patient
initially lost three eighths of an ounce when he died only to put
it back on again. Subject number six was also declared null and
void as the patient rather inconsiderately died before the weighing
machine was ready.
So in essence this piece of paranormal folklore boils down to
not very much. In fact only the very first experiment seems to
fit the description so often quoted.
One other aspect worthy of mention is that most spiritualists
claim that animals also live on after death (Derek Acorah certainly
does) but this does not concur with Dr MacDougall’s own findings.
He did the same experiment using 15 dogs (which were obviously
destroyed as part of the experiment) and found there was no corresponding
loss of weight.
Questions have inevitably arisen as to the accuracy of this experiment.
How do you decide the exact point of death? How accurate was the
equipment? And so on.
However it should be pointed out that even if the body is shown
to loose weight at the point of death it cannot automatically be
assumed that this is due to the departing of the soul. If such
a loss does occur and we aren’t sure why then all that can
be claimed is ignorance. However this small scale experiment conducted
100 years ago doesn’t really allow any meaningful conclusion
to be drawn but that won’t stop people from doing it.
The term ’21 Grams’ comes from the film of the same
name starring Sean Penn. In this we are told, "They say
we all lose twenty-one grams at the exact moment of our death.
Everyone, twenty-one grams. The weight of a stack of five nickels.
The weight of a chocolate bar. The weight of a hummingbird."
April 2006 Selfridges
and the Philosopher’s
Stone It seems Selfridges & Co are now offering psychic
services, at least they are in their Oxford Circus branch. They
have retained the services of Jayne Wallace and Christine Murray
who they collectively refer to as “The Psychic Sisters”.
As far as I know this is the first time a company with a reputable
name has ever been involved in the tainted world of the psychic
Psychic phenomena, of any kind you care to name, has never been
scientifically proven. For those of you who come out in a rash
at the mention of science let me put it another way, psychic phenomena
has never been shown to exist at all. There are plenty of people
who think it might be true and there are others who are
utterly convinced it’s real – but it isn’t. To
those devoted fans who help prop up the psychic industry in all
it’s forms ask yourself why no one has ever succeeded in
winning the JREF
$1 million. Devotees will unthinkingly regurgitate
the words of their heroes and claim, “it isn’t
fair” or, “the money doesn’t exist”.
Well they are wrong on both counts.
Taking the above into account surely this means
that Selfridges are taking money from their customers (at the rate
per minute) whilst not providing the service as described. Of course
if they promoted them as “The Opinion Sisters”, women
who for a price would give you their opinion on any subject of
your choice, then things would not only be truthful but legal,
decent but honest as well. The trouble is that no one would
be mug enough to pay £40 for 40 minutes of ill-informed drivel
and guesswork. Therefore it is essential to persuade punters that
this pre-enlightenment poppycock has some mystical basis.
I can see no refuge in the usual cop out that this is simply
entertainment. Not that I can find anything in the available literature
to indicate that it is. I think it shows very bad taste to have
a medium contact your dead relatives simply for idle amusement.
I find myself wondering how they decided which
psychics would be suitable. Did they test them? Who did they ask
to design the tests? Of course if they didn’t test them then
that would indicate that they really don’t care whether they
are psychic or not. Still, it’s not too late. I hereby offer
to test them free of charge. I envisage the test going something
along these lines. I find four subjects, two male and two female,
and get them to fill out a questionnaire stating the names of significant
people in their lives (living and dead), what they do for a living
and a few facts they consider impossible for anyone else to know.
This will be translated into a list of specific questions that
the psychics would then be required to answer. Any other information
offered by the psychic would not be considered valid. The subjects
would not be permitted to speak until the end of the test. Unfortunately
I can't suggest a pass mark until the psychics actually make a
claim as to their accuracy.
Tricky for anyone just guessing but not too difficult
for a gifted psychic surely? It wouldn’t be definitive but
it would have the merit of being objective. So instead of, “They’re
showing me the name Paul” they would have to answer
the question, “What
is the name of the subject’s brother?”
I have a
high expectation that this offer will not be taken up.
The Philosopher’s Stone was believed to
turn base metal into gold, in a similar fashion some might suggest
Selfridges are trying to turn something utterly worthless into
money. Personally I think they’re just stupid. I hope their
customers show a bit more nous.
Currently this topic is being debated on the JREF
forum as well as that of BadPsychics (registration required).
John Jackson has also written up his own commentary here.
Watching the detectives If someone really
is in touch with the dead and in regular contact with various spirit
guides, it makes sense that they offer a unique opportunity to
solve murder cases even if no body has been discovered. I have
heard many a medium providing people with the most detailed, although
usually pointless, pieces of information such as, “I’m being told there’s
a birthday in the family” or perhaps, “They’re
telling there’s a financial matter that’s causing
you concern.” Apparently spirits can even see into
the future, “He’s
saying not to worry because it’s going to turn out fine.
You’ll be getting a windfall sometime around April/May…”.
With access to such a power mediums might reasonably be expected
to warn people of approaching danger but at the very least provide
valuable clues about what happened to the police and as a result
crimes could be rapidly solved.
“There are many examples of psychics helping
the police with crimes. Psychic detectives are
particularly useful for locating missing people or trying to
help solve murders or any other crime where there are no witnesses.
Often they can pick up information about the victim's last
hours which can shed light on who the criminal might be.”
Unfortunately they don’t provide us with
any examples. In fact I can’t find any documented case of “psychic
detectives” ever actually solving a crime. Nevertheless
they claim to assist in police investigations.
For example psychic, Anne
Owen, who says she
has lectured at Scotland Yard also tells us.
her psychic abilities, Anne Owen has helped the Police investigate
various crimes when conventional investigation methods fail."
Medium Dennis McKenzie is documented to have helped
in a number of occasions although not necessarily at the behest
of the police. Most famously he was involved with Kevin Wells during
the disappearance of Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells (see
However he has been called in on other cases such as 6 year old
Elliot Forde who was tragically killed in a hit and run accident
and missing army cadet Blake Hartley. I’m willing to be
proven wrong but as far as I’m aware none of these cases
has since been solved.
Winner of ‘Britain’s Psychic Challenge’ Diane
Lazarus states on her website;
“Media & Police She has worked with both media and police,
and has given guided information on several high profile investigations
including the Jill Dando murder.”
The Jill Dando case and the psychics is also
"Clairvoyants and psychics offered advice
to Scotland Yard. But one year after Jill's death, the police
appeared no closer to catching her killer.”
Diane has recently been called in by the family
of Martin Kelly who went missing in the docks area of Belfast
on January 1 st 2006. (BBC report here)
Now if you don’t know, Diane displayed amazing accuracy at
finding people in two of the tests during, ‘ Britain’s
Psychic Challenge’ (see report here).
She homed in on them with almost laser like precision. Sadly
this success was not repeated in the case of Mr Kelly. Diane
is quoted as saying, “I know he's in the water, I just know he
BBC report continues…
the quayside nearby, Ms Lazarus said she has a strong feeling
that Martin's body was in the River Lagan. ‘He's
close to a wall that's full of green moss. I just know he is,’ she
said. ‘What I'm visualising is a wall with a lot
of green moss, but as you go down, it would be like an arch
or a cove,’ . She said she believed a dive in the
two places she described would lead them to Martin's body.”
Martin is still missing.
Although he is assumed to have met with a tragic
accident this has not been confirmed and the family continue
to hope. We are surely entitled to ask why the spirits are so
unwilling to part with anything approaching useful information?
If anyone reading this does know anything then
go to the family’s
So far then I can find mediums being ‘involved’ in
various cases but nothing to give me a fix on their success rate.
As so many claim to help solve crime I thought I’d ask
the police for their view and contacted the Metropolitan Police.
In the past I have found them to be somewhat unforthcoming about
the use of psychics but this time I received a reply Here’s
part of it,
you for your recent enquiry concerning the use of psychics
by the police, which has been forwarded to me by our Public
Access Office. We have conducted a search of our indexes
but have been unable to identify any relevant records relating
to any official use of psychics.
How very interesting – if unsurprising. Yes psychics
are called in, not by the police but by families
who are at their wits end. I have stated this before but I
think it’s worth reiterating again: I am not making judgements
about people who are desperate for information about their
loved ones. Their actions are entirely understandable. That
said I do find it distasteful that mediums a) take part and
b) use the fact to promote themselves.
can already anticipate the emails from enraged believers who
think I should keep my opinions to myself. How dare I question
the powers which they offer out of a sense of public responsibility?
Well I do dare and please don’t bother writing unless
you can come up with something vaguely evidential. The whole
psychic industry spins on anecdote and you’ll need more
than that to convince me.
there’s a glimmer of hope for the believers. The above
is, however, a historical case where this played a major
case related to the disappearance of....
am now looking into this case and will let you know the result.
But for now be assured it doesn’t apply to any of the
of "The View from Number Eighty" may like to
know that it now has a new address. Click here: http://www.number80.co.uk/ for
the voice of reason.
Education, Education The idea that the world
was created in six days by an all powerful supernatural being can
never be the subject of scientific enquiry. The supernatural lies
now and forever outside the realms of science. To believe that Genesis
can be taken literally shows such a blind determination to ignore
overwhelming evidence that surely anyone so minded has no place teaching
evolution at all. And yet it seems they do.
According to BBC
about how the world was made are to be debated in GCSE science
lessons in mainstream secondary schools in England.”
website has made its own announcement
part of which states;
“In our Gateway Science specification,
candidates are asked to discuss why the opponents of Darwinism
thought the way they did and how scientific controversies can arise
from different ways of interpreting empirical evidence.”
Knowing about what people believed prior to Darwin can teach us
nothing about biology. It is entirely possible to learn about evolution
by natural selection without going anywhere near a religious text.
So why teach it in a biology class?
On the Education
“The new biology syllabus in England does
not require the teaching of creationist views alongside Darwin
's theory of evolution, but it opens the way for classroom discussions
in science lessons and pupils will be assessed on work they do
on this topic.
standards minister, Jacqui Smith, said in a parliamentary answer
that pupils were encouraged to explore different views, theories
and beliefs in many different subjects, including science.”
As applied to science I can quite
see the benefit of pupils being “…encouraged
to explore different views, theories…”. For example
discussing both the Steady State and Big Bang theories of how the
universe began and showing the how latter became the accepted view.
But if the “Let
there be light” hypothesis
were included as it would add nothing of any use.
A discussion of other theories such as Lamarckism might also give
useful background. But theories that include talking snakes have
never been science and are irrelevant.
Those of us who do not have a
religious view of the world are entitled to feel more than a little
worried about the religiosity of our current government. We’re
still getting over the fact that Tony Blair seemed to think praying
to his God had some kind of bearing on whether we went to war.
For the spiteful God of the Old Testament it must have been just
like the good old days with smiting aplenty.
Even more infuriating is the fact
that if you have a couple of million to spare you can get funding
for your own religious school and stop atheists like me sending
their children to it. Many parents resort to feigning religious
belief just to get their children into their local school, probably
in the mistaken belief that they will attain some sort of superior
And yet experience tells us that
Tony Blair will not listen. The Iraq War is illustration enough.
A march of over a million people in this country alone was ignored.
His closest European allies were against him, even the church was
against him. There were no weapons of mass destruction but we joined
in the bloodbath just the same. Many warned of the mess that would
result from this reckless warmongering but this Labour government
thought it knew better, and it thinks it knows better now.
That Creationism will gain a toe
in the door of the science classroom will not have come from any
request by scientists, so where has it come from? I can only assume
Tony has been praying again?