Creationism in England
Here's a cheery article from a recent issue of the British newspaper The Guardian:
A growing number of science students on British campuses and in sixth form colleges are challenging the theory of evolution and arguing that Darwin was wrong. Some are being failed in university exams because they quote sayings from the Bible or Qur'an as scientific fact and at one sixth form college in London most biology students are now thought to be creationists.
Earlier this month Muslim medical students in London distributed leaflets that dismissed Darwin's theories as false. Evangelical Christian students are also increasingly vocal in challenging the notion of evolution.
In the United States there is growing pressure to teach creationism or “intelligent design” in science classes, despite legal rulings against it. Now similar trends in this country have prompted the Royal Society, Britain's leading scientific academy, to confront the issue head on with a talk entitled Why Creationism is Wrong. The award-winning geneticist and author Steve Jones will deliver the lecture and challenge creationists, Christian and Islamic, to argue their case rationally at the society's event in April.
“There is an insidious and growing problem,” said Professor Jones, of University College London. “It's a step back from rationality. They (the creationists) don't have a problem with science, they have a problem with argument. And irrationality is a very infectious disease as we see from the United States.”
Jones is right that the growth of creationism represnts a step back from rationality. But he is wrong to characterize creationists as not having a problem with science. They do, indeed, have a problem with science, because science accords no evidential weight to ancient, allegedly holy, texts. The students who are quoting the Bible or Qur'an on their medical exams (who fully deserve to fail, incidentally) do not believe that the scientific method represents the only proper means of investigating the mechanics of nature. They make arguments aplenty, they just aren't scientific arguments.
Later we come to this:
The leaflets are produced by the Al-Nasr Trust, a Slough-based charity set up in 1992 with the aim of improving the understanding of Islam. The passage quoted from the Qur'an states: “And God has created every animal from water. Of them there are some that creep on their bellies, some that walk on two legs and some that walk on four. God creates what he wills for verily God has power over all things.”
A 21-year-old medical student and member of the Islamic Society, who did not want to be named, said that the Qur'an was clear that man had been created and had not evolved as Darwin suggests. “There is no scientific evidence for it [Darwin's Origin of Species]. It's only a theory. Man is the wonder of God's creation.”
Of course. God created everything from water. How could it be otherwise?
The article concludes with this:
Most of the next generation of medical and science students could well be creationists, according to a biology teacher at a leading London sixth-form college. “The vast majority of my students now believe in creationism,” she said, “and these are thinking young people who are able and articulate and not at the dim end at all. They have extensive booklets on creationism which they put in my pigeon-hole ... it's a bit like the southern states of America.” Many of them came from Muslim, Pentecostal or Baptist family backgrounds, she said, and were intending to become pharmacists, doctors, geneticists and neuro-scientists.
It has been wisely said that against stupidity the Gods themselves toil in vain. I suspect that things aren't quite as gloomy as this article makes it seem. But it does provide some perspective on where the real problem in lies. Are these arrogant, ignorant students responding to some snide remarks from Daniel Dennett or Richard Dawkins? Or is it that their entire ability to think rationally and discern good arguments from bad has been compromised by the religious zealotry of their upbringing? Is the rejection of evolution a problem of PR, something that can be fixed if only evolutionists would present their arguments more eloquently? Or is it simply that too many people prefer the comforts of blind faith to the hard work of clear thinking and meticulous investigation?
Don't get me wrong. I think evolutionists should continue to make their case in public venues and confront creationism at every turn. What else is there to do, after all? But we have to get over this idea that there is some silver bullet, that if only evolutionists were doing some simple thing differently everything would be okay. It just isn't so. The facts are readily available to anyone willing to make the smallest effort to obtain them. Scientists have been leading the horses to water for decades. But they are determined not to drink.