Wednesday, 27 June 2007

The Origins of Truth In Science

Truth in Science claim some very upright sounding aims for themselves;

Good science education? What has that got to do with this advert from the Evangelical Times? (my emphasis in bold)


It is a concern to many when science is wrongly taught in our schools, colleges and universities. In particular, macroevolution is taught as though it were a proven and unchallengeable fact. For our children and grandchildren, God is thus robbed of His glory. Young people are encouraged into a way of thinking that leads to atheism, hedonism, despair and moral bankruptcy. Belief in a Creator is often ridiculed and anyone advocating such a view is portrayed as either foolish or naïve.
In reality evolutionary claims often constitute speculative beliefs about the past and use explanations that are contrary to the spirit of empirical science. For example, human origins are typically presented with simplistic diagrams supposedly showing the progression from ape-like ancestors to modern man. We believe this amounts to deception. Problems with evolutionary theory are well documented but many scientists seldom acknowledge this, choosing rather to gloss over them. This matters because a false view robs us of our sense of value and purpose before a Sovereign Creator God.
“If the foundations be destroyed what can the righteous do?” Psalm 11:3
To respond to this, a group of professional and business people are meeting under the heading TRUTH IN SCIENCE [TIS]. As citizens with a concern for the family we seek to encourage Christians to be confident that God’s spoken command in space-time history resulted in supra-natural creation. Non-believers must be challenged in such a way that they can no longer hide behind the delusion that science has disproved the existence of God. TIS seeks to encourage scientists to present the truth fairly and to expose as charlatans those who deliberately mislead. Our aim is to compliment the work of existing Creation groups by targeting education in particular.
Do you share this vision? We believe that as children of the Lord Jesus Christ, bought at the price of His own shed blood, we cannot sit back and allow this situation to continue unchallenged. Do you wish to see our children being taught the truth rather than having their moral and spiritual lives undermined? Although TIS have ways and means in mind, at this early stage we are flexible about the best approach. If finance is made available have you the time and ability and commitment to be the driving force, co-operating with us, in this venture to effect the education of young people in our land. If so, we wish to hear from you.
Steve Layfield, Professor Andy McIntosh,
Willis B Metcalfe, John Perfect, Rev Maurice Roberts.
Our Council of Reference includes the following
Dr John Blanchard; Dr Stuart Burgess; Gerard A Crispin;
Prof. Derek Linkens; Prof. Richard Porter; Dr Stephen Taylor;
Please reply to TIS by email at –
This email address was given for those wishing to apply but can be used by those wishing to consider supporting Truth In Science. If you need a postal address to write to I can supply that upon request.

Here is a version of this same advert which is taken from the "Take Heeds Ministries" web/email which, although the original document was amended to remove the give away advert had been preserved on the web for all to see here.

Contrast this with these extracts from their own FAQ page which can be seen here;
Is Intelligent Design based on the Bible?
No. Plato, Aristotle and Cicero articulated early versions of design theory, as did virtually all of the founders of modern science. Indeed, most scientists until the latter part of the nineteenth century accepted some form of intelligent design. The scientific community largely rejected design in the early twentieth century after neo-Darwinism claimed to be able to explain the emergence of biological complexity through the unintelligent process of natural selection acting on random mutations. During the past decade, however, new research and discoveries in such fields as physics, cosmology, biochemistry, genetics, and palaeontology have caused a growing number of scientists and science theorists to question neo-Darwinism and propose design as the best explanation for the existence of specified complexity in the natural world.

Why does the TiS Board of Directors and Council of Reference include Ministers of Religion?
The scientific controversy over origins has many spiritual and religious implications. This is acknowledged both by Darwinists and Darwin-doubters. Many prominent advocates of Darwinism are 'distinguished supporters of humanism' (according to the British Humanist Association) and Evolutionary Biologist Richard Dawkins' latest book is entitled: The God Delusion.

These issues should be discussed in Science classes. All GCSE and A-Level Biology Specifications mention "spiritual, moral, ethical, social and cultural issues" as something which should be considered by candidates. Ministers of Religion have much to contribute to these discussions.

For the full story from BCSE click here.

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As a personal aside from someone who is enjoying the latest series of Dr Who with his 10 year old daughter I can paraphrase the Doctor by asking TiS;

What about the whole truthy wuthy sort of thing?

PS thanks to Roger for the correction.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

European Creationist Vote Ditched

Reuters - 25/6/2007;

Europe's main human rights body on Monday cancelled a scheduled vote on banning creationist and intelligent design views from school science classes, saying the proposed resolution was one-sided.

The resolution, which the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly was due to vote on Tuesday, said attacks on the theory of evolution were rooted "in forms of religious extremism" and amounted to a dangerous attack on scientific knowledge.

Believers in creationism or intelligent design argue that some life forms are too complex to have evolved in accordance with Charles Darwin's theory.

Some conservative groups in the United States, both religious and secular, have long opposed the teaching of Darwinian evolution in public schools but U.S. courts have regularly barred them from teaching religious views of creation.

Pressure to teach creationism is weaker in Europe, but an Assembly committee got active because a Muslim creationist book has appeared in several countries.

Guy Lengagne, the French Socialist member of the Assembly who drew up the report, protested after the Parliamentary Assembly voted to call off the debate and vote, and to send the report back to committee for further study.

"I have enough experience of parliamentary procedure to know that this is a first-class burial (for the report)," he said.

Deputies said the motion by the Christian Democratic group of parliamentarians also won support from east European deputies, who recalled that Darwinian evolution was a favorite theory of their former communist rulers.
Reaction from the science committee;

The Committee on Culture, Science and Education of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), meeting in Strasbourg on 26 June 2007 with Mr Legendre in the chair, protests against the procedure by which the Parliamentary Assembly decided on 25 June 2007, under confused and probably irregular conditions, to relegate to Friday 29 June the joint debate on inter-cultural and interreligious dialogue planned for Tuesday and to refer back to committee the report of Mr Lengagne on the dangers of creationism in education.

The committee expresses its support for the Rapporteur Mr Lengagne and its determination to see its report on the agenda for the next plenary session in October.

As Mr Lengagne is leaving the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the committee will appoint a new rapporteur on the same subject in the near future.

The committee wishes to affirm that the problem of creationism in teaching is a politically topical question which concerns the Council of Europe, and in particular its Committee on Culture, Science and Education, and which must therefore be discussed.

Freedom of thought and discussion is a fundamental value of the Council of Europe. The Committee on Culture, Science and Education believes that it is the duty of the Assembly to show itself exemplary in this requirement.
Let's hope this get back on the agenda in October.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Government Announcement

In response to a petition to the Government regarding pseudo-science, creationism and intelligent design, we have the following announcement from number 10;

The Government remains committed ensuring that young people have an understanding of the importance of science and the world around them.

Science is a core subject of the National Curriculum throughout every Key Stage. The National Curriculum secures for all pupils, irrespective of background and ability, an entitlement to a range of areas of learning. Its aim is to develop the knowledge, understanding, skills and attitudes necessary for each pupil's self-fulfilment and development as an active and responsible citizen. It makes expectations for learning and attainment explicit to pupils, parents, teachers, governors, employers and the public, and establishes national standards for the performance of all pupils. All materials that support the teaching, learning and assessment of primary and secondary education, can be found on the National Curriculum website (new window).

The Government is aware that a number of concerns have been raised in the media and elsewhere as to whether creationism and intelligent design have a place in science lessons. The Government is clear that creationism and intelligent design are not part of the science National Curriculum programmes of study and should not be taught as science. The science programmes of study set out the legal requirements of the science National Curriculum. They focus on the nature of science as a subject discipline, including what constitutes scientific evidence and how this is established. Students learn about scientific theories as established bodies of scientific knowledge with extensive supporting evidence, and how evidence can form the basis for experimentation to test hypotheses. In this context, the Government would expect teachers to answer pupils' questions about creationism, intelligent design, and other religious beliefs within this scientific framework.

We will be publishing guidance for schools, on the way creationism and intelligent design relate to science teaching. It will be possible to ensure that the weight of scientific opinion is properly presented. The guidance will be available on the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority website in due course.

Scottish ID

From here with my ( emphasis );

Rival to evolution may enter schools
Intelligent design considered for science curriculum
INTELLIGENT DESIGN, a controversial alternative theory to evolution, could become part of the science curriculum in Scottish schools.
The Sunday Herald has learned that the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) is considering provision for the theory as part of a review of the science course curriculum.
Intelligent design (ID) is one of a wide range of theories of origin currently taught as part of the Religious, Moral and Philosophy Studies (RMPS) SQA course, but could be moved elsewhere as part of the review. A spokesman for the SQA said: "It happens to sit in RMPS just now. If and when it does becomes part of the curriculum for science, which it may well do as part of this review, then that's where it could sit."

Scientists have already expressed fears that ID theory is entering science classrooms. An organisation called Truth in Science (TiS) sent teaching resource packs to every head of science in Scottish schools in September 2006. The material critiques the Darwinian theory of natural selection and promotes the idea that biological mechanisms are best explained by the idea of an intelligent designer.

Professor Andrew McIntosh, a director of Truth in Science, said: "We've had a lot of positive feedback about the DVDs, which included Scottish schools. There are quite a number of people who are indicating they are happy to use the resources."

Dr Simon Gage, director of the Edinburgh Science Festival, believes the influence of Truth in Science and ID theory is "worrying and dangerous". He said: "This is creationism with a wrapper on it, dressed up as pseudo-science. These people prey on ignorance and should be forbidden at the school door."

Alastair Noble is an educational consultant who has been invited by both denominational and non- denominational secondary schools to present ID on a scientific basis. He said: "I gauge a growing level of interest from pupils and teachers. My guess is that the (TiS) DVDs are being used by a small but significant number of teachers."

"It deserves formal consideration. It presents a scientific challenge to the construct that the world is the result of blind and purposeless forces."
How on earth can he do that when it isn't remotely scientific? A quick google shows he works for a Christian Charity organisation.

Ian Fraser, director of education for Inverclyde, is not in favour of prohibiting Truth in Science material and accepts teachers are free to present ID informally. He said: "I have no objection to intelligent design being advanced as one theory, but most teachers don't have time. I trust head teachers to make their own decisions about what is appropriate."

Simon Barrow, director of the faith think-tank Ekklesia, urged Scottish education authorities to prevent private organisations gaining undue influence. He said: "The UK education secretary and the English curriculum authority say clearly that ID is not to be taught in science. Scotland should follow suit."

Without clear guidelines, many scientists fear the ID controversy will create the appearance of significant debate among scientists over the validity of Darwinian evolution. Roger Downie, professor of zoological education at Glasgow University, said: "It's certainly worrying. ID hasn't got any testable hypotheses so it cannot be considered science. It is purely an acceptance, in a literal way, of a particular set of religious texts. Teachers may be being misled into regarding Truth in Science material, which sounds respectable, as bona fide. They should be sent some kind of guidance that this is not science."

An education spokeswoman for the Scottish Executive said: "We're not prescriptive as to books or materials. We provide guidelines, and within those guidelines it's up to schools to decide."

Michael McGrath, director of the Scottish Catholic Education Service, made it clear intelligent design was not part of science teaching in Catholic schools. He said: "There is a distinction between what is appropriate for religious education and what is appropriate for science. We wouldn't confuse one with the other."

A 2006 UK-wide Mori poll suggested 41% believed intelligent design should be taught as part of science education.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

European Creation Vote

A quote from here about this;

Evolution versus creation

Europe's main human rights body, the Council of Europe, will vote on a proposal next week to defend the teaching of evolution and keep creationist and intelligent design views out of science classes in state schools in its 47 member countries.

The unusual move shows that a United States trend for religiously-based attacks on the theory of evolution is also worrying European politicians.

They are suspicious of such arguments being put forward in their countries by Christian and Islamic groups.

Saturday, 16 June 2007

Creationism Hits Bolton

From here.

God should have a place in science teaching - head

A LEADING Bolton teacher says Creationism has a place in science and should be taught alongside evolution.

Philip Williamson, head of Canon Slade Church of England school, believes the theory, which suggests humanity, life, the Earth, and the universe were created by God, would be a useful topic for discussion in science lessons.

He said the theory of evolution as put forward by Charles Darwin was not fact and was instead a model which best explained the current scientific evidence.
Have a look at the full article and the comments - they are both worth a read.

My own thoughts are as follows;

In science facts are established by measurement, observation and independent verification, not by written authority (e.g. genesis).

When a scientist has an explanation or model which they think explains a range of facts and also predicts the results from some future experiments, measurements or observations, then this explanation is called a hypothesis.

If this hypothesis is shown to be true by many other scientists agreeing with the explanations it gives for the current facts and also when new facts come in which the hypothesis had predicted, then and only then will the hypothesis be "promoted" to the status of "theory".

This is very different from the everyday use of the word which can suggest that a theory is a bit of a guess.

Philip Williamson's comment about evolution not being a fact is therefore stretching the truth by a couple of dictionary definitions. This is not the kind of behaviour you expect from a head master.

What do his science teachers think of his comments? What about the parents of his pupils?

There is a comment underneath the article from someone claiming to be an ex-pupil which, regardless of whether or not this particular claim is true, does voice an opinion which reflects my own view and the official national curriculum position;

As an old Canon Slade pupil, I feel I can add some context to this.

Creationism (or intelligent design) was taught at Canon Slade as far back as 1993 when I was there. However, it was taught in Religious Studies (which was compulsory at the school to GCSE) and was taught exceptionally well, with pupils encouraged to debate the arguments for and against. It should be noted that these lessons also taught about Judaism, Islam and Atheism.

What should never happen is that Science lessons are devalued with religious debate. Wile you can argue for intelligent design, you can not argue against scientific evidence with regard to the age on the planet and the age of fossils. What started it all (the big bang) can be happily debated, but facts can not be ignored.

Any modern school (C of E or not), should see the value in debating religious beliefs and faiths, but the teachings of such should also be debated in the wider context of social and scientific development at the time. I consider myself a Christian, as a guide to living a life balanced with those around me. However, in this modern age, we need to all accept that while the Bible is an important historic document, written when peoples' understanding was much more simple, as a way of conveying a message, the literal belief in it (or any other historic religious writings) word for word is dangerous and can only further divide society and feed intolerance of other beliefs.
Well said.

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Anyone local to this story who can shed any more light or who requires assistance, please get in touch.

Thursday, 7 June 2007

An Example of Truth In Science's lack of interest in the Truth or Science

A few days ago I was contacted by Chris Preedy who had exchanged some letters in The Times with Dr Richard Buggs regarding errors on the TiS web pages.

Chris is keen to put the record straight regarding this exchange, and I am very happy to oblige him by providing the full details of events here. This is a very clear example of the deceptive way in which TiS behave.

Chris sums his whole experience up very succinctly to me as follows ( my emphasis in bold );

Thanks for expressing an interest in the conclusion - such as it was - of my debate in The Times with Dr Buggs. During our exchange of letters, he seemed courteous and I genuinely believed that he genuinely believed what he was saying. However, in a less public forum he seems to have had no interest in responding to these points, or in correcting his website where he has conceded it to be in error. Even if I were totally mistaken on all of the following, he might have taken it as feedback showing that his website could be clearer in its explanations. Instead he has chosen to simply ignore my points, not even taking the time to send a one-line email saying he's too busy or uninterested in a dialogue. I have therefore been forced - reluctantly - to revise my opinion. I no longer believe that anyone at Truth in Science has any interest in promoting either truth or science. It seems that the only way to get any corrections made to their website is to shame them into doing so by pointing out the errors in public. This is not what I consider truthful, scientific or appropriate for teaching to children.
This is indeed strong stuff and Chris backs up his opinion in detail with the full texts and details of the exchange.

For clarity, the sequence of events was as follows:

  • Oct 7: Three apparently separate (but actually all written by members of TiS) letters appear in The Times supporting TiS sending materials to schools. In one, Dr Buggs issues an open challenge to find any errors in the materials.
  • Oct 11: Chris Preedy's letter appears in The Times.
  • Oct 18: Dr Bugg's response appears in The Times, and a separate response is posted on their website.

Chris writes; "The texts of all letters are on TiS website (for once it is useful as a reference source!)"

Here's TiS's response to Chris' letter, which gives the dates:

Here is a quick extract from the TiS article which shows the gloss which they placed upon the exchange so far;

I am grateful to Chris Preedy for this critique. Many who have accused us of scientific error have not thought it necessary to spend time substantiating their claims, and Chris Preedy is a welcome exception. I would be very grateful if he could inform TiS of the other errors he has found, and any errors which I may have inadvertently included in this response.
Sounds very reasonable doesn't it? What they don't tell you is that this was not the end of the matter. Chris has written to them since on more than one occasion. He did not get the gratitude mentioned above, instead he has had no response at all.

Next we will see Chris' final letter to TiS and Dr Buggs. He has sent this on two separate occasions in late 2006, and has yet to receive any response.

Chris introduces his letter as follows;

I have made slight alterations to the text below. Comments in [square brackets] are later additions, mostly pointing out places where TiS have altered their website since I originally wrote.

Here is the letter itself ( my emphasis in bold );

Dear Richard,

Following on from our dialogue in the Times (and the further response on your blog, which I have just discovered), I am happy to send you a more detailed list of my concerns regarding your website. I understand your difficulty in following exactly where on your website some of these claims appear; I trust you will understand that the letters page of the Times requires brevity, and is not necessarily the best place to debate in depth.

Points from my letter:
1 [Archaeopteryx is the only member of the dinosaur-bird transitional sequence] You have accepted that at least one of my points regarding archaeopteryx was correct, but your article stands unchanged. (I am not totally clear on which of these points you agree with from your letter as published.) Your second paragraph treats archaeopteryx as a single fossil, ignoring the array of dino-bird transitionals discovered during the 1990s. A more accurate representation of the current position would involve pointing out how remarkable this confirmation of Darwin's theory is. Darwin was able to predict not just the existence of transitional forms (never previously discovered), but the order they would appear in the fossil record. This stunning prediction is immediate strong evidence that his reasoning was correct (see my comment below on Popper.) [A new section, 'Did Birds Evolve from Dinosaurs?' has been added to the website since I last saw it. It does now make extensive reference to the Chinese fossil finds. In fact, it doesn't seem to have any problem with bird / therapod common ancestry at all, though they do attempt a case for an earlier common ancestor than most palaeontologists suggest. Sadly, no mention of the predictive power of evolution though. Can we take it that TiS now accepts that birds share common ancestry with dinosaurs?]

2 [Archaeopteryx lived after its theropod ancestors] You then continue to claim that archaeopteryx appeared after its theropod ancestors. Theropods first appeared in the late triassic or early jurassic. Archae did not arrive until the cretaceous. It is certainly true that several of the Chinese 'feathered dinosaurs' are later than archae but show more primitive features. This is no more a problem for evolution than the classic creationist 'if humans evolved from monkeys, how come there are still monkeys?' argument. Speciation allows branches to develop separately, and it is entirely possible for one branch to evolve more rapidly than another. [Despite the update to the archae pages, and despite Dr Buggs conceding in The Times that TiS was in error here, this still appears on their website. They persist in ignoring all evidence of early theropods, despite giving much credence to 'prtoavis'.]

3 [Misquotes] Your quote from Prof. Steve Jones is also highly misleading. Someone reading it is likely to come to the conclusion that Jones does not think there are any fossil transitionals, and therefore to the conclusion that there are no transitionals. Neither of these points is true, as Jones makes abundantly clear on the very next page of his book. Your letter to the Times reads as though you are defending educating students by misrepresenting the views of scientists, which puzzled me somewhat. The generally accepted standard of using quotes is not 'that they should concern only the matter at hand' - it is that they should accurately represent the views of the quotee on the matter at hand. This is doubly important since your entire point is based on Jones' views. [Although several misquotes seem to have been removed from the site, this one remains.]

4 [The fact that asexual bacteria do not form species shows that they do not evolve] Your claim that observed bacterial changes 'have not resulted in the production of a new species' appears in the section on 'Comparative Genetics and Biochemistry'. You specifically equate bacterial 'species' with human species, yet you do not acknowledge that a fundamental alteration to cell chemistry constitutes a species change. I acknowledge your response that you are claiming that this shows a limit to evolution, not that evolution does not occur; however, my point stands. How would you define a bacterial species? If you don't or can't, you have no point to make and this section of your article should be erased.

5 [There is no geological reason to expect Pre-Cambrian transitionals to be rare] Your section on the 'Cambrian explosion' is where you make the claim, cited in my Times letter, that there is no good geological reason to expect precambrian fossils to be rare: "Why such a gap should occur is not clear ... There does not seem to be a good reason why such a massive gap should exist." Since you deny making this claim in your response to me, can I take it that you will alter the offending paragraph? Aside from the extreme age of these rocks - older fossils being rarer than new, for obvious reasons - the Cambrian marks the arrival of hard body parts. The formation of fossils is a rare enough event in itself, but even by these standards the preservation of soft body parts is highly unusual. You correctly point out that such fossils have been found, but neglect to mention how rare they are. You also make no mention of precambrian transitionals here, instead incorrectly stating that none exist. [Despite Dr Buggs apparently denying that TiS makes this claim, it remains unaltered on their website. Do they claim this or not?]

6 [Isomers and abiogenesis] I have already pointed out that your claim that there is no natural method of distinguishing between optical isomers is incorrect. I acknowledge your response, but it seems misguided; there is no reason to assume that the early replicators were as efficient at this as later molecules. Although your response in the Times stated that I was mistaken on this point, your response on your web-site conceeds that I am correct, and disputes only the efficiency of this reaction. Your article still maintains the former, and I suggest it be corrected. [If I could pick one point for a reply, this would be it. TiS seem to be adopting the "Nah nah nah, I can't hear you" school of debate. There is research to show that l forms (those found in living creatures) form preferentially, and that a slight preference for one form of amino acid leads to deracemisation in water (i.e. one form comes to dominate exclusively). Since creationists have predicted so confidently that this cannot happen, and 'evolutionists' have predicted equally confidently that, since it clearly has happened, it must happen now, we have a testable difference. Creationism has been tested. It failed. Why would any website devoted to 'truth' seek to knowingly hide that fact?]

7 [Bacterial flagellum] 'Book Review - Darwin's Black Box'
You neglect to mention that good evolutionary pathways exist for each of the examples Behe cites. You also neglect to mention that Behe conceeded shortly after the publication of this book that evolution can produce systems that meet his definition of 'intelligent design'. His position for the last decade has been that IC 'needs more work' before it can be seen as an objection to evolution. Such work has not been forthcoming, and at the recent Dover trial, Behe was forced to conceed that ID was no more scientific than astrology. None of this would be apparent to readers of your review. You also fail to make clear that Behe accepts that there is overwhelming evidence for universal common descent, including that humans are descended from other apes.

You have responded to this point by criticising Prof. Richard Dawkins latest book [The Ancestors Tale - he has released another book since I wrote]. I am nonplussed. The fact that Dawkins does not present a complete model of flagellar evolution does not remotely mean that no such model exists. In fact, there are several. The difficulty is distinguishing between them; your claim that they do not exist is in error.

Ten more points:
1 'Comparative Genetics and Biochemistry'
Entire page. Creationists would presumably expect different 'created kinds' - sometimes referred to as 'baramins' - to have different biochemistry. Evolution could not explain with this, and predicted (correctly) that all creatures must have similar biochemistries. Creationists have since modified their theory to come up with 'common design'. However, common design by necessity means that a designer uses the same design wherever applicable.

Much work has been done on many biochemicals. Cytochrome C is the classic example, since it is almost universal and was one of the earliest studied. Cyt. c is functionally identical in all known animals (it fulfils the same function, and experimental evidence shows that bacteria that have their cyt. c replaced by that from other organisms suffer no impairment to their function), but its formula varies from animal to animal. Furthermore, that difference corresponds closely to the relatedness already deduced from the fossil record and morphology - so, for example, chimp cyt. c is identical to human cyt. c, but both are markedly different from sea anemone cyt. c and nearly identical to gorilla cyt. c. This is exactly as predicted by evolution, and has never been adequately explained by creationists to my knowledge.

Combined with the similar data from dozens of other such biomolecules, this prediction is perhaps the most resounding confirmation of universal common descent. It allows us to calculate 'family trees' of relatedness among multiple species, and those trees match our previous deductions in almost every detail. While you correctly point out that there are differences, I am concerned that your non-quantative emphasis on this point may leave readers with the impression that this is something other than minor differences - 'twigs' on the 'tree of life', to steal a metaphor. Your claim that similarity and difference at the molecular level cannot both be used as evidence for evolution entirely misses the point that it is the pattern of similarities that shows relatedness.
Your analogies to Foster and van Gogh simply highlight that the same does not apply to human design. I am also concerned that your comments on the non-universality of the genetic code might lead some to think that radically different genetic codes that could not have evolved naturally have been discovered. In particular, you have used the phrase 'many scientists', when it seems that 'few scientists' would be more accurate (considerably less than 1% of biochemists).

2 'Darwin's Finches'

I am unsure how you have come to the conclusion that because beak sizes varied only temporarily during the Galapagos drought, they cannot change permanantly (which is certainly how your article reads). Surely, unless someone can manage to breed Galapagos finches back to their mainland population morphology, they are and remain evidence that evolution by natural selection can produce permanant change in a population, and your article should make that clear.

If your only objection is that the changes are small scale, perhaps you should point your readers to evidence for large-scale change, rather than conclude that if this example doesn't show it, it does not happen.
3 'Development of Biological Resistance'
You declare that antibiotic resistance is temporary, and lasts only so long as the bacteria are exposed to that antibiotic. This may sometimes be true, but if there is no disadvantage to resistance, it is not the case.

Furthermore, since experimenters usually go to some lengths to ensure that all bacteria in a sample are from a single strain, your description of DNA transfer mechanisms between bacteria is irrelevant to this discussion - mutation is the only known mechanism by which new genes can arise.
Do you have any evidence to back up your assertion that 'most types of antibiotic resistance were in existence before antibiotics were developed'?

4 'Hominid Fossils'
You must be aware that neither of the sources you quote disputes the fact that humans have evolved. One is a non-scientist. Is this really the level that you think schoolchildren should be educated to? If you have no dispute with the mountain of fossil evidence that demonstrates a fine-grained evolutionary sequence leading to modern humans, why not make this clear?

5 'Embryology'
If your intention is to get textbooks to use photos of embryos - or at least better diagrams - then I fully support you. However, you go further and repeatedly claim or imply that the similarities Haeckel saw were almost totally fictitious. When you move from directly from criticising Haeckel's drawings to the Kent quotation which - correctly and without reference to Haeckel - points out the similarities between echinoderms and chordates, and then back to errors in Haeckel, the reader can hardly help but conclude that Kent's opinion is based on Haeckel's errors. Unless you are claiming this is the case, you should make clear that embryology supports evolution, irrespective of problems with Haeckel's work.

You also complain about the use of the term 'structures resembling gills'. Your point that embryos do not have gills is incorrect, but assuming you meant human or general mammalian embryos, that is why your source specifically describes them as 'structures resembling gills'. If you want to give your readers a clear idea of whether or not this is evidence for evolution you should, in my opinion, include the following points:

1) All vertebrate embryos have structures known as pharyngeal arches
2) In fish, these remain almost unchanged and become gill pouches
3) In mammals, these alter dramatically as the foetus develops and become part of the jaw and ear
4) In reptiles, these embryonic structures become the jaw
5) This ties in remarkably with the fossil record, which shows how reptilian jaw bones altered to form mammalian jaw and ear bones
6) (Optionally) No theory other than universal common descent has so far been proposed to explain this.

As a minimum, you should note that many textbooks have now replaced these drawings with photos, and that the accompanying text has had little if any change, since Haeckel's errors were not primarily to do with the embryological structures under question. Indeed, if you insist on discussing Haeckel's errors (rather than the genuine evidence), you might at least make clear what these errors were - largely concerned with scale, the presence / absence of a yolk sac, and sloppy labelling (by higher taxon rather than species and the outrageous labelling of a pig embryo as human).

6 'The Fossil Record'
Throughout this page, you repeat that there are no fossil transitionals and that fossils are a problem for evolution. Neither of these points is correct at any of the places you make them.

7 Your claim that a platypus has a bill 'like a duck' is also incorrect. A platypus' nose, although shaped like a bill, is fleshy, flexible and highly sensitive. It is not considered to be homologous to a duck's bill for the simple reason that it has nothing whatsoever in common with a duck's bill other than streamlining. [This claim has been removed during a complete rewrite of the 'Homology in Vertebrate Limbs' page, for which I thank TiS. Sadly, it has been replaced by an almost identical claim about a different taxon, gnetum. It's almost as if too many people recognise the platypus argument for the bunk it is, so TiS have replaced it with a more obscure example. It is also unfortunate for TiS that its new 'Homology in Vertebrate Limbs' page makes virtually no reference to vertebrate limbs, and seems unaware of the concept of 'statistical significance'.]

8 'The Miller-Urey Experiment'
Your section on 'Irrelevant atmosphere' erroneously gives the impression that most geologists do not think that the prebiotic atmosphere was reducing. You neglect to mention either the presence of minerals that cannot form under oxidising conditions prior to 3Mya (e.g. uraninite, 'red beds', banded iron formations, pyrite and unoxidised cerium), or the absence of minerals that require oxidising conditions to form. Exactly how oxidising [should read 'reducing', obviously] the atmosphere was is still debated, and this has a knock-on effect on the rate of production of simple biomolecules. However, your claim that evidence for a reducing atmosphere is 'tenuous' and that there is mounting evidence for an oxidising atmosphere are both in error.

9 You state that 'imformation is required' for certain chemical reactions to take place. This is untrue. What definition of 'information' are you using? How does chlorophyl (the example you use) contain information that non-biological molecules do not? Unless you can form this into a coherent argument (rather than an unsupported assertion), I suggest you remove this section.

10 Your section on the presence of gasses such as ammonia in the atmosphere gives the impression that they cannot be replaced (or that they can only be replaced by biological sources). This is not the case; volcanic sources can produce such gasses. Your figure of 30,000 years for methane is thus out of date and based on a false assumption. You also fail to mention that biological precursors are found in extraterrestrial sources as well, clearly demonstrating that they can be formed naturally.

Chris has been checking his records and informs me that the first version of his letter to TIS did not have these last three points in it, although he did add hem when he sent his letter in again, having been ignored the first time.

Some points for you to consider:
1 Although our discussion has been limited to errors appearing on your website, errors of ommission on your site can be just as serious. No discussion of 'truth in science' should lack a reference to what defines good science, such as the work of Karl Popper.

2 To my mind, however, the two greatest errors on your website appear in the first two sentences of your home page. I cannot demonstrate the falsity of these, so I will simply have to ask you to reply honestly. [Much good that did me, obviously] Is your intent really 'to promote good science education', or is it in fact primarily religious? And is biological evolution really to be your 'initial focus' or your only target? If the former, could you let me know when you anticipate attacking the theory of electromagnetism, the germ theory of disease, or Newton's theory of gravity? Or, for that matter, the Bohr atom which forms your logo? I would look forward to looking through your material on these subjects.

3 I would strongly encourage you to rethink your response to my letter on the ethics of quoting. There are themes throughout my concerns expressed above; you regularly present only part of the information in such a way as to give your readers an inaccurate impression.

[There are many, many more errors and misleading statements on the TiS website. It was my original intention to deal with the small number above and move on to the rest at a later date. Obviously, the 'discussion' never got that far.]

Yours sincerely,

Chris Preedy
Lets try to sum up. What have we learned about TiS from this?

  • Well for a start various members of TiS write to the Times supporting their own materials and not admitting or mentioning the fact they are their own materials, thereby accidentally giving the impression of some kind of wide-spread level of support for their actions.
  • Richard Buggs says one thing in public and does another in private.
  • Richard Buggs was not being truthful when he said he would correct errors on their pages.
  • Wow TiS do like to spin.
I would like to sincerely thank Chris Preedy for his contribution, particularly because it shines a light on the deceptive nature of this group. I, for one, am very pleased to know that people like Chris are prepared to stand up to TiS and try to protect our kids from the influence of such a group.

If anyone else has further information please get in touch.

I have sent an email to TiS today drawing their attention to this posting and asking for them to respond in detail to Chris' letter. I also suggested that they have a word with their ISP to find out why so much of their mail seems to be going missing ;-)

Monday, 4 June 2007

TiS News Blog - ID and the C of E

This from the TiS "News Blog";

The Church of England’s new head of education has made comments supportive of teaching intelligent design (ID) in schools.
They don't mention that she does not advocate it being taught as science as does TiS. This really is breathtakingly selective quoting even for TiS - surely they must come clean about this at some point?
In an interview in the Times Educational Supplement last week, Mrs Jan Ainsworth said of ID: "While it is not something I would subscribe to, it is a recognition that there are different ways of looking at the evidence…you could do it in history of science."The only problem of course is that ID has only been around since the late 1980's. It is the lastest evolution of creationism whihc first mutated into Creation Science and then ID in an attempt by the creationists to circumvent US law preventiing religion being taught in state schools.

On Friday a spokesman told the Daily Mail that Mrs Ainsworth was "simply representing the fact that some schools currently discuss intelligent design" and that "she does not propose to prevent them from doing so".

Yesterday, on the BBC Radio 4 'Sunday' programme Mrs Ainsworth was asked if she was “lending credibility” to Truth in Science. She replied:

I think it depends on what you think education’s for. I do think some people have a view in their minds that if children are told something they will automatically believe it. It depends very much how the material is used in the classroom. And if it is to explore and allow children to develop the capacities to explore different ways of finding out things, different ways of deciding which view is right then I don’t see any problem because you’re helping them develop critical methods, rational methods, which is after all the point of education.
A full transcript of the interview can be found here.
The Church of England is responsible for 4690 schools. Mrs Ainsworth told the Times Educational Supplement that she did not know how many of these were currently teaching ID.
It should be noted that Mrs Ainsworth’s views differ from the position of Truth in Science, as she sees the place of ID to be primarily in the religious education. In the science classroom, she considers its place to be in the history of science, because it is “pre-scientific”.
At last TiS mention this key fact - that she doesn't want it taught as science. I wonder how many people stop reading before they get this far? Mrs Ainsworth comments seem to have the underlying assumption that ID and creationism are the same thing. TiS also deny this vehemently.

In contrast, TiS holds that the place of ID is in the science classroom, as a logical inference from scientific data. Mrs Ainsworth is mistaken in seeing ID as “pre-scientific” as it was widely held by the leading thinkers of the scientific revolution, and is the view of many scientists today.So no agreement there then.

Well not a completely logical position for TiS to take either when you think about it for a moment. On the one had ID is based upon modern research and books published in the last decade or so and has nothing to do with creationism. On the other hand the view of an intelligent designer held by some leading thinkers in the scientific revolution was in fact creationism and not ID. TiS could well end up in a right TiSsy, they are spinning around so quickly ;-)

Mrs Ainsworth’s views on the place of ID in schools are not dissimilar to those of the well-known science populariser Richard Dawkins. On 14 December 2006 in an interview shown on 'Dragon’s Eye', a BBC television programme on Welsh politics, Professor Dawkins said: “confine intelligent design to either the RE class or history of science.”
Despite this, Jan Ainsworth’s views have been criticised by the liberal think-tank Ekklesia (speaking to the TES), and the National Secular Society (speaking to the Guardian).

I wish the interviewer had asked her about her views on teaching Astrology in schools.

Saturday, 2 June 2007


1/6/2007 - Education Guardian - Intelligent design has place in science lessons, says CofE

The row over teaching the theory of intelligent design in science lessons was reignited today by the Church of England's new head of education.
The Rev Jan Ainsworth, who is responsible for more than 4,600 CofE schools, said intelligent design could form part of discussions in science lessons under the heading of history of science.

Intelligent design - the argument that living species are too complex to have evolved through Darwinian natural selection and must have a "designer" - is dismissed by the vast majority of scientists.

Ms Ainsworth told the Times Educational Supplement: "While it is not something I would subscribe to, it is a recognition that there are different ways of looking at the evidence.

"You would get howls of protest from the scientific community, which would say there is absolutely no place for it in the curriculum. But you could do it in history of science," she added, pointing out that religious education lessons in CofE schools include discussions of different beliefs.

The church today hastened to play down the significance of her comments.

The long-running battle between creationists and Darwinists over teaching evolution in schools in the US - dating to the 1925 "Monkey Trial" in Tennessee - has spilled over into the UK in recent years.

Earlier this year the government instructed schools in England not to use teaching materials promoting creationism and intelligent design circulated by the privately-funded group Truth in Science.