This is another archival repost, originally written on the old blog in feb 2009, during the Darwin 200 celebrations.
For eight years, the United States was the brawling village idiot of the developed world, so far as Europe seemed to be concerned. But in Britain, we are constantly reminded that, in addition to our own peculiar intellectual failures, we are not immune to catching the American anti-reality bugs. Everyone’s favourite example is creationism. Over the past couple of years we’ve had the confusingly named Truth In Science sending creationist DVDs to teachers; dense dentistry students getting in the news for protesting Steve Jones’ lectures; Ken Ham preaching in Westminster; and most shockingly, living national treasure Sir David Attenborough getting sent hate mail from them. And then this week, Christian think-tank Theos press-released another creationism-evolution survey, and all of the newspapers dutifully ran headlines announcing that only a quarter of Britons accept evolution.
If you’ve heard the “creationists are invading” warning repeated enough times, you might not even notice just how ridiculous some of this stuff is. Sure, American fundamentalists bought enough creation museum tickets to pay for Ken Ham to go on a jolly to London. Sure, a few individual halfwits will complain about their sensibilities having been offended, and get a lazy journalist to believe that it is news. Sure, there are even a small number of people in this country so tragically disturbed that they feel they must threaten one of our greatest heroes. There are even a couple of organisations with rich enough benefactors that they can waste the world’s precious resources sending junk mail to science teachers. But to the extent that three out of four Britons are out of touch with reality to the extent of six orders of magnitude? I can’t believe that’s true. And it’s not.
Do you remember the story in December 2007, about the creationist theme park being built in Lancashire? The blogosphere was aghast at how low the UK had sunk. Anyone actually visited the theme park yet? Oh, no, because it still doesn’t exist. The AH Trust, the charity behind the initiative, have a amusing professional-looking website to tell you all about their plans, though. Apparently the £3.5 million aircraft-hanger exhibit will be the “Worldâ€™s [sic] first 3D Cinematic Hologram Theme Park.” According to their annual report and accounts, the AH Trust consists of an engineer (always with the engineers!), his wife, and their two mates. They have just over 100 grand in the bank. Not being an accountant, I have no idea why all except £461 of that is currently just resting in the donors’ own bank accounts. The chances of such a theme park being constructed are nil, but somehow I feel that the AH Trust has served its purpose, with newspapers and bloggers doing their bit by humouring them.
While creationism in the UK is clearly a problem which needs tackling, I think it is clear that the problem is consistently overblown. To the lazy hack journalist, creation vs evolution sounds like a fundamental issue in culture, society, science and philosophy, that is of some great importance. So any crackpot and his mates down the pub church can say something retarded and get a he-said-she-said write up in the rags. And bloggers everywhere will hail it as another sign of the rise of creationism, and the descent of the UK into an irrational non-reality based world. We all seem so good at spotting, and correcting, the nonsense newspapers write about science. So why is the skepticism not applied a little more widely?
- Roughly the difference between the age of the universe, and the age creationists think the universe is. As Dawkins says “that’s a non-trivial error.”
- Link removed from the repost because the site is now occupied by domain squatters.
Comments on the original post
|Andrew Clegg||A few days late, while I catch up my blog backlog, but well said.
Incidentally, the AH Trust website for me just gives some half-loaded holding page, like someone couldn’t afford their domain bills…
|Posted at 2009-02-13 11:53:46|