Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Darwin Wars

The Guardian, the Times and the Telegraph all feature pieces this morning on the Michael Reiss debacle. All are highly critical of the Royal Societies response and the way in which Reiss’s comments were misrepresented by the media. This has been a PR disaster for the scientific community. Intelligent design now has claim to a legitimate martyr, despite the fact that Reiss himself is opposed to it. The response by Roberts and Kroto has been lamentable, forcing even Richard Dawkins to admit that the proceedings ‘come a little too close to a witch-hunt for my squeamish taste’. It seems that it doesn't matter what the makeup of your views actually are, you can be sacked for a soundbite. Worst of all, it seems that ID is creeping into Britain’s schools from the ground up. The social and ethnic fabric of the UK is set to change dramatically over the next 30 years and the science education is going to have to face up to the challenge of a diverse range of religious traditions; many of which are opposed to evolution. Frankly an accommodationist position has a more likely chance of success than achieving some kind of mass conversion to secular humanism. By the looks of it, the establishment is wholly inadequate for the task.

Anyone wanting to see a proper dialogue between Science and Religion without the usual name calling will have to go back to the 19th century. I heartily recommend the Darwin Correspondence project, a section of which chronicles the relationship between Asa Gray and Darwin as they deliberated over the theological implications of evolution. Theos has a piece in the Times showing Darwin’s troubled musings on religion demonstrating he was a far more complex thinker than his 21st century worshippers.

Those, like me, who quite enjoy the name calling, might enjoy this bad tempered cock fight between the excretable A.C Grayling and his opponent Steve Fuller. Embarrassingly I find myself on the side of A.C in this debate. However, judging from his remarks, he appears to have got all his knowledge of the history of science from Draper’s infamous and much debunked ‘History of the Conflict between religion and science’. The argument has now even spilled over into the new humanist blog.

Lastly, Turkey has banned Richard Dawkins and a Muslim cleric has claimed that Mickey Mouse is "one of Satan's soldiers" and makes everything it touches impure. I feel the same way about Tweety Bird.

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