Academics fight rise of creationism at universities

Amazing that someone would want to become a Geneticist, while being a creationist..  how does that even work?

Academics fight rise of creationism at universities

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.”

Professor David Read, vice-president and biological sciences secretary of the Royal Society, said that they felt it was essential to address the issue now: “We have asked Steve Jones to deliver his lecture on creationism and evolution because there continues to be controversy over how evolution and other aspects of science are taught in some UK schools, colleges and universities. Our education system should provide access to the knowledge and understanding gained through the scientific method of experiment and observation, such as the theory of evolution through natural selection, and should withstand attempts to withhold or misrepresent this knowledge in order to promote particular beliefs, religious or otherwise.”

Leaflets questioning Darwinism were circulated among students at the Guys Hospital site of King’s College London this month as part of the Islam Awareness Week, organised by the college’s Islamic Society. One member of staff at Guys said that he found it deeply worrying that Darwin was being dismissed by people who would soon be practising as doctors.

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.”

He did not feel that a belief in evolution was necessary to study medicine although he added that, if writing about it was necessary for passing an exam, he would do so. “We want to become doctors and dentists, we want to pass our exams.” He added that God had not created mankind literally in six days. “It’s not six earth days,” he said, it could refer to several thousands of years but it had been an act of creation and not evolution.

At another London campus some students have been failed because they have presented creationism as fact. They have been told by their examiners that, while they are entitled to explain both sides of the debate, they cannot present the Bible or Qur’an as scientifically factual if they want to pass exams.

David Rosevear of the Portsmouth-based Creation Science Movement, which supports the idea of creationism, said that there was an increasing interest in the subject among students. “I’ve got no problem with an all-powerful God producing everything in six days,” he said. He said it was an early example of the six-day week. Students taking exams on the subject should not be dogmatic one way or the other. “I tell them – answer the question, it’s no good saying it [creationism] is a fact any more than saying evolution is a fact.”

A former lecturer in organic chemistry at Portsmouth polytechnic (now university) and ICI research scientist, Dr Rosevear said he had been invited to expound his theories at many colleges and had addressed the Cafe Scientifique, a student science society, at St Andrews university, Fife. “The students clearly came expecting to have a laugh but they found there was much more to it. Our attitude is – teach evolution but mention creationism and let students decide for themselves.”

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.

Backstory

The doctrine of creationism holds that the origins of humanity and the Earth are recent and divine as related in the book of Genesis. Strict creationists believe Adam and Eve are the mother and father of humanity and God created the Earth in six days. Support for creationism in the UK has traditionally lacked real vigour but in the US a recent poll found 45% of Americans believed God created life some time in the past 10,000 years. Recently American creationists suffered a setback when Ohio’s board of education threw out a model biology lesson plan which gave credence to creationism. Not all creationists believe in a strict six-day creation. Current scientific research suggests the universe is 13bn years old and humans are descended from ape-like creatures.

Pat Robertson – Still a Huge Piece of Shit

As previously reported, Pat Robertson is a piece of shit, turns out, nothing has changed.

Pat Robertson Haiti Comments Continue to Draw Ire

Comments from the controversial Rev. Pat Robertson that Haiti suffered from a devastating earthquake because of its “pact with the devil” continue to stir curiosity and outrage.

The storyline continues to sit near the top of Google trends within the United States — and it’s even drawing interest across borders.

“It took about five nanoseconds for evangelical Pat Robertson’s video verdict on the causes of the Haiti earthquake to start making the rounds in France,” Robert Marquand reports from Paris for the Christian Science Monitor.

While the French enjoy “chuckles of disbelief” over the folklore surrounding their former colony, a detailed explanation of the origins of Robertson’s comments is offered at political blog FiveThirtyEight.com. As the Hotsheet noted yesterday, Robertson’s remarks have their roots in Haitian religious mythology.

“His comments come straight out of a blend of theology and history that, at the grassroots, pervades Haiti’s political discourse,” Robert Taber, a doctoral candidate in Carribbean History at the University of Florida, wrote at FiveThirtyEight.

He adds a positive spin to Robertson’s remarks, writing, “The most generous reading of Rev. Robertson’s statement is one of searching for positive direction and building anew. Port-au-Prince last rose out of the rubble in 1770, twenty-one years before the people of Haiti began the West’s only successful slave revolt. We need to begin the discussion of how this rebuilding can match the glory of that remarkable achievement.”

Raymond Joseph, Haitian ambassador to the U.S., added more historical context to the discussion last night, pointing out that Haiti’s independence movement facilitated the Louisiana Purchase in the United States and lead to the liberation of Latin American states.

He blasted Robertson’s comments, concluding, “So, what pact the Haitians ‘made with the devil’ has helped the U.S. become what it is.”

Many other commentators continued to criticize Robertson. Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington remarked yesterday that, “For anybody of faith, even if you’re not God, Pat Robertson is giving religion a terribly bad name, again and again.”

Jim Wallis, a prominent progressive Christian leader, gave a similar assessment: “As a Christian leader, I have had to spend too much of my time trying to overcome an image of Christianity that was created by the likes of Pat Robertson,” he wrote. “When evil strikes, it’s easy to ask, where is God. The answer: God is suffering in the midst of the evil with those who are suffering.”

Blessed be the mobile phone users and those called the children of iPod

You mean I can have the equivalent of a reverse voodoo hex placed on my electronics?! Nice! This will surely improve my ipod/iphone in a significant and noticeable way!

Blessed be the mobile phone users and those called the children of iPod

Two hymns had been sung and the sermon preached when the Rev Canon David Parrott lifted his right hand to begin the blessing of the smart phones.

The congregation at St Lawrence Jewry in the City of London raised their mobiles and iPods above their heads and Canon Parrott raised his voice to the heavens to address the Lord God of all Creation. “May our tongues be gentle, our e-mails be simple and our websites be accessible,” he said.

Great efforts have been made to modernise the Church of England, but its liturgy dates from before the arrival of the Nokia 6310, and until yesterday, none had been brave enough to adapt its ceremonies to address the modern mysteries of 3G network coverage, iPhone apps and variable battery life.

But if anyone can, the Canon can. Even before he came to St Lawrence Jewry, Canon Parrott was known for his dynamic approach. In his former parish, he once dressed up as a Christmas tree to promote the message of Christmas.

Yesterday, in the church of the City of London Corporation, he presented an updated version of Plow Monday, an observance that dates from medieval times. On this day, the first Monday after Twelfth Night, farm labourers would bring a plough to the door of the church to be blessed.

“When I arrived a few months ago I looked at this service and thought, ‘Why do we have a Plow Monday?’,” Canon Parrott said. Men and women coming to his church no longer used ploughs; their tools were their laptops, their iPhones and their BlackBerries.

So he wrote a blessing and strode out to deliver it before a congregation of eighty, the white heat of technology shining from his every pronouncement. “I invite you to have your mobile phone out … though I would like you to put it on silent,” he said.

This was Church 2.0. Behind him, the altar resembled a counter at PC World. Upon it, laid out like holy relics, were four smart phones, one Apple laptop and one Dell.

When he stepped up to deliver his sermon, the melody of a million ringtones played on the organ. One almost expected Canon Parrott to bellow: “Hello! I’m just giving a service!”

Instead, he expounded upon some verses from Exodus that contained a lesson “which is exactly what the Corporation of London’s training department is delivering in their sessions and teamwork today”.

Then, after another hymn, came the blessing of the smart phones. The Lord Mayor of London offered his BlackBerry to Canon Parrott, which was received with due reverence and placed upon the altar.

Then the congregation held their phones in the air, and Canon Parrott addressed the Almighty. “By your blessing, may these phones and computers, symbols of all the technology and communication in our daily lives, be a reminder to us that you are a God who communicates with us and who speaks by your Word. Amen.”

Worshippers left the church to return to their desks and computers, a place where the Word is not the living gospel but a piece of software that formats documents.

Colin Ashcroft, 47, who works in IT, said that he had been pleased to be remembered directly in the prayers. Did he sense the presence of God within the operations of mobile phone software? “Certainly it has a mind of its own sometimes,” he said. “Whether that’s God or not I don’t know.”

Others felt uncomfortable. Rita Bullough, 60, a retired secretary, said that she found the blessing “quite amusing” and she was not sure if amusement had any place within a church service. “I wasn’t entirely comfortable with it,” she said.

Nick Anstee, the Lord Mayor was delighted, however. “My BlackBerry is two years old but it’s a fantastic model,” he said. Now it was also a blessed instrument.

“I was asked whether I had a message during the service,” he said. “I will check later, though I don’t suppose He has provided the message.”

Even on a good day, the Vodafone network does not stretch quite that far.

Thanks to JT for this one

Vatican denounces Avatar movie

Vatican denounces Avatar movie

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican newspaper and radio station have called the film “Avatar” simplistic, and criticized it for flirting with modern doctrines that promote the worship of nature as a substitute for religion.

L’Osservatore Romano and Vatican Radio dedicated ample coverage to James Cameron’s big-grossing, 3-D spectacle. But the reviews were lukewarm, calling the movie superficial in its eco-message, despite groundbreaking visual effects.

L’Osservatore said the film “gets bogged down by a spiritualism linked to the worship of nature.” Similarly, Vatican Radio said it “cleverly winks at all those pseudo-doctrines that turn ecology into the religion of the millennium.”

“Nature is no longer a creation to defend, but a divinity to worship,” the radio said.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said that while the movie reviews are just that — film criticism, with no theological weight — they do reflect Pope Benedict XVI’s views on the dangers of turning nature into a “new divinity.”

Benedict has often spoken about the need to protect the environment, earning the nickname of “green pope.” But he has sometimes balanced that call with a warning against neo-paganism.

In a recent World Day of Peace message, the pontiff warned against any notions that equate human person and other living things. He said such notions “open the way to a new pantheism tinged with neo-paganism, which would see the source of man’s salvation in nature alone.”

The Vatican newspaper occasionally likes to comment in its cultural pages on movies or pop culture icons, as it did recently about “The Simpsons” or U2. In one famous instance, several Vatican officials spoke out against “The Da Vinci Code.”

In this case, the reviews came out after a red carpet preview held in Rome just a stone’s throw from St. Peter’s Square. The movie will be released Friday in Italy.