Harold Kroto on Michael Reiss’ Royal Society Resignation

WE’VE REPORTED a few times about the recent creationism issue that rocked Britain’s Royal Society. See, for example: Professor Reiss Loses Post at Royal Society. It’s no surprise that this imbroglio, affecting the highest levels of the British scientific community, continues to be a hot topic in the British press.

Harry Kroto — Sir Harold (Harry) Kroto, actually — winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize for chemistry, teaches at Florida State University. Many of you will recall that he was outspoken several months ago (“We’re the laughingstock of the enlightened world”) when Florida’s legislature was in the grip of a creationist frenzy, led by geniuses like Ronda Storms in the state Senate and Alan Hays, a retired dentist, in the House.

Sir Harry has written an article appearing in the UK’s Guardian: Blinded by a divine light, sub-titled “Creationists such as the Rev Reiss don’t have the intellectual integrity to teach science.” Here are some excerpts:

The editorial in the Guardian and various letters, such as that from the Bishop of Lincoln, contain a significant amount of self-righteous criticism of the Royal Society’s decision to ask the Rev Michael Reiss to resign from his position as Director of Science Education. It is clear that there is almost total ignorance about the real issues involved and a truly pathetic understanding of science – the culture that created the modern world – from anaesthetics and penicillin to jet engines and the internet.

Sir Harry is no diplomat, but he knows what he’s talking about. Here’s more:

Let me clarify the fundamental philosophical issue: the scientific mindset. Science is based solely on doubt-based, disinterested examination of the natural and physical world. It is entirely independent of personal belief. There is a very important, fundamental concomitant – that is to accept absolutely nothing whatsoever, for which there is no evidence, as having any fundamental validity. A lemma: one can of course have an infinite number of questions but only those questions that can be formulated in such a way that they can be subjected to detailed disinterested examination, and when so subjected reveal unequivocally and ubiquitously accepted data, may be significant.

That is one of the best paragraphs on this topic — perhaps the best — ever written in the English language. Go back and read it again; then be glad that such an intellect lives among us.

Another excerpt, just as well-written as the last one:

The plethora of more-or-less incompatible religious concepts that mankind has invented from Creationism and intelligent design to Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Mormonism, Scientology, Hinduism, Shinto, Shamanism etc, are all basically indistinguishable, from the freethinkers perspective. It really does not matter whether one believes a mystical entity created the universe 5,000 or 10,000 million years ago – both are equally irrational unsubstantiated claims of no fundamental validity.

Sir Harry goes on to express his complete agreement with the Rev Michael Reiss’ resignation from his position as Director of Science Education, saying:

I do not have a particularly big problem with scientists who may have some personal mystical beliefs – for all I know the President of the Royal Society may be religious. However, I, and many of my Royal Society colleagues, do have a problem with an ordained minister as Director of Science Education – this is a totally different matter. … Reiss cannot have his religious cake in church and eat the scientific one in the classroom. This is where the intellectual integrity issue arises – and it is the crucial issue in the Reiss affair.

Enough excerpts. We urge you to click over to the Guardian where you can read the entire article.

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3 responses to “Harold Kroto on Michael Reiss’ Royal Society Resignation

  1. “That is one of the best paragraphs on this topic — perhaps the best — ever written in the English language. Go back and read it again; then be glad that such an intellect lives among us.”

    Hear, hear! Although it could have been written more clearly for easier comprehension. I would edit it thus:

    Science is based solely on doubt-based, disinterested examination of the natural and physical world. It is entirely independent of personal belief. Science accepts absolutely nothing whatsoever for which there is no evidence.
    The scientist questions everything, and seeks answers to those questions that are based solely on evidence.

  2. I think that creationisim needs to be discussed, in view of the law of conservation of energy. The moment we say that energy can not be created, the question that strikes the mind of a common pupil is: Who created the energy that we are using every moment? More over, physics teachers do tell every one to save the energy. Also, Albert Einstein’s Relativity does allow mass-energy conversions. Hence creationism deserves ‘discussion’ for better science / physics education.

  3. I suggest a course in thermodynamics would be more useful than wasting the students’ time with creationism.