Sir Peter Vardy Is Not a Creationist

This is a retraction. A year ago we posted UK’s Knighted Creationist Used Car Dealer. We wrote that in reliance on something we found at a UK website which said:

Christian used car salesman Sir Peter Vardy, whose state-funded academies teach creationism …

Now we’ve come across something in the British press that totally contradicts our earlier information. In the East Lothian News of Dalkeith, a town in Scotland, we read Sir Peter Vardy settles libel action. Here are some excerpts:

Durham-born businessman Sir Peter Vardy has accepted a donation to charity in settlement of his libel action over a claim that his schools taught creationism.

Sir Peter, knighted in 2001 for services to education, brought proceedings in London’s High Court against the publisher of the Tribune magazine and its editor Chris McLaughlin.

Our information came from a different and slightly later source, but perhaps the Tribune was the originator of the tale. Anyway, it appears that what we posted last year was based on false information. We shouldn’t have relied on a foreign source with which we had no familiarity. Let’s read on:

Mr Coad [Sir Peter’s solicitor, Jonathan Coad] said that in October 2009 Tribune published an article which said the Foundation was imposing fundamentalist beliefs on children, who were being taught in biology lessons that evolution was as much a “theory” as creationism and that everything was designed by a God creator as stated literally in Genesis.

None of these allegations was correct, said the lawyer, who added that the schools founded by the Foundation were not faith schools, let alone ones which advocated creationism.

So there you are. Our humble blog was misled by incorrect information, and we unwittingly helped to spread that misinformation. We retract everything we said that was unfavorable to Sir Peter.

There’s still more in the East Lothian News that further emphasizes how wrong the earlier accusations were, so if you have doubts, click over there and read the whole article.

In case you’re wondering — no, we haven’t heard from any lawyers in the UK complaining about our earlier blog post, and Sir Peter is probably unaware of us. But even if we didn’t trouble him, it greatly bothers us to have written something so wrong.

We’re very sorry, Sir Peter.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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12 responses to “Sir Peter Vardy Is Not a Creationist

  1. Most puzzling. It had always been my understanding that Vardy was an advocate of presenting both creationism and evolution–an equal-time tactic that can only conceivably be advocated by somebody who misrepresents the state of science in doing so (whether through his own personal ignorance or otherwise). Does Peter Vardy now disown his own words as conveyed publicly on the BBC? Those words are obviously not compatible with a commitment to scientific education, so perhaps he has thought better of them, but it’s a shame if he’s now trying to hide his former position by use of the libel laws to stifle the facts.

    http://www.angelfire.com/nb/lt/docs/called14.htm

  2. I hope that you do realize the gravity of accusations of creationism, of whatever kind, including IDiocy.

    There might be worse insults. Does anyone know of any?

  3. Gabriel Hanna

    @Tony Sidaway

    It’s not at all obvious that in “his own words” he said Emmanuel College was teaching creationism:

    “We’ve had an Ofsted report that has been described as exceptional. Now, if there was anything that was being taught that was not in the national curriculum, Ofsted would have picked it up. They’ve interviewed the students, the staff and everyone else. So there isn’t an issue.”

    Creationism is not on the national curriculum; most of the linked interview is a third person accusing Vardy of teaching it anyway.

    The interview goes on:

    “will the teaching of creationism in those colleges be an important criteria [sic] for you when you select the teachers and provide the funding?

    Sir Peter Vardy: No. We want to create schools with a Christian ethos and parents were interviewed and children have been interviewed as well and they say that they’re getting a balanced approach from teaching staff and Emmanuel College. On that basis I’m happy. ”

    The “balanced approach” here seems to me to refer to the national curriculum being taught with Christian ethos. I know we are all primed to think “creationism” when we see “balance” but it’s not always true. I don’t think it’s clear at all that in “his own words” he said his schools were teaching creationism.

    There may be other evidence that his schools are doing so but I do not think the linked interview demonstrates that.

    SC’s link says:

    ‘”Sir Peter Vardy has specifically requested that at each Ofsted inspection, inspectors look for creationism anywhere within the curriculum of the schools sponsored by the Vardy Foundation, and on each occasion inspectors found no evidence at all of creationist teaching.”

    He said that both Tribune Publications 2009 Ltd and Mr McLaughlin now accepted the allegations were untrue and had apologised and paid a sum by way of damages to a charity of Sir Peter’s choice. They also accepted that Sir Peter was not a creationist, and still less had sought to advance the teaching of creationism.”

    I don’t know how much more about it we could learn from here.

  4. “Creationism is not on the national curriculum; most of the linked interview is a third person accusing Vardy of teaching it anyway.”

    Not only is it not on the curriculum, it illegal to teach it over here as science in state schools. Funded schools, and Faith schools, are slightly different in that regard, but it would leave a huge black mark on an Ofstead report, if it was being taught that way in them.

  5. Tony Sidaway: “It had always been my understanding that Vardy was an advocate of presenting both creationism and evolution–an equal-time tactic that can only conceivably be advocated by somebody who misrepresents the state of science in doing so (whether through his own personal ignorance or otherwise). ”

    I haven’t read enough of this story to comment on Vardy, but my own history might shed some light. In 1997, after 30 years of accepting evolution, though understanding it poorly, and knowing almost nothing of the tactics that anti-evolution activists have “evolved” for 150 years, I naively advocated “teaching both sides.” My thought was that “creationism,” which I knew only as YEC at the time, can be easily shown to be far inferior to evolution to all but the most seriously deluded students. In fact I still advocate something similar, but not science class, and one that compares the mutually contradictory creationist positions (YEC, OEC, flat-earth, etc.) and the “don’t ask, don’t tell what happened when” ID strategy, before comparing that hopeless confusion to 150 years of sucesses in evolution.

    More importantly, most of today’s anti-evolution activists do not want to teach details of the mutually contradictory creationist “theories,” because that would undermine the “big tent” strategy. The dominant strategy today is to trot out many long-refuted “weaknesses” of evolution, so that no matter how many technical refutations are allowed – and every indication is that the activists would censor the refutations anyway – they could never compete with the misleading anti-evolution sound bites. At least to impressionable students, most of whom have little or no interest in science.

  6. cnocspeireag

    You must note that Vardy has made use of the totally discredited part of UK law that makes UK citizens ashamed. It exists to make unscrupulous lawyers fantastically rich and has been used by criminals to hide their crimes, if they are rich enough to buy a verdict. I cite only the ‘bouncing Czeck’, Robert Maxwell.
    Many people in the UK would assume use of a court like this to indicate guilt.

  7. A brief excerpt from the transcript:

    Sir Peter Vardy: Well, numerous scientists also support creationism, so it is a view, it is an opinion that people form. One size does not fit all and what is being rammed down our throats at the moment is that evolution is right and creationism is wrong.
    Presenter: Are you trying to redress that balance then?
    Sir Peter Vardy: Well, we need to present both.
    I mean, we live in Christian England. Who started education? It was the churches that started education, and it’s amazing that it’s come as such a surprise now that churches and Christians believe in creation.

    It really does look to me as if he is openly advocating the teaching of creationism as science alongside evolution. Now it may be that his opinion is a lot more nuanced than he was able to present in a short slot, and in interviews it’s easy to misspeak, but if he’s now suing people for straightforward interpretations of his own words that’s a different matter.

  8. Gabriel Hanna

    but if he’s now suing people for straightforward interpretations of his own words that’s a different matter.

    Unfortunately the law in the UK is heavily biased toward the plaintiff in libel suits.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libel_tourism

  9. Yes, I’m aware of the law. The law is what it is, that isn’t under Peter Vardy’s control. My point is that he could easily set things right by clarifying his opinions, which in the 2002 interview did seem to be that creationism should be taught alongside evolution in science lessons because that’s what Christians believe and Britain is a Christian country. He doesn’t have to sue at all.

  10. He may not be now, but when Prof Dawkins filmed his God Delusion documentary there in 2002 Emmanuel WAS openly teaching creationism. It is there, on film…Ive seen the relevant section of the documentary and there are the students learning creationism from creationist text books.

    OFSTEAD are not there 24/7/365…..they are there for limited inspections over a short time period. Not too hard to put the suspect material away into a locked cabinet is it?

    Vardy is just another in a long line of Liars For Jesus, and has cynically used the courts and our weak loophole ridden libel laws to whitewash his shabby image. He is a well known Xtian fundementalist, and no sodding judge’s decision will change that.

    Heres an interesting article from 2005 about how parents fought back against Vardy – note the quotes from his foundation members about what they believe should be taught.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2005/jan/15/features.politics

    seems things were much the same then as well.

    Your apology is misplaced my friend. He is a t##t of the first water, and we have his measure.

  11. Sandman: “Emmanuel WAS openly teaching creationism.”

    Which of the mutually-contradicrory versions? And did they also teach the weaknesses of creationism? As you probably know, those weaknesses, unlike the phony “weaknesses” of evolution, do not require taking evidence and quotes out of context (aka “bearing false witness”) to demolish creationism. As if the mutual contradictions aren’t devastating enough.

  12. Sandman says: “Your apology is misplaced my friend.”

    I know nothing about Vardy’s beliefs, and I don’t know what anyone commenting here knows. There’s no point in debating among ourselves. The libel case appears to have been settled; therefore we don’t have any judicial conclusion — only statements that the parties have agreed to make.

    These aren’t very informative, but here are links to two more stories that show up today: Businessman wins magazine libel fight and Tribune to pay donation after libelling Sir Peter Vardy.