Paul Braterman on Creationism in Scotland

This is an update on the unfortunate situation in Scotland, with which you are already familiar. If not, the tale is told in our last post about it, which was only ten days ago: Scotland Refuses To Ban Creationism.

In order to appreciate how bad it is there, ol’ Hambo was delighted at the news. He posted this at the Answers In Genesis website, Scottish Government Rejects Creation Ban, in which he said:

I wanted to share some good news with you … .The Scottish government has decided not to ban teaching creation. … This is a victory for academic freedom in that country. Sadly, the secularists were trying to protect the teaching of their atheistic religion as the only worldview imposed on the current and future generations of kids. Naturally, the group that was petitioning for the ban, the Scottish Secular Society, is unhappy with the decision. They don’t want any alternatives to their religion of atheism and naturalism to be presented to students.

What does the reality-based side say? In The Scotsman, published Edinburgh, they just published an article by Paul Braterman, honorary senior research fellow in chemistry, University of Glasgow. We know him because he frequently comments at our humble blog. The title of his article is Biology teachers ‘need more guidance’, and it has a comments section at the end. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

The Society of Biology, the largest organisation in the UK representing biologists and biology teachers, and itself an advisory group to the Scottish Government through the Learned Societies Group on Scottish Education, has come out in strong support of the Scottish Secular Society petition for guidance for teachers on creationism, saying: “Biological evolution (together with the geological and astrophysical evidence on the history of the earth and universe) forms a core component of the biological sciences. In contrast, creationism, intelligent design and similar ideas are not based on scientific evidence and therefore should not be taught in the context of a science class or presented as scientific theory.”


The Society of Biology, as a UK-wide organisation, is in a position to compare the situation in Scotland, where official guidance does not as yet exist, with the rest of the UK, where it is already in place. It is therefore clear that we have the strongest possible backing from those best placed to judge.

That sounds good, but the government already made its decision. It’s a bit late for the Society of Biology to be taking a position, isn’t it? Where were they when we needed them? Why are they speaking out only now? Braterman tells us:

The Society’s submission is dated 10 November, but through an oversight was not made available by the Parliamentary Clerks until 17 December.

Aha! The Society’s position was timely submitted, but the clerks sat on it and made it available only after the Scottish government announced their decision. Was that due to bureaucratic incompetence, or was it some creationist clerk’s deliberate sabotage? We don’t know. It’s difficult to distinguish between the two because the result is often the same. Braterman says:

Had this been available, it would have strengthened the evidence we gave to the Public Petitions Committee, altered the tone of debate over the intervening weeks, and affected deliberations within the Educational Institute of Scotland and the Scottish Government.

Yes. It might even have resulted in a different outcome. Braterman concludes with this:

We invite those bodies to reconsider their positions, in the light of this important new evidence.

What are the chances of that happening? Our guess is that it’s unlikely, at least this time around — but it’s not impossible. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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14 responses to “Paul Braterman on Creationism in Scotland

  1. Curmy wonders—

    “Was [the stalled submission] due to bureaucratic incompetence, or was it some creationist clerk’s deliberate sabotage?”

    Hanlon’s razor should settle it.

  2. Con-Tester suggests Hanlon’s razor. I respond with The Curmudgeon’s Razor: Creationism is so absurd that if any inquiry results in that conclusion, it is either the result of insanity or duplicity.

  3. In case of creationism, as SC already hinted, is that we can’t apply Hanlon’s Razor exactly because malice and stupidity coincide.
    Hey, science has brought a christmas present:

    What would be the creationist answer to this?
    “This bird is punished because Adam and Eve committed original sin”.
    “This bird is evidence for the perfect design the creator has delivered.”
    “This bird is the result of an atheist fascist communist liberal darwinist nazi-conspiracy.”

  4. I intended to flag this blog post at Paul’s most recent blog post on the same topic dated 16 Dec (have just done that though it awaits moderation) but instead I accidentally made the post at YOUR earlier blog dated 16 Dec). Pl ignore.

  5. Hanlon’s Razor should be called Heinlein’s, after Robert A. Heinlein, who originated the statement; do not “attribute to villainy conditions that simply result from stupidity” in the early 1940s.

  6. Ashley Haworth-roberts says: “I accidentally made the post at YOUR earlier blog dated 16 Dec”

    I was wondering if someone had a time machine.

  7. Please let it be that the AIG site actually wrote “Sotttish Government!”

  8. Thanks for pointing that out, Bob Carroll. I fixed my typo.

  9. Lewis Thomasonn

    Among their many faults the ID and creationist have, one that we can be assured of, is that by intelligent life they mean life that looks exactly like Homo Sapiens and are Bible believing Christians. With these as the criteria they are most likely right there is no intelligent life in the Universe outside of earth. And damn little of that here.

  10. Lewis said…’and are Bible believing Christians’ I think they would accept pagan believers as well because by BELIEVING in some supernatural BS, it puts them close enough to be converted to a different for of BS. Unlike rational atheists that are too busy laughing at them to listen and be converted.

  11. I wouldn’t favor an outright legal ban on creationism myself. I just don’t want it pushed on me or anyone else with government support, and I certainly don’t want it presented (falsely) as a legitimate scientific alternative to evolution. That isn’t balance, it’s fraud.

  12. Hanlon’s Razor or Heinlein’s Razor or whatever doesn’t apply here. No, we should go with RSG’s Razor, which is the converse: “Never attribute to stupidity that which can be explained by malice when religion is involved.”

    Either way, the clerk should be fired — either for incompetence or deliberate obstruction.

    You have our sympathies, Paul. Easy for me to say from this side of the Atlantic, but a royal stink should be raised over this.

  13. I’m not convinced. Hanlon’s/Heinlein’s razor precludes neither stupid malice nor malicious stupidity. Its function is to discern the dominant attribute, viz. stupidity or malice, but when, as is likely in the case at hand, the two are equal, they’re balanced on the razor’s edge… 😛

  14. Revealingly, the Scottish Government’s dusty response to our request ” to issue official guidance to bar the presentation in Scottish publicly funded schools of separate creation and of Young Earth doctrines as viable alternatives to the established science of evolution, common descent, and deep time” was signed, not by a Minister, but by a civil servant. This round is only the beginning, and they may already be thinking about their escape route.