(For an update on the BCSE's membership written two months after this article, go here. It is worth noting that I presented the article below a couple of months before the BCSE revealed the names of their leadership - and when they did, all 7 of their committee turned out to be individuals who I had already named in this article, demonstrating my accuracy).
In our previous posts (part 1, part 2), we have noted firstly that the BCSE are very reluctant to let you know who they are, and secondly that they are making vastly inflated claims about their membership.
We have seen most recently that (contrary to claims of "83 members") if we take a very generous approach, there cannot be said to be have been more than twelve members up to the time before the BCSE began presenting itself in national newspapers and in lobbying to MPs as if it were a credible group of science educators.
As well as these twelve, there was one further person who was so active that he deserves to be included amongst the list of genuine members, and for whom, with further research, it was possible to unearth his full name. So that makes thirteen.
Just who are they? And why are they so keen to prevent schoolchildren from learning about criticisms of Darwinism? Let's have a look. You won't find any list on their website, but we have them. Here, first, are their names, together with the number of times times that they posted to the "BlackShadow" group where the BCSE's planning was co-ordinated: (http://groups.yahoo.com/groups/BlackShadow)
- Roger Stanyard (524)
- Michael Brass (264)
- Brian Jordan (208)
- Alan Wilson (204)
- Marc Draco (188)
- Lenny Flank (184)
- Alan Bellis (169)
- Timothy Chase (141)
- Ian Lowe (84)
- John Germain (62)
- Dean Morrison (31)
- Rudy Vonk (29)
- Peter Hearty (29)
What, then is driving these people? Well, it's not long before we spot a common factor shared by eight (updated) nine of these ten:
Roger Stanyard: As Roger is the de facto leader of the BCSE, and from the figures above twice as active as any other member, we hope to consider his credentials in a dedicated article. However, for now we just note that Roger holds an atheistic worldview and finds it hard to hide a great hatred of evangelical Christianity. (See here: one, two and here: one, two, three, four).
Brian Jordan: Hard-line atheist. Describes any non-atheists as follows: "Theists are the deluded victims of centuries of conspiracy" and says there is no reason to even debate any theory contrary to atheism. [BlackShadow 1766 and 2377].
Update from January 2007: In this month, I documented evidence of Jordan's own political activity, petitioning the prime minister to make it illegal for parents to raise their child in any way except that of secularism. See here. Dr. Jordan is the only member of the BCSE's leadership with a doctoral degree - in chemical engineering - but he is apparently not a practicising scientist, as he is retired.
Alan Wilson: Hard-line secularist and an atheist. Taking part in a pre-launch discussion about what the BCSE's aims should be, he suggests as follows: "Perhaps our primary aim should be to make the UK a properly secular state?". Says "NI, Scotland and probably Wales are in my opinion 17th Century religious backwaters". [BlackShadow posts 1530, 1849 and 1858].
Marc Draco: A hard-line atheist activist, who runs a website claiming that Jesus Christ never existed! Well, it's a relief to know that the BCSE aren't yet campaigning to have a say in the teaching of history. Marc states that the law should require anyone who suggests a religious idea in a school to be sacked immediately. See http://www.marcdraco.co.uk and BlackShadow post 1479. (Update: Draco later distanced himself from the BCSE, branding it as "religiously motivated" and "a small number of individuals claiming to be something bigger than they are" - read about that here).
Lenny Flank: An American atheist, who is also an ordained Buddhist minister. (These are not incompatible - the Buddha himself was an atheist). In his own words: "I am a Buddhist/Taoist. No gods needed or necessary." Boasts that he uses the following (with the full expletive) as a standard e-mail response: "I don't give a flying **** about your religious opinions. They are no better than anyone else's." [BlackShadow posts 901 and 2517].
Alan Bellis: Founder of the original "BlackShadow" group that re-branded itself as the BCSE. Atheist and member of the National Secular Society. Goes under username "ukantic", maybe a contraction of "UK Anti-Christ". Commends the work of atheist Sam Harris with the words "Atheism is not a philosophy; it is not even a view of the world; it is simply a refusal to deny the obvious." [BlackShadow post 1521 and http://www.furl.net/item.jsp?id=6905917]
Ian Lowe: His own self-description is "I consider myself a fairly virulent atheist. I have little or no time for religion of any kind". Ian is the founding member of the "Scottish Atheist Council". He uses the username "freefromchrist" and says that his goal is to make people think of "fundamentalist Christians" (apparently his description of evangelicals) as they do of paedophiles. "I am, pretty much unashamedly, anti-religious. [See BlackShadow posts 1029, 1476 and 1855 and http://www.scottishatheistcouncil.org.uk]
Update January 2007: Like Brian Jordan, I documented how Ian Lowe petitioned the prime minister to make it illegal for parents to instruct their own children in religion: see here.
John Germain: John lives in Jersey, and is a militant atheist. In his own words: "I despise any person who even admits to worshipping- something". [BlackShadow post 1651]
Update 20th November 2006: A later article uncovered that Timothy Chase, too, is an atheist.
Now that you have those facts in your hand, some things will become more obvious. Such as, why the BCSE's website is so full of religious content. And, why the same website has such a famine of scientific argumentation and rebuttal of anti-Darwinist arguments, but instead gives so much attention to finding out whether or not certain scientists go to church, and if so which church. It will explain why they insist on using the label "fundamentalist" to describe Christians whom they disagree with (even though this label is only in widespread use amongst religionists in the US, not in the UK, and describes a movement whose doctrinal distinctives are not replicated in any major UK grouping).
Are any of these people practising scientists? Do any of them have experience in the world of education, especially science education? Apparently not. Their credentials and experience as promoters of atheism and secularism could be tracked down - but not any credentials in the area in which they've taken it uponthemselves to lobby newspapers and MPs.
For those for whom I could find what their credentials were, they were in other fields - management and the professions. Only one has a doctoral degree - in chemical engineering, not any field related to evolution.
Does the BCSE realise this? Yes. Here, we find Roger Stanyard, on the 15th of October admitting that most of his fellow activists are professionals and managers, rather than scientists or educators. (Note, though, that he actually considers that an asset rather than a problem!):
"We also need to show to the word [sic] just what our expertise is. As far as I can make out just about everyone in the group has been through higher education of some sort and/or have[sic] jobs that would be described as professional or managerial (in the broadest sense). The members have a vast and impressive range of skills and knowledge between them" - http://www.bcseweb.org.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?t=81.
Did you catch the date of that? The 15th of October? That's some weeks after they were writing letters to the Times newspaper and lobbying MPs in their grand-sounding name. And yet they know that they themselves don't have the expertise to do what they're doing.
Here's another one. Here we find Michael Brass, the second most active member, discussing a suggestion from Ian Lowe about sending a letter to the education and skills committee in the UK parliament. What does Michael have to say in response?
In case that's too small to read, you'll see that Ian was concerned that they have nobody reputable "onboard". Michael's response is that he knows that there is a PhD student who's interested in joining, and that they should try hard to persuade him. Not a PhD holder, mind you. A PhD student. Just the one - hopefully that should make the BCSE seem credible!
It doesn't seem to occur to any of the BCSE members in the above list or discussion that credibility is not just something that you can buy from Tesco to boost your lobbying credentials. If you haven't got credibility, then you just haven't got it - no matter how many "names" you sign up to use on your publicity.
So, where is the evidence pointing? Is real scientific knowledge and concern driving the BCSE - or is it something else? Are they really a credible group, or one that knows it's not, but wants to hoodwink the public into thinking that it is?
(For an update on the BCSE's membership written two months after this article, go here).
Non-anonymous factual corrections welcomed by e-mail. Comments are moderated - please read my comments policy.
All links as at 23rd October 2006. Note that the BCSE decided to make the BlackShadow group's archives private around the time of their public launch, so there are no links. (Why do you think they did that?) Nevertheless, I have a copy of this archive from before it went private and am willing to e-mail it to any researcher.