Thursday, November 16, 2006

How Many Atheists Is That?

The purpose of "BCSE Revealed" is to look at the group calling itself the "British Centre for Science Education". This group has written to MPs and national newspapers, presenting itself to them as an authoritative voice in the world of science education.

Our investigations, however, have revealed quite a different picture. The "BCSE" has a gross lack of both scientists and educators. e.g. See here, here, and here.

However, whilst lacking any such standing, the BCSE does not restrain itself from making sweeping condemnations of those who are properly qualified scientists and educators - headmasters, professors, and members of the Royal Societies. In one particularly egregious example, the BCSE's leader, Roger Stanyard, a businessman with no scientific standing, went on BBC Radio Manchester and accused Professor Andy McIntosh (a man on the highest rung of UK academia, who has higher academic qualifications on his own that the entire BCSE membership combined) of believing that "physics is wrong" and of being "in complete contradiction of mainstream science"[1]. Professor McIntosh was appointed as a fellow of the Institute of Physics in January 2002[2], so I assume he found Stanyard's allegations at least mildly amusing. But the Institute of Physics is the real world - we're dealing with the BCSE's mad world of activist propaganda here.

What's The Motivation?

So, if the BCSE lack credible scientists, educators, then just why is it making such absurd dogmatic pronouncements?

Well, we've seen something of the answer to that too. In previous stories (such as this one and this one) I have displayed evidence that the BCSE's core activists are not being driven by science (as they claim), but by a religious commitment to atheism. We have seen too that this assessment is explicitly confirmed by two former members of the BCSE - who variously described the BCSE as "religiously motivated" and characterised by "atheistic bigotry".

Now, you can't argue against the basic idea of people being motivated by religious views. At a fundamental level, everybody has religious beliefs, one way or the other. And if you don't act in accordance with them, then you're just being irrational. Our religious views - whether positive or negative - control all our behaviour. So that's fine.

So What's The Problem?

But what's not fine, is the BCSE's blatant double standards. Darwinism, "creation science" and "intelligent design" are all scientific paradigms that can be examined independently of their religious implications. The fact that a scientist holds religious beliefs does not mean that he is disqualified from making scientific arguments. But the BCSE wish to do precisely this. Arguments against Darwinism must be suppressed, apparently, because those making them are religiously motivated - but arguments for Darwinism are fine, the BCSE's own religious motivations not withstanding.

We see this illustrated pretty graphically in the text of the infamous Early Day Motion 2708 (emphasis mine)[3]:

That this House shares the concerns of the British Centre for Science Education that the literature being sent to every school in the United Kingdom by the creationist religious group Truth in Science ... fails to disclose the group's creationist beliefs and objectives ...
On the other hand, though, when the BCSE has written to MPs or the press, it has also completely "failed to disclose the group's atheistic beliefs and objectives". Truth in Science's material - the material mentioned in the above motion - contained no religious content - only scientific. Hence it is suitable for discussion in the context of school science lessons. However, the BCSE wish to disqualify any discussion of that science, because of motives. This is why our discussion of the BCSE's own motives is relevant. There's nothing wrong with motives per se - what's wrong, is obvious double standards, and attempts to foreclose the scientific discussion because the general goal is to promote atheism.

Today's Revelation

In a previous investigation, I revealed that there were 10 core BCSE activists responsible for its launch. And I revealed that at least 8 of those 10 were atheists. And pretty hard-line atheists too. When just chatting amongst themselves (i.e. not in the midst of the heat of polemical debate) they toss around thoughts like "I despise any person who even admits to worshipping- something", "I am, pretty much unashamedly, anti-religious", and "Atheism is not a philosophy; it is not even a view of the world; it is simply a refusal to deny the obvious."

I have now uncovered that we have to up that figure to 9 out of 10. Timothy Chase, step forward. Chase, we saw, was the 8th most active in conversation leading up to the BCSE's launch. As I researched my original article, I admired Chase's ability to remain uninvolved in the heated religious debates that went on. Chase kept his own religious views out of the picture pretty well.

But, in fact, Chase is an atheist too. Chase's own words can be found over at the blog of self-confessed "godless liberal" and outspoken atheist, Paul Myers[4]:

Honestly, at age thirteen, for me it was just the realization that someone (Einstein) didn't believe in a personal god that was enough. I thought about it for perhaps a day or two, realized that I had no rational reason for my position, then decided that I didn't believe in a personal god, either.

Where Does This Leave Us?

The number of atheists in Britian is sometimes estimated at around 10%. Let's be generous, and say 15%. Let's do some maths. If you choose 10 people at random, the probability that it just happens that 9 or more would be atheists, is approximately equal to... 1 chance in 3 million.

Or in other words, the chances that the BCSE are in fact a religiously neutral group, motivated only by purely scientific concerns, are approximately equal to the chances of winning the national lottery in any given month (1 ticket per week).

If the BCSE stuck to discussing scientific data, that wouldn't be a problem. If they refrained themselves from arguing that their opponents must be ignored because they have religious motivations, that would be fine too. The BCSE have not proved their own competence in normal, observable science - but believe they have a right to be heard when they make arguments about the speculative, non-observable field of origins. Those whom the BCSE targets as opponents have proved their qualifications in the world of normal, observable science - and so arguably have a right to be heard when they make arguments about origins. The BCSE is trying to have its cake, eat it, have it again, and then eat it once more. It wishes to silence others using standards it could not even begin to apply to itself.

That's why "BCSE Revealed" is here. We're not fooled.

David Anderson
bcse-blog at dw-perspective dot org dot uk: Non-anonymous factual corrections welcomed.

[1] See the BCSE's own transcript at:

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