Thursday, November 30, 2006

The BCSE's View of The World III

(If you're looking for my response to the BCSE's attempt to discredit me, see here).

In two previous articles (one, two), we have been looking at how the BCSE's core activists look at the world.

The BCSE's public stance since its launch has been that it is religiously neutral, and motivated purely by scientific concerns. By taking this stance, it aims to gain as wide a support base as possible.

However, the discussions of the BCSE's leadership pre-launch show that the truth is very different. The BCSE's leadership are generally hard-line atheists, utterly lacking in experience of science education, and who, far from favouring a religiously-neutral approach to science, are generally fans of campaigning anti-theist Richard Dawkins, from whose website the BCSE leader has recruited campaigners - the same Richard Dawkins who alleges that science has proved that all religion is irrational and ought to be done away with. That's not really very neutral, is it?

Where We've Been

In our previous article, we began to reveal the BCSE's beliefs about those non-Darwinists it opposes who are also Christians. According to the BCSE's leaders, the aim of Bible-believing Christians (who the BCSE describe using the pejorative label "fundamentalists" - presumably in order to invoke the image of Islamist outrages) is to take over the government of the UK, and replace democracy with theocracy.

Given that those that the BCSE are campaigning against have produced a great number of published books, articles and audio recordings between them, this ought to be rather easy for the BCSE to demonstrate, were it true. The fact that the BCSE website does not (as far as I can see) include a single quote to back this idea up, is rather telling. I do not know of a single British person who is a Christian mentioned on the BCSE's website who holds to a theocratic view - and I don't think the BCSE do either.

I do not know whether the BCSE are pushing this line because they believe it, or whether it is because it is part of a campaign to deliberately misrepresent Christianity. The BCSE do have form in this area; remember Ian Lowe stating his campaigning intentions:

It should be relatively easy to rally against the fundies.

Pick an obnoxious trait, focus on whatthat would mean for the public at large, exaggerate it, and demonise that trait to the point that no rational person would consider supporting them.
More Evidence

The point of this article is to bring forward some more evidence. Again, we shall let BCSE members speak in their own words, to describe how they see those who they oppose, and what their aims concerning it.

Last time, we finished with Timothy Chase's suggestion that the as-yet unamed BCSE should be named as follows:

Science Education Coalition United Regarding Evolution


... because we are defending education against the threat posed by creationism and creationist ideology, and both the UK and democracy against the threat of theocracy. The name would draw attention to the threat posed by what it is we are against. [1506]
Such an approach would have been more honest that the BCSE's eventual decision to represent itself as religiously neutral. However, such an approach would also probably have not gained the BCSE the credibility that it wished to have. So, instead, it had to cover up its true aim, and masquerade as being motivated purely by science.

What I did not tell you was the statement with which Chase introduced this suggestion. It is very revealing. Chase said:
"I agree that we should avoid turning this into what appears to be a science debate." [1506]
This is not just Chase's opinion. Lenny Flank on the same day wrote the following. Read it well!
And, as counterintuitive as it sounds, my advice is to virtually ignore the "science".


No one cares. It sounds blunt, but it's true. People ... simply don't care about science...


This fight really isn't about science -- it's about political power.


Instead, we should focus on all the things the fundies DON'T want others to know about them. Such as their theocratic political program... [1498]

I wish somebody would tell me about this theocratic political program. I've heard, or read, or spoken to, several of the scientists and educators mentioned on the BCSE's website, but none of them have ever mentioned this program. Why are they hiding it from me? And why aren't they running for parliament, or infiltrating political parties, or setting up their own? Maybe they've been hiding their theocratic political program from themselves too?

Of course, I'm being flippant. Those who are Christians believe that the kingdom of God is not political, and can't be furthered by political means. As Jesus said when before Pilate:
"My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight ... but now my kingdom is not from here." (John 18:36)
Carrying On

Later on Chase, proposed a draft for a call for supporters, containing these words:
The Current Situation: Britain is faced with a highly organised, well-funded coalition of fundamentalist Young Earth Creationist groups including but not limited to the Vardy Foundation, the Christian Institute, and Creation Research Trust. ... As you should already know, these organisations are attempting to bring Young Earth Creationism into the science class rooms as a means of promoting their political anti-democratic ideology and theocratic agenda. [1649]
Wow. That's quite something, isn't it? According to Chase, the reason why creationists point out the lack of transitional fossils, or the lack of any evidence that life can ever arise from non-life, or the clear evidences of deliberate design in the universe, is not because they actually believe what they are saying. It is because they wish to crush democracy, and bring in theocracy! I find myself wondering if Chase actually knows that religious freedom in the modern world was fought for and won by creationists? Does he know that in the world today, of the eight countries which suppress religious freedom, none of them are Christian, and three of them are atheist? ( Dealing with real-world, verifiable facts, though, isn't the BCSE's strong point.

The above paragraph didn't make it into the final version, but BCSE leader Roger Stanyard did include this:
Moreover, the movement includes extreme political objectives, one of which is the replacement of democracy with a theocracy based on its extreme religious opinions. [1658]
Stanyard's discussion of who to restrict membership of the BCSE to is also revealing. Notice three elements in his reply: 1) The primary goal is a religious one 2) Stanyard realises he needs to state his goal in terms of science, though, in order to be credible and 3) No scientific experience is needed to join the "British Centre for Science Education":

One thing missing is a statement aboout [sic] criteria for becoming members of it. ...

What ideas does everyone have on this?

My own view is anyone but bloody fundies but that isn't exactely [sic] a tactful way of stating things. It seems to me that we need to get over that it is anyoone [sic] who is against creationism and we need to emphasise that it includes people with religious views and of any political pursuasion [sic] ... It also needs to make it clear that a science background is not necessary at al. [sic] [1706]

Finally, let us consider a post from Brian Jordan. Brian's post is particularly useful for demonstrating how the BCSE's minds work. Brian first quoted a Darwinist dissenter who had an interest in social science and the impact of Darwinist ideas upon society:

In the last few years I have become more interested in looking at the details of the evidence for and against evolution and the impact of evolutionary belief on society....and the awful fruit that this theory has produced in our Western society.

Now, there's certainly a lot to be said about that subject. Many commentators have found it easy to spot the link between believing that you are an animal and behaving like one - or on the other hand, the behaviour that consists with believing that you are a special creation of God, made for his glory. Darwinism was the basis for Hitler's eugenics policies - and in recent days, prominent Darwinist Richard Dawkins has again been arguing that Hitler was saying something at least worth discussing.

But how does Brian respond to that quote? As follows:

This man is clearly in favour of a theocracy. It IS politics :-((

Brian [1717]
That's quite an amazing leap, isn't it? A social scientist says that he is interested in the impact of evolutionary belief on society. Immediately, he is identified as a theocratist (is that a word?). It seems to me that if we're looking for people whose outlook on the world is deeply prejudiced by their religious beliefs and who have lost the ability to deal with facts rationally, then the leadership of the BCSE is a good place to start.


Let's take stock of what we've seen - and let's ask some questions.

Are the BCSE motivated by science, or religion?

Are their views of those who are religious fair and balanced, or prejudiced?

Are the BCSE's leaders being honest in their present drive to recruit religious people by presenting themselves as being religiously neutral?

Are the BCSE credible?

Or not?

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

Posts above are from the public BlackShadow Yahoo Group post with the same number. The BCSE have since deleted the archive from the Internet, but I am able to make available a copy to any researcher for the purpose of verifying the accuracy of the above quotes.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Responding to the BCSE

Gandhi once famously said "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you; then you win!". Somewhat melodramatic of me to mention it, yes. But there's a good point in there.

At first, the BCSE followed an official policy of ignoring this blog. But that's been changing. Now, Roger Stanyard (the BCSE's leader - see here, here, here) has posted an official article about me. This is something I am positive about - it is now clear to the BCSE that there is a powerful case to answer. Whilst few of the BCSE's targets have thought that the BCSE are credible enough to deserve more than a sentence or two in response, the BCSE are now seriously worried about me.

Of course, I anticipated some kind of response at some point. For that reason, I have been careful to document my facts carefully. It's all there for anyone to see. This takes away the need to make counter-responses; if I have an obvious bias which involves taking the facts and twisting them beyond all recognition, then anyone will be able to see it. This is in stark contrast to the "research" articles on the BCSE's own website. Lacking references to primary sources, you're just going to have to take their word for it that they're fairly handling whatever facts they have. Where those "facts" come from is something that they are generally keeping secret.

In my opinion, I seem to have done pretty well. Instead of e-mailing me to point out factual errors, BCSE members have e-mailed me to dole out abuse. That's not normally necessary if you're in control of the facts. However, it has been brought to my attention that the BCSE have now amended their public response to me to accuse me of deliberate illegality. This is a serious accusation, and demands a serious response.

My Response

Firstly, I'm not too troubled by the material about me or my church. It is of a similar standard to the rest of the BCSE's site - contains some simple mistakes here and there, contains a few 2+2=5 deductions, contains no way that anybody wanting to check the BCSE's accuracy or fairness to the facts could do so... and so on. To spend time refuting this kind of thing would be to give it more credibility than it's worth.

Those with a sense of irony will not fail to be amused by the fact that almost in the same breath as complaining about being "smeared", Stanyard then proceeds to deliver up as many "Anderson has been spotted in the same room as X, who is thought to be involved with Y, who is rumoured to be into Z"-type allegations as he can manage. In the space of four short paragraphs, we're taken on a whistle-stop tour of not necessarily relevant (!!) speculation about sizes of churches, "notorious censorship", "diploma mills", who my blog has provided hyperlinks to, what unspecified "affiliations" I have, some of which possibly involve "anti-" this, that and the other... and none of these about me - all about other people. Well, at least we can say that Stanyard ought to know a smear when he sees one! May he come to gain the same keen acumen when it comes to spotting a double-standard!

The irony-meter is also rather tickled by this one:

"Anderson has never approached BCSE to check his facts"

Maybe you are thinking that this would imply that Stanyard was careful to make sure he approached me before publishing his allegations about me? Just so that nobody could accuse him of acting hypocritically? Well, as it happens, he didn't.

Here's another:

"and his blog denies us the opportunity to post replies to his claims."

I scrolled down to the bottom of the page on which Stanyard posted that, to see if there was a comments section where I could add a reply. But there isn't. Seems I have to head off to some forum which most people reading the article would likely never trouble themselves with. Ah well. We've seen before that consistency isn't the BCSE's strongest point.

Well, as I say, I think that such material is self-refuting. So I'll leave that there.


Here are the paragraphs which I am really responding to:

As a trainee man of religion, we are surprised that Anderson is willing to break the law
This mock surprise, of course, is pure guff. The BCSE's leaders have, in abusive private e-mails to me, in their forums, and on their website, described me variously as a child abuser, "clown", "liar", "fool", "stupid", "fundamentalist", "completely without standards or [conscience]", "cowardly", "gutless", "little weasel", "god boy", "extremist", "lowest of the low", worse than the "dirtiest little sewer rat chomping away on a turd". As such, I expect they won't be too surprised if I turn out to be responsible for at least 60% of the evil ever committed.

Still, how have I allegedly been breaking the law? Read on:
- he has never approached us for copyright permission on any material lifted from any sites of BCSE or its forum participants or members.
Now, I can only take it that either the BCSE are ignorant about "fair use" rights, or that they are attempting a deliberate deception. My articles have contained short extracts and quotes from the BCSE's public website, public forum, and public Yahoo mailing list. As such, no permission is needed to quote it, and I don't need to approach anyone.

If the BCSE are ignorant about the existence of "fair use" rights, then it's another data point for the case being built that they neither competent nor qualified.

I find it hard to believe, though, that the BCSE are ignorant. Their own website contains numerous similar length quotes from other third parties who they haven't approached. If Stanyard believes that this is illegal, why is he doing it himself?

It seems to me more likely that the BCSE know that this claim won't wash. That's why they haven't even tried to contact me officially about it, but have gone public instead. They know that if they contact me privately, I'll laugh. But, they think there's some mileage in making a public allegation, and hoping that readers of their website either will be ignorant of fair use rights, or that they won't come over here to check my response.


We also advise readers of this wiki that Anderson is in serious breach of UK and international copyright laws in information he is offering to the public.

That certainly sounds serious. Whatever do they mean?

He is offering to all complete copies of the postings to our former Blackshadow Yahoo group. Under copyright law, all those postings remain copyright of the posters. In some cases the posters have explicitly claimed their copyright ownership using the © sign. As Anderson has extensively drawn on material from the Blackshadow forum he is fully aware that he is in breach of copyright laws.

Well, actually I'm "fully aware" of no such thing. Since the BCSE pulled the public archive from the Internet containing all the incriminating postings which they don't want us to see, I've been making an offer. Go back through a few of my posts. I don't use the same words each time, but the meaning is clear. I offer to supply to any researcher who wants to verify the accuracy of my quotations, a copy of the archive.

That's a limited offer, to limited people, for a limited purpose - research. And that's again protected by UK copyright law. I haven't put up a public copy for anyone to download - and I'm not making a general offer to the public (contrary to Stanyard's paragraph above). I'm not "fully aware" of anything, apart from the fact that the BCSE are running scared of me, but don't have the facts to support their case - and have to resort to spurious legal threats instead to try to silence me.

As for the copyright signs, the BCSE's claims about that appear to be bogus too. Now, my search facility may not be working correctly (and I might be missing archive messages) so I'm not going to make too much of this, but I found:
  • Just one poster, not "some posters", added (c) to some of their own messages. And in that case, it wasn't to his posts in general (i.e. not to anything I've quoted), but to old articles he'd copied and pasted in.

  • Other times (c) is added to something written by someone else. One other (c) was added by a BCSE member to a link to an article that had been copied from a third party, without permission - it seemed that the BCSE member who posted it imagined that as long as he added "(c) Christian Institute", then copies of the whole article could be made without permission. Now, reproducing a whole article isn't fair use. That really is illegal.

I'm pretty glad that the BCSE have now put up something about me.

There are some people in their database who I know enough about to know that the allegations on the BCSE's site are stuff and nonsense. However, I don't want to put up an article rebutting any of those allegations - because it would just give them more publicity than they're worth, and drag someone's name through the mud again. Instead, my approach has been to expose the lack of credibility of the BCSE in general. Then it becomes clear that anyone actually believing any other articles is doing so only because they really want to - rather than because they have any good reasons for doing so.

Now, though, that the BCSE have put up something relating to me, that danger is gone. I can point out the weakness of what the BCSE say without drawing attention to anyone but myself. I can point out twisted facts, lack of evidence, obvious smears and plain incompetent or malicious mistakes without anybody else's name being damaged. And I'm glad for the opportunity.

I expect that the BCSE might decide to try some alternative and similarly bogus allegations in future. (I presume that this one they've tried is their best shot). I'm not going to have a general policy of replying to such things. I'm happy to point out to people that if the best arguments the BCSE have against "BCSE Revealed" is to argue that I'm an idiot, then they must feel that their case is pretty weak. Just why are the BCSE so concerned about trying to stop me quoting their previously-published public conversations anyway? Isn't it because they're rather damning? Isn't it because if people get to read about what the BCSE really think, then the BCSE's not going to get the public influence it craves? What are they trying to hide?

Finally... some more irony.

Well, within a day of Roger Stanyard putting up the above paragraphs, he also put up another (unrelated) article, on another page. In that article, he reproduced a complete, long letter from a third party, to a third party - neither of whom had given the BCSE permission to reproduce it. Not just a fair-use quote mind you - the whole letter. (And in fact, in this case, the letter was not intended for publication in the first place - so even a quote would not be covered by fair use. Again, I don't want to publicise it - if you want verification, e-mail me privately). A bit of an odd action for someone who's only just finished writing such fine-sounding words about copyright law, don't you think? Especially if he wants us to take him seriously?

We can only wonder if in fact there are two Roger Stanyards. One of them is very concerned about upholding copyright law and morality - and one of them isn't. There is one who is concerned about truth, and one who just does whatever helps his side of an argument.

If, though, there's only one Roger Stanyard, then that Roger Stanyard is looking a bit like a hypocrite - don't you think?

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

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The BCSE's View Of The World II

Or: Theocracy! Theocracy!

(The next part of this article is here).

Over the last few weeks, we have seen various quotes from the BCSE's leadership, spoken when they thought that nobody else was listening. These quotes show us quite clearly the BCSE's view of the world, and how it sees itself and its opponents. Here's one post with some information; and here's another.

Today we're going to continue on that theme.


In May 2006, some of the BCSE's core were discussing a science teacher who had e-mailed them to disagree with their hard-line Darwinism-only stance. Core BCSE member Lenny Flank offered his opinion (emphasis mine):

What [he] and others like him want is to preach their extremist religious opinions ... in the service of a theocratic political program. That's ALL they want. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.

I doubt that agenda would win much popular support.

So don't bother with the "science debate". Turn it into a POLITICAL debate. That, after all, is what it is. [864]
This talk about politics and religion instead of science, of course, is what we've seen plenty of times before. So what's new? The note which I want to particularly highlight in this article is the BCSE's view that those who disagree with Darwinism are really doing it because they want to set up a theocracy.

Some Background

Well, I'm a Christian minister, and I can tell you what I think about theocracies. A theocracy is the last thing any Christian should be aiming for. Why? Because glory comes to God when people give their lives to Jesus Christ simply because they are persuaded that the message about him is true. If instead there's coercion, bribery or force of any kind, then that's not right. Empires, forces and powers in this world get power that way. But God is honoured when the true Christian church outlasts them all and advances even though its "only" weapon is spoken persuasion and example - with reliance upon God to bless it. And in any case, forced obedience is not real obedience. God requires the obedience of our hearts - there are no acceptable counterfeits.

According to classic Christian theology, Jesus Christ will return to rule absolutely, everywhere - to judge his enemies, and to save his people. But not until then. Any attempt to set up a theocracy before then is against God's revealed plan. The church is to advance through simple, persuasive explanation of the Bible's message - anything else is just wrong.

Well, it's not the purpose of this article to teach Christianity. If you would like to read a quick and simple presentation of the Christian message that explains the rule of God and its implications, then go here. My point is just to lay down some facts.

The General View

This is classic, historic, Biblical Christianity. To depart from this view on things is to mark yourself out as being way out on the fringes of orthodox Christianity. I am not aware that any creationist, intelligent design theorist or anti-Darwinist of any sort in Britain mentioned on the BCSE's website departs from it. In fact, I don't have experience of a single church or conference in Britain where something different is taught.

If, of course, the opposite is the truth, then it will be very easy for the BCSE to document. If I'm completely wrong, then it'll be trivial to show. Many of the names mentioned on their website are published authors - in journals and whole books. Some are pastors, whose sermons are made available on the Internet week by week. If they hold a different view, then the BCSE should have plenty of material to show it.

But, article by article, I've been drawing attention to the fact that the BCSE's website is long on allegations, 2+2=5 connections and other smears - but very short on documentation. That's why I've been careful to document all my facts on this blog. Everybody can check out the reasons for my conclusions. The BCSE's conclusions, though, are just something you'll have to trust them for. But what we've seen, article by article, you can't even trust the BCSE with straightforward facts about themselves. The only reason to believe what they say about others is because your mind is made up, and you don't want to be confused by facts.

Get to the point, Anderson!

OK. So here are some more quotes. Here's Lenny Flank again:
It is a political fight. The fundies want a theocracy, and are trying very hard to get it. So this is a fight between "everyone who wants a fundamentalist theocracy" and "everyone who doesn't. [1024]
This is strange material for a bona fide "Centre for Science Education", isn't it? Still, if those are the battle lines, then I'm with the BCSE - and so is every creationist in these isles listed on their website that I know of. Shurely shome mishtake?

But, you're thinking, maybe Lenny Flank is just a lone nut with eccentric views of the world, not speaking for the BCSE as a whole. Not so. In reply to the above quote, the BCSE's original founder Alan Bellis wrote in to say "I agree with everything you say Lenny" [1030].

Later on, in July 2006, Roger Stanyard was lamenting the perceived "dishonesty" of those whom he opposes. Timothy Chase chimed in, to say this:
As for their dishonesty, it runs very deep. When you consider what they are after -- indoctrinating students in science classes with a religio-political ideology intended to establish a theocracy ... well, I don't know what other word to use, I can only describe it as evil. [1273]
I can only agree - that does sound evil. But it also sounds unreal. Chase is again giving away that he's been reading from the campaiging atheists' handbook: portray all people of religion using the template of Islamic extremists. Or, if you're Richard Dawkins, then you can produce leaflets containing pictures of the twin-towers, and instead of attributing it to extremist Isalm, attribute it to "religion" in general ( We've seen the BCSE using that approach before too. Cute, but not the way to be taken as a credible "Centre of Science Education" - or to be taken seriously when discussing religion.

Here's Lenny Flank again:
On the other hand, fundies are fundies, and they all have the same theocratic political program (or programme ;> ), and no one supports their wanna-be-theocracy. So the best way to eliminate their public support, in the UK as well as the US, is to make sure everyone KNOWS about that theocratic political goal.
This again explains much of the BCSE's campaigning approach. Instead of presenting scientific arguments to explain the gaping problems with Darwinism, they have instead chosen to talk about religion and politics. Why? Because there's a theocracy coming!

What the BCSE might have been called...

When the BCSE was picking its name, Timothy Chase came up with this suggestion:
Science Education Coalition United Regarding Evolution


... because we are defending education against the threat posed by creationism and creationist ideology, and both the UK and democracy against the threat of theocracy. The name would draw attention to the threat posed by what it is we are against. [1506]

Wow! That's quite something, isn't it? Apparently Darwinism needs to be defended because otherwise the UK might end up as a theocracy. Not because Darwinism is true - but because alternative explanations of the scientific data might cause the end of democracy! This is all quite ironic when you remember our previous uncovering of the BCSE's agenda to campaign for government legislation to limit and monitor parents should they question Darwinism in the presence of their own children (part one, part two).

Hello - Reality Calling!

Again, we are left wondering what in the real world has led the BCSE to take up with this madness. Is there, somewhere, a totalitarian theocracy that came about because Darwinism wasn't being taught with sufficient rigour? Is there, in some corner of the globe, a state which persecutes those who don't accept intelligent design or creationism?

Well, according to the US State Department's list of countries where religious freedom is suppressed, no. There are, though, three countries where people are persecuted for not accepting atheism. ( But it's not very likely that the BCSE will be campaigning against that any time soon, is it? That's the real world. This is the BCSE and Internet atheist activism!

Let's Pause There

There's plenty more where that came from. But we've seen enough for today.

So... what does this tell you about the "British Centre for 'Science Education'"? Is it a real science group? Can they be taken seriously? Is there real agenda science - or something else? Are they credible? Or has an overload of Internet atheist activism fused their critical reasoning faculties?

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

Quotes above are taken from the Yahoo BlackShadow group message with the indicated number. The BCSE have since removed these messages from public view on the Internet, but if you wish to have a copy of the archive to verify the accuracy of the quotes above, you can e-mail me.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The BCSE and Richard Dawkins

We've seen by now where the BCSE are coming from. If you want to see the evidence that the core of the BCSE are campaigning atheists, campaigning for atheism, then you should see these previous articles:

How They Argue

Campaigning atheists, in my experience, tend to use two different sets of arguments.

1. The first argument is the defensive tactic. Here, they will argue that science and religion are totally separate fields and that neither can say anything about the other. Then, for example, if scientists from the field of "intelligent design" begin to present evidence that there are clear marks of intelligence to be found in nature, or that there exist structures which show evidence of design, a red flag will be waved. It will be said that these implications are religious, and that therefore the whole enterprise is invalid. Using this tactic, the British Centre for Science Education have sought to argue that the material being presented by "Truth in Science" is not eligible for consideration in school science lessons - even though that material is completely restricted to scientific considerations. Under this scenario, Darwinism wins by default - because at this point it is also argued (or just assumed) that the materialistic assumptions behind Darwinism are "neutral" assumptions, or are necessary or essential for true science.

2. The second argument comes out when the atheists are on the attack. Here, it will be argued that Darwinism is an indisputable scientific fact, and that therefore all religion is shown, scientifically, to be wrong. Darwinism, it will be said, has established that the universe and all the life within it is explainable using purely naturalistic, materialistic explanations. Therefore, there is no super-natural of any kind. True science has spoken, and religion must listen. The most well known proponent of this viewpoint is militant atheist, Professor Richard Dawkins, and his new book "The God Delusion" - we will come back to this shortly.

Now, it doesn't take a genius to spot that the two above arguments are completely incompatible. Either science can say nothing about religious questions, or it can completely decide them. But it certainly can't do both! Atheist activists, though, only bring out one of the above arguments at a time - according to whether they're on the defence or on the attack - so you'll only spot what's going on if you pause to look at the big picture.

The BCSE's Approach To This Question

Officially, the BCSE's aims are to prevent other models than Darwinism from being discussed in UK education. It is a defensive organisation. As such, it uses the first argument above. Religion and science are separate - therefore only Darwinism can be discussed (the materialistic assumptions undergirding Darwinism being kept out of view). Thus, the BCSE's website has an essay written by Timothy Chase arguing this very view:
"However, when people attempt to mix the realms of religion and science -- attempting, for example, to use science to promote a given religious or philosophic view -- in the long run, given the very nature of the relationship between religion and science, the results will be the reverse of what is intended, and may end up damaging what in fact they hold most dear." -
The incongruency of a professing atheist and materialist making declarations on what religion can and can't do won't escape the discerning reader, but that is not our point for now.

Bring on Richard Dawkins

At this point, we should introduce Richard Dawkins to the mix.

In September 2006, Dawkins published his new book "The God Delusion". This is an "attacking" move intended to promote atheism, and as such uses argument 2. above - that science has definitively proved the falsehood of all religious views bar atheism.

And now, in the last few days, a new move has been advanced. As reported in the Sunday Times of 19th November:
RICHARD DAWKINS, the Oxford University professor and campaigning atheist, is planning to take his fight against God into the classroom by flooding schools with anti-religious literature.

He is setting up a charity that will subsidise books, pamphlets and DVDs attacking the “educational scandal” of theories such as creationism while promoting rational and scientific thought.

The foundation will also attempt to divert donations from the hands of “missionaries” and church-based charities. -,,2087-2460338,00.html
Now, notice just what's happening here. Dawkins is apparently planning to target schools with anti-religious literature - on the alleged basis of "science".

And now, remember what the BCSE have done in the last couple of months. They have been campaigning on the grounds that Truth in Science's scientific material is illegitimate because of religious motives - even though Truth in Science's material doesn't go on to draw conclusions from outside of science. In response to the BCSE's lobbying, a sympathetic MP filed a parliamentary motion arguing that Truth in Science's material should be rejected because it did not disclose their own religious background (

Dawkins, however, not only has religious motives - he wants to explicitly promote his religious point of view. He not only wants to talk about science - but its implications too. In other words, Dawkins is planning to go far, far beyond what Truth in Science have currently done.

In other words, Dawkins is planning to go far, far beyond the point that the BCSE have already publicly condemned and campaigned against.

What Happens Now?

So, in the name of consistency, the BCSE are duty-bound to come out and vigorously campaign against Richard Dawkins and his venture. If their website condemns Truth in Science (which it certainly does!), then, for consistency's sake, they must now condemn Richard Dawkins even more forcefully.

Do you think that will be happening?

Of Course Not!

The BCSE's leader, Roger Stanyard, as we have seen, is neither a scientist nor an educator. So what's he in it for? Well, in fact he's something of a Dawkins fan. Here, from his own (Yahoo) website, is a list of his favourite books:

Seven books are listed there. Who wrote the first two listed? You've guessed - Richard Dawkins!

Stanyard also obtained "The God Delusion" and read it all within a couple of days. He decided not to post a review on the BCSE's discussion forum in part because said review might be too inflammatory (

And what's listed next? A book promoting hard-line atheism, by militant atheist Sam Harris. Stanyard is obviously quite a fan of Harris, as he wrote to him personally (and received a response) to discover when his latest anti-Christian book ("Letter to a Christian Nation") would be published in the UK. (

(Incidentally, there is a brilliant series of responses to this latest book at - just remember that the order is reversed: the first articles are last on the page).

And then below that on the left... more of the same. AC Grayling's "What is Good", a sustained argument in favour of secular humanism and against religion.

Were you to have a look at a list of Stanyard's favourite films, then you'd find that it includes Monty Python's blasphemous mockery of the life of Jesus Christ, "The Life of Brian". ( There's no doubt, then, when Stanyard is coming from.

Where's The Consistency?

Were Stanyard consistent, of course, then he ought to be appalled at Dawkins' using his understanding of science to advance a religious viewpoint. And the fact that Dawkins is now planning to have this argument forwarded in schools in the name of science ought to be sending him into apoplexy. Dawkins is doing what Stanyard has been campaigning furiously against - but is intending to go much further. But so far are the BCSE from opposing Dawkins' approach, that in August 2006 they actually discussed approaching him to be one of their public backers[1].

Consistency, as we've seen, is not the BCSE's strong point. As we watch and wait to see what campaigns the BCSE launch against Dawkins' new initiative, the silence will be deafening. It will be deafening because the BCSE are great Dawkins' fans. If you hop over to the discussion forum on Dawkins' own website, and you can find BCSE members there - including Stanyard - cheering on. You can even find Stanyard attempting to recruit support. (

Where Does This Leave Us?

So, what are we seeing here? I'd say that we're seeing the same picture as we've seen before - again and again.
  • We're seeing the religious commitments which drive the BCSE in general, and its leadership in particular.

  • We're seeing the most blatant double-standards in the BCSE's approach to the question of science and religion.

  • We're seeing that the BCSE's public pronouncements differ very greatly from what they say when they're talking to one-another.
What is left of the BCSE's credibility now? In my mailbag I have one reader's verdict. Do you agree?
You have... [demolished] the BCSE. I am now finding myself wondering whether you have holed them so substantially below the waterline that it is time to leave them to sink and move on to another target?
I invite my readers to observe carefully the BCSE's response to Dawkins and his new activities. The silence will tell us everything.

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

[1] BlackShadow Yahoo group message 2109 - removed from the Internet by the BCSE, but available from me by request for anyone wishing to verify.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Freedom, Pluralism and Deception

In an earlier article (part one, part two), we learnt a number of things about the "British Centre for Science Education" as we examined their views upon the subject of parents teaching children at home.

The BCSE, Its Competence, And Its Agenda

That article showed us two things. Firstly, it again highlighted the "BCSE"'s lack of knowledge of the education system in the UK - something that they are representing to MPs as their core competency. Secondly, we saw evidence of a deeply illiberal and interventionist approach to family life. If parents are likely to teach their children something wrong - then the state needs to intervene, sharpish!

The BCSE's home page contains a noble, if somewhat ungrammatical, claim:

BCSE believes in the tools for everyone to think for themselves - Science, Education and Reason - and the outcome - Democracy, Pluralism, Freedom and Righteousness.
We saw that this love of freedom and pluralism doesn't extend too far. Should parents teach their children things contrary to Darwinism, then the BCSE's members would like government monitors and inspectors to start intervening. As such, the BCSE decided that one of its four fundamental priorities would be to campaign for more "regulation", "inspection and monitoring" of home-schooling. In one BCSE leader's words, "a lot of problems come in because some parents believe they know better than educators on how their children should be educated."

That's probably not the most liberal or pluralistic of statements you've heard recently, is it?

Why Are They Doing This?

My analysis is that the BCSE are not equipped for an open and fair debate about Darwinism's problems, and the merits of alternative scientific models. Instead of open discussion in which alternative views can thrash it out on equal terms (as happens in real science), the BCSE simply want to suppress discussion of anything that contradicts the presuppositions of their own hard-line materialism. And if democracy, pluralism and freedom have to go to the wall in the struggle, then so be it.

A Little Follow Up

Today I want to draw a little more attention to the BCSE's leadership on this matter. Let us take their own statements, and hold them up to the light. Do they match the tolerant, freedom-loving image they wish you to associate with them?

Here's Ian Lowe. You may remember Ian for some of his earlier quotes, such as this one:
Have you lost sight of the fact that the actual enemy here is the fundmanetalists (sic), and not in fact the big mouthed atheists?
or this one:
"I have little or no time for religion of any kind"
But what's particularly relevant is what Ian said about his goals and motivations:
"That's where we need to be - that being a fundamentalist christianis as [sic] socially as acceptable as being a paedophile."
In the same message, Ian discussed further how he wants to achieve such an aim. It is quite revealing, and certainly will give new insight to anybody who saw Ian's letter in the Financial Times[1]:
It should be relatively easy to rally against the fundies.

Pick an obnoxious trait, focus on whatthat would mean for the public at large, exaggerate it, and demonise that trait to the point that no rational person would consider supporting them. Caricature the entire dominionist/reconstructionist movement as nothing more than an embodiment of that trait.

Then, in every public debate or discussion, keep returning to the same obnoxious trait, referring to it the same way, giving the media their sound bite, and making sure that even if someone can't tell you one single element of a group's actual beliefs or plans, they can tell you that they have this obnoxious trait.
Now, let's just make sure we got that. This is crucial for interpreting what I'll present next.

Ian, in what he thought was a private conversation with his fellow activists, tells us just what he intends to do. His aim is not to have a fair interaction with those who he disagrees with. No; he wishes to deliberately "exaggerate", "demonise", and to "caricature". This should be done "in every public debate or discussion". His opponents' "actual beliefs or plans" are not important - the important bit is to brand them with the exaggerated, caricatured, trait.

That's worth keeping in mind if Mr. Lowe should pop up in public again wanting you to take his statements as being accurate or reliable, isn't it?

Ian Lowe, The BCSE, and Home Education

Well, bearing all that in mind, we now come to a message where Mr. Lowe gives some more of his views on parent-led education.

Whilst allowing that many home-educators have honourable motives, Ian sees two main problems with home-schooling[2]. Here's one:
Firstly, there's the fact that it's used as a method of bypassing any aspect of modern society - a parent of a sufficiently isolationist mindset is free to educate a child that the holocaust didn't happen, that people of a different religion are subhuman or in some other way lesser - it is easy for a parent to opt not to educate girls properly, teaching them only housekeeping duties etc.
And here's the other:
Secondly, and more disturbingly, it is a means for a small subset of parents to carry out quite horrific physical and sexual abuse on their children, safe in the knowledge that no teacher will ever see the bruises or be confided in.
Well, it seems that Lowe had read my previous critique of the BCSE's position on home education. What spin will he put on that? Let's give him a chance to show us the liberal generosity which the BCSE wants you to know is its hallmark[2]:
Clearly he's the sort of person who wants to keep everything behind closed doors.

How safe are his children going to be?
That's nice, isn't it? Question the BCSE's illiberal views, and you're probably - or even "clearly" - a child abuser! Wow. I'm not sure that would be totally clear to everyone who read my article, though if you're in doubt you can follow the link and read it again. I think the most credible interpretation of Mr. Lowe's response is that it shows that the criticisms of "BCSE Revealed" are hitting home. I'd say that Lowe's reaction indicates that our public exposure of the BCSE's views and methods is making him rather uncomfortable. What I'm saying is both too well documented to be refuted properly - but is also too painful to pretend that it isn't there. Or as we might say, "Surely the fellow doth protest too much!"

I call Lowe's analysis of why people home-school "spin", of course, because Lowe, as is the BCSE's wont, merely makes an assertion. He says that home-schooling is chosen by parents who want to assault their children - but he gives us no statistics or facts to show that this assertion has any substantial basis in reality. We are left wondering - how many holocaust-denying home-schooling families does Lowe actually know? How many families has he actually come across where it's taught that people of other religions are sub-human? In the United States, an estimated 2.5 million children are home-schooled; so if Lowe's view is reality, then it ought not to be too hard to show it.

Of course, it's not really uncommon to find this kind of overwhelming prejudice and ignorance on the Internet. You don't have to search far. But to actually find someone who wishes to pass himself off as a credible authority in education saying such things, is a little more troubling.

Hang On...

But if we bring in Mr. Lowe's earlier statements about his intentions, then we see things in a different light. If we let Mr. Lowe be his own interpreter, his statements look a little different. It's not ignorance after all - it's just what he said he was going to do.

Remember, that Lowe's stated goal is not to discuss issues of education with fairness, honesty or open-mindedness. His stated goal is to make the public think of Christians as they do of paedophiles. His stated goal is to use "exaggeration", deliberate "demonisation" and "caricature", so that the public mind is completely corrupted by it.

And here, we see Lowe acting in perfect conformity with his beliefs. In fact, he's taking them very literally indeed. He doesn't just want people to think about his enemies in the same way as they do of paedophiles... he actually wants them to suspect that they quite likely are paedophiles. Is this what the "righteousness" in the BCSE's slogan is referring to?


Well, that's pretty unpleasant material for me to have to research, and for you to have to read. But as long as Lowe and others are passing themselves off as respectable, credible educators, it's necessary. As long as Ian Lowe is appearing in the Financial Times masquerading as a spokesman for a "Centre for Science Education", it's material that needs to be exposed.

Having seen what you've now seen, what do you think of the BCSE? What are their real goals? Are you led to believe that they are trustworthy? In the light of what you've read above, can you rely upon what they say?

Looking to the future, let's ask one more question. Imagine that a real, credible science education institute had this kind of scenario. A prominent member openly admitted an agenda to pervert the truth, and to accuse those who disagree with him of being child molesters. What kind of thing would then happen? Especially if that institute was publically committed to "freedom" and "righteousness"?

Would it be likely that the organisation would...
  • Rid and distance itself from such a member promptly, and make sure everybody knew about it? Or would it...

  • Carry on as usual and hope that nobody notices?
We shall wait and see. It will be another data-point for us as we try to evaluate the credibility of the "British Centre for Science Education".

An After-Word

It is interesting to me to notice that just before Lowe made some of the comments above, a video of well-known campaigning atheist Richard Dawkins became public. In this video, he discusses tactics and political strategies for countering Christians' arguments, and for restricting their civil liberties.

Within this discussion, the topic of home-schooling comes up. Dawkins argues that it should be made illegal. He argues that in order to obtain this goal, atheists should argue that it is a form of child-abuse. If the public can be led into equating home-education with child-abuse, then it will get some traction for outlawing it - which will in turn, get more traction for the overall goal of preventing Christians from passing on their views to their children.

That's interesting, isn't it? It certainly tells us what hymn sheet some of the BCSE's activists are singing from.

The video is available on YouTube, here. The whole recording is about an hour; to get to the material on home education, wind forward to about 49 minutes. Many thanks to one of my correspondents for bringing this material to my attention.

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

The BlackShadow Yahoo group posts have been removed from the Internet by the BCSE; if you wish to see for research purposes, then e-mail me for a copy of the archive.

See BlackShadow Yahoo group, message 1029.

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:

Monday, November 13, 2006

The World As Seen By The BCSE

If you are new here, then you probably want to start with one of the longer articles. Try one of the fuller investigations into the BCSE's membership, motivations and competence - such as this one exposing the absence of educators or educational experience within the BCSE or this one on its membership, or this one on its leader.

The purpose of this little post is simple. It will help us to gain an insight into how the BCSE view the world. (Two follow-up articles with more information are here and here).

Introducing Alan Bellis

We have seen that the BCSE are a re-launched version of the "BlackShadow" group of activists. BlackShadow were founded by Alan Bellis, a member of the National Secular Society. Alan is a hardline atheist who recommends the works of atheist Sam Harris in these words: "Atheism is not a philosophy; it is not even a view of the world; it is simply a refusal to deny the obvious."

Mr. Bellis controls the websites and The BCSE hosted its website there until October 2006 (when Roger Stanyard registered the domain name[1].

Here's an example of Roger Stanyard advertising as the BCSE's website[2]:

Once the BCSE's own website (at went live, Alan Bellis took control of back. He continued to be one of the most active members of the BCSE.

Coming To The Point

Now, take a look at this. What I want you to see today is the content that Mr. Bellis then put up on his website. Here is the first image to see:

In case it's tricky to make out, that picture on the left is of a gun, pointing at you. The text in red says, "If... the fundamentalists take over then this is probably the last thing you will ever see."

And here's the second image (which you could access by clicking on the first):

Now, I think that we can assume that Mr. Bellis intends those graphics to be taken at least partly in humour.

Nevertheless, they give a revealing insight into the state of mind and motivations of the BCSE's leadership. We've already seen that the BCSE's leadership, in contrast with the university professors, Royal Society members and head-teachers who they mock, lack experience and standing in the worlds of science and education. And again and again we're seeing the same picture - the main motivation is the spreading of hard-line atheism. There is a "great war" against the "fundies" - "fundies" being the favourite term of atheist activists such as Richard Dawkins et. al. to label Bible-believing Christians. The BCSE is, in its own mind, a front in this "war".

Explaining a few things...

Now, take a look at that first graphic again. It gives us a clue as to why the BCSE are so fanatical. In their own minds, the "fundamentalists" wish to "take over", and have murderous intentions against "gays, liberals, single mums, cohabitees, believers in evolution, atheists and agnostics".

Now, back in the real world, most people will be throwing back their heads to have a good chuckle at this kind of rhetoric. But the BCSE appear to be deadly serious. On their official website, core member (and yes, yet another outspoken atheist) Lenny Flank writes[3]:

"I've been dealing with creationists for over 20 years ... They are Ayatollah-wanna-be's. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else." - Lenny Flank
Did you get that? In the BCSE's mind-set, there's nothing real separating evangelical Christianity from radical Islam. 9/11, the Madrid train bombings, the London tube attacks and so on - these are all the kinds of things which, in the BCSE's mind, your local evangelical church is likely to be admiring and seeking to reproduce. In the BCSE's mind, evangelicals are lying when they say that they want to tell you how you can have your sins forgiven and receive eternal life through Jesus. Their real aim is to seize control of parliament, and kill you for daring to disagree with them about Darwinism!

Who is threatening freedom in the real-world?

Well, interestingly enough, yesterday the US state department issued its annual list of countries where freedom of religion is severely violated[4]. There are eight countries on that list. What are those countries clamping down on freedom in the name of? Well, three of those states are imposing atheism, and five of them are imposing Islam. Ho hum! That's a little bit different to the BCSE's take on things.

But that's reality. We're not dealing with reality here. We're dealing with the crazy, crazy world of the hard-core atheist activists masquerading as the "British Centre for Science Education". Now you know them a little better. Now you're a little better equipped to respond when you see them in newspapers or lobbying MPs. Now you know where they're coming from.

This is all a long way removed from serious discussion about why the universe exists, and whether human beings are special or unique. I find it a shame that I have to write about such nutty things, instead of talking about more important issues. In the last few days I've seen that some of the best popular-level books against evolution and for special creation have been made freely available on the Internet. Now, thse are serious questions, and they demand to be taken seriously. If you'd rather look at these crucial issues in a serious way, rather than pottering around with polemical blogs such as mine or websites of political activists such as the BCSE, then I'd direct you there. Here's the link. Scroll down the page to get a description of each book:

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

All links as at 14th November 2006.

[1] BlackShadow Yahoo Group message 2182 (now removed from the Internet by the BCSE - available by request from me for verification). The first image above was also removed after attracting ridicule from other parts of the Internet -see The second can still be seen at

Friday, November 10, 2006

Fact Check II

Truth matters to me. If there are errors on this blog, then I want them corrected.

As such, I regularly remind readers that the e-mail address bcse-blog at dw-perspective dot org dot uk is available for people to point out errors in my documented facts. Today I have received some correspondence along these lines, and so, in keeping with my promise, am writing this post to address it.

The e-mail came from Michael Roberts, who was mentioned in connection with a recent program on Premier Radio. Concerning Michael, I said:

Both Hearty and Roberts were members of the British Centre for Science Education. But I don't want to make anything of that. There's nothing wrong with being involved in more than one organisation. And actually I haven't yet listened to the part of the show where Roberts calls in, so I don't know what he says! Maybe in the interests of transparency he does actually disclose that all three of them have been working in the same group.
Michael wrote in to protest about one thing - that I had called him a "member" of the BCSE. Michael says that he is not.

Now, I believed I had pretty good grounds for describing Michael that way. For starters, the BCSE's public website claims him as a member[1]:

Furthermore, Michael is the author of parts of the BCSE's website, such as the article "What is Creationism?"[2]:

Michael also posts regularly in the BCSE's web forum - right up to today[3]. (Regular readers of "BCSE Revealed " will remember that at launch time, the BCSE's policy was that everybody who posted in its forum was one of its members).

Now, it looks pretty clear to me that Michael has been lending support to the BCSE. Whether it's right to describe him as a member (as the BCSE itself does) seems something of a side-issue to me. If it waddles, swims and quacks, then it's something at least very like a duck. And if you read the paragraph I wrote carefully, you'll see that it doesn't actually claim that Michael is a member - it uses the word "were" - past tense. Now if these are the biggest errors I'm making, I think I'm doing pretty well.

Making It Clear

Nevertheless, whatever Michael was, the point is clear. He wishes it to be known that he does not endorse the British Centre for Science Education and refutes the idea that he is a member. I am very happy to point this out.

To make this extra clear to me, Michael forwarded me on another e-mail he'd sent to someone else recently. Again, I am happy to allow Michael to speak for himself and distance himself from the BCSE. Here are a few select quotes:
I am fed and bored with the strident tones of BCSE.

... many posters prattle on about Dawkins' nonsense about religion being a virus and faith contrary to reason (and moderators delete my posts if I challenge them) and adopt this view with no understanding and less tolerance.


I expect BCSE (BSE?) to be fatal and soon disappear.

Many of their articles are both shoddy and strident.


I was fed up with atheistic bigotry.
Now, I think we all hear the fellow loud and clear, don't we? It's the same story we had from former member Marc Draco when he e-mailed in. Like Marc, wants to make clear that the BCSE are a pretending to be something they're not, and are motivated by a commitment to atheism - not science. Like Marc, Michael has had his eyes opened to what was happening - and wanted out before his time was wasted or his reputation was dragged down. I look forward to seeing whether or not Michael will urge the BCSE to hurry up in pulling his article and name from various places on their website.

One final thing. There is one fact that I had forgotten as I wrote the original paragraph that kicked this all off. There is in fact no way that Michael could have collaborated with Peter Hearty within the BCSE over their appearance on the Premier Radio program. (Which as I say, isn't something I really have a big problem with anyway). That's because Peter Hearty left the BCSE before Michael appeared. In actual fact, Hearty's departure is mentioned by Ian Lowe just before one of the quotes that we have had cause to use more than once. As we finish this post, here it is. Notice the verdict passed on the BCSE's efficiency by Hearty - and notice, of course, again, Ian spelling out loud and clear what the BCSE is really about (emphasis mine)[4]:
Peter Hearty has walked away from secular_newsline and this group, and has made perfectly clear that the pointless side debates are the key reason.

So, why are you continuing to pound the pulpit on this issue? We get the damn point mate. Don't say anything which might offend the overly sensitive believers.

Have you lost sight of the fact that the actual enemy here is the fundmanetalists [sic], and not in fact the big mouthed atheists?
The longer this goes on, the clearer it's becoming as to what kind of group the BCSE are. That's what this blog is here for.

Update: 21:33
I have become aware of a link on the BCSE's website where someone purporting to be Michael Roberts claims that I edited my original article ("An Interesting Debate") to say "were" instead of "are" (in the context of being a member). He says that I "said we ARE both members of BCSE and today alters it to say we WERE, without acknowledging the change". In other words, I'm being deceptive.

Now, I do not know if this is actually Roberts, or an impersonator. I'm inclined to think its an impersonator, as I would expect Roberts to e-mail me directly as he has before. However, it does not matter. Anybody can download my feed from Blogger by following this link: Scroll down to the link for my original story (titled "An Interesting Debate"). You'll find that Blogger tells you that the last edit on that story was "2006-11-07 21:43" - i.e. the same hour that I posted the story. (I forget what the edit was for, but in any case, it is 3 days before Roberts first contacted me with his complaint). The allegation, whether from Roberts or "pseudo-Roberts", is clearly false. If you can't get it from the RSS feed, then you can instead go along to Google, which currently has a cache of the page from the 9th of November - with the word "were" there quite clearly.

Update: 21:49
I e-mailed Michael Roberts, who has a) acknowledged that the post was him b) acknowledged that he was mistaken and apologised to me and c) deleted his post from the BCSE's forum. Wow. Just wow. I do not understand Michael Roberts way of thinking in all of this too well.

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

Links as at 10th November 2006.

[4] BlackShadow Yahoo Group post 2093 - now removed from the Internet by the BCSE, but available from me if you'd like to verify.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The BCSE, Educational Incompetence, and the Nazis! (Part 2)

This is part 2 of our look at the BCSE's internal discussions of home-education. Part one is here. If this is your first time here, then you probably want to skip over these articles and see some of the more basic material about the BCSE.

Setting the Context

Let's remember the slogan at the bottom of the BCSE's web site:

BCSE believes in the tools for everyone to think for themselves - Science, Education and Reason - and the outcome – Democracy, Pluralism, Freedom and Righteousness.
What we've seen so far is that this is more a slogan that a reality. In fact, the BCSE had a serious internal discussion about what they could do to get the state to prevent parents passing on criticisms of Darwinism to their own children. But I'll assume that you've read all of that.

Where we left off last time, we had seen that Michael Brass had given his fellow BCSE members a completely wrong account of how UK laws deal with home-schooling. Nobody else in this group of purported educational authorities jumped in to point this out. Instead, they begin to build upon it.

What Happened Next

From this point on, the BCSE members assumed that they had a sound understanding, and began to move forward. Roger Stanyard then proposed the four fundamental areas that should be the focus for the BCSE. Here are numbers 3 and 4[8]:
3. The regulation of schools and home schooling.

4. And the related issue of inspection and monitoring of education.
There are no significant turns in discussion after that - it is mostly the BCSE's core chiming in to voice their agreement. Parents talking to their own children is dangerous - and must be monitored! There must be regulations. Creationism and intelligent design are ideas that need to be censored - whether in schools, around the breakfast table, or wherever.

So there it is. The BCSE don't make their charter public on their website - but one of their four main priorities is to have more regulation of what parents teach their own children. That's not very liberal is it? It appears that the BCSE's commitment to "plurality" doesn't extend as far as disagreements about Darwinism. They're all for tolerance - but only of people like themselves!

The State And Parents

Well, let's move on. In another discussion a couple of months later, the topic of parents and the state arises again. And again we find Michael Brass contributing - to again express some extreme statist views. Brass appears to have no children of his own, but those of us who do can only feel a chill coming down our spines when we read words like these[9]:
Schools are not an extension of a family but a public resource and facility. This is actually where a lot of problems come in because some parents believe they know better than educators on how their children should be educated.
Yes, you did read that correctly. Schools aren't there to help parents with their responsibility to raise and train their own children. Schools are there because parents are incompetent, and the state knows better than they do. Parents have this rather naive and ignorant belief that they know their own children best - but thankfully the good old state is there with its schools to raise those children as they ought to be raised.

Now, I'd like to think that Michael is only speaking about his own family experience. But frankly I don't think he is. He really means it. In Michael's mind, "pluralism" and "freedom" are only good up until parents start discussing ideas from science or religion that he doesn't approve of. At that point, he'd like the state's inspectors to be knocking round, to tell the parents to stop it.

The Sobering Ice Bucket Of Reality...

Michael doesn't seem to show any awareness of the complete absurdity and hopeless mess of contradictions in his position. Here are a few obvious points:
  • Does the state really always know better than its individual parents? So, the state. Would that include... the Taleban in Afghanistan? Nazi Germany? Communist China? Stalin's Russia? Would Michael be happy to have any of his children raised by the state in today's Iran, North Korea, or Afghanistan - because they know better than he does as a parent? Does he believe what he's saying?

  • Different states, very obviously, have enforced mutually contradictory ideas. Medieval Spain enforced Roman Catholicism and so everybody's child was raised a Catholic; Communist Albania enforced atheism and so everybody's child was raised an atheist. Did the state know better than parents in both cases? If not, just when does it actually know best?

  • In actual fact, of course, our present state, in its settlement (national church, bishops in the Lords, etc.), asserts the superiority of Christianity. But as we've seen, the BCSE's core activists very definitely do not believe that the state knows better than them about this...

  • If the state is always automatically right... then why is the BCSE bothering to lobby it anyway? If the state does know better than parents about raising children... then surely it knows better than an ad-hoc group of unqualified Internet activists?

  • What if the state says that the parents know best? Catch 22! And as a matter of fact, the present law in the UK quite rightly places the responsibility for education very firmly upon parents and gives them great individual freedom for it. So if Michael thinks the state knows best, then he's going to have to accept that the state today gives very wide freedom for home education. In other words, the logical conclusion of Michael's belief that the state knows best - is that Michael is wrong.

  • If Michael thinks that the state knows best, then logically the BCSE ought to stop campaigning. Because the fact is, that the present law is that schools can teach whatever they like. There is a National Curriculum which forms a minimum common core for state schools; but once that common core is taught, schools can supplement it with whatever they like. And that includes creationism, intelligent design, and anything else that the governors and teachers deem best. However this cuts away the basis for the BCSE's whole lobbying campaign - the aim of which is to prohibit any teaching of alternatives to Darwinism. If Michael really believes that the state knows better than himself as a private individual, then he ought to stop campaigning against it!

  • And finally, the ultimate conundrum for Michael. What if the state actually required the discussion of creationism. Will Michael still hold to his belief that the state knows best?
Well, we think we know what Michael really means.

What he means is - "The state knows best - as long as it prohibits criticisms of Darwinism! Otherwise, the state is completely foolish and stupid!" If the state does allow criticims of Darwinism, then it is completely wrong and needs the BCSE's educational expertise to re-inform it. After all, that's the official reason why the BCSE exists.

Meanwhile, back in the real world...

I am glad that the BCSE's activists' ideas have very little correspondence with the actual rules governing home education. Whilst the BCSE is labouring under the impression that what is said at home is subject to inspections to enforce a curriculum and prevent the discussion of illegal ideas, nothing could be further from the truth. The National Curriculum applies to state schools only - not even to private ones, let alone home ones. Parents are legally free to educate their children any way they please, as long as it equips the children to live as competent citizens in our society. And that doesn't require an uncritical indoctrination in Darwinism. Phew!

Winding Up

The BCSE look worryingly ignorant in the areas meant to be their core specialities, don't you think? How come I know more about this stuff than they do? After all, I'm just a private individual, tapping away at my keyboard at home. I'm not a public educator. I'm not writing to MPs in the guise of a "Centre for Science Education". I'm not representing myself to the public as an expert.

Let's now wind this thing up and ask some questions:
  • What does the fact that the BCSE didn't know any of that tell you about their educational expertise? What does it tell you about their competence to lobby parliament? Are they credible?

  • Do the BCSE's views on the policing of what is said by parents to children in their own homes strike you as just a little, well, oppressive? Does it endear them to you as the kind of people you'd like to influence your children's education?

  • Does it seem as if the BCSE have even begun to think through the implications of their view for democracy and freedom? Do you think that their protestations about loving these values are really heart-felt and intelligent - or just empty sloganeering? Are their actual ideas in fact some of the most oppressive and anti-freedom ideas you've heard for a long time?
It seems to me that the BCSE have only just begun to think through some of the very basics about education. They're still at the stage of making some real schoolboy howlers.

Or in other words - you just can't take them seriously.

Epilogue: Some Moral Support For The BCSE

(You'll have to have read the first paragraph of part one to get this...)

Well, the BCSE aren't totally alone. There have been others in history who have felt that home-schooling was dangerous. Others down the years have been concerned about its potential to breed citizens who might critically question the official dogma - whether that be Darwinism or something else.

There is one country in Europe which still has on its statute books a law banning home-schooling. Only one though. It's had that law since 1938. The country's leader passed it himself.

You do know who that was, don't you?

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

The BCSE have taken the BlackShadow Yahoo group off-line so that it can no longer be publically viewed - but anyone wishing to determine the accuracy of my quotations can ask me for a copy.

[8] BlackShadow Yahoo group message 2066