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Naturalism’s tightening grip on education and science

September 2014 | by David Tyler

Within the UK, we have a large number of vocal and influential people who want to exclude all expressions of biblical Christianity from education, whether state-funded or independent.

Their first target is to banish the concept of creation and replace it with the exclusive teaching of evolutionary theory. These crusaders present themselves as speaking for Enlightenment science and make much of the supposed consensus within the scientific community about these issues.

Direction

Their latest success has come with the Department for Education (DfE) requiring church schools converting to academies to adhere strictly to the evolutionary account of origins when teaching science.

     The new development has been warmly welcomed by the British Humanist Association’s Head of Public Affairs Pavan Dhaliwal: ‘Coupled with the fact that maintained schools must follow the national curriculum, which from September will include a module on evolution at the primary level — the other thing we called for — we believe that this means that the objectives of the campaign are largely met. We congratulate the government on its robust stance on this issue’.

     In one sense, the policy has not changed, but merely spelled out again. This is how a spokesperson for the DfE put it: ‘It is already the case that all state schools, including academies, are prohibited from teaching creationism as scientific fact.

     ‘That has not changed. The funding agreements for academies and free schools have been restructured into one document and drafted in plain English, as part of an ongoing process of simplification’.

Redefinition

However, we should note that there have been some significant changes from the earlier documents. Science has been redefined, as has creationism. The wording is overtly an expression of naturalistic philosophy: the principle that nature is all there is.

     In 2007, some guidelines were produced that had a definition of science acceptable to both creationists and evolutionists. It read: ‘Science: the systematic study of the origins, structure and behaviour of the physical/natural world through observation, theorising and experiment’.

     At that time, creationism was defined in terms of some distinguishing ‘beliefs’. Whilst these definitions were dominant for at least five years, the new funding agreement presumes that the science of origins has to be naturalistic if it is to be considered science at all.

     The new emphasis is apparent in the way creationism is defined. The DfE regards creationism as ‘any doctrine or theory which holds that natural biological processes cannot account for the history, diversity and complexity of life on earth and therefore rejects the scientific theory of evolution’.

     ‘Natural biological processes’ are said to be sufficient to ‘account for the history, diversity and complexity of life on earth’. The DfE goes on to assert that there can be no ‘evidence based theory’ that can challenge this principle. The sufficiency of natural processes is first presumed, and then imposed, on educational programmes.

     Now we know that it is not difficult to find acknowledgements in the research literature that we do not have an explanation of the origins of life via natural processes, nor the origins of the first eukaryotic cell, nor multi-cellular organisms, etc. However, this does not matter to advocates of materialism, because naturalistic science is committed to the principle that answers will be found via natural processes.

     Not only are they blind to the gaps in their own theories, they are slow to appreciate the importance of biological information (which is crucial to any scientific study of life). So a philosophical assumption (regarding natural processes) is being confused with the essence of science.

Assertion

This leads to a second concern: that evidence-based reasoning is sacrificed before the altar of naturalistic philosophy. They insist that there can be no evidence to challenge their principle that ‘natural biological processes are sufficient’.

     This is how they can exclude Intelligent Design (ID) from the classroom: empirical arguments for ID (such as from Precambrian complexity, irreducible complexity, specified complexity and evidences of an ‘edge’ for evolution) are not allowed by Her Majesty’s Government as evidence for ‘a valid alternative to established scientific theory’.

     In fact, if naturalism is presumed, it is impossible for anyone to falsify this approach, because (by definition) there can be no evidence against naturalism. When creationists appeal to evidence to support their arguments, they are always dismissed as advocates of pseudoscience.

      Which brings us to a third concern about the DfE documents: the prominence given to consensus views.

     If there is one thing that the history of science should teach us, it is that giving great weight to consensus thinking is a disaster for science. Science thrives when there are no artificial barriers to freedom of speech and open enquiry.

     Whenever consensus arguments hit the media, the agenda is not science, but vested interests, politics, funding, prestige or control. Strong pressures are exerted to maintain the consensus — and we have seen secularists very active over the years, getting science organisations to affirm a naturalistic definition of science.

     They conveniently forget that the explosive growth of science (known as the Scientific Revolution) was rooted in theistic science. The Enlightenment came later. Those of us who want to fly the flag again for theistic science are swimming against the tide. But what we do not want is to lose our voices completely, because of an imposition of ‘consensus’ thinking.

Dissolution

Darwinism has been described as a ‘universal acid’ which corrodes and consumes religion and all superstitious ideas. However, the universal acid is really the philosophy underpinning Darwinism — which is materialism.

     This universal acid is ultimately self-destructive. It destroys science by presuming naturalism and declaring what the world is like (rather than finding out about our world using the scientific method).

     It destroys science because of unacknowledged blind spots (where the evidence does not fit into the materialist world). It destroys science by appealing to consensus, closing down enquiry and discussion, and empowering the thought police.

     This is the worldview that is being imposed on our nation’s young people. This is a wake-up call for British Christians. If we care about these things, it will drive us to action.

     The church of Christ must seek her Lord for guidance when responding to these challenges. We can write to our MP or Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan. Parents can talk to teachers of their children.

     We can stimulate discussion in our churches, so that collective responses can be developed; and, most of all, we can pray that the Lord will lead us and that revealed truth will not be dishonoured and despised.

David J. Tyler PhD, MSc, FTI, MInstP, CPhys, CertEd

The author is a senior lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University