News – When science stops being science

ET staff writer
ET staff writer
01 November, 2008 2 min read

When science stops being science

The prejudice of leading scientists opposed to creationism has been laid bare in the departure of Professor Michael Reiss, Director of Education at the Royal Society, from his Society post (see ET article, p.21). This exit followed Reiss’ recent candid comments on creationism in the classroom.

Professor Reiss had merely suggested that creationism be discussed in science lessons when pupils raised it as an issue. He was immediately criticised by other scientists, who claimed that his comments damaged the Society’s reputation.

As a result, Professor Reiss agreed with the Royal Society that he should step down forthwith as Director of Education. The Society then reiterated that creationism had no part in the science curriculum.


Reacting to Reiss’ departure, Lord Robert Winston, professor at Imperial College London, said: ‘I fear that in this action the Royal Society may have only diminished itself. This is not a good day for the reputation of science or scientists’.

If the acknowledged intolerance is a portent for 2009 – the 150th year since publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species – the Royal Society may soon want to turn its disapproving attention to another of its members – the late Canadian entomologist William R. Thompson, FRS (1887-1972).

In a 16-page introduction to the 1967 Everyman’s Library edition of Darwin’s Origin of Species, Thompson exposed the vulnerabilities behind Darwin’s arguments.

He wrote: ‘Since [Darwin] had at the time the Origin was published no body of experimental evidence to support his theory, he fell back on speculative arguments … Personal convictions, simple possibilities, are presented as if they were proofs, or at least valid arguments in favour of the theory … The plausibility of the argument eliminates the need for proof and its very nature gives it a kind of immunity to disproof.

‘Darwin did not show in the Origin that species had originated by natural selection; he merely showed, on the basis of certain facts and assumptions, how this might have happened, and as he had convinced himself he was able to convince others’.


In the light of that kind of statement, little wonder that today a substantial minority of scientists and other educated people across the world are creationistic in their approach to origins. Others, while not convinced creationists, are agnostic about Darwinism and neo-Darwinism.

They perceive that 150 years of scientific endeavour by ardent evolutionists has done little to change the evidential picture. What was open to scientific doubt over speciation in Darwin’s day remains open to doubt now – on genetic, biochemical, taxonomic, paleontological, and many other grounds.

Our media and politicians also need to take note of Professor Reiss’ head-count. If he is right that one tenth of the nation’s schoolchildren are disinclined to believe in evolution, it is a national issue that will not go away merely by stifling debate about the scientific evidence.

As evangelical Christians, we are deeply unhappy that our own children and grandchildren – let alone everyone else’s children and grandchildren – are being indoctrinated with unproven speculations on origins, masquerading as ‘incontrovertible scientific facts’. And all this at the cost of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money.


We maintain that behind such misdirected scholarship lies a centuries-old intolerance described by one biblical word, namely ‘unbelief’.

Evolution – as now commonly held and taught – is as much a scientific will-of-the-wisp as was ‘phlogiston’ 300 years ago. And how many today spare even a thought for that particular figment of the scientific imagination?

Are there any more brave souls in the Royal Society and our other national academic institutions willing to speak up for scientific integrity at this time? You have our prayers and sympathy, for you will need them!

ET staff writer
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