Anybody Here Speak English?
(This article was first published on my blog in December 2006, and details the depths to which the BCSE stoop in misrepresenting their source materials in their research and their opponents, in order to further their own agenda).
In a previous investigation (one, two), I looked at some of the BCSE's "Research". My aim is not to debunk every article on the BCSE website - but to show the BCSE's general practice of mangling the truth beyond all recognition. In that investigation, we saw how the BCSE took and misunderstood one claim from a secondary source, and blew it up to make generalisations about the whole creationist movement - claims which just a moment's research or basic knowledge would have shown to be completely false. That the BCSE had not done that basic research and did not possess that knowledge, is rather telling.
Today, I want to show you more of the extremes that the BCSE go to in manging the truth in order to make their case. Again, I want to make the case that the BCSE's handling of facts is utterly unreliable. I will show you more of their practice in twisting, distorting and misrepresentation. I hope that you will agree with me that the BCSE are thoroughly unreliable.
Where Are The Solid Arguments?
As you surely know, I'm not a Darwinist. Therefore, I don't agree with the BCSE's campaigning position that Darwinism is proven scientific truth. I agree with British commentator Malcolm Muggeridge: "I myself am convinced that the theory of evolution, especially the extent to which it's been applied, will be one of the great jokes in the history books in the future. Posterity will marvel that so very flimsy and dubious an hypothesis could be accepted with the incredible credulity that it has." (Malcolm Muggeridge, The End of Christendom, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980, p. 59).
I am, however, heartened by the inability of the BCSE to string together a decent argument against either intelligent design or creationism or their proponents - without resorting to caricature, distortion and naked ad-hominem. This inability, to my mind, shows up just how weak the BCSE's case really is.
The aim of the following paragraphs is to show you another prominent example from the BCSE's web site of its penchant for distortion. As you go along, I want you to ask the question that I've been asking - "Why do they do that? If they have good arguments, then why not bring them out instead of this kind of thing?"
This investigation starts off with a quotation reproduced on the BCSE's site, and referred to 13 times. It apparently comes from Stuart Burgess, Professor of Engineering at Bristol University, speaking at some point in or before March 2004. In this quote, Professor Burgess is apparently explaining to some of his Christian friends what he hopes the as-yet-unlaunched (for more than another 2 years) Truth in Science organisation will help to accomplish:
"Non-believers must be challenged in such a way that they can no longer hide behind the delusion that science has disproved the existence of God. TIS seeks to encourage scientists to present the truth fairly and to expose as charlatans those who deliberately mislead."
Now, let us assume that this quote is genuine. Notice what Burgess says he is concerned about, in the first sentence: people hiding behind the " delusion" that God has somehow been disproved by science. (It is hard to read this statement today without being reminded of Richard Dawkins and his new book - which argues precisely this).
Burgess hopes that such a "challenge" will "encourage scientists" to not distort the truth, but to present it fairly. That seems like a fair aim to me. Nevertheless, Burgess doesn't appear to believe that this aim will meet with universal success - there will be some who "deliberately mislead" . In context, Burgess means those who argue, as Dawkins, that the non-existence of God is provable from science. In a recent Time Magazine interview, Dawkins wrote: "The question of whether there exists a supernatural creator, a God, is one of the most important that we have to answer. I think that it is a scientific question. My answer is no." (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1555132-1,00.html) Those who "deliberately" argue in this way, according to Burgess, are "charlatans" who need to be "exposed" .
Now, frankly I agree with Burgess. And reviewers of Dawkins' book seem to agree - many of Dawkins' favourite arguments against God are not scientific, but philosophical. Not only that, but the kind of philosophical arguments that a beginner in the subject would be embarrassed to allege were unanswerable. "Who designed the designer?" "If there is a God, why is there so much evil in the world / evil done in God's name?" and so on (For a Christian answer to some of these questions, see here). Real science, on the other hand, gives plenty of data which would lead us to believe that there is a super-intelligence behind the universe: data such as the existence of a physical universe in the first place, or the incredibly complex coding to be found in the genetic material of even the "simplest" organisms, or the existence of intelligent life, or the existence of self-consciousness and so-on: all real, detectable phenomena than defy materialistic explanations for their origins.
But the point is not whether or not I agree with Burgess. The point is to note what Burgess actually says. Note this carefully:
What Do The BCSE Make Of That?
I have collected 13 sentences from the BCSE website which refer to this quotation. Let us see how they use it. It will give us another data-point to see how fairly and accurately the BCSE interpret their sources.
The first 7 usages are from this page: http://www.bcseweb.org.uk/index.php/Main/TruthInScience
1. "Truth in Science is on record as saying that its objectives are to confront people who don�t agree with its religious opinions and expose them as charlatans".
There are two very obvious inaccuracies with this first use of the quotation:
That's a pretty severe mangling by any standard. Not a good start - what Burgess actually said is unrecognisable after here after passing through the BCSE editor's hands.
2. "The original article on Truth in Science ... clearly stated that the aims of the organisation were religious and to expose those that disagreed with it as charlatans. That means people who teach science..."
We might not have thought it possible, but this usage is even worse - being precisely opposite to what the quote actually says.
Whereas Burgess expresses the desire to confront those who deliberately misuse science to promote atheism, the BCSE manage to contort it into a statement against those who properly teach science. The BCSE take Burgess to be aiming at anyone who disagrees with Truth in Science - whereas Burgess explicitly limited his statement to those who deceive deliberately. Quite a difference, I think.
There are, though, another two problems with making this quote apply to "Truth in Science" instead of just Burgess:
As such, it is not obvious to me that it is legitimate to generalise from Burgess' early thoughts to an official pronouncement, as the BCSE do.
3. "... there is nothing fair and balanced about Truth in Science. It has demonstrated in public that it is highly confrontational and believes that scientists and teachers who disagree with it are charlatans."
Here, Burgess' remarks amongst those sympathetic to him have become a public confrontation with those opposed (unless this sentence is referring to something else). And whereas only spoke of exposing scientists, the BCSE now bring in teachers too. And once again, the BCSE remove all limits off the original statement - whichever scientist or teacher disagrees and for whatever reason and whatever motive is now said to be a charlatan. That's a pretty drastic mangling of the quote.
4. "... this organisation is aiming for students at Liverpool, Bristol, Leeds and Manchester Metropolitan University to accept that the academics teaching them are 'charlatans'. Yes, that�s the very word they are using."
Either the BCSE have again grossly mis-quoted Burgess, or they are alleging that the academics at the named universities are deliberately indoctrinating their students in atheism on the grounds of bogus science. I think it's more likely that it's the former!
5. "But you will still be paying part of their salaries. Really democratic, isn't it? They take your money, deceive you and the government in lobbying, call you a charlatan if you disagree with them and, all the time, they are attempting to hijack the education system."
This statement is rather bizarre. The author appears to be under the impression that Truth in Science is publicly funded. Either that, or it is implying that anyone who is publicly funded is not allowed to dispute Darwinism in his own time. Either way, the author seems to have some very peculiar ideas.
The point, though, is that again in this reference to "charlatans", all limits have been taken off the quote, and it is made to apply to anyone who disagrees. For emotive value (presumably), the BCSE makes it apply to you. Are you offended now? Aren't those Truth in Science people real bad eggs? See - they've called you a charlatan! Apparently.
This isn't a good record so far - 5 references, and all 5 are complete distortions. Will we come across a single fair use?
Talk about deceiving the government is of course particularly rich for the BCSE, bearing in mind its own documented record of telling known falsehoods to MPs about Truth in Science.
6. "McIntosh, Burgess, and Linkens ... continue to draw salaries from universities full of charlatans, including the students they teach."
Here, it's not only the university lecturers who are charlatans - but the students too! This is a further widening in the usage of the quote. By this point in the article, the quote has morphed beyond all recognition. We note too the BCSE's implicit sugestion that academics not towing the Darwinist line ought to be sacked. Wow! Is this what they mean on the front page of their website when they say, "BCSE believes in ... Pluralism, Freedom and Righteousness."?
7. "those that don�t agree with Layfield and his pals are "charlatans". The authors of biology textbooks used in schools are charlatans because they don�t accept Layfield�s religious opinions."
This quote refers to Stephen Layfield, a former director of Truth in Science. As such, we imagine that it is a case of the BCSE failing to keep its website up to date. (Leaving aside the issue if whether Professor Burgess' quotes a year before Truth in Science legally existed can be put into the mouth of anyone associated with them).
But notice who is now taken into the quote - "authors of biology textbooks". Why, we ask? Are biology textbooks now arguing that atheism has been proved by science? If they are, then certainly those authors are charlatans... but that's not the case. The case is that it's another gross misrepresentation of Burgess' quote by the BCSE.
Note again what it is that qualifies one as a charlatan in this instance - not accepting "Layfield's religious opinions". Not "promoting atheism whilst using alleged science as a trojan horse" as in the original quote - but Mr. Layfield's "religious opinions". Are there any usages which the BCSE couldn't find for this quote?
The next five references to the quote come on this page: http://www.bcseweb.org.uk/index.php/Main/AndyMcIntosh
8. "may we remind the reader that anybody who believes in evolution (and the old age of the earth) is, according to McIntosh, a charlatan ."
As far as I can see, there is no material on the Truth in Science site relating to the age of the earth. As such, this is another invention by the BCSE.
But note again: it's "anyone who believes in evolution" who's roped in this time. Not just people promoting atheism by abusing science - it is anyone at all who believes in evolution, whether Christian, Muslim, theist or atheist.
Quite clearly, again, the BCSE have just made this up. The words which they this time attribute to McIntosh bear no resemblance to the ones that Burgess actually spoke. Why, if there is real evidence to discredit Truth in Science, do the BCSE have to invent bogus quotes out of thin air?
9. "Perhaps he is unaware of Professor Kenneth Miller (another charlatan, according to the arrogance of Truth in Science). Miller is a practising Catholic and a world-class authority on biology."
This reference is especially perverse. Here, the BCSE make it apply to a Catholic - who by no stretch of the imagination could be represented as a campaigning atheist.
10. "those that McIntosh disagrees with are "charlatans" and are to be "exposed" as such such. These are respected, decent and highly qualified academics and, indeed, decent members of the public that are to be exposed as charlatans � including academic staff and students."
This reference is so far twisted that it says the very opposite of what Burgess actually said. Whereas Burgess actually said that those who deliberately mislead ought to be exposed, the BCSE here make it say that "respected, decent" academics and "decent" members of the public are the targets. Unless being "respected and decent" and "deliberately misleading" are the same thing, it's plain that the BCSE are indulging in a bit of deliberately misleading of their own here.
11. "He is also involved with Truth in Science, stating publicly that those who disagree with young earth creationism are charlatans and display a dogmatic approach to science."
More of the same... comment is needless.
12. "Truth in Science ... is on record as saying that those who disagree with its creationist pseudo-science are 'charlatans' and must be "confronted". "
Mmmm, no. I don't think those are his exact words, are they?
Finally, one from http://www.bcseweb.org.uk/index.php/Main/ManIsntDescendedFromApes:
13. "But what Truth in Science ... have openly stated, and subsequently tried to hide the fact, that they believe anyone who disagrees with them is a charlatan and must be confronted."
Now, instead of being a private word to sympathetic friends over a year before Truth in Science existed, Burgess' words have become an open statement (subsequently hidden - the dastardly plotting knaves that they are!).
And now, it's not just scientists, not just teachers, not just students even - it is again "anyone who disagrees with them". The quote has become a monster. In the beginning, it was just those who deliberately abuse science in order to push atheistic propaganda - now, it's anyone at all who disagrees!
Is there any possible advance on this distortion? This seems to be the end of the line! And in fact, it is - there are no more references to the quote on the BCSE website.
What have we seen?
Once again, I invite my readers to view anything coming from the BCSE with extreme skepticism. Unless you can trace it back yourself to the primary sources - and in some cases, even if you can - the likelihood is that it's had the standard BCSE treatment. Distortion of accuracy beyond all recognition is a BCSE speciality.
There is one further usage of the quote from Roger Stanyard on the BCSE forum (http://community.bcseweb.org.uk/viewtopic.php?t=205).
"Still, what do you expect from Truth in Science who's [sic] avowed ambitions are to confront and expose people it disagrees with as charlatans.... That includes members of BCSE."
Stanyard is again abusing the quote, applying to "people it disagrees with" instead of "people who deliberately mislead for religious reasons" - just as on the website.
But, if we do take the original quote in its proper context, then maybe we are on to something. Stanyard here makes the quote apply to the BCSE. The quote itself is meant to be applied to atheist activists who deliberately mislead.
Are they charlatans? If the cap fits...