Inflating Your Credentials - Part 3
(Originally published May 2007)
In parts one and two of this series, we looked at some of the BCSE's attempts to investigate whether those it opposes are inflating their credentials - and how silly and nasty these attempts end up making the BCSE looking. If the same kind of criteria were applied to the BCSE... a national centre for science education, with no science educators, run by an atheist with no experience in the field at all? You get the picture! I haven't yet tired of reminding my readers of the occasion when Roger Stanyard, with no qualifications in the subject since leaving school, accused a member of the Institute of Physics on live radio of being ignorant of the subject...
In part two, I started looking at Mr. Michael Brass, the BCSE's "chairman". This is more of a nominal role as we have seen; Roger Stanyard was and is the BCSE's de facto leader in all departments. My guess before the BCSE announced its official leadership was that Brass would be appointed to one of the more official public roles, because he, unlike Stanyard, actually has a Masters degree in a marginally more relevant subject (archaeology)!
We've seen so far that our previous dealings with Mr. Brass have shown a consistent pattern: Brass has a problem with over-reaching himself. But we've only seen a small fraction of it so far...
Mr. Michael Brass: The BCSE's Description
On the BCSE's front page (http://www.bcseweb.org.uk), the BCSE lists its committee members as follows:
Now, we'll leave aside some of the misleading statements here and there. ("Academic background" - that sounds like a research or a university teaching post, doesn't it? Ah...). Focus on the descriptions. Software engineer.... management consultant... retired... enterpreneur... archaelogist.
What is the impression that the BCSE want to give you about Michael Brass? I'd say, that he is, by vocation, an archaelogist. Wouldn't you agree? Brass's full statement is as follows. Read it carefully. What else about Brass's work does it mention?
Michael Brass is a published archaeologist, holding archaeology and history degrees from the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and an archaeology Masters degree from University College London. He has a web site at http://www.antiquityofman.com, lives in Cambridge and is a Christian who has written a book entitled "The Antiquity of Man: Artifactual , Fossil and Gene Records Explored".
An archaelogist who lives in Cambridge. Why do you think they mentioned Cambridge? It all sounds rather prestigious, doesn't it? Do you think he's one of the university's own archaeologists? Perhaps he has a teaching post there?
BCSE Revealed ... Reveals
So - what's the reality? What is Brass's actual job?
Michael Brass is an assistant IT worker at a finance firm, Amadeus Capital Partners (http://www.amadeuscapital.com/), in Cambridge, and pursues his interest in archaeology in his spare time. He got an honourable mention on his boss's website, here:
"Recruited an assistant - Michael Brass, and gradually he picked up the more routine, and then the rather less routine work as the year wore through." - http://web.ukonline.co.uk/richard/cv05.html
The clinching proof came when I began getting e-mails from Brass after launching my blog "BCSE Revealed". They came from within the network of Amadeus in Cambridge. "BCSE Revealed" has had many visits from Internet addresses belonging to Amadeus - that is, from Brass, at his place of work.
Now, there's no doubt in my mind from my research that Brass has done a lot of work and gained plenty of knowledge in the field of archaeology. His deep interest is clear to see. But to be described without qualification by the BCSE as "an archaeologist" alongside other peoples' vocations, is a bit me telling you I'm an athlete...
Brass is around 30 years old, and is about to start work part-time on a doctorate (which I think will be in London, but I have mislaid the evidence for this). There is one place on the BCSE forum where he lets out that archaelogy is his part-time interest rather than his employment:
Summing It Up
That's a rather different picture to the grand-sounding claims on the BCSE's front page, isn't it? I'll leave you to decide whether it qualifies as a down-right lie, or just deliberately misleading. But it's certainly not the truth, the whole truth and nothing but.
But just how did this mistake come about? Maybe someone within the BCSE was writing up the bios, and forgot to run Mr. Brass's past him? Maybe that someone actually thought that Brass is an archaeologist with a teaching post at one of the universities?
Nope. My aim in "BCSE Revealed" is to publish verifiable facts, so that people can compare and contrast with the unverifiable innuendo over at the BCSE's website. So, I ran a number of things past Brass himself to make sure of my facts. Here's what I said, and here's his reply:
Me: I believe that this description is somewhat misleading
Brass: Er, I wrote it... It is completely and utterly factual ... why would you assume that an organisation's chairman would be so blatantly incompetent as to either not write or verify his/her own short bio on said organisation's website?
So it's not a mistake - Brass actually wrote the description himself. This ties in with what we'd seen before - a consistent pattern of over-reaching. If Brass had equivalent credentials to those he is opposing through the BCSE have, he wouldn't need to do this.
Of course, the very reason I was e-mailing Brass was to avoid assuming anything - to get the full picture. I replied to Mr. Brass as follows to clarify what I was getting at and get his comments:
"anyone comparing the description of the other 6 committee members, which lists their present job, with yours, and the average reader will assume that "archaeologist" is describing your professional vocation. The lack of mention of any other job, compared with the other six, is clearly misleading. If Roger Stanyard caught a non-Darwinist doing this, we know what he'd say..."
In reply, Brass continued to justify the description of himself as completely accurate, and continued to neglect to say anything about Amadeus Capital or his work in IT. I replied:
''Michael, your organisation represents itself in public to MPs, newspapers and the BBC as being an authority on science education. You are the chairman. Moreover, your organisation makes public strident criticisms of those whom it considers as being insufficiently qualified to speak on various topics. The front page of that website describes you in terms which would lead people to think that you are a full time archaeologist - which you're not, are you? As such, I think that your record is very much a matter of valid public interest.
Brass at this point announced that he didn't want to discuss the matter, that he knew what my real agenda was, that I was smearing him, and that it was all none of my business. My response:
My agenda is hardly a secret. My agenda, as it says repeatedly on my blog, is to document the fact that in representing itself to the public, MPs, etc., as a qualified voice on the subject of science education, the BCSE is committing a gross act of fraud. ... That's why I e-mailed you.
I have no desire to be competent at either smearing or insinuation. I've asked you some straight questions, so that I can get some facts.
Brass made no reply. Apparently, he only wanted to tell me I was smearing him, but didn't want to tell me where. Again, I saw with his e-mails the consistent pattern of the BCSE: they've got plenty of time to churn out derogatory responses to what you say to them, but no time to actually answer any of the pertinent questions. Brass accuses me of "smearing" him, of having an agenda, of being a pseudo-scientist etc., but completely overlooks the main point: that he and the BCSE have some serious questions about their openness, trustworthiness and credibility. They lobby MPs and tell the public that they are a national centre of science educators - but on completely vacuous grounds. I've published nothing except what you can verify - the facts. Why is Brass so worried about this? He's been in the BCSE long enough to know what a "smear" is - it's when you drop innuendo and ask people to believe it without good reason. But I'm doing the very opposite - which is why the BCSE dislike me so much.
Is That It?
Actually, the above material is just the tip of the iceberg as far as the BCSE's misrepresentation of its chairman's credentials go. The remainder is far more damning than this. I e-mailed Brass in February on this topic, to see if he was standing by it. Since that time, the description on the BCSE website has remained completely unchanged.
Update 27th June: Mr. Brass contacted me on the 24th of June to state that Richard Parker was "erroneous" in describing him as an assistant; Brass says " I'm currently the System Administrator" and that Parker had since left the company. There seemed to be some equivocation in Brass's words; he didn't deny that he was'' Parker's assistant. What difference does this all make, though? Whether Brass is an IT worker or assistant IT worker, he's some species of IT worker!
This is the first time, some months after I first began questioning Brass, that he has actually confirmed that he is an IT worker. Brass also wished to take objection to my sentence that e-mails "came from within the network of Amadeus in Cambridge", saying that it gave the impression that he had e-mailed me using his work address; no such impression was intended or I believe given.''