More Alien Activity at the BCSE
(This report was first published on my blog in December 2006).
In a previous report, here, looking at the quality of the BCSE's research. You ought to read that report to get the context. To summarise:
Well, very quickly after I posted that article, the BCSE very hurriedly started cutting-and-pasting around its website. A new page was hurriedly put up entitled "UFOs", in order to provide some kind of whiff of plausibility for the BCSE to go on claiming that "even at the top there is a widespread belief in wackiness such as UFOs and flying saucers" (http://www.bcseweb.org.uk/index.php/Main/KeyIssues).
I responded to this development in a new footnote to my original article.
Where We're Going Today
I want to use this opportunity arising from the publication of this new page on the BCSE website to make some further observations on the BCSE's "research". This was inspired by the following comment in my mailbox:
What does strike me about BCSE, however, is that they demonstrate an incompetence when it comes to research. As good science depends so largely on the quality of research, their inability to gather accurate and complete information about creationist scientists does not give me much confidence in their ability as scientists. Could I trust their scientific investigations when they are clearly incapable of providing an informed and objective assessment?
Today I want to tease out the truth behind what my correspondent is saying. Good science depends upon accurate, fair and balanced evaluation of the data. When it comes to aliens and UFOs, how does the BCSE's use of the data in its attempts to discredit its non-Darwinian opponents match up? It has put up a new page to respond to me - what does this new page show? And what does this say about the BCSE in general? Let's take a look.
1. Taking All The Facts Into Account
Any decent scientist or researcher of any kind has to make sure that he uses all the facts at his fingertips. Selectivity reveals bias.
In our previous article, we collected a vast array of facts:
All of these facts pointed in the same direction - creationists argue that aliens don't exist, and that belief in them is due to people inferring them from the doctrine of evolution. (i.e. Life began by chance on earth, so therefore is likely to have done so somewhere else too in our vast universe).
How is it, then, that the only statements made on the BCSE website about the alien/UFO issue would lead you to believe precisely the opposite to the above? The above facts appear to have had no effect on the BCSE's reporting whatsoever. They are never mentioned on the BCSE's page which refers to UFOs - apart from to note that a single creationist who doesn't work for AiG doesn't believe in aliens.
2. Using The Best Sources (Primary Sources)
To build up an accurate picture, you have to not only use all the available sources, but make sure that you use the best ones. And if you want to get a reliable picture of what creationists generally believe, then obviously you ought to go to those creationists' themselves. If you want to allege, as the BCSE still do, that Answers in Genesis are "going round the UK telling all in [sic] sundry" that aliens are manning UFOs (http://www.bcseweb.org.uk/index.php/Main/TruthInScience), then Answers in Genesis would obviously be the primary source.
Do the BCSE carry any quotes from AiG's website, then? Any of their books? Magazines? DVDs? Leaflets? No, no, no, no and no again. The BCSE utterly fail to use any of the readily available primary sources - the primary sources which give a completely different picture from the BCSE's allegations.
What, then, do the BCSE claim as their source for their conclusions? That's our next point...
3. Use of Reliable Sources
It is not enough to have sources - for your conclusions to carry weight, they must be credible sources. The BCSE give two sources for their allegations:
Now, if you happen to believe that all anonymous Amazon reviewers can be relied upon, or that the written-up notes of the said campaigner are infallible, then the BCSE is indeed using good sources... but if you live in the real world, then you'll have to concede that those sources look some-what "cherry-picked" in order to support the BCSE's desired conclusions.
A source must of course also be assessed for its bias. For the BCSE cite the memory of a member of a fellow anti-creationist campaigning group as a reliable authority ought to make them blush. However, the BCSE merely introduce this fellow campaigning group as "Science Just Science". Like the BCSE, this group have chosen a name which wouldn't alert you to the fact that they are a one-issue campaigning group, and hence are hardly an impartial authority. Hiding the true identity and motives of your sources is another indicator of bias.
4. The Use of Verifiable Sources
For a source to carry weight, it must be subject to verification. Can anyone go and check that the thing said really is so? Or do you have to be specially privileged?
The BCSE's major source for its allegations comes from a single memory of an anti-creationist activist. He was writing up his notes of something that ex-AiG employee Philip Bell once said. On the basis of this one piece of evidence, the BCSE seek to present an entirely different picture of AiG's beliefs than would be gathered from, say, reading the AiG website.
Now, to any objective evaluator of the data, that's a major problem. In a court of law, hearsay evidence isn't admissible. "My friend once heard this fellow say that" isn't acceptable evidence under any normal scheme. But that's the BCSE's basis for its claims.
On the other hand, published websites, magazines, leaflets and DVDs can be checked by anyone. Yet the BCSE entirely overlooks these. Not very confidence-inspiring, is it?
5. Using Those Sources Properly
But wait a moment. Have those sources been used fairly and properly? A scientist who wants his conclusions to be taken seriously must be able to not only show verifiable sources for his data, but demonstrate that he is interpreting the data in an even-handed and fair manner. Do the conclusions drawn agree with the data?
The source who the BCSE rely on, in his report, also states two things which have a bearing on our question:
Speaking of Philip Bell, the reporter writes that he "doesn't believe in aliens".
Now, I'm glad that the BCSE didn't so selectively quote that they missed that bit out... but just how does this tally with the BCSE's conclusion that Answers in Genesis are "going round the UK telling all in sundry that UFOs, manned by aliens who believe in the theory of evolution, are busy abducting people." ? If the (now ex-)AiG speaker whose presentation the BCSE rely on as their sole source stated that aliens don't exist, then how can it be inferred that he believes that UFOs are being manned by aliens? Obviously the author of the BCSE's write-up was in something of a hurry to jump to his conclusions, and used the data extremely selectively.
So where does the stuff about UFOs come from? Here it is:
"A question for the audience: 'Do you believe in UFOs?' Philip does - lots of flying objects are unidentified, and he cited stealth bombers, lenticular clouds, the planet Venus and the photographs of the White House taken in 1952 (see http://www.rense.com/general27/Ufosflew.htm ) - he just doesn't believe in aliens."
In other words, Philip Bell appears to believe in UFOs (Unidentified Flying Objects) in the sense that some flying objects have not been identified . Unless you believe that every flying object ever has been successfully identified, then I think we'd have to say that we all believe in UFOs in that sense. I do! An example given is of stealth bombers - a flying object identified by people who know when and where they're flying, just not by the person who experienced them going past. UFOs, then, in the "not yet identified flying objects" sense, not in the "flying saucers manned by aliens" sense - because he doesn't believe that aliens exist.
But from this quote, the BCSE start talking about not only UFOs but "flying saucers" too, such as here:
Note that the BCSE say "UFOs and flying saucers" - something that Philip Bell never said. The flying saucers seem to be the BCSE's own extrapolation.
So, even if we allowed that the BCSE's source was perfectly accurate - is that a fair usage of the source?
This piece of "research" from the BCSE has allowed us to highlight a number of things:
Now, with all this evidence of clear bias, hypocrisy and impartiality, let's take a step back and think about this "Centre for Science Education".
If you are thinking that way, then I'd urge you to look into the Darwinism debate again. Militant atheists like Richard Dawkins, Steve Jones, the general leadership of the BCSE, and so on, are not handling the data fairly. If you look into creationism and intelligent design fairly, then I think you'll see this demonstrated many times over. Here are some resources to get you going: