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BCSE Revealed

The BCSE And Richard Dawkins

(This article was first published on my blog in November 2006, and deals with the very revealing response of the BCSE to Richard Dawkins' own plans to push his ideas into schools).

If, before reading this article, you want to see the evidence that the core of the BCSE are campaigning atheists, campaigning for atheism, then you should see these previous articles:

How They Argue

Campaigning atheists, in my experience, tend to use two different sets of arguments.

  1. The first argument is the defensive tactic. Here, they will argue that science and religion are totally separate fields and that neither can say anything about the other. Then, for example, if scientists from the field of "intelligent design" begin to present evidence that there are clear marks of intelligence to be found in nature, or that there exist structures which show evidence of design, a red flag will be waved. It will be said that these implications are religious, and that therefore the whole enterprise is invalid. Using this tactic, the British Centre for Science Education have sought to argue that the material being presented by "Truth in Science" is not eligible for consideration in school science lessons - even though that material is completely restricted to scientific considerations. Under this scenario, Darwinism wins by default - because at this point it is also argued (or just assumed) that the materialistic assumptions behind Darwinism are "neutral" assumptions, or are necessary or essential for true science.
  2. The second argument comes out when the atheists are on the attack . Here, it will be argued that Darwinism is an indisputable scientific fact, and that therefore all religion is shown, scientifically, to be wrong. Darwinism, it will be said, has established that the universe and all the life within it is explainable using purely naturalistic, materialistic explanations. Therefore, there is no super-natural of any kind. True science has spoken, and religion must listen. The most well known proponent of this viewpoint is militant atheist, Professor Richard Dawkins, and his new book "The God Delusion" - we will come back to this shortly.

Now, it doesn't take a genius to spot that the two above arguments are completely incompatible. Either science can say nothing about religious questions, or it can completely decide them. But it certainly can't do both! Atheist activists, though, only bring out one of the above arguments at a time - according to whether they're on the defence or on the attack - so you'll only spot what's going on if you pause to look at the big picture.

The BCSE's Approach To This Question

Officially, the BCSE's aims are to prevent other models than Darwinism from being discussed in UK education. It is a defensive organisation. As such, it uses the first argument above. Religion and science are separate - therefore only Darwinism can be discussed (the materialistic assumptions undergirding Darwinism being kept out of view). Thus, the BCSE's website has an essay written by Timothy Chase arguing this very view:

"However, when people attempt to mix the realms of religion and science -- attempting, for example, to use science to promote a given religious or philosophic view -- in the long run, given the very nature of the relationship between religion and science, the results will be the reverse of what is intended, and may end up damaging what in fact they hold most dear." - http://www.bcseweb.org.uk/index.php/ForClergy/ReligionAndScience

The incongruence of a professing atheist and materialist making declarations on what religion can and can't do won't escape the discerning reader, but that is not our point for now.

Bring on Richard Dawkins

At this point, we should introduce Richard Dawkins to the mix.

In September 2006, Dawkins published his new book "The God Delusion". This is an "attacking" move intended to promote atheism, and as such uses argument 2. above - that science has definitively proved the falsehood of all religious views bar atheism.

And now, in the last few days, a new move has been advanced. As reported in the Sunday Times of 19th November:

RICHARD DAWKINS, the Oxford University professor and campaigning atheist, is planning to take his fight against God into the classroom by flooding schools with anti-religious literature.

He is setting up a charity that will subsidise books, pamphlets and DVDs attacking the “educational scandal” of theories such as creationism while promoting rational and scientific thought.

The foundation will also attempt to divert donations from the hands of “missionaries” and church-based charities.
- http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-2460338,00.html

Now, notice just what's happening here. Dawkins is apparently planning to target schools with anti-religious literature - on the alleged basis of "science".

And now, remember what the BCSE have done in the last couple of months. They have been campaigning on the grounds that Truth in Science's scientific material is illegitimate because of religious motives - even though Truth in Science's material doesn't go on to draw conclusions from outside of science. In response to the BCSE's lobbying, a sympathetic MP filed a parliamentary motion arguing that Truth in Science's material should be rejected because it did not disclose their own religious background (http://edmi.parliament.uk/EDMi/EDMDetails.aspx?EDMID=31313&SESSION=875 ).

Dawkins, however, not only has religious motives - he wants to explicitly promote his religious point of view. He not only wants to talk about science - but its implications too. In other words, Dawkins is planning to go far, far beyond what Truth in Science have currently done.

In other words, Dawkins is planning to go far, far beyond the point that the BCSE have already publicly condemned and campaigned against .

What Happens Now?

So, in the name of consistency, the BCSE are duty-bound to come out and vigorously campaign against Richard Dawkins and his venture. If their website condemns Truth in Science (which it certainly does!), then, for consistency's sake, they must now condemn Richard Dawkins even more forcefully.

Do you think that will be happening?

Of Course Not!

The BCSE's leader, Roger Stanyard, as we have seen, is neither a scientist nor an educator. So what's he in it for? Well, in fact he's something of a Dawkins fan. Here, from his own (Yahoo) website, is a list of his favourite books:

http://360.yahoo.com/lists-679QwMkib6enGIsUE2Z09ARZQczZ (Stanyard later moved to remove this list from the Internet).

Seven books are listed there. Who wrote the first two listed? You've guessed - Richard Dawkins!

Stanyard also obtained "The God Delusion" and read it all within a couple of days. He decided not to post a review on the BCSE's discussion forum in part because said review might be too inflammatory (http://community.bcseweb.org.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?p=898#898).

And what's listed next? A book promoting hard-line atheism, by militant atheist Sam Harris. Stanyard is obviously quite a fan of Harris, as he wrote to him personally (and received a response) to discover when his latest anti-Christian book ("Letter to a Christian Nation") would be published in the UK. (http://www.bcseweb.org.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?p=1369#1369)

(Incidentally, there is a brilliant series of responses to this latest book at http://dougwils.com/index.asp?Action=ArchivesByTopic&TopicID=61 - just remember that the order is reversed: the first articles are last on the page).

And then below that on the left... more of the same. AC Grayling's "What is Good" , a sustained argument in favour of secular humanism and against religion.

Were you to have a look at a list of Stanyard's favourite films, then you'd find that it includes Monty Python's blasphemous mockery of the life of Jesus Christ, "The Life of Brian". (http://360.yahoo.com/lists-679QwMkib6enGIsUE2Z09ARZQczZ). There's no doubt, then, when Stanyard is coming from.

Where's The Consistency?

Were Stanyard consistent, of course, then he ought to be appalled at Dawkins' using his understanding of science to advance a religious viewpoint. And the fact that Dawkins is now planning to have this argument forwarded in schools in the name of science ought to be sending him into apoplexy. Dawkins is doing what Stanyard has been campaigning furiously against - but is intending to go much further. But so far are the BCSE from opposing Dawkins' approach, that in August 2006 they actually discussed approaching him to be one of their public backers (ref: BlackShadow message 2109).

Consistency, as we've seen, is not the BCSE's strong point. As we watch and wait to see what campaigns the BCSE launch against Dawkins' new initiative, the silence will be deafening. It will be deafening because the BCSE are great Dawkins' fans. If you hop over to the discussion forum on Dawkins' own website, and you can find BCSE members there - including Stanyard - cheering on. You can even find Stanyard attempting to recruit support. (http://www.richarddawkins.net/forum/viewtopic.php?p=3716#3716).

Where Does This Leave Us?

So, what are we seeing here? I'd say that we're seeing the same picture as we've seen before - again and again.

  • We're seeing the religious commitments which drive the BCSE in general, and its leadership in particular.
  • We're seeing the most blatant double-standards in the BCSE's approach to the question of science and religion.
  • We're seeing that the BCSE's public pronouncements differ very greatly from what they say when they're talking to one-another.
  • What is left of the BCSE's credibility now? In my mailbag I have one reader's verdict. Do you agree?
You have... [demolished] the BCSE. I am now finding myself wondering whether you have holed them so substantially below the waterline that it is time to leave them to sink and move on to another target?

I invite my readers to observe carefully the BCSE's response to Dawkins and his new activities. The silence will tell us everything.

David Anderson


Go back to Richard Dawkins index

(N.B. The BlackShadow Yahoo Group, referred to above, was removed from the Internet by the BCSE, but available from me by request for anyone wishing to verify.)

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