Who are the BCSE?
(Originally published on 16th October 2006, this article is preliminary, and makes the first revelations about those behind the new, impressive sounding national body for science education).
In this article, we will begin the task of finding out - just who are the "BCSE", and what are their qualifications to speak either in the field of science or that of education?
A good place to start is with their own description. The front page of their website (http://www.bcseweb.org.uk) says:
The British Centre for Science Education (BCSE) is a new international group of individuals formed to act as an umbrella organisation, with the primary purpose of stopping the teaching of Creationism in UK state schools.
The BCSE has about 80 international members, resident in the UK, North America, Australia, South Africa and continental Europe.
British? Or not British?
The first thing I noticed is the contradiction in the first sentence. "The British Centre for Science Education (BCSE) is a new international group...".
The "BCSE" do not want to be thought of as a foreign group. Most British people would take exception to a foreign group lobbying over what should be taught to British children. A group that styled itself "The French Institute for Influencing British Schools", or "The Arab League for Propagandising British Schoolchildren" would likely get pretty short shrift from the British public and legislators. So this new group has called itself the British Centre for Science Education. But the very first sentence of their website tells you that whilst they wish to influence British education, they are in fact an international group. To be accurate, they ought to call themselves "The International Centre for British Science Education".
The facts seem to be that the BCSE is forced to describe itself as an "international" group, not because it has large worldwide backing, but because they have too tiny a handful of British supporters to be able to exist otherwise. This (which is contrary to the BCSE's claims on its website) is something we plan to examine in a future post.
Notice too that the "BCSE" are describing themselves as "new". Yet this is also less than true. The facts are that the "BCSE" is a group which has existed, to little effect, since at least September 2003 (1) under a different name. Until the summer of 2006, they called themselves "Black Shadow". Under the name "Black Shadow", they had the same members, the same leadership, and pursued the same purpose (the silencing of criticisms of Darwinism), by the same methods (public lobbying). However, they seem to have decided that "Black Shadow" was a bit of an odd sounding name, and decided on a rebranding. You can see this here:
2. Up until early October 2006, their website contained a prominent graphic containing the "Black Shadow" name:
3. Their website still (14th October 2006) contains many mentions of "BlackShadow", or links to the BlackShadow website (use Google, or the website's own search box, to verify).
http://www.bcseweb.org.uk/index.php/Main/News, 12th October 2006
4. Their forum contains many mentions of the name change, e.g. http://community.bcseweb.org.uk/viewtopic.php?t=54 and http://community.bcseweb.org.uk/viewtopic.php?t=66
http://community.bcseweb.org.uk/viewtopic.php?t=66 - since deleted by the BCSE.
5. The "BlackShadow" mailing list is now scarcely used, and directs you to go to the BCSE's website instead.
http://groups.yahoo.co.uk/groups/BlackShadow (since deleted by the BCSE).
We conclude that the "BCSE" are not telling the truth. They are not a new group. They are an old, ineffective group, who have altered their name.
What's Their Purpose?
With a name like the one they have, you might be mislead into thinking that the "BCSE" is a group with a broad interest in science and education. Certainly the way that they announced themselves in their letter to the Times would lead the reader to think so (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,59-2385220.html). Certainly Graham Stringer MP, in his Early Day Motion mentioning the BCSE (http://edmi.parliament.uk/EDMi/EDMDetails.aspx?EDMID=31313) appears to believe that. But both the Times' readers and Graham Stringer have been hoodwinked. The BCSE, by their own confession, are a single issue pressure group. They have no positive aims of their own. They have no schemes, plans, or experience, in the worlds of science or education - except to silence criticism of Darwinism. And neither does their website or forum (http://www.bcseweb.org.uk/forum) contain discussion of any other plans than this. Their true aims and experience are very narrow - but their name is broad.
So far, we've examined only the first sentence of the BCSE's website, and found three problems. Has this introduction to the BCSE encouraged you to believe that they are a credible group of British science educators, who can be trusted to communicate scientific facts in a straightforward, honest way - or is the data pointing elsewhere?
In future posts, we will carry on examining the BCSE's description of itself, and comparing it with its other published statements, and the underlying realities.
(1) The domain name "blackshadow.co.uk" was registered on 24th September 2003, according to the WHOIS database (and blackshadow.me.uk on 4th March 2004). The "BlackShadow" Yahoo group has been active since February 2005. See http://webwhois.nic.uk/cgi-bin/whois.cgi?query=blackshadow.co.uk and http://webwhois.nic.uk/cgi-bin/whois.cgi?query=blackshadow.me.uk