Saturday, August 20, 2005

Humanism Should Trump Creationism but Bets are Off

We here in the UK are lucky insofar as creationism is not pedalled in most of our schools. In the US on the other hand, no less than 13 States have applied to add it to the curriculum.

Perhaps though, we shouldn't be too sanguine about the situation on the UK. The moral education of our children is mostly woefully lax, with parents often abdicating all or most of the responsiblity for this side of education to the schools, and with schools failing abjectly in their brief. (For a start, how can you tell a child that bullying is wrong, when you are, like as not, being a terrible bully yourself?). There is, therefore, an obvious temptation to flail around looking for solutions to this failure in moral education, and creationism could be seen by some to fit the bill.

There are signs that this is indeed happening. The Guardian reports that the government's plans to create 200 new City Academies by attracting private sponsorship to the tune of £2 million pounds, with the sponsors running these academies in partnership with the LEAs, have backfired somewhat, in that almost half of these proposed flagship schools are to be sponsored by religious organisations. At least two of these sponsors, (The Grace Academy, with schools in Coventry and Solihul and the Emmanuel Foundation with three schools), either already teach or intend to teach creationism.

The Guardian also notes that:"In the UK, creationism remains a fringe movement - although the organisers of Creation Fest, a Christian festival held this weekend in Devon which is hosting several Creationist lecturers, say attendance has doubled year on year since they began in 2001".

It is not necessary, however, to fill the educational ethical void with unmitigated nonsense and we must hope that the good sense of the British people will prevail and that they realise there is a workable, rational alternative. By this I mean that we could start to take humans seriously. There are profound reasons for doing so, since humans can be awesome. We could generate prodigious inspiration and strength by acknowledging human achievement. We should be proud of the times when the human race has shown ingenuity, proficiency, confidence, intelligence and courage. We could look to maximise these qualities in ourselves.

However, here in the UK, those of left-wing persuasion have propogated a self-loathing of immense proportions, and elements of the right do little more than despise them for it. Taken altogether, this amounts to nothing less than a total dissipation of belief in mankind, human potential and progress.

Yet theoretical quantum physicists such as David Deutsch and Frank Tipler talk of human potential in truly inspiring and not incredible terms. Despite the commonplace denigration of human achievement and the ever present seductions of religious belief, there is no need to resort to mysticism for an ethical framework or for a reason to live.


Becky said...

A depressing state of affairs. And yet not too long ago, evolution in the U.S. seemed to be a given. I stumbled last week onto a blog entry (she's not hs'er or even a mother as far as I can tell) that very much mirrors my own thoughts -- it's called "How did the fringe become mainstream?" --

I also read The Economist's two-page article the other week (July 30th) -- very thorough but very depressing to think that this is the new reality. Since beginning to hs (because we are among the few secular hs'ers in our area), I've realized we'll have to spend some time with the kids learning the creationist side, just so that they'll be able to debate the issue that's likely only to grow in their lifetimes...

Carlotta said...

Thanks for the link...will go check it out.

I think it is possible that we could end up with a similar situation. Evolution is at present a given in the curriculum and as a widely accepted idea, but you never know!

According to the news this am, the number of pupils taking religious studies A level has gone up by 20% this year, which could possibly be a good thing, but could be precisely the opposite!

Home Ed here seems to be split fairly evenly between secular and religious, with some overlap between the groups, but also some quite marked segregation, ie: no secular Heers at all in the very religious groups.

Also generally speaking, Christianity in various forms, seems to be thriving here. I cannot work out whether this is a new revival, or merely a continuation of previous faith. We are much more in a minority as a secular family here than we were in London, for example.

Becky said...

"We are much more in a minority as a secular family here than we were in London, for example."

I've found the same thing here (though I was single in NYC and Washington, DC). In rural western Canada, and I suspect the U.S. is much the same (especially the South), we're very much in the minority as secular hs'ers. One reason I depend on my online friendships so much : )

Carlotta said...

I do kwym! I've found on-line relationships immensely valuable -as a resource for critiquing ideas and for helping me realise that ideas I hold dear may not be entirely off the wall and unique to myself.

Having said that, I am very lucky round here to know a number of secular HEers whose ideas I value enormously and who are inspirational in a number of different ways. There are also a number of devout Christians in our groups whose moral objectivity I find extremely refreshing, particularly as they are all of the belief that God works in mysterious ways and that therefore the only way to work out what He would most want them to do is to think about it very carefully about the situation in hand. (Have little objection to the outcomes of this moral seriousness, as a rule!)