Wednesday, November 29, 2006

IDiots Return

Intelligent Designism is making a minor push again in the UK. And also, apparently, in Australia. Encounter, Radio National's religious documentary radio show, looked at the subject recently.

While some principals of religious schools are not amused by the propaganda efforts of the Discovery Institute and their lackeys ("It seems to argue from a long bow I think" says one) others are keener to see ID on the educational agenda (and, presumably, evolution off it). Something called the Victorian Association for Religious Education, which EoR has not previously heard of, apparently arranged a seminar for teachers and students on ID.

The organiser of the seminar seems to be excellent at promoting ID with the usually applicable spin:

Nicholas Coleman: Oh, the seminar I thought was a brilliant success. We had primarily teachers from Christian schools, but there were teachers and students from Jewish schools, there was a Muslim speaker and there were several Muslims in the audience. There were various people who were completely non-denominational if not non-religious who came more from a scientific point of view. The numbers were, oh well, not bad, they were not great but they were not bad for something of that sort.

Margaret Coffey: How many people did turn up?

Nicholas Coleman: Oh I didn't count them, thirty-five, forty maybe.

So, that's 35 (maybe 40) in total. And he didn't even bother counting them. Was it so hard to count that high? And not even all of those attending were pro-ID. So, while ID continues to be pushed, it certainly seems to be struggling in Australia.

Mr Coleman spouts the usual claims: he's "trying to promote thought" and he wants to "help equip [his] students to deal with those big questions that will pop up in their lives at some stage" (yes, "God did it" is the ultimate portmanteau answer).

The program briefly addresses the Jewish perspective on ID and creationism ("Jewish religious thinkers have never had a problem with evolution - traditionally they haven't been drawn toward creationist ideas - and that's all to do with how they read the Bible") and also finds a Muslim paleontologist, Gary Dargan, who argues that the Qu'ran supports evolution since, at one point, it gives as one of Allah's attributes "the evolver". Mr Dargan, however, appears to be in the minority.

Margaret Coffey: On ABC Radio National, this is Encounter, looking at responses to the Intelligent Design critique of evolution. Within Islam, the people Gary Dargan speaks of as 'pushing Intelligent Design' are behind the Harun Yahya phenomenon. Harun Yahya is the pseudonym of the front person for an organisation based in Turkey. This organisation produces a prolific amount of audiovisual material and books with titles such as "Evolution Deceit". As Gary Dargan explained to the seminar, the material is produced in many languages and a Harun Yahya representative has visited Australia to promote the organisation's ideology.

Audio from Harun Yahya DVD: Materialism, the philosophy which holds that everything is composed of matter, and which denies the existence of God, is actually the contemporary version of paganism ... This superstitious belief of materialism is called evolution ... the belief in evolution first introduced in the pagan cultures of the ancient Sumerians and then the ancient Greeks was, in a way, revived in the 19th century by a group of materialistic scientists and brought on to the world agenda - Charles Darwin is the best known of these scientists.

Gary Dargan: Harun Yahya's views have become very, very strongly accepted in the Muslim world. In Nigeria, for instance, Harun Yahya's textbooks are now being used in their biology syllabus. In NSW I have been contacted by a biology teacher at a high school saying, "I've got a lot of Muslim students, they quote Harun Yahya at me, and say all this evolution business is rubbish; we are not going to bother learning it." So there are issues but most of those issues stem from ignorance.

Most imans Mr Dargan has met reject evolution. Harun Yahya's understanding of science becomes clear from this DVD excerpt:

However, as mentioned earlier, materialism is collapsing with a big bang.

Regardless of the inappropriateness of using a scientific concept like the Big Bang to disprove science, since when did a big bang "collapse"?

Luckily, slightly later in the day, Radio National broadcast a talk by Richard Dawkins arguing against religion. Go and download it.

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