Griffith University Skeptics and Freethinkers

Evolution vs. Creationism on ABC Southern Queensland

In Creationism/ Intelligent Design, Ethics in Schools, GUSSF Events!, Helping our community., Responses to the media, Science on October 20, 2010 at 11:43 AM

Yesterday an on air discussion was held between ABC Southern Queensland Morning presenter Robert Blackmore, Creation Ministries International’s Dr Don Batten and myself.

The topic was ‘Creation vs. Evolution’ with particular focus on The University of Southern Queensland’s recent decision to cancel a seminar based around this very topic at their Fraser Coast Campus.

The reason I was invited to participate was the letter I sent to academics and staff of the University of Southern Queensland informing them that a CMI event was to take place with what appeared for all intents and purposes to be support and endorsement of USQ.

Over the course of the interview it became apparent that I was being accused of stifling free speech or in someway being undemocratic in voicing my concerns.

As the letter in question clearly states, my concerns were as follows;

• CMI are a religious organisation, not a scientific one, and while their membership does include some scientists, the organisation they represent has no standing in the scientific community and their stated goals are far from the advancement of the scientific enterprise.

• The primary aim of CMI is to promote its particular version of Young Earth Creationism and to undermine the theory of evolution wherever and whenever possible.

• That USQ appeared to be giving implicit endorsement to CMI allowing and encouraging them to distort, misuse and misapply science, to pursue a religious agenda that is both divisive and not representative of mainstream Theology.

Rather than offer my opinions alone, I provided a quotation from former Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane and Governor General of Australia, Peter Hollingworth, in which he stated that growing numbers of theologians and many other thoughtful Christians have found that there is no inevitable conflict between evolutionary theory and the belief that God created and continues with the creation of His universe. I also provided 19 position statements from premier scientific academies and organizations globally, none of which I hold any association with.

Dr Batten advised listeners that my assertion in the letter that

“neither of the speakers advertised have any professional credentials in Biology, Evolutionary Biology or Theology”

was untrue, yet on the CMI website, Dr Batten’s qualifications are listed as:
• 1969–72: B.Sc.Agr.(First Class Honours)—University of Sydney
• 1973–76: Ph.D.—University of Sydney, Department of Agronomy and Horticultural Science.
Thesis: Induction of adventitious root formation in mung bean (Vigna radiata (L.) Wilczek)

While his co-speaker at the event, Dr Tas Walker has the following qualifications listed:
• Bachelor of Engineering with first class honours (University of Queensland)
• Doctorate in mechanical engineering (U of Qld)
• Bachelor of Science majoring in Earth Science, followed by First Class Honours in 1998 (U of Qld)

So it is true that I could have been clearer that Dr Batten has studied specific aspects of plant biology, I was taking a broader view of biology. In hindsight I should have written:

“It may concern you to know that neither of the speakers advertised have any professional credentials in Evolutionary Biology or Theology. While Dr Batten has studied and consequently researched specific aspects of plant biology, his work with CMI extends beyond his professional specialization.”

It’s also important to note that at no time over the course of the interview did Dr Batten advise listeners that the event was still going ahead, now in the more appropriate venue of Fraser Coast Baptist Church. I encourage readers to inquire of Dr Batten himself why this seemingly important detail was emitted.

Despite the somewhat ironic labeling of a member of the public voicing legitimate concern in the form of a letter “un-democratic”, of equal concern was the uncritical acceptance of the tactic:

“Teach the controversy”

As has been written many times time before, equivalent arguments can and have been made by other fringe groups such as Holocaust deniers, Aids deniers, Flat Earth proponents, Anti-vaccination groups such as the Australian Vaccination Network, the list goes on. What all these groups have in common with Evolution deniers is that they do not work within scientific channels, using recognized scientific methods to accumulate evidence, make predictions or provide any testable and/or falsifiable hypothesis.

In other words they don’t ‘do’ science and any claim that despite lacking these essential attributes of any scientific enterprise, proponents of such fringe groups are performing ‘science’, is simply false.

In Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, a six week trial in which it was established that teaching “Intelligent Design”(a re-branding of Creationism), constituted teaching religion in public schools, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones ruled that what Dr Batten refers to as ‘science’;

“violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation”; it relies on “flawed and illogical” arguments; and its attacks on evolution “have been refuted by the scientific community.”

Judge Jones, himself a man of faith and churchgoer also stated:

“It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.”

Judge Jones ruling matches my own thoughts on this issue and is mentioned for being established on the best available evidence.

I do not ‘believe’ in evolution as much as I accept the overwhelming evidence from an overwhelmingly diverse range of disciplines, all confirming the scientific validity of evolution by natural selection.

It is for this very reason alone that I and the overwhelming majority of experts do not accept CMI’s brand of pseudoscience, not due to any atheistic agenda as Dr Batten states during the interview.

Jayson D Cooke

Griffith University Skeptics and Freethinkers

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