Michael Reiss – a witch hunt for the 21st Century

I find it amazing that the words of Prof Michael Reiss, taken out of context and wilfully misunderstood by people who ought to know better (Richard Roberts and Harry Kroto) have resulted in his resignation as Director of Education at the Royal Society.

It seems he resigned in spite of the fact he was doing no more than stating Royal Society and Government policy.

The letter sent by Roberts and Kroto is substantively little more than an accusation that Reiss is a member of the clergy.

This amounts to a witch hunt of the utmost intolerance. It is not reasonable or helpful for people to behave as though the best way to teach science is to avoid talking about certain issues. This approach will clearly only lend fuel to creationists who will no doubt say “see, their arguments don’t stack up so they just won’t talk about it!”

Much better is the approach supported by the Royal Society itself and restated by Michael Reiss, which is, as I understand it, to use student questions about creationism as an oportunity to discuss the science underlying current views of the origins of the universe.

“If a young person raises creationism in a science class, teachers should be in a position to explain why evolution is a sound scientific theory and why creationism is not.”

I agree wholeheartedly with Lord Winston, who said:

“This is not a good day for the reputation of science or scientists. This individual was arguing that we should engage with and address public misconceptions about science – something that the Royal Society should applaud.”

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Can atheism make a new type of religion possible?

The French philosopher Paul Ricoeur wrote:

Paul Ricoeur [US Library of Congress]

‘Atheism is not limited in meaning to the mere negation and destruction of religion, but …rather, it opens up the horizon for something else, for a type of faith that might be called …a postreligious faith or a faith for a postreligious age. …it looks back toward what it denies and forward toward what it makes possible.’ (Ricoeur, P. 1974 The Conflict of Interpretations: Essays in Hermeneutics. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 440).

It is interesting to see what kind of opening up the populist atheism of writers such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchins is leading to.