My friend and fellow hardline atheist (member of the Secular Society, which I've never gone as far as doing - respect for that) Spaceboy has pointed out a small item in today's news, "Creationism gains foothold in Schools", reported in The Times.
The difficulty here is that my ingrained Liberal instincts kick in immediately at the beginning of the article (ie: Hmm, well surely it is better to have the teaching of it actively controlled, to include a strong critique, rather than have it left to religious quack groups to be brainwashing kids in uncontrolled environments) until I think... hold on. What on earth kind of controlling influence could there be over what happens in the classroom? You could write guidelines until you were blue in the face - do they really imagine that someone in a school environment that has always wanted to encourage this lunacy would actually follow them? Don't be bloody ridiculous!
Creationism and Intelligent Design propaganda is genuinely disturbing, and part of a hard line religious movement emanating from the US, which it seems to me gains public prominence, taking in the fearful and ignorant as a direct result of the increase in fundamentalism in apparently 'opposing' religions.
Some friends and I were having this debate recently regarding what our maturing and intelligent (we hope) positions are regarding agnosticism vs atheism - my response then is my response now. I believe there *is* a war on the rational position, and if I had the bloody time I'd be involved in whatever educational support anyone can think of to spread the rational position of atheism. As I also said the other day: people criticise Atheism because it is a belief, in the same way that "belief" in God is, and since both are dogmatic to some extent surely agnoticism is the only real position since how can we know either way?
"Belief" that there is no God is based on the scientific examination of the world around us and as such I 'believe' that that sense of the word does not belong in the same room as the "belief" in a deity. Any deity. You might as well say that belief in fairies is a strong as the belief that there is no God. On the other hand of course, you could argue that to state that you are an Atheist is to say that I free myself of belief. It's not a question of "Belief" since using that word is part of a history including belief in the Egyptian Gods, Zeus or Thor - all of those positions being equal, in faith terms to belief in the present single God. In retrospect, having updated this article, I place my argument in the second part of this paragraph.
There's been an upswell in criticism of Dawkins recently, in saying that he's too strident and a bit too "loudhaileresque", where softer, lighter steps may take the rationalist cause further. Unfortunately for me, I tend to argue anything to do with religion in extremely black and white terms. I support the loudhailer. If Dawkins isn't saying anything fundamentally wrong, then to criticise him strongly is to support the secreted, slow growth of the brain disease of doubt in rationalism. If one is to criticise him at all, every critique Must begin by saying "I support the position if atheism in its entirety" or... journalistic words to that effect. (if, obviously, they/you do).
Trouble with all this is I'm actually arguing from a hearsay position, having not read his latest rather boring looking tome (I laugh in the face of my complete hypocrisy!) - the next post will explain why. One day, I shall be able to take part in the wider intellectual community again - when my brain can escape the medium-level sapping fug that it currently inhabits.
Meanwhile: support Dawkins and come off the fucking fence. Everyone. It's too important. Look - we're in a world with not only an unprecedented fundamentalist attack on the west (which I will lazily call an attack on western values including Rationalism, but please accept that that's only a shortcut and misses out the quite large number of "What? How about X,Y, and Z" type arguments - but you know... I can't waffle on forever here), but where climate change is and will be radically changing the environment we live in over the next 100 years. I'm sure that somewhere, some social engineering economist will have come up with an equation that dictates: where x=fear, y = anxiety and z = ignorance, <xy/z = increase in irrational religious concepts / bookburning, lynching, human sacrifice, etc.
I can't bear the thought that when a proportion of human endeavour has come so close to attaining wonderful leaps forward, our civilisation (and I use that term to include the destruction of the rationalist position [prior to the supposed holocaust on humanity which may or may not happen]) is sailing so close to the edge of a massive Victoria Falls scale waterfall, which will break it all in to tiny pieces.
So. What the hell do we do about this piece of news. I don't know, but I don't propose to sit back and do nothing.