Oh dear. Poor Widdy seems a little confused.
Her headline writer certainly is. They seem to think that “all debate” is in danger of being condemned as “religious propaganda”. This seems to be because, when religious people say something that’s wrong, other people often point out that it’s wrong.
Widdy thinks she’s part of an oppressed majority, and that those nasty secular people are trying to shush anyone who wants to think that Jesus is great.
This is because Widdy is not very good at telling things apart that are completely different from each other.
Here’s an example. There’s a creationist zoo in Bristol, in England, which has lots of animals to see, and tells visitors things about these animals and their histories. It’s a lot like any normal, good zoo, except that a lot of the things it’s trying to teach people are wrong.
And I’m not trying to be oppressive or hostile or intolerant when I say these things are wrong. They just are. Just like a science museum with a model of the solar system showing the sun going around the earth would be wrong. Just like I would be wrong if I reported that Ann Widdecombe is a well respected liberal politician and professional juggler.
Someone from the New Humanist went to the zoo last year, and wrote this review, describing a lot of the things it’s wrong about.
Now, Widdy thinks that this is a good zoo, and reports that it was given a “mark of recognition” by the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom. The British Humanist Association, though, don’t think that a place that teaches so many wrong things – like that the world is around 100,000 years old, or that humans and apes are not genetically related – should be given any kind of recognition by people who are supposed to be providing good education for young people.
Here’s what Widdy wrote in her article today:
The British Humanist association says the award is inappropriate merely because the zoo concentrates on creation. In short the British Humanist association does not believe that children should be allowed even to discuss creation or to be exposed to any evidence that might support it.
This is very silly.
For one thing, her second sentence begins “In short”, but is much longer than the first one. But mostly, it’s silly because she seems unable to tell the difference between these two very different things.
The first bit – the bit that’s actually happened – means that the BHA would prefer not to see educational groups supporting organisations that get things very wrong about science.
The second bit – the bit where Widdy’s gone a bit wobbly and started to misunderstand things – sounds like the BHA want to stop any kind of creationist zoo from even existing, and ban anyone from saying or writing anything about creationism anywhere.
Can you spot the difference?
It’s important for science that differing opinions are expressed and examined fairly. We’d never learn anything new if we didn’t give all new ideas a chance to prove themselves and be heard in an open forum. But some things science has got pretty much settled now. We don’t need to hear lots of differing arguments any more about what shape the planet is. If there were any “flat earth” museums around, it would be silly for schools to take their children there on a trip out to learn anything.
This doesn’t mean that places like the creation zoo ought to be banned. They just shouldn’t be encouraged.
Widdy doesn’t see the difference, though, and thinks that we’re “forbidding children to examine both sides of an argument”, just by not giving a zoo an award for being great when it’s actually full of rubbish.
There are actually lots of side to this argument, not just two. There’s the side that think the earth formed around 4.6 billion years ago and life evolved naturally over time; there’s the side that think the world was created around 100,000 years ago, and have a museum about it in Bristol; there’s the side that think the earth was created very near to 6,000 years ago, and have some museums about it in America; there’s the side that think that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster; and there are lots of other sides too.
Of course children aren’t forbidden to examine all these sides. They’re welcome to examine all kinds of things. But when it comes to what we’re teaching them, that’s different, and it should matter that the things we’re teaching them aren’t wrong. Like the things in this museum.
Widdy is also a bit confused about medicine. She mentions that Terry Sanderson, from the National Secular Society, isn’t a fan of faith healing groups, which claim to be able to make people better when they’re ill but actually can’t prove it at all. Widdy doesn’t seem to agree, but what she says is:
My mother lived comfortably and had available to her all the medical care the NHs could provide and her private insurance could buy and she still experienced miraculous healing.
Gosh. Fancy that. When she got ill, she was helped by lots of modern medical science, and people who worked very hard to help make her better – and “miraculously” she did! Just as well she didn’t try going to a faith healer, or she probably wouldn’t have done nearly as well.
Poor, silly Widdy.
(No, demeaning her with a rather twee-sounding nickname isn’t an argument in itself, and yes it is disparaging and completely unnecessary, but she’s helped cultivate it herself, and she is very silly.)
Hat-tip to the New Humanist.