The Free Church is thankful that the Scottish Secular Society have in their latest press release and submission to the Scottish Parliament committee, admitted their real reasons for their ‘creationism petition”. It is an enlightening if somewhat bizarre and disturbing submission.
They begin by congratulating themselves on the amount of press coverage they have received, as though this were some kind of indicator of success and rational. But they don’t take long to move on to the bogeyman of “the entrenched position of creationists within the Scottish educational system” and then to threaten MSP’s with “the political cost for defending creationism”. It is only in the fantasy world of the atheist secularists that this entrenched position exists. No MSP has been defending creationism within science classes in any Scottish school. Still as we all know, an emotive argument depends on raising fears, not on providing rational and evidence.
The main thing though is for MSP’s to realise what SSS are demanding. Note the following points.
1) MSPs are not just being asked to tell teachers what they can and cannot teach in science classes. The position of the Scottish government and the teaching unions is that we don’t need politicians telling teachers what they should teach. This is a position we totally agree with. Politicians seeking to enforce their doctrines through the State education system is the mark of an authoritarian, not a democratic state. But that is what the SSS want. They now admit they are not just concerned about the teaching of science. They demand that no ‘presentation’ of ‘separate creation’ should ever happen in any Scottish school, in any context, by anyone. They have dropped the pretence that this is about what is taught in science classes and instead have made it an overarching concern that only the atheistic philosophy of naturalistic materialism be taught. And that philosophy must never be questioned in any context whatsoever.
It is an incredibly authoritarian and doctrinaire approach to education, which would result in numerous people being banned from being involved in education at all. This is not a ‘modest’ request. It is an anti-educational, anti-thinking, doctrinaire approach that more resembles the Stalinist/Fascist approach to education – than it does the traditional Scottish Christian approach. The Secularists are demanding that children be told what to think. We believe that children should be taught how to think. And we believe that in a mature democracy, sceptical questioning and alternative points of view should be encouraged rather than banned.
2) The SSS give the game away when they state this is about teaching “who children are, and what kind of planet they live on”. What this means is what SSS say children are. Any other perspective is to be banned. Only their atheistic worldview is to be permitted. Teachers will need to be re-educated (perhaps we should set up special re-education camps for those who dare to question ‘what everyone knows’?). Perhaps it would be helpful for SSS to tell us what planet they think they are on!
3) There is a fundamentalist arrogance in the SSS approach – “ We merely call for the issuing of guidance against presenting to schoolchildren as true what we all know to be false.” Who are the ‘we’? Who determines what is true and false? Do ‘we’ all know that it is false that the universe was created? That is it ‘true’ that the universe just ‘happened’?
4) The argument from numbers is strange. There are only 651 signatories on the petition – which given that SSS claims over 1600 members means that not even half of their own members support it! 43 submissions in a petition with a concerted campaign by those who regard it as one of the most important issues of their faith/worldview, is pathetic and indicates the lack of genuine public interest. It is beyond irony that SSS play the numbers game when they have little more than a 1,000 supporters whilst the Evangelicals in Scotland number more than 250,000!
The SSS submission borders on the hysterical, with its exaggerated rhetoric. Apparently Scotland’s worldwide reputation for education and even our economy will be threatened if we do not accept their doomsday analysis. This hyperbole about the importance of the issue is matched only by that surrounding their sense of their own importance in the grand scheme of things. It is embarrassing that SSS actually boast about over 25 press mentions. Is that all? It seems a very small number for an issue which is of such earth shattering importance!
5) The disparaging remarks about Dr Alaister Noble and Cartsbridge Evangelical Church also indicate the real purpose behind the SSS petition. It is a not so subtle attack upon Christianity. SSS’s complain that chaplains and chaplaincy teams play a role in Religious Education although “this is supposed to be neutral between different worldviews. In a society as diverse as 21st century Scotland, this is surely unsustainable.” Astonishing. They are demanding that only those who agree with their philosophy and position should be allowed to have input on different religions. They, and they alone, are ‘neutral’. It is another incredible piece of arrogance and irrationality.
6) It is disturbing that SSS, in their desperation to introduce culture wars to Scotland that are not part of Scottish culture, have cited organisations who are outwith Scotland (one from the US) and know nothing of the Scottish education system.
7) SSS have failed to provide any evidence whatsoever of creationism being taught in Scottish science classes. SSS have offered NO evidence whatsoever of creationism being taught in Scottish schools. Instead in their desperation they have resorted to insinuation and the kind of McCarthyite guilt by association that caused so much panic and injustice in the US decades ago – except instead of ‘reds under the bed’, its ‘creationists in the classroom’. Their ‘evidence’ consists of such things as some religious education reps being guilty by association with what SSS calls ‘creationist’ churches, although we have no definition of what that means.
The one concrete example which they keep returning to is that of Kirktonholme Primary where some pupils were given books which were clearly creationist. But one incident such as this in the whole Scottish education system is not an ‘epidemic’ and cannot be justified as an excuse to pursue their anti-religious agenda. It is a sign of their increasing desperation that they attempt to use a very small closed school in Shetland as their second example! The rest of their evidence is either of the ‘gossip’ kind (‘we hear a steady steam of reports of creationist activity’) or the trivial. An example of the latter is a school in Kirkcaldy that had children paint a six days of creation mural. It is difficult to take SSS seriously when they regard this kind of triviality as some form of child abuse!
8) But that is not, as they now admit, their real concern – which is to have a witch hunt against any visitor or teacher in any school who believes in, or is affiliated with any church which SSS considers suspect. To this end they want a database set up which they can scrutinise. At a personal level I find this more than disturbing. The SSS thought police are on the job – they will ensure that Scotland’s children will not be threatened by ‘those who believe the bible is literal truth’. Therefore people like yours truly, and the tens of thousands of Christian parents and teachers, will be effectively banned from any role in the Scottish education system.
9) Astonishingly SSS declare that any distinction between science and non-science is ‘artificial’. In other words they not only want science to be determined by their philosophy – they want everything else as well. Their concern is not primarily with science. It is with everything. MSPs should be aware that this petition is not about science but rather about philosophy and worldview. SSS’s agenda is further made clear when they admit that their primary concern is not the teaching of creationism, but what they call ‘the embedded privilege of religion’. Their agenda is to get rid of chaplains, religious educational reps and religious observance. The latter shows their complete hypocrisy because they have been campaigning to have an ‘opt in’ rather than an opt out view of religious observance. These issues should all be discussed, but not on the back of an irrational scare campaign about the non-existence teaching of ‘creationism’.
10) SSS congratulate themselves as a ‘handful of amateurs’ who have ‘unearthed problems of which officialdom seems blissfully ignorant’. Whilst we are happy that SSS admit that they are small handful, and we agree that they are amateurish in their presentation, the ‘problems’ they claim to have unearthed exist only in their imagination.
In conclusion it is sad that at a time when people are rightly claiming the right to free speech, the free expression of ideas (no matter how offensive) and the right to question and think for oneself, the SSS are campaigning to exclude from the Scottish education system those who do not share their philosophy and their values. We realise that SSS’s aim in this petition has nothing to do with the welfare of Scotland’s children and everything to do with a desire to get some kind of propaganda victory so that they can continue their campaign to remove religion in general, and Christianity in particular, from public life. We hope that this attempt to indoctrinate, ban and supress will be resisted and that our MSPs will have the sense not to be taken in by this self-confessed ‘handful of amateurs’.
Free Church of Scotland
January 22nd 2015