Discovery Institute barking mad over Australopithecus sediba’s diet

By Paul Braterman
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I don’t normally bother with the Creationist newssheet, Evolution News and Views, but the recent article there by David Klinghoffer goes beyond what I am willing to suffer in silence. Klinghoffer himself, of course, is a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute, and the author of How Would God Vote? Why the Bible Commands You to Be a Conservative. I do not know his academic credentials - I seem to remember that he is a lawyer, but neither his biography on the Discovery Institute website, nor his Wikipedia entry (which follows that biography rather closely), give any details, and I hope that some readers can tell us more about this.

I also think it worth noting that Klinghoffer’s article has nothing to do with Intelligent Design, misguided though that may be. Like so much Discovery Institute material, it is an attack on the well-established facts of common ancestry. In other words, what is being advocated is, in the strictest and narrowest sense of the word, creationism. And not even creationism as a philosophical or religious position, but as an interpretation of the facts of biology, in a manner that has been intellectually unsustainable since around 1830.

Anyway, to business: in my own recent posting here I describe why, when announcing their finding in 2010, the discoverers of Au. sediba chose, on reflection, to include it in the genus Australopithecus rather than in the genus Homo. That 2010 account does, however, give a long list of ways in which Au. sediba is closer than Australopithecus to modern humans, and the title I chose for my piece (An Almost Human Tragedy) reflects this. I also described the most recent, rather surprising, finding; that the diet of Au. sediba ignored available grasses, in favour of woodland products such as tree bark.

Now here is what Klinghoffer has to say about this same finding:

Another Human “Ancestor” Bites the Dust Bark

…Sure enough, the cooling trend [concerning the importance of Au. sediba] is now plainly in evidence, with Nature reporting that the creatures had a very notable characteristic in common with chimps, not humans, that had not previously been recognized: their diet, highlighted by tree bark and wood. This was found thanks to an analysis of tooth enamel and dental tartar and microwear. The NY Times lets its readers down softly:

"Dr. Berger was an author of the new journal report. Few other paleoanthropologists agree with Dr. Berger’s contention that the new species is the most plausible known ancestor of archaic and modern humans. [Emphasis added by Klinghoffer]. Dr. [Amanda G.] Henry’s group said that studies of additional fossils from the Malapa caves “will provide a better understanding of the dietary ecology of Au. sediba.”"

Actually, the New York Times account amplifies an earlier one, which said

The discoverer of the fossils, Lee Berger of the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, says the new species, known as Australopithecus sediba, is the most plausible known ancestor of archaic and modern humans. Several other paleoanthropologists, while disagreeing with that interpretation, say the fossils are of great importance anyway, because they elucidate the mix-and-match process by which human evolution was shaped.

And the original paper in Science actually said, in the Abstract,

Combined craniodental and postcranial evidence demonstrates that this new species shares more derived features with early Homo than any other australopith species and thus might help reveal the ancestor of that genus

…and, in the body of the paper (p 203, column 3),

We can conclude that combined craniodental and postcranial evidence demonstrates that this new species shares more derived features with early Homo than does any other known australopith species, and thus represents a candidate ancestor for the genus, or a sister group to a close ancestor that persisted for some time after the first appearance of Homo[my added emphasis].

The situation is exactly as I described it, with no great claim to originality, in my earlier account:

The problem is no longer one of finding a missing link, but one of tracing an individual branch (the one that led to us) through a densely forking bush. It is always notoriously difficult to distinguish closely related species, because of individual differences. Even when we can, we have no way of being sure which extinct species lie on our direct ancestral line; it is difficult to tell the difference between our great-grandfather and our great-great-uncle, or between one great-great-uncle and another.

In short, then, on the basis of newspaper accounts and apparently without having read the original literature, Klinghoffer gleefully demotes Au. sediba from a position that most workers in the field had never even claimed for it, in the belief that the evolutionary account is thereby in some way undermined. Actually, the boot is on the other foot; the loser is the religious doctrine of separate creation. For if the 20 or so known distinct australopithecine and other early hominin species are not related by common descent, and were therefore doomed to extinction without progeny, why were they ever created in the first place?

Skeptic News: Creationism grows in Brazil

20120704-081038.jpgBelief in Creationism, the religious belief that God created the world and all life in it, is growing in Brazil.

Over the last seven years, as Brazil’s population has grown and been getting richer, people have started rejecting the Catholic church in favour of the Evangelicals. This has led to a rise in creation beliefs. A rise that has been welcomed by the Question Evolution campaign.

In 2004, Governor Rosinha Garotinho (a/k/a Rosinha Mateus) of Rio de Janeiro ordered that public schools in Rio would start teaching creation science as well as evolution. When the general public were surveyed nine years later only nine percent of their sample accepted the strict naturalistic view of human origin. Fifty-four percent accepted old-earth creation, the idea that man appears millions of years ago but changed only as God said he would change. Thirty-one percent accepted young-earth creation. Furthermore, 89 percent of the sample agreed with what Governor Garotinho did. 75 percent of the sample even said that creation should replace evolution in the schools.

Brazil could become a major source of support and funding for the creationist and young Earth creationist movements in years to come.

Skeptic News: South Korean Creationists campaign to change textbooks

In South Korea there are worries that anti-evolution sentiment seems to be winning its battle with mainstream science.

A campaign by the Society for Textbook Revise (STR), an organisation that aims to remove the “error” of evolution from textbooks to “correct” childrens view of the world petitioned the Korean Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) to remove references to evolution from textbooks.

The Ministry revealed that many of the publishers would produce revised editions that exclude examples of the evolution of the horse or of avian ancestor Archaeopteryx. Biologists, who were not consulted by the change when the petition was forwarded to publishers, are shocked and horrified by the decision.

On the Nature website  Dayk Jang, an evolutionary scientist at Seoul National University stated:

 “The ministry just sent the petition out to the publishing companies and let them judge,”

The STR is also campaigning to have references to human evolution removed and Darwins classic finding on species variation in Galapagos finches. The STR is an independent offshoot of the Korea Association for Creation Research (KACR) which claims to be behind a rise in creation “science” in Korea.

They seek to provide evidence in support of the creation myth described in the Book of Genesis however Dayk Jang is attempting to counter their campaign of disinformation by recruiting high profile scientists to take part in a counter campaign.

Bite Sized Bad Argument

By Les Ogilvie

Unfortunately (for me…possibly not for our readers!), I no longer get the time to contribute to the 21st Floor quite as much as I’d like.  However, I just had to swing by and drop this one for you.

The hilariously mis-titled “Evolution News” presents the worst argument for creationism since Comfort’s Banana! Behold!

"How come future events can be anticipated when they haven’t even happened yet? Therefore, God."

Seriously, if you take the plunge and read the article, steel your brain for at least 400megaDerps of stupid.

The gist of the argument, for those not brave enough to expose themselves to its full potency, is this: the future hasn’t happened yet, therefore it cannot influence the present.  It follows that any success of a present attempt to anticipate future events is difficult to explain.  Yet, we (and other primates) can make decent attempts at anticipating future events.  Thus there must be an unknown way for the future to influence the present; so, similarly, it must be credible that there is an unknown way for a supernatural God to influence a natural universe.

I don’t really need to insult your intelligence by picking that one apart. I’ll just leave it open for comments…

Creationist Conspiracy?

by Mark Edon

Sceptical reader, follow me for a few moments as we embark on a thought experiment and imagine a world in which Homeopaths have adopted a clever and devious new tactic.  Not content with their current markets and profit levels they have come up with a strategy to boost their sales in the longer term.  In our alternate reality Homoeopaths have carefully developed an extensive set of claims about critical thinking, science and modern chemistry that poke holes in our current understanding of reality.  They have written what appears to be a chemistry text book, “Exploring Chemistry” that doesn’t even mention Homeopathy.  Instead of pushing the magical properties of water “Exploring Chemistry” presents a wide range of material including cleverly extracted sentences from genuine contemporary papers that seem to cast doubt on some basic aspects of covalent bond theory.  Ionic bonding theory is examined from both sides of an apparently vigorous and far reaching dispute.  Genuine discussions about the exact values of the strength of particular bonds between atoms are used to subtly suggest that there is a lot we don’t understand and that the whole edifice of chemical theory is built on shaky foundations.  Comments from scientists regarding rival hypotheses are carefully mined and presented to support the general theme of the book; the whole field of chemistry is replete with dispute and ready for a major paradigm shift.  There are even careful extracted quotes from respected Chemists arguing about where Hydrogen should be placed in the Periodic Table.  Truly Chemistry is a wobbly edifice.  Carefully worked out results and conclusions are dismissed as mere assumptions.  The implication being that, if these assumptions turn out to be wrong, this will put the whole theoretical framework of modern chemistry at risk.  Finely nuanced debates about theoretical interpretations of the evidence are presented as evidence of a field rife with disagreement.  Modern chemistry is referred to as “neo-Daltonism”, and 20th-century developments (semiconductor doping, nuclear chemistry) are quite correctly presented as showing the limitations of Dalton’s 19th-century atomic theory. Using all-or-nothing logic, we are invited to infer that there is now serious scientific disagreement as to whether or not chemistry is actually true at all.  Copious chapter end-notes are awash with references to peer-reviewed articles (many of which actually demonstrate exactly the opposite results to those implied in the text -but it needs careful and informed reading of the original literature to discover this).

“Explore Chemistry” also includes well written chapters on critical thinking and how science is done, these chapters stick to the truth and are well enough written that even Skeptic would approve of them.  These chapters put the casual reader off guard.

In our thought experiment this textbook does not languish in alternative medicine book shops.  It has been sent to every high school in the UK with an accompanying letter of recommendation from a tenured science professor at a reputable UK university stating boldly that the book conforms with the National Curriculum and is an excellent resource for students and teachers.  The book was mailed to school librarians who were asked to put it into the library science section and to request more free copies as required.  Public libraries and universities received similar mailings.  Thousands of these book were sent out.  Already homeopathy sales are slowly creeping upwards.

In the world of this thought experiment I am sure that Skeptics would be doing something about it.  For a moment imagine that you had found out about “Explore Chemistry” and so you decided to ring a national association of school librarians to warn them about what was going on.  Imagine what you think when you manage to speak to the chief executive of this librarian’s association and they tell you that they “don’t take sides on matters of scientific controversy, and to be honest, this kind of call really isn’t welcome.  In this country we have free and open debate, librarians aren’t censors and the children should be allowed to see both sides and to judge for themselves” click.

Ok you can return to reality now.  None of this has actually happened with homeopaths and hopefully it is a fairly unlikely future development.

But this is exactly what has already happened with Creationism here in the UK.

I’ll pause there for a moment while you take that in.

A textbook?  Yes “Explore Evolution”  No mention of creationism?  No.  What about Intelligent Design?  No.  With sections on critical thinking and the scientific method? Yes.  Twisting and distorting quotes and papers?  Yes.  Undermining biology in general and all the rest of that you just said?  Yes.  What even that call to the head of the librarians?  Yes - that happened to me.

The book is called “Explore Evolution” and was originally written for the US market, where the vigilance of our good friends in the National Center for Science Education combined with a constitutional ban on the promotion of religion in state funded schools upheld by court ruling banning the promotion of creation science and intelligent design have engendered an evolutionary arms race that has produced a superbly adapted species of creationism that consists entirely of portraying modern biology as crummy science. The book is genuinely impressive.  It looks good, is logically laid out, well presented, very well referenced and chock full of sweet smelling and beautifully presented shite, disabusing us of the popular wisdom that turds can’t be polished.

OK let’s put this into some kind of perspective.  Creationism only hits the headlines here in the UK from time to time.  This usually results from the antics of some Creationist numpties (I use the term advisedly).  Here I follow Simon Singh’s advice on the use of the term with connotations of shallowness and silliness but no underlying malice aforethought.  Urbandictionary2 gives us this;

                        “Scottish usage: a) Someone who (sometimes unwittingly) by speech or action demonstrates a lack of knowledge or misconception of a particular subject or situation to the amusement of others. b) A good humoured admonition, a term of endearment. a) “No. That wisnae wit she meant, ya big numpty!””.

Creationists proclaiming their intention to teach “both sides” or that “evolution is just a theory after all isn’t it?” surely deserve to be told “No. That wisnae wit it means, ya nig numpty!”.

Open Creationism gets the wider public, and Skeptics in particular, excited and there is generally a vociferous backlash of outrage, scorn and derision.  Newspaper articles are written.  Comment threads get very long.  MPs are written to.  Usually it fades away in time.

But Explore Evolution is not produced by numpties, who, as Simon pointed out, are usually sadly misinformed and generally well intentioned but just incredibly bad at knowing just how stupid they are being.  Explore Evolution is produced by biology deniers.  Simon wanted to avoid this “d” word in the AGW debate as it had associations with Holocaust denial in which people twist the facts deliberately to serve a deeper and more sinister political and racist agenda.  But “denier” is an appropriate term for some Creationists.  The folks who wrote Explore Evolution had to put an awful lot of effort into twisting things to serve their agenda. Explore Evolution was produced by people with a decent grasp of modern biology who are simply trying to serve their own political and religious agenda by lying about it.  Think about it - they produced pretty good sections on critical thinking and the way in which science works and then they wrote the rest of the book to promote their concealed agenda.  As in my fictitious homoepathic example, they refer to present-day biology as “neo-Darwinism”, point to 20th or even 21st century extensions of the 19th century theory to suggest non-existent fundamental inadequacies of biological science, and go so far as to present separate creation (which they call the “orchard model” of life) as a viable alternative.  That’s why I think they deserve the “d” word.

The book has no mention at all of Creationism or of Intelligent Design (Creationism dressed in a lab coat).  In fact it is astoundingly well disguised.  A friend of mine is a lecturer in science education and will sometimes ask groups of aspiring science teachers to look over a selection of textbooks.  He includes good and bad textbooks, an intelligent design book and a Creationist book as well as Explore Evolution.  Often they fail to spot that Explore Evolution is a creationist tract and pop it on the pile with the genuine text books.  These are folks with science degrees. (BTW if anyone is interested in doing some work on this to produce some evidence regarding existing science teachers please get in touch)

The truly wonderful NCSE put together a comprehensive web site full of a detailed analysis and exposure of all the content of Explore Evolution.  At the BCSE we put together a shorter UK version of this mass of evidence which you can see and download for free here we cover off the relevant curriculum issues and guidance together with a suggestion for a letter to your local school librarian.  Please let us know how you get on.

This is not the only recent example of this kind of thing.

The Times Education Supplement Scotland recently published an article in print and on line announcing the launch of a new “educational” website. This site was promoted to creationist numpties up and down the UK at the talks given by Intelligent Design proponent Michael Behe in his recent lecture tour of churches.

One of the things BCSE does is to try to keep track of creationist activities and plans by asking members to attend creationist meetings and report back to us.  We had several reports that the WAU site was promoted at Behe’s talks as being “perfect for children to prepare challenging questions for their science teachers”.

Oh, by the by, we did write to the TES.  In fact we wrote more than once.  First we pointed out that in no conceivable way could the contents of WAU be considered a useful resource as it was full of pseudoscience and in fact such materials are explicitly ruled out for use in science classes as unsuitable by the existing teachers guidelines and that Michael Gove has also repeated this since he became the education secretary.  The initial reply seemed to imply that the editor thought that being “sceptical of evolution” was actually a tenable scientific position and our second email linking to our analysis and asking for equal treatment has so far been ignored.  The web site was augmented by some quotes from the Department for Education last year, apparently endorsing the material for use in schools.  BCSE has since uncovered that WAU have been ignoring government requests to remove these misleading quotes since December 2011.

I think that Skeptics should be just as active in the promotion of good science education as we are in the fight against the promotion of nonsense.  This means that we should be vociferous and active re MPs and schools and in our communications to the public.  This is all part of the same fight for libraries, for good high schools and good university science education.

The US should be a warning for us - recent results1 show that in parts of the USA, when asked to describe how they teach evolution 28% self describe as an “advocate of evolutionary biology”, 13% as an advocate of creationism and 60% as an advocate of neither.

Two important factors enable such a situation to have arisen.  The first is the lack of a National Curriculum in the US.  There we see a fragmentation of school management with effectively 15,000 curricula.  Free schools anyone?  The second factor and the one prevalent in the existence of the 60% group, is a wish to avoid controversy with or pressure from parents, combined with a lack of confidence in the material.  Shall we stop teaching teachers?

Anecdotal evidence suggests that pressure not to teach evolution can already be found here and there in the UK, and, since we have no constitutional ban on the promotion of religion in schools, one could apply to run a Creationist free school that would operate entirely with the current system, using public money,  and have children taught in school by other teachers, including the Head in assemblies, that their science teacher is either a fool or deliberately lying to them.  In fact BCSE has highlighted several such applications already, in Newark, Newcastle and Sheffield. Michael Gove has gone some way to try to prevent this, he has stated that presenting Creationism as a valid scientific position in any lesson is not acceptable in UK schools and has changed the free school funding agreement to prevent them presenting anything not supported by mainstream science as a valid scientific position is not allowed.  This does not apply to mainstream schools or academies.

For these reasons I think that the sceptical community should take more notice of Creationists, in particular the actions of the deniers and their attempts to infiltrate mainstream science classrooms.

But there is also another much bigger reason.  I think that a good case can be made that Creationists are the high achievers of the non-sceptical world.  Whilst it is true that AGW numpties do deny evidence from a range of fields of science, and quite a healthy pile of evidence it is too, they are lightweights when compared to your average Creationists.  To Creationists the underlying and unifying principle of biology is, of course, wrong, but to make this fit their own viewpoint so too is most of astronomy, and, as this is built on physics, then they must also cast serious doubt on large parts of physics as well.  Of course Geology and Chemistry, as far as they relate to the age of the earth, the way living things work and even the way in which stars and galaxies develop, are all also cheerfully thrown away.  Compared to this level of non-sceptical achievement, the amount of knowledge that must be denied or ignored by, say, homeopaths, is tiny.

Faced with having to get new recruits to make such a huge leap into their worldview, Creationists go out of their way to engender a general mistrust of science together with an automatic reflex reaction against almost anything science comes up with.  Nearly every Creationist I have met is a Global Warming numpty, against advances in GM crops on principle and has grave doubts about vaccines.

A recent discussion with a young Christian who happened by chance to sit next to me on the train one day led to a discussion of her faith and I brought up the subject of biology and evolution.  She told me that after hearing a recent church speaker, her and many of her friends, now felt that they had been lied to at school by the science teachers because apparently evolution was nowhere near the firm conclusion they had been told about and in fact she now knew it was more like just a big guess.  Her and her friends are now starting families of their own.  I wonder what attitude to school science lessons their children will have?  She attends a church in Newcastle that are currently applying to run a free school.

Creationists claim that science is an atheist conspiracy, which effectively makes it a work of Satan.  Our society is built on science.  Our future prosperity, not just the current economic recovery but the future place of the UK in world history will be greatly influenced by our place in the world’s scientific community and such conspiracy thinking is therefore deeply worrying.

Mark would like to point out that his oft-used web name “psiloiordinary” is an “ancients tabletop wargaming” reference and nothing to do with woo.  Find out more about Creationism in the UK and what you can do about it on the BCSE blog: http://bcseweb.blogspot.co.uk/

Refs

1. Berkman MB, Plutzer E. Defeating creationism in the courtroom, but not in the classroom. Science. 2011;331(6016):404. Available at: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/331/6016/404.full [Accessed March 20, 2012].

2. http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=numpty [Accessed March 20, 2012]

Faith Schools, Discrimination and Creationism.

by Mark Edon

Government sanction of religious discrimination in the recruitment of teachers is wrong.  In addition to the moral objections to such a loophole it can and will also be used by creationists to further their wider fundamentalist agenda and so to destroy and subvert the education system.

I don’t think that I, as a humanist, should be allowed to discriminate against people of faith.

There is a full stop at the end of that sentence.  There is no need for elaboration or equivocation.  This view has so far trumped any possible exception I have dreamt up for myself or that has been suggested to me.  I will treat this as a perfectly reasonable and universally accepted starting position for this piece although I am always open to new ideas and suggestions.

Here is the equitable reverse; “I don’t think that people of faith should be allowed to discriminate against nonbelievers.”

No doubt you will note the full stop.

A huge government sanctioned exception to this simple statement of natural justice surprisingly does not concern gay couples refusing to let bedrooms in their B&Bs to Christian couples, but instead allows public employees and elected public officials, i.e. school management and governors, to openly discriminate against teachers on the basis of their religious beliefs or lack thereof.

It is important to note that it directly contradicts every SACRE produced locally agreed curricula for religious education that I have ever read and the stated mission statements, principles or inclusion policies of many of the religious schools themselves.  Such overt hypocrisy takes the breath away.  Look at these examples that compare job advertisements from a recent Copy of the TES jobs supplement with the schools own words or comments from Ofsted reports:

In school A, a catholic primary school, there is a job advert looking for a head teacher who is “fired by the church’s mission expressed in education, and wants to advance the Kingdom of God through church and school working closely together.”

This school doesn’t seem to have a web site and I can’t find any of their policies e.g. inclusiveness policy but here are some brief extracts from the Ofsted report: “The proportion of pupils known to be eligible for free school meals is well below average.” and, “The school recognises that pupils do not have enough first hand contact with people who are different from themselves and is addressing this.”

Although apparently, not by removing discrimination in recruiting the school leadership.

In school B we do have a web site and an anti-bullying policy that has this, “Ensuring we develop self respect and an appreciation of the needs and views of others.”  Although they appear uninterested in the views of head teacher candidates that don’t have a “strong personal faith and a clear vision of Catholic Education.”

School C have an Equal Opportunities policy that begins laudably like this: “We believe that all pupils and school personnel are entitled to equality of opportunity regardless of their age, gender, ethnic origin, physical disabilities, learning needs, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, or their marital status.”, whilst they are advertising for a leader, “whose vision and professionalism is underpinned by a clear and demonstrable faith.”

I am entirely unable to decide if I prefer the hypocrites or the consistently prejudiced.  Our next school has no equality or equal opportunity policy and their mission statement says that the schools mission is to “lead each member of the school community to a deeper, more active faith in God.”  So it is at least being consistent in looking for a head teacher to “provide a faith reference” to prove that they will uphold the “Christian leadership that are at the heart of our caring environment.”

I am not going to spend much time rehearsing the reasons why such a fundamental principle as that of equality should not be breached by believers simply because they want to preserve the inherent religious character of the teaching staff and school.  It is surely simple enough to see that this is a mere restating of the wish to discriminate as the justification for doing so.  For example, “We don’t want non Catholics because we don’t want any non Catholic views in the classroom.”

For example, should the scouts be allowed to discriminate against the disabled (of course they don’t really want to!) to preserve their inherent character as outgoing, outdoorsy and active?  What about a hypothetical football supporters club discriminating against black supporters as they have never had a black member before and they want to preserve the inherently white character of their club?  If you think these silly examples are wrong Mr Gove, then you need to explain why faith schools should be the exception and you need to explain it in some way other than simply repeating the wish to discriminate.

Nor will I dwell on the fact that any faith that has to protect itself by such discriminatory practices undermines its very credibility.

The main issue I want to highlight is an additional reason why such moral loopholes are a bad idea, namely the fact that they will be particularly used and abused by fundamentalist believers to undermine and destroy education in the furtherance of their own agendas.  I have creationists particularly in mind but my point applies more generally to the extreme believers of many faiths.

Why would I think this?  Well, for one thing creationists have done it before, right here in the UK.

The controversy about a state funded school where the head of science also held a leadership role in a creationist organisation and where a creationist conference was hosted back in 2000 lead to much coverage in the press and on TV.  This is a comment from a Methodist lay preacher who applied for a job with the school at the time; “They asked me what I believed to be the most important duty as head of [philosophy, theology and ethics]. I replied by saying how important it was to prepare pupils for state examinations, but I was cut short by a sarcastic and disturbing comment - ‘What is the point of sending young people out into the world with 20 GCSEs when they’re going to go to Hell?’”[1]

The difficult thing to wrap your mind around is creationists, who are fundamentalists by definition (the very word fundamentalist was first used to describe them in the US early in the last century) think that schools are not there first and foremost to provide an education but instead exist to further their own ends, as this extract illustrates;

"How could the schools successfully create the Christian ethos that was their very reason for existence if they had no right to control who was employed within the school? How could a non-Christian school secretary, for example, adequately explain the purpose and ethos of the school to the many enquirers who contacted the school? How could the lifestyle of employees be encouraged fully to reflect Christian values if it was impossible to insist that those employees were Christians?"

That is from a 2009 thesis[2] by Sylvia Baker, who also signed a public letter[3] with 26 other creationist academics back in 2002 asking the then education secretary to allow creationism into science classes.

Sylvia is an advisor to the Christian Schools Trust, a loose network of about 50 privately funded schools, mainly young earth creationist in nature, several of which are currently applying for Free School status and hoping to get their hands on public funds.

It is important to remember that although creationists like to present themselves as mainstream Christians battling bravely against those nasty militant atheists, in fact they are just a small minority of Anglicans here in the UK.  Recent Poll data[4] of self describing Christians (only 54% of those polled) showed that only 38% (of the 54%) agreed that the Genesis story should be taught as science and only 39% supported a daily act of worship in schools, just 32% thought that the UK should have a state religion and 92% of them thought that the law should apply to everyone equally, regardless of their personal religious beliefs.

So come on Mr Gove respond to the clear views of the large majority of British people, both religious and non-religious and outlaw religious discrimination in schools completely.

Refs