Scotland refuses to ban teaching of creationism

We tend to think that the teaching of creationism as being a problem in some American schools. The problem is rather closer to home than that.

Why Evolution Is True

Schools in England and Wales aren’t permitted to teach creationism, but for reasons that I can’t fathom, the Scots refuse to join them. This came to light when, as reported by Scotland’s Sunday Herald, the Scottish Secular Society (SSS) discovered that a group of American creationists “had been working as classroom assistants at a primary school in East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire.” (Note: it’s not clear whether this group actually taught creationism as science.)

The SSS petitioned the Scottish Parliament requesting explicit guidance on this issue (i.e., banning creationism the same way it’s done in the rest of the UK), but were turned back with this disappointing statement by a government official:

Tim Simons, Head of Curriculum Unit at the Scottish Government’s Learning Directorate, has written to the parliament’s petitions committee that there are no plans to introduce ban guidance called for by the SSS.

Mr Simmons [sic] said: “I can…

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Revelation TV & Dr Grady McMurtry

Dr Grady McMurtry is a big favourite of Revelation TV. He features regularly in their schedules and barely a week goes by without him making several appearances, either recorded or live. In particular, he is a regular guest (via Skype) on The Q&A Show along with Revelation TV founder and host, Howard Conder. In December 2014 Revelation TV embarked on The Q&A Roadshow which involved Conder and McMurtry visiting eight venues in various parts of the UK.

Who is Dr Grady McMurtry? He is the head of Creation Worldview Ministries based in Orlando, Florida, USA. According to his website, the organisation consists of himself and one associate. He’s not a big player on the creationist scene. Creation Worldview Ministries is more Conference North than Premier League, Stockport County rather than Chelsea FC.

What are his qualifications? Creationists are always keen to portray themselves as well qualified scientists and McMurtry is no exception. His website claims he is a Biblical Scientific Creationist and his qualifications are:

  • B S, University of Tennessee, Institute of Agriculture – 1968
  • M S, State University of New York, College of Environmental Science – 1972
  • D D, School of Theology, Columbus, Georgia – 1996
  • D Litt, Mid-Continent University, Mayfield, Kentucky – 2011
  • Past Regent of the School of Theology, Columbus, Georgia
  • Adjunct Professor, School of Theology, Columbus, Georgia
  • Florida Christian College, Guest Lecturer
  • 10 Years a Teacher of Evolution
  • 1 1/2 Years a Theistic Evolutionist
  • 40 Years a Biblical Scientific Creationist
  • Ordained Minister
  • Church Elder
  • Expert School Board Witness

Impressive? Perhaps not. Ecalpemos has taken a closer look at his credentials and it would seem that all that glisters is not gold.

Dr Grady McMurtry’s qualifications appear to consist of an undergraduate degree in agriculture (majoring in forestry) and a master’s degree in environmental science. His doctorate is in theology and from a non accredited private college that does not make doctoral theses available for public scrutiny. His second doctorate is honorary.

Ecalpemos concludes that his academic record suggests that he does not have an appropriate background to speak about science with any authority and I agree. Nevertheless, and I’m sure Ecalpemos would agree, we can form an opinion based on what he says rather than the letters behind his name.

The Q&A Roadshow visited the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Belfast on 6th December. The show was recorded and broadcast on 18th December.

Prior to the show questions were submitted by audience members. Howard Conder was responsible for choosing which questions were asked and Grady McMurtry provided the answers. The questions were predictable and covered most of the familiar creationist tropes, the age of the earth, carbon dating, second law of thermodynamics, genetic entropy, dinosaurs, the flood and so on. The topics were largely science related although evolution didn’t feature very much. The answers were also predictable, particularly to anyone familiar with creationist talks and writings. Dealing with all of the errors and misconceptions in the programme would be a major undertaking so I shall limit myself to the most egregious examples.

Throughout the show McMurtry refers to ‘evolutionists’ regardless of the topic being discussed be it geology, cosmology, astronomy, paleontology or archaeology. The term is, of course, used in a pejorative sense. Evolution is defined as descent with modification and the theory has nothing to say about the decay of the earth’s magnetic field or the geologic column. It’s almost as if McMurtry doesn’t understand what evolution is. At one point he says, “Evolutionists say things are getting bigger, better, faster, smarter.” No they don’t. Evolution doesn’t have a purpose. McMurtry either doesn’t understand evolution or is deliberately being misleading.

Speaking about the age of the earth McMurtry states that, “Evolutionists (there’s that word again) do not have one single scientific proof that [the earth] is old.” There is no such thing as a scientific proof and no reputable scientist would claim that there is.

Proofs exist only in mathematics and logic, not in science.  Mathematics and logic are both closed, self-contained systems of propositions, whereas science is empirical and deals with nature as it exists.  The primary criterion and standard of evaluation of scientific theory is evidence, not proof.  All else equal (such as internal logical consistency and parsimony), scientists prefer theories for which there is more and better evidence to theories for which there is less and worse evidence.  Proofs are not the currency of science. Psychology Today

During the course of the programme McMurtry dealt with carbon dating, genetic entropy, the earth’s magnetic field, the flood and the coexistence of humans and dinosaurs. Throughout, his lack of understanding of the scientific method is evident. Like his Premier League counterparts Ray Comfort and Ken Ham he starts with a conclusion,(the bible is the inerrant word of god) and attempts to construct evidence to support that conclusion.

Unfortunately the audience McMurtry speaks to are generally hearing what they want to hear.

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