On the radio, I heard Professor Dawkin’s contribution to a debate concerning a local politician’s aim to introduce creationism to the Museum of Ulster. I heard it because I was at home listening in between helping my son with his GCSE science revision. I listened with a wry smile. I will resist the temptation of lampooning free Nelson McCausland because there are a couple of serious points to be made and neither at the expense of Mr McCausland.
Here am I a man in my mid fifties who is regarded as very well educated. I recently picked up my son’s science texts. I have to say I was appalled at my ignorance and it was as much a revelation to me as revision for him. Yet I am an educated man. I went to a grammar school and university; I read popular science books including those belonging to Dawkins; I take an interest in current affairs including global warming, nuclear energy , dwindling resources etc. But having read my son’s texts on biology, physics and chemistry respectively I now realise I know fuck all about basic science. How can this be?
Both you and I know the answer and I shall move on. Furthermore I have been blessed with two bright , well adjusted and decent children who are highly creative but their home environment means that they will choose the arts, when in fact they are more than capable of a career in either arts or sciences, if such a crude binary categorisation still exists.
So the real point is this. Dawkins can continue to take shots at the creationists but they are too easy a target. He can continue to write popular science which will inform, be bought by people such as me and make us all science lite. I could for example, thanks in part to Dawkins and other popular science writers, write a sentence as follows. “Creationism is nothing less than the black hole of contemporary thinking, a repository of endless negative energy which offers nothing, only sucks in the stupid, whose sole battle cry is “God did it in six days” whatever the science says.”
But what Dawkins et al really need to be doing is shaming the likes of me for thinking of ourselves as educated, for failing to encourage scientific appreciation in our youngsters, for being so scientifically ill informed in comparison to our 17th, 18th and 19th century forebears. Such a challenge might prove to be a much more difficult but rewarding target for Dawkins and for the country.
As my Jesuit teacher used to say “Atheism is just another belief system.” So, professor, don’t get sucked into the black hole of creationism. Forget the stupid and politically motivated, aim for the scientifically ignorant who think they are scientifically literate thanks to science lite.
Until I pass a science paper set by my son I shall now consider myself poorly educated and science lite. The question arises who is the more stupid , the creationist who denies science, or the arts /social science graduate who fails to fully educate his or herself.