While the recent national curriculum review confirmed evolution’s place as the central organising theory of modern biology, creationists continue to try and chip away at the edges. Most recently, Focus on the Family, an American-based Christian group, has distributed 400 resource kits to secondary schools throughout New Zealand, containing copies of Guillermo Gonzalez’s Intelligent Design (ID) DVD, The Privileged Planet, and an accompanying booklet. The covering letter requests they be made available to science teachers and school libraries.
Creationists claim Gonzalez has been victimised for his beliefs after being denied tenure at Iowa State University, due to his poor record in publication and in attracting funding and graduate students. He is a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute (an ID lobby group), and The Privileged Planet is very much the thin edge of the institute’s Wedge strategy (www.antievolution.org/features/wedge.pdf), strongly implying the existence of a designer, but never actually mentioning him/it.
The Dominion Post picked up on the issue (28 June) and it aired on National Radio’s Nine to Noon programme on 1 July. Both items featured Focus on the Family’s New Zealand executive director Tim Sisarich and Waikato University biology lecturer Alison Campbell (who will be speaking at the Skeptics’ Conference in September-see insert).
Creationists in this country number in the hundreds of thousands, and they are well organised. The comments appended to the article on the Dominion Post and Stuff websites (the articles are identical; the comments are different) show that even though they’re a small minority, they are very vocal. The influence of Creation Ministries International is apparent, with several commenters parroting material from their recent newsletters.
Tim Sisarich said in the Dominion Post that science takes a theory and tries to establish it as the truth, and that was all this initiative was trying to do. This is dead wrong. Science takes theories and tries to disprove them. Those that survive this rigorous process continue to be accepted on a provisional basis, always recognising that fresh information may lead to them being modified or abandoned. Creationism was once scientific orthodoxy. It has lost that status because it could not survive in the face of the overwhelming evidence amassed against it, and because better explanations of the data have been developed. Although, as Dr Campbell pointed out, the material Focus on the Family has provided may have value in a comparative religion or philosophy course, there is no place for it in a science class.