Disgrace at the Royal Society

Last July, I could hardly believe my ears when I heard the President of the Royal Society, Martin Rees, using the logical fallacy petitio principii, a ‘begging the question’ argument. He, with the Royal Society, was trying to gag and censure a television programme that had taken a position against a so-called consensus position on man-made climate change. The regulator, Ofcom, had pretty much rubbished the Royal Society’s objections, it has to be said, and rightly so as they were drivel. Several thoughts went through my mind – how can the President of the Royal Society be so ignorant as to use an illogical argument? But then I thought – maybe he isn’t so ignorant after all, maybe he’s using this as a rhetorical device to bamboozle the hearers, knowing that few in his audience would pick it up. Appalling, either way, and we’re seeing more and more anti-scientific behaviour from this erstwhile paragon of scientific endeavour, the Royal Society.

The latest disgrace to come from that quarter is the forced departure of Michael Reiss, the Royal Society’s Director of Education. The reason? Reiss, a thorough-going evolutionist, had dared to suggest that objections against evolution should be dealt with in the classroom, if the matter was raised by the students themselves. He said

There is much to be said for allowing students to raise any doubts they have – hardly a revolutionary idea in science teaching – and doing one’s best to have a genuine discussion

Worthy though this is, Reiss has been drummed out by pressure and bullying from prominent atheists such as Richard Dawkins. Reiss, you see, also happens to be an ordained minister, so he should not be permitted to sit in the cathedral of atheism, the Royal Society. Dawkins had had him under suspicion since his appointment, and now was the time to plunge the knife. Dawkins stated that having an ordained man in a position of responsibility in the Royal Society was like something out of a Monty Python sketch. Reiss, he said, should either resign his position in the church, or resign his position in the Royal Society. Of course, neither of these positions are logical arguments, they are just the usual cheap rhetorical propagandist tricks we have come to expect of Dawkins. He is, accordingly, a disgrace to science.

Bigoted atheism is taking over the Royal Society and it is sowing the seeds of the Society’s destruction. It has become the enemy of true scientific endeavour. Scientists will increasingly see the Society as having departed from the course of true, honest science, and more widely it is already being seen to have tarnished itself. For example, Melanie Phillips, under the title Secular Inquisition at the Royal Society in The Spectator writes

Totalitarian atheism has taken another scalp. Michael Reiss, The Royal Society’s embattled director of Education, has been forced out – for daring to suggest that children should be taught to discuss alternative views and subject them to the scrutiny of empirical reasoning…Far from Reiss damaging the reputation of the Royal Society, it has now done this to itself. Appalling.

George Pitcher, under the title This Society has lost its grip on reason, writes in The Daily Telegraph

He had let a chink of creationism in, you see, and the new secular scientific establishment decided he was an enemy of the state. A pusillanimous Royal Society duly condemned him. Because even to acknowledge the existence of creationism is to encourage decadence. In a neo-Stalinist way, creationism must be air-brushed from the picture of the world that our children see, so toxic is it to scientific truth…The demi-god of atheism, Richard Dawkins, weighed in to say that he would wish to see the Royal Society “attack creationism with all fists flying”…Where did this intolerance come from?..Like all fundamentalism, scientific bigotry, I suspect, springs from insecurity…But in pandering to them, the Royal Society has abandoned its core ethos and should be thoroughly ashamed of itself.

Robert Matthews, under the title Royal Society or Rotten Society?, writes in The First Post

The zealots’ point-man was Richard ‘Mad Mullah’ Dawkins…But the real heavies are known only to seasoned observers of scientific fundamentalism: Sir Richard Roberts, Sir Harry Kroto and Sir John Sulston, Nobel Prize winners all.

Fundamentalism is spreading across science, with zealots ready to attack anyone who dares question the accepted teaching…It’s treatment of Reiss suggests that when it comes to words of dissent, the attitude of the Royal Society is closer to that of a madrassa than a learned body.

True science cannot flourish in this suffocating, fundamentalist bigotedness and intolerance. It’s high time the President of the Royal Society, Martin Rees, resigned, because this behaviour is bringing the Society into disrepute. He and Dawkins, recipients of the Michael Faraday Prize (awarded for excellence in communicating science), should now distance themselves from that award: how dare the Royal Society use Michael Faraday’s name! Faraday, one of this country’s finest scientists and communicators of science, was a deeply religious man, an evangelical, a Calvinist, a preacher, and an ordained presbyter. As Prof. Colin Russell FRSC has recently noted, in his paper Science and Faith in the Life of Michael Faraday, Faraday was

a person of deep religious faith, whose science was practised within a Christian world-view that shaped his attitudes and practices, a world-view which in some cases impinged more directly upon his scientific theories…In his synthesis of science and Christianity, in his strong confidence in the authority of Scripture, and in his simple faith in Christ, Faraday was typical of a great many gifted scientists, both before and since. For them and for him, the task of scientific exploration was not only exciting and satisfying. In a very real sense it was a Christian vocation.

Were Faraday in the Royal Society today, he doubtless would be drummed out by the present atheistic stormtroopers. Thankfully, Faraday’s position and reputation will remain secure when the likes of Dawkins and Rees have been consigned to mere footnotes in history.

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