Details as at 20 April 2006
Updated 5 May 2006
Earthquakes are “the result of the earth’s groaning for the return of Christ.” (Creation News – the newsletter of Creation Research, Vol 19, No 2, 2005)
"In all of these efforts, [to promote creationism in schools] the creationists make abundant use of a simple tactic: They lie. They lie continually, they lie prodigiously, and they lie because they must." – William Bennetta, fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, the president of The Textbook League, and the editor of The Textbook Letter.
“Speaking in schools is part of this ministry and though we don't normally advertise the details of such visits, apart from the school near Blackpool, we are expecting that John will be able to take classes in a number of schools on this tour.“ Creation Ministries UK statement, March 2006
“The view of the RE [Religious Education] department head was that he was extremely fundamentalist….” Statement by Head Teacher Alan Harvey of Millfield School after cancelling Mackay’s 5 day visit to his school.
This report provides a background primer on John Mackay, his organisation and his 2006 "tour" of the UK. It is intended for public consumption and may be quoted freely but with the proviso that the name of its author, Roger Stanyard, is mentioned. He retains copyright.
This is an initial Report on the UK tour of religious fundamentalist John Mackay of Creation Research. The tour is extremely controversial because Mackay and his team have gained access to at least one, and, possibly more, UK state schools to teach creationism.
In one case this was achieved without notification to the parents of the children or the local education authority (Lancashire County Council) that is responsible for the schools in the county.
Moreover, the "teaching" went beyond a simple "sermon" in school assembly or a presentation in a religious education class. Mackay and his team (totalling four people) appear to have been given a full three days (and, possibly, as many as five) to teach throughout the school(s). According to Creation Research’s web site, Mackay charges the school for such services. His standard rates suggest that his team would each be paid £300 a day for teaching views that contradict the national curriculum.
It isn't clear whether Mackay and his team were offered payment by the school for their services. If not, the question arises as to who was planning to pay for the event, the costs of which included flying people in from abroad. Not cheap given that the countries were Australia and Canada.
The affair led to a very public debate over the issue and the school, Millfield, in Thorton Cleveleys (near Blackpool) eventually cancelled the event. However, details of the full circumstances surrounding the cancellation are not yet in the public domain.
It appears that local Church of England clergy put pressure on the school, notably by keeping the local and national press briefed and through the Lancashire County Council. Millfield's official reason for cancelling the event was because the proselytising was too extreme and out of balance. However, had the event gone ahead, the school would, undoubtedly, have achieved a considerable degree of notoriety if not seriously adverse publicity.
Other groups, such as the National Secular Society, Blackshadow and ScienceJustScience were also involved in disseminating information about Mackay, briefing the press and writing to newspapers. To my knowledge the press involved were two local Blackpool newspapers, the Times Educational Supplement, the Observer, The Guardian, BBC and Sky News. The British Association for the Advancement of Science was not, as far as I am aware, involved but a member of the Royal Society was.
However, even after the cancellation, Mackay was bragging that he had access to other schools in the UK and that he believed it better to get at the children the younger they were (interview on Sky News).
Mackay is promoting what is called Young Earth Creationism (YEC). This is a belief that the world was created 6,000-10,000 years go and that the story of the flood and Noah's Ark is absolutely true. Dinosaurs lived until at least 4,300 years ago and were present on the Ark.
It claims that scientists and geologists are completely wrong that the world is billions of years old and that the theory of evolution through natural selection is fraudulent. It claims that it has scientific evidence that proves this to be the case even though none of the evidence has ever stood up to scrutiny. Indeed, the scientific community (and anyone else with any common sense) believes that the creationist claims are complete hocus-pocus.
The creationists believe that by attacking the rationality, reason and modernity of science, they can re-engineer the whole of society and gain political power. Their aims appear to be to return society to the 17th century.
Moreover, the creationist movement is part of a broader Christian fundamentalist movement much of which believes in Dominionism. In essence, they believe that democracy should be replaced with a theocracy (with themselves in charge, of course).
The organisation that is generally recognised as founding and spreading Dominionism as a widespread belief is called the Chalcedon Foundation. It has proposed that anyone who doesn't believe in its own fundamentalist views be murdered, alongside children who are disrespectful to their parents, gays, women who have sex before marriage (but not men) and adulterers. It also backs the return of slavery.
It’s objectives, if ever enacted, would leave most of the word dead or in slavery.
However, worse still, is that another, large part of the Christian fundamentalist movement is dispensationalist. Dispensationalists are active in creating conditions for a major war in the Middle East. As with other fundamentalists, this objective is based on the literal interpretation of the bible which, they claim, says that a war is necessary for the return of Christ. In that war, three quarters of all Jews in Israel will be killed and the rest converted to Christianity, after which Christ will return to earth.
The Christian fundamentalists are thus a very dangerous movement.
Whilst Mackay claims his ministry is open to all denominations, Mackay himself is a hard-line tub thumper. I have found no evidence to suggest that he has publicly disowned either the dominionists or the dispensationalists within the fundamentalist movement.
The full details of the fundamentalist ambitions in schools can be found in the Wedge Document, a secret internal report of the Discovery Institute which was leaked into the public domain a few years ago.
John Mackay is an Australian and has been involved with the fundamentalist movement since the 1970s and has been (and still is) closely associated with other creationist movements. He is understood to be 59 (as at April 2006).
Mackay has a doctrinaire (dogmatic) belief in his religion; he has absolute belief in the absolute certainty of the revealed truth of the bible, as literally interpreted.
He was originally a school teacher and holds a degree in geology from a reputable Australian university (Queensland). What Mackay has never been is a professional, practising geologist. Despite the name of his ministry, he has never had a peer-reviewed article in any scientific or geological journal. Nor is the author of this report aware that he has ever submitted such a paper.
Mackay has also been described as a geneticist, presumably because he undertook a course in this subject as part of his BSc. However, one thing Mackay is not is a geneticist. What he would have learned in a 1st degree in geology is both years out of date and well below the breadth and depth of education which most consider necessary to be a practising geneticist. Mackay certainly has never practised as a geneticist.
Nor does Mackay appear to have any theological qualifications whatsoever. Note, though, that Vance Nelson, who appears to be teaching alongside Mackay in the UK sate school, has a theological background.
Mackay describes himself as International Director of Creation Research, rather than its head, or founder. However, the organisation looks to be wholly controlled by Mackay and appears to have been established solely by Mackay.
Mackay appears to have been involved in the creationist movement since the 1970s. At an early stage he worked with Ken Ham in an organisation called Creation Science Educational Media Services. This operated in Queensland, ministering to churches.
Around this time the Queensland government made teaching of creationism compulsory in state schools under its jurisdiction.
The main creationist organisation in Australia at that time was the Creation Science Association (CSA) which operated in every stated except Queensland. In 1979/1980 the two were merged to become the Creation Science Foundation (CSF). Both Ham and Mackay were part of the seven-man board of this new operation. At this stage Mackay was described as a school teacher but by 1984 he was being described as a missionary.
All did not go well for the CSF during the 1980s. It was subject to fraud (but there was no wrong-doing amongst its members) and it lost $92,363. This is a lot of money for a small outfit. The loss became apparent to the world in 1986.
In 1987 Ken Ham went to America to joining the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) and Mackay pulled out of CSF to set up his own operation. The only information about Mackay's split that the author has found is that it was over a personality clash with a member of the CSF staff. However, subsequent information suggests that Mackay has little regard for either CSF's Carl Wieland or Ken Ham.
Mackay believes firmly in the unquestioning religious indoctrination of children. He believes that all Christian teachers have a duty to teach according to the literal interpretations of the bible in all subjects. There is to be no questioning of any of the so-called biblical truths.
His exceedingly dogmatic view of religion appears to be reflected in what is known about his other opinions. Like many fundamentalists, he appears to dislike the feminist movement. Writing for his Creation News publication (August 1997) he discusses:
the declared feminist desire to be able to clone humans, so [women] could dispense with men...
and provides this insight into the science of cloning:
Can you imagine the results of feminist-controlled cloning? A planet full of cloned female offspring whose similar physical characteristics would react identically to the same conditions, i.e. get sick at the same time, have the same monthly syndrome, wear the same face, like the same colours and fashions. Such feminist clones would bore themselves to death at the same predictable age.
As far as this author is aware, Mackay is married. His wife is called Anne.
Creation Research also appears to blame the 9/11 attack on belief in evolution. Its UK web site is reported (Guardian 25 March 2002) to have commented that:
believers should not be surprised when things like this happen ... The root cause of this increasing violence is sin - sin which is rooted in the refusal to glorify The Lord as the God who created the universe.
In recent western culture this refusal has been built around evolution and the denial of a god of any sort.
(Note that Evolutionary Theory dates back to at least 1809 (Lamarck). There is nothing recent about it in western culture at all. Sin and violence also existed before 1809, as historians of Australia are, um, aware.)
The Independent Newspaper, 21 April 3006, says that his website argues that the theory of evolution was introduced by Satan and that the idea has already undermined Western society and must not be allowed to spread to the Third World:
Satan has only recently begun introducing evolution to Third World countries in order to destroy missionary enterprise. Let's get in first with our spiritual armour on and provide Third World missionaries and others with the weapons to do battle against the subtleties of Satan as he seeks to undermine confidence in God's Word and missionary enterprise.
A little thought clearly shows that this is a fantasy statement and patronising as well. Evolutionary theory is known universally (in every country) and has been for generations.
Appearance: Mackay likes to play the larrikin. His dress style is what I could best describe as "outback casual". That is to say, typically a short sleeve shirt, casual trousers and a leather hat. In some ways Mackay comes over as the Australian "bloke next door"; easy going, not at all pompous, no airs and graces. However, he does have a beard (not entirely socially acceptable in the UK, at least). He reminds one of Rolf Harris without the glasses.
At 59, Mackay has the slight plumpness one would expect at that age but he is certainly older and not as slim as the photographs of him on his web site would otherwise suggest.
It's when he opens his mouth that many feel uncomfortable with him. It is his absolute certainty that he is right and everyone he disagrees with is wrong that is immediately off-putting. He also has a streak of being patronising towards those he disagrees with.
It is also pretty clear from past comments that Mackay carries a lot of what many would regard as right-wing, authoritarian views. At least in the public arena, he doesn’t appear to push these all that hard but it is clear that this is a man driven by ideology, not rationality and reason.
My guess is that Mackay still has the school master in him – and, at that, the old-fashioned school master.
Queensland in the 1970s and 1980s: Queensland is an odd part of Australia – long regarded as corrupt and social backward, its conservative government, until 1987, did everything to reinforce this view.
Amongst its actions was making the teaching of creationism compulsory in state schools. That law was soon thrown out by an incoming Labor administration. However, many in Australia felt wary that Queensland demonstrated how easy it was for creationists to hijack the educational system for their own ends.
The fundamentalists apparently lobbied the state government hard to stop teaching of social sciences in schools; that battle they won in 1978. In 1980 the state government allowed the teaching of creationism in science classes. It is not known to what extent either John Mackay or his then partner Ken Ham were involved in the lobbying or the subsequent selling of creationist publications to state schools.
Gough Whitlam, Australia's former prime minister is on record as having called Joh Bjelke Petersen, head of the Queensland conservative regime for many years and during these two events, as "that bible-bashing bastard, Bjelke". Others described him as a Hillbilly dictator.
Mackay also teaches at the online/postal "university", the Master's Divinity School and Graduate School. This is based in Evansville, Indiana (USA). It is believed not to be an accredited university.
Whilst Australia has become somewhat notorious for acceptance of creationism, it looks to be much less widely accepted there than in the USA. Indeed, it also appears that much of the drive behind creationism has come out of just one state, Queensland. There is also a very vocal movement in Australia opposed to the creationists and their methods.
The geneticist Professor Steve Jones (University College, London) commented in April 2006 that creationism was basically unknown in the UK until 4-5 years ago. Jones was clearly referring to the "modern" creationism originated by Henry Morris which claims it has the scientific evidence to prove the literal interpretation of the bible and disprove biological and geological evidence that contradict the bible.
Certainly the evidence from Australia suggests that academics are usually the first to see the effects of the spread of creationism. The reason is simple – first year undergraduates turning up with bizarre ideas about the age of the Earth, the existence of giants, belief that animals can be grouped by “kind” and so on – ideas guaranteed (unless changed) to result in exam failure.
There is some very clear evidence to suggest that Mackay has been one of the principle agents in spreading the creationism nonsense in the UK over the last five or six years. His 2006 visit to the UK is far from his first and he has had a UK arm of Creation Research, Creation Research UK, for the whole of the current decade if not earlier.
The author's understanding is that Mackay has been proselytising in the UK for about 15 years.
The one thing that Mackay appears to lack, so far, in the UK, is any heavy weight local brains. Creation Research’s speeches in the UK have largely been undertaken by Mackay himself (see later for an analysis of Creation Research UK). Mackay has also been careful to target the universities where various Christian societies are common and sometimes sympathetic towards creationism.
The Guardian reported in 2002 (25 March) that Creation Research had undertaken a "survey" of British academics about their views on the origins of life and their willingness to debate it. The survey was clearly rigged to prove a point (this sort of thing is a common tactic amongst creationists).
Now, most self-respecting academics would throw such rubbish from a creationist straight in the bin. In fact, they were left in a no-win situation. If they binned it but a few others, who questioned current understanding, replied, Mackay would have been in a position to argue that "a high proportion" of academics didn't believe in the Theory of Evolution. That then left all academics open to the charge that they were not teaching their students "the truth", that there were big doubts about it.
Of course, if they replied, they would then be asked by Mackay why they were unwilling to debate with him in public. If they did agree to debate with him, then they would be (potentially) eaten alive against someone who would set the agenda and have no hesitation in using all the advocacy tricks in the book including deception, misrepresentation and evasion.
Remember Mackay is a seasoned pro at this game – academics are not even trained in the simple basics of such debates. Indeed, scientific disputes are simply not resolved or resolvable by open, short debates.
By all accounts, the questionnaire was amateur. The Guardian quoted one academic as saying that:
it is so badly worded that it clearly is not written by someone who knows about the area.
It was then being handled by one Andrew Forbes, apparently part of Creation Ministries UK. The Guardian reported that Forbes' intention was to poll every academic in the UK. Creation Research UK also stated that:
we are working with him [but] it's a personal initiative, not something we are paying for.
Technically, Creation Research is a Queensland-based Christian evangelical ministry (note that evangelical is not synonymous with creationism – Creation Research is a vocal critic of much of the evangelical movement, see From Creation to Calvary). There is little doubt that it is smaller than Creation Ministries (ex-AiG) or, indeed, AiG itself. However, its international presence appears to have grown significantly in recent years.
That Creation Research is a fundamentalist organisation is in no doubt. It’s web site states that the bible is "inerrant throughout" and that "Its assertions are factually true and it is the supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct", and that "the account of origins presented in Genesis is a simple but factual presentation of actual events and therefore provides a reliable framework for research into the origin and history of life."
In effect, Creation Research’s starting point is its conclusion.
It then goes on to state its objective drawn form the conclusion:
Therefore we research, document and promote the scientific aspects of creation are important, they are secondary to the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ as Sovereign, Creator, Sustainer, Saviour, Lord and Judge, Who is an equal member of the triune Godhead - Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
(Note that this quote does not make grammatical sense.)
Its "science" therefore is built to fit between the conclusion and the objective. This just isn't rational.
Normally a scientist (or anyone else trying to understand complex issues) makes observations first (gathers the facts) then draws the conclusions and seeks further, confirming, evidence. Either a model or a theory is used (or, in its absence, developed) to explain the observations and, if necessary, to make predictions.
What you don’t do is to provide the explanation, then find the facts. That’s the wrong way round. The rational approach has, as its objective, to expand knowledge or understanding. The objective of Creation Research is to convert people to religion.
Its "facts" are only there to proselytise – they are, by necessity, selective. None of its research or evidence is even remotely impartial or balanced. Consequently, it lacks any intellectual credibility whatsoever.
Creation Research looks to be quite a loose network of people in Europe, the UK, Canada and Australia with many giving it part time assistance or acting as agents or local organisers. Anne Mackay, probably John Mackay's wife, is in charge of organising but does not appear to be active in preaching abroad.
The main heavyweight in the Australian operation appears to be Dr. Diane Eager who is understood to act as Creation Research’s in-house "scientist" (alongside John Mackay). Before joining Mackay full time in 2000 she was a lecturer in medical biology at the University of Canberra in Australia. She is a medical doctor. She is believed to be an Evangelical Anglican. Prior to 2000 she had been working closely with Creation Research.
Rather than using UK-based people for his more serious proselytising during April-June 2006, Mackay is bringing in Diane Eager and a Canadian couple, Vance and Korelei Nelson, of Creation Truth Ministries (CTM) in Canada.
According to CTM Nelson is the director. It states that he holds two earned degrees. He earned a theology degree from North American Baptist College in 1997 (Bachelor of Religion with a specialisation in Christian ministry). Nelson also earned a science degree in 2002 (BSc in biology). Nelson also claims to have also studied concepts relating to creation and evolution at the college level (10 credit-hours directly relating to origin science).
However, no details are given as to the name of the college where he received his science degree or whether it was accredited or not. However North American Baptist College is in Canada.
The CTM website is bragging that it is making presentations in state schools in England in May but does not name the schools:
Here are the details of the Nelson's itinerary taken from CTM's web site on 19 April 2006:
April - England Tour
April 26th 1 Hour T.V. Program in U.K. with Call in Q & A.
April 30th London, Location T.B.A.
May - England Tour
May 1-5 Home School "Creation Conference" with Creation Research, England.
May 8-12 School "Creation Presentations" in state schools (public schools) with Creation Research, England.
May 14th Leeds/Doncaster, Location T.B.A.
The 26 April TV event is on Revelation TV, a satellite channel available through Sky Television.
The 30 April venue is at Westminster Chapel. This is a Congregationalist church and is a substantial building. Nelson is also "presenting" at the Calvary Chapel (Westminster City School) in Westminster the same evening.
Mackay is involved in the Home School conference as well. That is being held in Wales. Creation Research’s web site states that Mackay will be leading the event. Diane Eager is understood to also be participating.
The 8th-12th venue is the one which is really making many angry. Mackay's published itinerary completely omits the fact that it is over these five days and, indeed, Creation Research UK seems to be suggesting the event is only for three days – Tuesday 9th to Thursday 11th. (it doesn't actually state this though). So, if Nelson is being truthful, the creationists have five days in the school(s).
According to Mackay's itinerary, he has nothing booked for the 8 May yet Nelson claims that he (Nelson) will be presenting in state schools on the 8th.
Note that Nelson claims that he will be presenting in more than one state school (he uses the plural).
Mackay is due to be in Lancashire from 7 May to 13 May (and back on 16 May).
Creation Research UK: This basically looks as if it is centred on a part-time husband and wife team, Randall and Mary Hardy. Randall Hardy is an electrician by trade and organises Creation Research itineraries in the UK. Creation Research UK is based in Ashton-under-Lyne in Lancashire and uses a PO box. It re-sells Creation Research materials (pamphlets, DVDs, etc.) Presumably it is operated from the home of the Hardys.
The Hardys look to be hard line fundamentalists who have been into home education for their children.
It is run as a charitable trust called the Creation Research Charitable Trust and was formed in April 2004.
Another husband and wife team, John and Marguerite Young, handle the finances of Creation Research resource sales. Creation Research says that John Young is trained in finance and banking and now also serves as a pastor in North Manchester.
A retired Oxford PhD (mathematics), Richard Johnston, appears to have been involved in Creation Research UK. However, as far as I am aware, that role has only involved web site material (and, possibly design).
Others that appear to be (still) involved in Creation Research UK are Andrew Forbes (treasurer of the trust and described as a London-based financial consultant) and David Keep, secretary of the trust and a computer consultant.
Whilst there is no doubt that in his mind Randall Hardy is well meaning, his handling of the PR for Mackay's 2006 UK tour displays all of the fundamentalist tricks of the trade – ad hominem attacks, false witness, evasiveness, shifting of blame, whinging, half truths – you name it, he's got it.
In particular the reader is drawn to a press release in Hardy's name issued on 12 April in response to press enquiries about the behind-closed-doors teaching of creationism in Lancashire schools.
Indeed, I suspect that it was not actually drafted by Hardy. Hardy is an electrician and is not noted for his written work.
Moreover, this is not the only information from Creation Ministries that appears to raise serious doubts about its ability to understand integrity. In particular, careful checking and cross checking of details has revealed a number of apparent discrepancies. The initial reading of Mackay's itinerary suggested that he was proselytising for only one day in a state school. More detailed checking showed that it was actually for three days and further checking suggests that it is for a full five days.
In response to growing public interest in Mackay's tour, Creation Research UK responded with two very mendacious press releases. I have analysed these in some depth to show the techniques fundamentalists use to handle the public.
First is the analysis of the 12 April press release posted to Creation Research UK’s web site. This was in response to press enquiries about Mackay's tour.
The author of this report has seen thousands of press releases in his time (and produced more than a few) and this one takes the biscuit. It displays every fundamentalist creationist trick in the book. From experience, the author has become well used to reading between the lines in PR statements. This one is as wily as they come.
One purpose of this section of the report is to show the tricks used by fundamentalists, in particular, the "fundie shuffle", the martyrdom/self-pity complex, the smear and innuendo tactics and the outright dishonest use of the English language. This one’s got the lot and also manages to breach the Ninth Commandment to boot.
Read this part, for example:
Whilst Creation Research welcomes invitations to speak in schools and universities, we do not "target" them or any other institutions. What we do target is the unbelief in Jesus Christ which is underpinned in some people’s minds by the claims that evolution has been unequivocally proved.
No mention, of course about Creation Research's own religious beliefs which are far from mainstream – just the bogus and meaningless trick of stating that "some people" believe that evolution has been "unequivocally proved" It's rhetoric meant to cast doubt in people's minds. Without having the courage to say so, it was implying that some, wiser, people believed otherwise. It doesn't even say that evolution is unproven.
For what it is worth – nobody believes that the Theory of Evolution is proven, not even its most dedicated advocates amongst biologists and geologists. It's science and the basis of all science is scepticism. It's always being revised as new evidence comes to light.
Randall Hardy is using dirty tricks to imply otherwise.
Hardy then moves onto the standard martyrdom trick of fundamentalist creationists (it's as old as the hills). That is, how unreasonable is it for people to oppose academy and faith schools and all they want to do is ridicule Christian fundamentalists. No mention, of course, that there is serious public debate about the issues which run well beyond the religious issues (such as selection, quality of results, local control, the high costs…)
No, Hardy whines on that the whole shooting match is dominated by atheists and people stupid enough to join them. Hardy also whinges on that "it is convenient" to ridicule fundamentalists, whatever that means. See – no precise meaning to the words – all rhetoric, no substance.
Hardy also demonstrates a brilliant example of the "fundie shuffle" (old, old trick). Instead of calling the media atheists who misrepresent everything (as he has previously done) he now provides no explanation why he is not answering their simple question – what’s the name of the school where Mackay is teaching for three (or four or five) days?:
One report, on the Ekklesia web site, carries the headline "Creationists target schools and universities in Britain". This is a report put together without any direct contact with ourselves and suffers from lavish amounts of spin.
Thus, instead, he "attacks" a mainstream religious web site, Ekklesia although he doesn't give the URL. Unlike The Observer, the BBC, TES, Sky News and others that have approached Randall, this is a soft target for him.
Judge for yourself if the Ekklesia article is full of "lavish amounts of spin" as Hardy suggests. I can't see a word of spin in it anywhere.
Somewhere in the deeper recesses of the minds of Creation Ministries, someone has figured out that you get bad publicity if you ridicule the national media. Hence, I assume, targeting Ekklesia instead.
Randall Hardy then moves onto the next fundamentalist creationist trick "We are good guys" and how unreasonable people are to "us". To quote:
Whilst Creation Research welcomes invitations to speak in schools and universities, we do not "target" them or any other institution.
Really? In 2002 Creation Ministries bragged that it was targeting every academic in the UK to see what their views were.
Sadly, Randall Hardy must have a definition of target that this author is not aware of. What he is trying to say is that Mackay's visit to the UK is solely a result of requests, not a managed event to have maximum impact. Managed it is; Hardy is one of the managers. The target is people (including children) who it thinks will be amenable to its proselytising. That includes those in schools and universities.
Now, here is the biggest lie of the lot:
Unlike the British Humanist Association (BHA) we are not involved in a political campaign.
Randall missed out the word "yet" turning a statement into a breach of the Ninth Commandment (indeed, twice, so – see below).
Note how Randall Hardy carefully associates the BHA with politics in contrast to he own squeaky-clean outfit. The fundamentalists in the USA want to take over the state.
In contrast the BHA is a registered charity and is therefore prevented by law from being involved in political campaigns, a fact that Hardy has either overlooked or ignored. In either case, he has managed to add a second breach of the ninth commandment in a single sentence.
given up his past attacks on the media for being atheistic, Randall Hardy now
carefully tries to lead the reader into believing that the real opposition are
the atheists at the National Secular Society (NSS) (a single
issue organisation whose aims are supported by many Christians) and the BHA:
On April 6th, the Blackpool Citizen carried a lead story entitled, "Debate about creation". This followed up contact from one of its readers, who had heard that John was to visit a local school. Approximately 3 hours after that story appeared on their web site, we were contacted by The Observer newspaper seeking further details. What should be of interest to all is that their reporter had been alerted to Blackpool Citizen's story by an email circulated by the National Secular Society. The Observer published its story on April 9th and since then our UK office has received numerous enquiries from the media about John Mackay's visit, along with requests to interview him. [emphasis added]
So, there it is folks, the wicked NSS circulated an email pointing out a press report in a free newspaper. How unreasonable of them. Obvious trouble makers.
Hardy moves on:
…over those years there has been a sustained campaign against the British government's education policies with regard to academy schools and "faith schools". It has been convenient to those conducting that campaign to ridicule Christians, and creationists in particular, in an attempt to change that policy.
Note also how Hardy carefully tries to include all Christians as well as fundamentalists as being onside to his views. Never mind that the mainstream denominations oppose his scientific hocus-pocus or that the Anglican clergy in Lancashire have (in their own words) "hit the roof" over Mackay's teaching in state schools there.
is the outright smearing:
We are however concerned that secular groups are seeking to prohibit open debate in any part of society, particularly by censorship through ridicule.
No evidence is being presented that these (unnamed) secular groups are "seeking to prohibit open debate", just the innuendo that Hardy is "concerned" that they are. It's neither a statement that they are or they could be. It's just a nasty piece of rhetoric that secularists intend to close down all open debate everywhere. It's called a lie.
It’s the martyrdom complex again –how unreasonable the world is in treating fundamentalists.
Then Hardy goes on to suggest that the press can meet Mackay on 24 April (three days after he starts his tour – are those the three days when he teaches in Lancashire?). So why not just tell the journalists today the name of the school? Why wait 12 days (no explanation given)? It's easily done today, on the web, and won't take up Mackay's valuable time in his busy itinerary.
John Mackay, Australian International Director of Creation Research, is due to arrive in Britain on 20th April for one of his regular visits to this country. John Mackay is a widely travelled geologist and has also studied genetics. (His full biography can be found on our web sites.) During the above dates John will be speaking in venues from the Isle of Wight in England to Crieff in Scotland and as far west as Haverfordwest in Wales.
John Mackay has been visiting Britain regularly for over 15 years. On many of those visits he has spoken in schools and universities as well as local churches. On several occasions he has debated with evolutionary scientists from both within and outside the Christian Church. In March last year, in Liverpool Cathedral, he debated with Rev. Dr. John Polkinghorne KBE, FRS on the subject, “Is Evolution Compatible with the Christian Faith?” Two further debates are arranged for this visit; details are on our UK web site along with the rest of his itinerary.
On April 6th, the Blackpool Citizen carried a lead story entitled, “Debate about creation”. This followed up contact from one of its readers, who had heard that John was to visit a local school. Approximately 3 hours after that story appeared on their web site, we were contacted by The Observer newspaper seeking further details. What should be of interest to all is that their reporter had been alerted to Blackpool Citizen’s story by an email circulated by the National Secular Society. The Observer published its story on April 9th and since then our UK office has received numerous enquiries from the media about John Mackay’s visit, along with requests to interview him.
One report, on the Ekklesia web site, carries the headline “Creationists target schools and universities in Britain”. This is a report put together without any direct contact with ourselves and suffers from lavish amounts of spin. Whilst Creation Research welcomes invitations to speak in schools and universities, we do not “target” them or any other institutions. What we do target is the unbelief in Jesus Christ which is underpinned in some people’s minds by the claims that evolution has been unequivocally proved. Though John Mackay has been visiting schools and universities in Britain for over 15 years, it is only in the last 5 years that these visits have caught the attention of the media. This is because over those years there has been a sustained campaign against the British government’s education policies with regard to academy schools and “faith schools”. It has been convenient to those conducting that campaign to ridicule Christians, and creationists in particular, in an attempt to change that policy. It is a campaign being motivated by people who are primarily atheists, though sadly others have been drawn into supporting them.
Creation Research’s priority has always been to present the evidence for creation and against evolution. We believe that to the honest enquirer, the evidence speaks for itself. Unlike the British Humanist Association we are not involved in a political campaign. We are however concerned that secular groups are seeking to prohibit open debate in any part of society, particularly by censorship through ridicule.
John Mackay will be available for interview by the media from Monday 24th April onwards. However, because he already has a pre-arranged itinerary we ask any reporters/researchers interested in speaking with him to contact us as soon as possible to arrange a suitable time.
For further information or to arrange an interview contact: Randall Hardy Tel / Fax: 0161-282-1111 Email: email@example.com
By 28 April it had become public news that the school that was hosting Mackay's "teach-in" was Millfield School at Thornton Cleveleys, near Blackpool. It isn't entirely clear what happened but it appears that the headmaster dropped the whole idea and cancelled the event. However, how much pressure he was under to do so has not been placed in the public domain.
According to the Times Educational Supplement for 28 April 2006:
Alan Harvey, head of Millfield High, on Lancashire's Fylde coast, said that John Mackay's views rejecting the theory of evolution were too extreme and his presentation of them too unbalanced.
A local newspaper, the Citizen (5 May 2006) put it slightly differently, quoting the headmaster as saying:
The view of the RE department head was that he [Mackay] was extremely fundamentalist and really it wasn't a broad enough approach, which is what we would have preferred.
The school also claimed to be concerned that Mackay had not submitted a lesson plan.
However, Millfield's statement is a public relations disaster for Mackay as the school, with which, hitherto, he claims he had cordial relations, has now branded him an extreme fundamentalist. Moreover, Mackay cannot resort to blaming atheists as the school says it was its religious education department’s assessment of him.
Creation Research followed up the cancellation by posting a press release on both its Australian and UK web sites.
The press release follows the same style as that issued on 12 April; that is to say, it contains innuendo, half truths and opinion masquerading as official statement.
In paragraph 1 we learn that the Millfield event was intended to last five days – two days longer than originally suggested by Creation Research UK.
In paragraph 2 they use inverted commas around the term worried reader, suggesting (but not saying) to the reader that the reader was bogus.
The press release goes on to suggest that parts of the media had deliberately and knowingly undermined the work of Creation Research in recent weeks. No example is given. Your correspondent has not seen any TV, radio or print reports that have done any such thing. He therefore concludes that the comment is unsubstantiated and without foundation. One is reminded of the ninth commandment at this stage.
The press report claims that the media has repeated and sensationalised material being circulated by humanist groups in the UK. No examples are given; nor are the humanist groups named. The only humanist group your correspondent is aware of that has been involved in opposing Mackay's visit is the National Secular Society. Other, non-secular groups have been involved and these include practising Christians.
The press release, failing to point this out, then tars all opposition as being atheists. Breach of the ninth commandment, again. The press release also fails to point out that many, if not most, of those who opposed Mackay's planned proselytising to children and others are trained scientists, many far better qualified that Mackay.
Their reason for opposing him is not religion, as the press release states, but because they believe his scientific claims for creation are bogus and don’t stand up to scrutiny. Most scientists see Mackay as a crackpot. Back to the ninth commandment problem again.
Bizarrely, the press release trots out an old chestnut that as atheism is a faith position, it is on a par with religious faith. The argument just doesn’t stack up as it is completely meaningless. Atheism is a belief that there is no supernatural deity or deities. It is wholly compatible with belief in a number of religions.
Mackay's press release states that Humanists had been discussing holding protests outside the schools and hoping that the British Association for the Advancement of Science would send scientific material there. It appears that Creation Research and others had been monitoring the National Secular Society's news line but wholly misunderstood what was been considered.
Had the NSS and others been told what school was involved, it was planned to put forward the idea of sending the school decent science books for its library, giving the professional, scientific view of Evolutionary Theory. The idea that there would be demonstrations outside the school were dropped quickly and that was apparent from the NSS and the ScienceJustScience news lines.
As far as this author is aware, the cerebral British Humanist Association had never considered demonstrating. That is not the way it operates. Moreover, it is perfectly within anyone's rights, including the parents of children at the school, to demonstrate in public against the teaching of creationism in state schools, especially when the whole issue has been arranged behind the backs of the parents and the taxpaying public. By denying the name of the school, Mackay was denying the very basic right of a parent to know what his/her child is being taught, Schools are not exempt from demonstrations on moral grounds.
Mackay's press release then goes on to an ad hominem attack on the Archbishop of Canterbury, claiming that his views in teaching creationism in science lessons will help lead to the eradication of religion in society. No explanation is given for this preposterous, arrogant, statement.
Looking back to the 12 April press release, it looks likely that the intention is to undermine the general credentials of the Church of England given that the Rev Michael Roberts has (successfully) been involved in opposing Mackay's attempt to teach at Millfield School.
Finally Mackay ends up with the fundamentalist's whinge. The country's going to the dogs and if you don't let us teach children our deeply contested science and religious views, you're all going to hell in a handcart. It's all dressed up as something deeply profound but, in practice, is spurious polemic, not news.
Basically Mackay got kicked out of a school because he had no reason to be there, interfering, in the first place.
Exhibit 2: Press release from Creation Research UK 28th April 2006
John Mackay's visit to the UK 21 April to 28 June 2006
Visit to school in Blackpool
John Mackay has been visiting Britain for 19 years and yet it is his current visit which has attracted far more interest from the media than any other. The main factor which has precipitated this interest has been the reaction to an invitation John received to lead a "spirituality week" in a state secondary school near Blackpool. Whilst we have not identified which school had invited him, we have for some time made known that such an invitation had been received by us.
Following contact from a “worried reader” to the Blackpool Citizen (a local paper) a series of articles about John Mackay have appeared in many newspapers and John has been interviewed by several radio and TV stations - both national and local. On the whole all these reports have been reasonably balanced though, as ever, there have been some which have been clearly designed to undermine the work of Creation Research. These have repeated and sensationalised material being circulated amongst humanist groups in this country as part of a campaign against the visit to the school. This campaign has been nothing more than the latest skirmish in an ongoing campaign, not just against Biblical creation being presented from time to time in schools, but against all aspects of faith in schools. Ironically atheism itself , which is the driving force behind this campaign, can only be described as a faith position.
By withholding the name of the school, our intention was to protect its staff from being overwhelmed by contact from the many activists involved in this campaign, as well as from the media In general the issue of teaching of creation in schools has been reported with ridicule rather than reason by the media over the past five years. Humanists have been discussing protests outside the school and also hoping for the "British Association"; to send literature to the staff there. Whilst we hoped as far as possible to shield the school from that level of attention, staff and governors of the school cannot but be aware of all the attention John Mackay has received during recent weeks. In the wake of all this coverage we have been informed by the school that they have decided to cancel the visit. We do not blame the headmaster and governors for trying to avoid the incredible pressure raised by this campaign. A report of the cancellation appeared in today's (28/4) Times Educational Supplement and included this comment, "Inspectors noted in its last Ofsted report that 'pupils [at the school] are skilled at arguing “for or against an atheistic view of the creation of the universe'". We can only hope that others will recognise that real debate about what is taught in schools is not between "science and religion", but between one particular belief system, atheism, and other faiths.
In Britain the campaign is focussed against Christians who teach creation, but it is being increasingly acknowledged (e.g. in Steve Jones' recent lecture to The Royal Society) that there are other faiths - Islam in particular - which are challenging the apparent dominance of secularism in schools and universities. In this respect it has to be noted that recent comments by the Archbishop of Canterbury supporting the exclusive teaching of evolution have not only provided one of the most common questions asked by reporters interviewing John Mackay, but have also allied Rowan Williams with those whose ultimate objective is the eradication of what they describe as "religion" from society. It is now not possible to put forward an alternative to evolution without a hue and cry being raised to harass all involved. Western society's commitment to freedom of speech has come from the influence of Christianity on our culture over many centuries. We have now had 150 years or so of the secularisation of Britain and this has had many adverse effects on the condition of society. If it continues unchecked, one way or another the freedom to express one’s own beliefs (which atheists enjoy as well as Christians) will be lost. Whilst that freedom remains, John Mackay’s tour of this country continues. Please see http://www.amen.org.uk/cr/where/ for details of public meetings.
For further information or to arrange an interview with John Mackay contact: Randall Hardy Tel / Fax: 0161-282-1111 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Creation Research UK, PO Box 1, Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire. OL6 9WW
Appendix 1: Report on Mackay Debating
Friday 28th April Penketh Community High School, Warrington
Debate title: "Genesis 1-3 is Literal History"
As reported by Chris Hyland of the ScienceJustScience forum
When I arrived there was a large crowd around the creation research stand, and a big pile of DVDs and pamphlets for sale. Off to one side there was a much smaller table selling Paul Marston’s books, so I assumed that the audience was pretty stacked.
Each speaker got 20 minutes, and then the rest of the evening was a question and answer session. John Mackay went first. He started by pointing out some instances of where scientists had referred to Genesis, including the naming of the transitional snake fossil Najash rionegrina (Is that named after the snake in Genesis?). Apparently this meant that it was ok to treat Genesis scientifically. He then brought up this quote: 1 Timothy 2:12-14 (King James Version):
12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve.
14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.
as an example of a reference to Genesis later in the bible, and delighted in pointing out how this showed a woman should be subservient.
Most of the
rest of his talk was a selection of quotes from Jesus and other new testament
[sic] figures referencing Genesis in some form or another, and this seemed to be
the main point of his argument. He also said that because the concept of 'day'
was used for the first time in Genesis that it couldn't be a metaphor and must
mean literal 24 hour days.
Paul started off by giving several quotes that showed Jesus and other in the New Testament referring to Genesis symbolically. He then went on to point out that the phrase 'man is created in God's image' must refer to our consciousness and other 'human' properties, and so if the serpent was actually a real snake as opposed to the devil then it doesn't say much for us. He then went to point out how snakes and trees were referred to metaphorically in several places, and also had a great form Jesus about his father's creation being an ongoing process although it was up to quick for me to write it down. He also out [sic] up a number of slides showing evangelical scientists that rejected a young earth.
After that was the questions, and after a few questions it became obvious that there were a large number of scientifically minded people in the audience. An early question was from a man who introduced himself as an evangelical and a microbiologist. He made a good point that the way God spoke to people when he described these events was in the manner of a teacher dumbing down complicated material for a student. A couple of other people started their questions with 'now Id just like to say that there is absolutely no scientific evidence for a young earth' before introducing themselves as religious, which was encouraging.
Unfortunately I had to leave at that point, which was a shame because people were starting to quiz Mackay on the science. If anyone was there or knows someone that was I'd really like to know how it turned out as there was going to be a vote on the question at the end. Although despite the debate title the debate was mainly over whether Genesis was intended to be taken as literal history, so the focus was on more theology than science. The debate was being recorded, but I think it was by CR and I really do not want to give them any money.
One last thing, Mackay mentioned several debates he has had with scientists in the past week, including one in Manchester and one with Steve Jones. He made it very clear that he considered his debate with Jones to be a success saying 'Steve said he hadn't debated a creationist before and I’m pretty sure he won't want to again'. Luckily his smugness was to prove the point that the scientists he debated couldn't come up with predictions made by creationism, and the very next question was from someone who pointed out all of the failed predictions made by creationism.