More on Tony Blair’s Creationist Educator

Last week’s London Observer carried a lengthy article about Sir Peter Vardy, the Creationist businessman who is being handed state schools to run by Tony Blair (a policy I noted last month). In the piece, Vardy denies that an aim of his school is promote anti-evolutionism:

‘For some reason people seem to believe that Creation is for nutcases and Evolution is the only answer,’ he says. ‘Actually, it’s a difference of opinion. You can’t prove Evolution conclusively, and obviously I can’t prove Creation. But I’m not forcing anyone to believe that…’I believe God created the earth and that he created man in his own image. There are some way-out thinkers who believe that this happened 4,000 years ago, which is clearly wrong. But I don’t personally wake up in the middle of the night wondering how old the earth is. It says in the Bible that He made the universe in six days and rested on the seventh. For all I know a day could be 6,000 years, it could be 6 million years, it could be 6 billion years. I’m not that interested, to be honest. But when I look at the mind of man and the intricacies of everything I see around me, I can’t believe that started with a bit of slime. I just can’t see it. What I am not doing is forcing my beliefs on children in our schools, but I don’t expect the others to do it either.’

The “others” are Richard Dawkins and actual scientists. Evolution given as fact is “brainwashing”.

The article also discusses Vardy’s links with the Christian Institute. The Institute was founded by John Burn, who is headmaster at Vardy’s Emmanuel College in Gateshead. According to the Institute’s website:

The Bible is without error not only when it speaks of salvation, its own origins, values, and religious matters, but it is also without error when it speaks of history and the cosmos. Christians must, therefore, submit to its supreme authority, both individually and corporately, in every matter of belief and conduct.

The Observer also notes a 2000 article for the CI website by Emmanuel’s head of science, Stephen Layfield, in which he argues that science teachers should

note every occasion when an evolutionary/oldearth paradigm (millions or billions of years) is explicitly mentioned or implied by a text book, examination question or visitor and courteously point out the fallibility of the statement and, wherever possible, give the alternative (always better) Biblical explanation of the same data.

What the Observer does not tell us, however, is that this article was pulled from the Institute’s website when Dawkins brought it to public attention. The full text has been preserved on Andrew’s Brown website. Layfield’s anti-science (sorry, “anti-scientism”) diatribe includes the following:

if the Biblical record is to be trusted, we must acknowledge within our grand geophysical paradigm the historicity of a world-wide flood as outlined in Gen 6-10. If the Biblical narrative is secure and the listed genealogies (e.g. Gen 5; 1 Chro 1; Matt 1 & Lu 3) are substantially full, we must reckon that this global catastrophe took place in the relatively recent past. Its effects are everywhere abundantly apparent.

Teachers should

organise talks by specialist Scientists who are able to provide authoritative pronouncements in favour of the Biblical world-view whilst providing a fair but critical appraisal of naturalism.

Those who follow scientific method, in contrast, are following Satan:

Many who parade as competent scientists today are unwittingly asking the same question which Satan first uttered back in Genesis, ‘Did God really say…?'(3:1)

Layfield, however, knows better than to ask questions.

The main reason Blair has been so keen to hand over schools to Vardy is because his approach is said to improve grades and standards (and several pupils interviewed by The Observer seem happy enough with Emmanuel, and say that “it’s not like you have to take everything on board that they say in assembly”). Speaking in the House of Commons after visiting Vardy’s King’s Academy in Middlesborough, Blair said:

There is nothing more inspiring, particularly when one knew the old school that the King’s Academy replaced, than to see the brand new buildings, the total commitment of the teachers and staff, and the pupils there eager to learn. It is one of the best examples of modern social justice that I can think of.

However, the former deputy head of the “old school”, Coulby Newham, has responded in this week’s Observer:

Having read about Sir Peter Vardy (‘The Lesson Today’, OM, last week), I was sorry to see you repeat the Prime Minister’s jibe about the school that the King’s Academy in Middlesbrough replaced. I was deputy headteacher and would like to set the record straight.

Coulby Newham was a successful school. Its Ofsted [school inspection] reports of 1995 and 2000 revealed a well-managed school where most of the teaching was good, very good or excellent and pupils were happy and secure. All wore school uniform. Most importantly, in September 2002, HMI [Her Majesty’s Inspectors] reported that the school was even better than at its last inspection.

I believe that if the King’s Academy does not achieve its targets, Coulby Newham is being set up to take the blame.

Gordon Potter
Washington, Tyne and Wear

NB: Do not confuse the evangelical Peter Vardy (who attends the Bethany Christian Centre in Houghton-le-Spring) with Dr Peter Vardy, a Catholic theologian based at Heythrop College in London.

UPDATE (24 July): The BBC reports on how other parts of Vardy’s curriculum are subordinated to his religious vision, quoting from a document previously available on the Emmanuel College website:

“Religion and Art are linked together by a common goal: to serve the glory of God and celebrate the complex beauty of His creation,” it says.

Business and economics teaching should incude “the power of the media and of revisionist and relativist thinking which would seek to redefine Truth.”

A value system “rooted in Biblical Truth” would give students “a solid starting point upon which they need ‘lean not on their own understanding’ (Proverbs 3.5)”.

In history, “we are also able to present to students certain historical actions or philosophies held in the past which are consistent with Biblical Truth”.

“In this context, it becomes important to peruse why Hitler paused at the English Channel when an immediate invasion might have lead to a swift victory. Could it be that God was calling a halt to this march of evil?”…

Mathematics is “a disciplined thought-structure which is used to describe the numerical and spatial attributes of God’s Creation”.

On other religions, the curriculum document says personal faith is “just that” so students should not “put themselves into the shoes” of others.

And “the traditional family unit, heterosexual marriage, faithfulness, the positive option of celibacy/singleness, sexual purity and self-control shall all be presented in positive and sensitive light as God’s ideal, accepting that many people today fall short of it.”

The study of science is not an end in itself but “a glimpse into the rational and powerful hand of the Almighty”.

4 Responses

  1. […] discussed on his TV documentary were blogged by me some time ago; the programme also looked at British Christian fundamentalism more […]

  2. […] The spread of Creationism in British schools has been blogged by me before – see here and here. […]

  3. […] back in 2004 it was revealed that one school, under the control of an evangelical businessman named Peter Vardy, obliged pupils to carry Bibles around, and had installed a creationist science teacher. Parents of […]

  4. […] who was given several state schools to run by the UK government a few years ago. I blogged on Vardy here, but I’m doubtful he’s connected with this […]

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