Interviews with
Revd. David Holloway, vicar of Jesmond Parish Church, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, founding member of the Christian Institute, and with
Professor Richard Dawkins, Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science, Oxford University
BBC Radio 4 Today programme 14/3/02

Quotation from letter from Revd David Holloway

Jim Naughtie: . . . Let's look at Emmanuel College, the school in question. What does go on there? The Reverend David Holloway is a local vicar who is a prominent evangelical campaigner in the Church of England, he is a strong supporter of the school. Mr Holloway, good morning.

David Holloway: Good morning, Jim.

Jim Naughtie: Creationism, where should that sit in the school curriculum?

David Holloway: Well, can I just define what I understand creationism to be. I mean, you said it puts a date on earth - I totally disagree with that.

Jim Naughtie: Well, some creationists - and I'm afraid I've been a recipient of many a letter from them - insist that they can put a date on -

David Holloway: Well, let me just say what I think; and as I'm wanting to - with another group of clergy, wanting to have a school similar to Emmanuel in Newcastle, let me tell you what I think.

Jim Naughtie: Yes, right.

David Holloway: The Bible speaks with brilliant simplicity in Genesis 1 to 3 in the same way as there's simplicity when I say the sun rose this morning. And to say the sun rose is not scientific from a sort of Copernican point of view, but it communicates a real happening. So what Genesis teaches and mainstream Christians believe is that God caused the world, the world did not cause God. Mind gave rise to matter, not matter to mind. But Darwin and, you see, secular Humanists teach not just micro-evolution, which we all believe in, namely the survival of the fittest, which is commonsense, but macro-evolution, where matter does give rise to mind, and where an impersonal world gives rise to a personal God.

Jim Naughtie: But you use the phrase "mainstream Christians". Mainstream Christians in the Church of England accept, broadly speaking, an evolutionary account of our world as compatible with their own religious belief and not the one that is favoured by most creationists, without going into the detail of whether there is a particular -

David Holloway: Well, no, there is such a wide view of creationism. I mean, micro-evolution is not macro-evolution, which is what we are talking about with Darwin, which is what is taught in many schools, and I don't know how many people actually read Darwin but Darwin did not just believe what we would consider to be science, which is perfectly legitimate, - I mean, Darwin evolved a philosophy of the universe, and Darwin believed, for example, through macro-evolution that the higher races would eliminate the lower races -

Jim Naughtie: We're not arguing here about Darwin himself, what we are arguing about is - not arguing, but discussing - is the kind of school. You see, for instance, at a lecture given at the school last year, the vice principal said this: "As Christian teachers, it is essential that we are able to counter the anti-creationist position". So everything is seen from the point of view of a creationist truth.

David Holloway: What is going on in schools even in the north east and certainly in America where this debate is much more advanced, is, and I quote, I'm quoting because I've got it in front of me, an American position statement for biology in schools, quotes: "The diversity of life on earth is the outcome of evolution, an unsupervised, impersonal, unpredictable and natural process of temporal descent." Well, that is philosophy, that's not science. What we are wanting to say is, the national curriculum requires us, I don't know how many people realise this, but scientific enquiry as such has to be taught. "Pupils -" I'm quoting - "pupils should be taught how scientific controversies can arise from different ways of interpreting empirical evidence, for example, Darwin's theory of evolution".

Jim Naughtie: But what is being said about this school is not that it's not doing that but that it is particularly trying to take a position which says that - you've talked about mainstream Christians - that mainstream science is factually incorrect. Now if it were doing that, the argument is that they're not just looking at different theories, it's actually saying that we're telling you this is wrong. Is that what it should do, or not? Do you take a view on that?

David Holloway: I'm not a member of the school, but as I understand it, from the headmaster, I discussed this with him, I mean he believes that it's right that every position should be taught. Obviously, as I believe - I happen to disbelieve in macro-evolution, not because I'm a flat-earther, it's just that I think it's wrong. And so do many serious scientists, palaeontologists and others, who do not agree with the current position on evolution as propounded by a number of atheistic philosophers. And the school is so successful, parents want to got here, and that is the issue, where the parents want to go. This school got 96% GCSEs five A to C GCSEs whereas the national average is 50 and in Newcastle it was 36.

Jim Naughtie: We must move on, Mr Holloway, because I want to hear the other side of the argument. Thank you very much. We do turn to, well, he won't mind me calling him an atheist scientist, Richard Dawkins, a Humanist from Oxford, who takes a very strong line on this, and is so angered by it that, I think, Professor Dawkins, you've written to the Inspectorate. What is your concern here? and where do you think that the teaching of different points of view and the argument about faith positions or philosophical roots of enquiry tilts over into brainwashing or unfair forms of teaching?

Richard Dawkins: Well, let me say that I've just listened to Mr Holloway and he has been extremely dishonest if I may say so when he says for example that this school is not teaching dates. I now quote from the head of science at this Gateshead school. He says that "science teachers should note every occasion when an evolutionary old-earth 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. Wherever possible we must give the alternative, always better, Biblical explanation of the same data." Millions or billions of years is what he is saying they should deny. That only leaves thousands of years at the most. These people are teaching that the earth is a matter of mere thousands of years old. That is not just wrong, that's six orders of magnitude wrong - that's six zeros wrong. These children are being taught ludicrous falsehoods. This is not a matter of one scientific position against another scientific position. There is no scientific position which favours the idea that the earth is only thousands of years old.

Jim Naughtie: And of course you don't speak for anyone in the Church of England or in any other mainstream Christian denomination, but you will be aware that there would be very few bishops in the Church of England who would subscribe to the view that the earth is a few thousand years old.

Richard Dawkins: In many ways I'm sorry you got me on this rather than a bishop because without any miss[?] upon it he would have said the same.

Jim Naughtie: But the point here is what you want the inspectors to do and what they should do.

Richard Dawkins: I have - I'm not the only one - I gather from the Guardian this morning that various of us have written to Ofsted asking that this school should be re-inspected. I'm very aware that it got very good ratings in the previous inspection. I can only think that the inspectors simply overlooked or were not shown what was going on in the science teaching and I think the same could be said of Tony Blair in the House of Commons yesterday. He no doubt has seen the Ofsted report and what else can he do? He naturally has to take what the report says. This is precisely why I am asking that Ofsted should reexamine this school.

Jim Naughtie: Richard Dawkins, thank you.

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. . . there are a range of creationist views, not just one. Nor is there only one view at Emmanuel College. But all are united in saying "No!" to atheistic doctrinaire macro-evolutionism, which is the standard fare in many schools.

Rev David Holloway, letter in Church Times, 5/4/02

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