8 comments on “Episode Three of “The Genius of Charles Darwin.”

  1. Yes, yes, and yes!

    Personally, Gary, when it comes to rationale musings a science teacher should whatsoever not take any source of teaching other than that of professional credentials granted to him. Else, that would cause a big amount of absurdity in understanding pure science with [unscientific] spiritual liturgy, for lack of a better word.
    Eventhough there’s what so-called subjective consciousness in everyone’s mind, Mr. Cowan has apparently been ‘jiggling’ at the wrong side of a playground.

  2. Yes, yes and yes? Having a Meg Ryan moment there, mate? 😉

    I’ve just had a very well argued email from one of his former pupils that strongly suggests that this picture of Mr Cowan might well be a little misrepresentative. Based on how he presented himself in this documentary and on the BBC website, however, I still feel very much the same. I can only ever have concerns about someone who wants to introduce intelligent design material into “debates” concerning evolutionary theory.

  3. I think that it is telling that most sites (that allow comment upon such articles) contain some random posting in defence of Nick Cowan – as now does this one. Yes he is a bit nutty some time, but is a first rate chemistry teacher, and intellectual enough to teach a balanced class on the pros/cons of creationism. He’s one of the (positive) reasons I chose a career in science, studying as it happens genetics.

    Dawkins has let too much of the fame get to his head, and now just turns out bulk fodder – a place though that does have. He’s essentially a utopianist, something that evolution itself clearly couldn’t achieve. Its as boring listening to him as Nick talk about Stoke city, but it’d be much more fun having with Cowan to discuss your research. And ultimately that’s what Dawkins preaches, fun, no?

    • intellectual enough to teach a balanced class on the pros/cons of creationism

      And therein lies the problem; there are no pros where creationism is concerned, only cons. When science is involved, there is no place for creationism in the classroom — even in the context of a debate regarding the controversy surrounding the issue. By all means discuss it in religious studies, but it cannot be given validity by any kind of suggestion that creationism/intelligent design has any scientific relevance.

      He’s essentially a utopianist

      Really? I somehow doubt it.

  4. >late reply
    I think that Dawkins has actually bought into the idea that a ‘post-religious age’ would be largely harmonious and progressive. He really has stopped thinking – too busy with the pop-sci stuff.

    There are plenty of pros with creationism if you look at it from the right angle. I dont believe in them, but I’m not going to prevent somebody else from discussing them in whichever context they feel appropriate. If they are shouted down so be it – consensus tends to serve the world well in that way.

    Science (as a vague discipline/framework for understanding the world) ‘works’ because it is on the whole merit driven. The more wrong you are, the less attention that is paid to you. There is a place for religion within this so long as it continues to offer some practical advice for many people, a role that it has been perfecting for thousands of years. There is a place for actively bashing that, and for actively opposing science – both are necessary for the framework to remain effective.

    • I think that Dawkins has actually bought into the idea that a ‘post-religious age’ would be largely harmonious and progressive. He really has stopped thinking – too busy with the pop-sci stuff.

      I would certainly agree that Dawkins is of the view that a world without religion would be an improvement. Whether he believes it would be largely harmonious and progressive, however, I can only guess. I tend to feel that he is not quite so naive as to buy into such a simplistic understanding.

      There are plenty of pros with creationism if you look at it from the right angle. I dont believe in them, but I’m not going to prevent somebody else from discussing them in whichever context they feel appropriate.

      Firstly, I’m speaking about creationism from the position of science. As far as I’m concerned, as I’m sure you’ve already worked out 😉 , that is the right angle. Secondly, we are talking specifically about the science classroom. In this situation, it simply cannot be deemed appropriate — whatever the teacher might believe. By all means, discuss the subject and its controversy in religious education but leave it out of the science classroom. As I’ve already said.

      There is a place for actively bashing that, and for actively opposing science – both are necessary for the framework to remain effective.

      I’m not sure I’d go quite that far, but I do certainly take your point. Maybe religion, in some way, helps keep science “real”. I don’t know. But I am reminded of something that Christopher Hitchens once said. I can’t remember the exact quote but, essentially, he said that he wouldn’t want to live in a world without religion because, in effect, he enjoyed the sport. Sometimes, I suppose — most of the time, in fact — opposition is needed, however wrong it may be. It promotes rigour and accountability so… yes, I definitely take your point.

  5. Clearly this sort of discussion has been beaten to death across the www, but returning to the specifics of Nick Cowan, my memory is that maybe 5% of the kids he taught took an interest in the creationism aspect. Another 10-15% actively pursued a ‘real’ science career in part due to his influence, and almost everybody in his class achieved better grades in chemistry for being there.

    I think maybe 2 of the 5% that listened to the creationism angle actually believed it – and they were probably more religiously inclined from their upbringing anyway. The point (there was one) that I am trying to make, and relate to the previous post, was that Nick’s teaching methods – the wacky bits included – contributed more to the ‘real’ scientific education of his students than would have been achieved by sticking to the text book. Rigourous scrutiny is beneficial almost irrespective of the source, and there are more scientist out there doing ‘real’ science as a result of Nick’s effort. That’s why his students past and present respect him so highly.

  6. As I said in the comment above your first comment here: “I’ve just had a very well argued email from one of his former pupils that strongly suggests that this picture of Mr Cowan might well be a little misrepresentative. Based on how he presented himself in this documentary and on the BBC website, however, I still feel very much the same. I can only ever have concerns about someone who wants to introduce intelligent design material into “debates” concerning evolutionary theory.”

    Nick’s pupils are very quick to defend him — and that says a hell of a lot about his teaching credentials. I can’t help feeling that it’s a bit of a shame that he presented himself — or, if I’m being especially generous, allowed himself to be presented — in this way. He clearly is a very able, excellent, even, teacher judging by your comment and others I’ve received.

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