Sopping?

A while back I "posted ":http://blogs.nature.com/u71147cba/2011/05/15/crisis—-creationism-in-schools-isnt-science information on a campaign prompted by an example of an English state school’s misguided and irresponsible welcoming of a creationist onto its premises, thus facilitating the charlatan’s insidious infiltration of impressionable children’s minds. Some would have it that this is a matter best ignored because otherwise we just encourage and afford it publicity. Certainly, it doesn’t pay to argue with creationists, thus lending them apparent equal weight in a balanced ‘scientific debate’. Nevertheless, I would argue that we ought to be ever vigilant against the pseudoscientific promotion of creationism coupled with outright lies about evolution and the effect this has on children’s education. Thus was I recently drawn, via a forwarded e-mail, to a similar solicitation, ‘Teach evolution, not creationism’, which turned out to be on the government’s e-petition website. And which hence, following some other parliament perusing I’ve been doing lately, led me onto the full list, and so I’ve spent some time eking out a flavour of one or two things.

And quickly wished I hadn’t: there are, as I write, 325 pages of this stuff, ranked (unless you fiddle with the tabling options) league-wise from highest signature number downwards. At twenty per page, this totals to getting on for six-and-a-half-thousand ‘petitions’ on there, although applying the label to all is stretching it some. From around page 251 onwards languish those with a single signatory – presumably its creator (petitions here are ‘Created’); from there up to page 195 are those that have managed to sufficiently interest another person (- its creator and his/her best mate?); it is not until page 94 that any manage to rack up double figures.

Makes you wonder what this is all about. A platform for those frustrated by newspaper editors’ repeated disregard of their self-righteous letters? The Blue Spectre, in hijacking Blair’s initiative, wants us to believe how much more concerned and ‘listening’ his government is by adding the friendly ‘promise’ that anything attracting over 100,000 signatures could be debated in parliament. Funny figure that, way beyond apathy’s reach, so shouldn’t cause too much of a problem, right? Well, in the wake of the fallout from the recent riots, it seems they might have backed themselves into a corner somewhat – at the top of the pile, with over 220,000 signatures, is ‘Convicted London rioters should loose [ sic ] all benefits’. Inadvertently hauled in by their own net there. So, are they going to pacify those who think stealing a bottle of water warrants six months in jail whilst disregarding stinking rich restaurant vandals who can immediately club together the recompense without hindrance to their assured upward trajectory? Although the number of signatures has been acknowledged and the Backbench Business Committee notified, the government is not bound to debate it, as recognised by the creator of ’’’WILL’’ debate not ’’COULD’’’.

Back on topic… with around eight-and-a-half thousand signatories to date, the ‘Teach evolution, not creationism’ entreaty does make it onto the first page. Another of the recognised problems is the generation of multiple petitioning on the same issue. So, until they’re efficiently combined, the search engine, unlike that of the EDM site discussed previously, comes in handy for collating related petitions. For example typing in the word ‘creationism’/‘creationist’ also throws up the following:

‘No creationism in state funded schools’

‘Keep Creationism out of our schools’

Compare against those from the opposite viewpoint:

‘Allow teaching of creationism in schools’

‘Teach Creationism and Evolution’

‘Creation to be taught alongside evolution theory in public schools’

On a not unconnected theme:

‘Separate the Church from the State’

Would that last one make any difference? It is becoming not inconceivable that a creationist mindset may well occupy The White House (again) in the near future. Which might be (used as) argument for leaving UK things as non-separatist? Oh no, that won’t do at all.

I’ll come back to other subject matter on the e-petition site in another post.

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