SCOTLAND has a Jam Club. But it has nothing to do with making sticky, sweet stuff that rots your gnashers. Nor is there a musical connection. Oh no. This jam … groan … is Jesus and Me – a daft concept dreamed up by Egyptian-born Christian fundie Dr Nagy Iskander, who has links to Westwoodhill Evangelical Church.
This is all good and well if Jesus spins your wheels. But it’s his links with Calderglen High School, a publicly funded non-denominational school in East Kilbride near Glasgow, that’s cause for considerable concern.
The school, which presumably exists to educate, rather than indoctrinate, has more biblical advisers than you can shake a crucifix at.
According to the Old Earth – Young Earth blog, established by Professor Paul Braterman – its chaplaincy team numbers SEVEN. The team includes three representatives of Baptist churches and three from the Church of Scotland. The seventh – Iskander, a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in London and a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons and Physicians in Glasgow – is the evangelical representative.
On the school website, Iskander says:
I am interested in Science and the Bible and always happy to tackle questions in this area, so please feel free to contact me about any questions regarding Science and the Christian faith.
What he does not reveal, says Braterman:
Is that he is an out and out supporter of biblical literalism, singled out for praise by Answers in Genesis, and a welcome visitor and occasional speaker at Ken Ham’s Creation Museum in Kentucky, where you will learn that the fossil record is a result of Noah’s Flood, and that ‘Biblical history is the key to understanding dinosaurs’.
You will also find on the AiG web site recorded lectures by Iskander, in which he states that belief in the literal truth of Genesis is foundational to Christianity.
As for the relationship between Science and the Bible, Iskander had this to say to his local newspaper, on the occasion of Answers in Genesis’ Scottish Conference this month:
Both the creationists and evolutionists have the same facts – we have the same earth, the same geological layers, the same fossils – but when we examine the facts we might come to different conclusions, depending on our starting point.
Creation according to the Christian faith is a supernatural act of God, so it will not be repeated and we can’t test creation in the lab. Evolution needs to take place over millions of years and we cannot test that either. My view on this is we should mention everything – we should examine all the evidence and all the facts and have an open and civilised discussion about all of this without excluding one or the other.
On reading this, the steam that came out of Roger Downie’s ears was enough to melt a glacier. Downie, Professor of Zoological Education at Glasgow University, blasted off a letter to the Sunday Herald in which he wrote:
Your quotation from Dr Nagy Iskander illustrates why creationists should not be let near science classes. He said ‘Evolution needs to take place over millions of years and we cannot test that …’ On the contrary, evolution through Darwin and Wallace’s process of natural selection is happening all the time, sometimes quite quickly.
Since Dr Iskander is said to be a surgeon, I would hope that he is fully aware of the evolution of the antibiotic resistance that has made hospital procedures so risky. Science advances through the testing of hypotheses and the accumulation of evidence. Both medicine and biology have greatly benefited from this process. I presume Dr Iskander’s medical practice is based on such advances, rather than the superstitions of previous times.
It is perhaps unkind to describe pre-scientific views as ‘superstitions’ when considered in the context of their time. But to put such views forward today in the name of religion, as serious alternatives to scientific knowledge, brings religion itself into disrepute.
Who appointed Dr Iskander to his position with the school? Were they aware of his Young Earth creationist views? What do the school’s own teachers, including both the science teachers and those who teach about religion, think of his role, and does he have any influence over their teaching?
How often does he address the school, and on what subjects? Are parents notified of his views and influence? Do he and his fellow members of the Chaplaincy Panel receive any payments or reimbursements from the school? And does the school obtain any materials from a company called Christian Schools Scotland, of which he is a director?I don’t know the answer to any of these questions, but intend to find out by addressing a Freedom of Information request of the school. I will let you know what they say.
Hat tip: Mike Battman