Saturday, September 19, 2009

Are Psychic Powers Real?

In a short documentary for British TV (and his website), arch-sceptic Richard Dawkins interviewed magician Derren Brown, to discover his thoughts and experiences in dealing with 'psychics'. Do they believe they, themselves, possess supernatural powers? Do they take advantage of the naive, or the grieving? Should the media present 'psychic events' in ways that make them appear more believable?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Evolution vs Intelligent Design

Throughout the 20th century, Christian groups resisted the theory of evolution. Many US states did not teach it until 1968 when the Supreme Court ruled that banning the teaching of evolution contravened the first amendment of the constitution of America, the separation of Church and state. It was, however, still legal to teach religion as part of science class until 1987, when mentioning a theory called 'creation science' in biology lessons was also deemed unconstitutional. This left evolution as the only theory of biological origin that science teachers were allowed to teach.

In recent years, however, Intelligent Design has gained more and more supporters, not least President George W. Bush. In 2005, he reopened the debate with his comments: "Both sides ought to be properly taught . . . so people can understand what the debate is about . . . Part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought . . . You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes."

In the same year, the school board of Dover, a small farming community in western Pennsylvania, became the first in the U.S. to adopt the theory of intelligent design. The move divided the community and the town became the centre of national attention. The school board voted to teach the ninth grade biology class that there are gaps and problems with the theory of evolution and intelligent design was presented as an alternative. They proposed the use of scientific textbooks in which intelligent design was presented as scientific theory.

Bryan Rehm (who resigned his post as science teacher in Dover when intelligent design was adopted) and his wife Christy believed that this new policy was not only anti-scientific, but also religious and therefore unconstitutional. By promoting religion it was a violation of the law passed in 1987. The Rehms and nine other parents and teachers filed a law suit against the school board in the district court. This became the first legal challenge to intelligent design. After 40 days of trial, Judge John E Jones ruled against the school board, stating: "We have addressed the seminal question of whether intelligent design is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that intelligent design cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents."

Evolutionists heralded this victory as a damning blow to the intelligent design movement. However, as history shows, law suits have little effect on the support for creationism in a country where over 50% of citizens believe that God created humans in their present form, the way the Bible describes it (perhaps you could argue this is as it should be). The controversy rumbles on, with many opponents of intelligent design (such as Prof. Richard Dawkins) simply refusing to enter into debate, to avoid being accused of admitting that true scientific disagreement actually exists. Meanwhile, in the U.S., the setting of the science curriculum remains the responisbility of individual State Education Boards. In Arkansas and Alabama biology textbooks have been required to be printed with disclaimers stating that evolution is "a controversal theory" and "a theory rather than fact". Similarly, in Georgia, sections of textbooks refering to evolution were required to be preceded by the statement "this material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered." Most famously, at the end of 2005, the State Education Board of Kansas approved new science education standards that called for students to learn about scientific criticisms of evolution theory.

The following documentary "A War on Science" investigates the growth of Intelligent Design and the reaction of supporters on both sides:

Watch BBC Horizon - A War on Science(Evolution vs Intelligent Design) in Entertainment  |  View More Free Videos Online at

Monday, September 7, 2009

TOK Essay Marking Criteria

I have copied these pages from the IB TOK guide so you can see the criteria (A, B, C and D) which will be used to mark your TOK essay when you have submitted it. Please keep these criteria in mind as you write:

Another 10 tips for writing a good TOK essay