Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/04/12/jones_creationism_talk/

Evolution fightback continues at Royal Society

Creationism in the classroom under fire

By Christopher Williams

Posted in Science, 12th April 2006 12:06 GMT

Over 400 people were turned away from the Royal Society's pro-evolution lecture last night, while anticipated protests from creationists failed to materialise.

The server carrying a live webcast of Professor Steve Jones lecture “Why Creationism is Wrong and Evolution is Right” crashed after it was deluged by Reg readers, according to the RS.

The Royal society itself yesterday published a strongly-worded statement yesterday denouncing the insidious wedge of religion being driven into UK education.

University College London geneticist Jones produced an arsenal of striking examples of evolution from nature, demonstrating the power of Darwinism to explain natural phenomena. He particularly concentrated on the evolutionary story of the relatively harmless Simian Immunodeficiency Virus into its deadly human form, HIV.

He recounted the tale of how researchers traveled to the pathology department of a Kinshasa hospital and examined thousands of stored samples for HIV. They found one from a man who died way back in 1959 – decades before the epidemic entered worldwide consciousness.

Crucially from an evolutionary point of view, the viral fossil sample's genetic sequence fitted exactly where it should have on the predicted path of changes required to get from SIV to current HIV.

Jones also showed that apes are unaffected by their virus because of their large number of copies of a gene that confers resistance. The same multi-copy gene is the reason that groups of African prostitutes stay healthy despite repeated infection.

He explained the current epidemic means we are living “crucibles” of natural selection. Unless a cure is found, the average number of copies of this gene will inevitably increase over time – the essence of Darwinism.

Prof Jones also touched on the current controversy surrounding the creeping advance of creationism into schools into the UK, notably evangelist used car baron Peter Vardy's North East academies. An Association of Teachers and Lecturers meeting in Gateshead yesterday debated a motion to call for an end to faith schools by 2020.

Jones warned against complacency here about the relatively high level of fundamentalism in America. Every attempt there to push God into science lessons has failed thanks to the constitution.

Here there is no such line between religion and state, and though both countries have a Christian leader who has supported creationism, or its pseudoscience-masked stormtrooper intelligent design, in schools, the difference here is that it's actually being taught in schools