Weekly Link Roundup

I’m happy to report that there’s quite a lot of good news this week:

• The U.K. government recommends that primary school religious education classes should teach about “secular beliefs such as humanism and atheism”, in addition to learning about major world religions like Christianity, Buddhism and Islam. This is just one more symptom of how far ahead of us our European friends are in some respects – can you imagine the religious right frenzy that would ensue if a U.S. politician recommended teaching about atheism in public high schools?

• In a story that made me especially happy, Andrew Wakefield, the pseudoscientific doctor who’s almost single-handedly responsible for the anti-vaccination movement, was found to have seriously abused his trust as a medical practitioner by a U.K. ethics panel. According to the ruling, Wakefield ordered unnecessary and invasive tests on autistic children (including spinal taps and colonoscopies), without securing proper ethical approval, in the paper that claimed a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. He also failed to disclose major conflicts of interest (he was being paid by trial lawyers looking to file claims against vaccine manufacturers). The General Medical Council ruled that Wakefield was “dishonest, irresponsible and showed callous disregard for the distress and pain” of the children, and is still evaluating a charge of professional misconduct that could lead to Wakefield’s losing his license to practice medicine.

• And lastly, I’m glad to report that Scott Roeder, the Christian terrorist who shot and killed Dr. George Tiller, was convicted of first-degree murder by a Kansas jury this week. The judge rejected the defense’s ludicrous request that the jury be allowed to consider voluntary manslaughter, and they returned the verdict after just 37 minutes of deliberation. Roeder faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison, the most fitting punishment for a cold-blooded and vicious killer like himself.

Although the cause of justice was served, this verdict can’t undo the damage; Dr. Tiller’s clinic will be closing for good, which means in a way that Roeder got exactly what he wanted. Still, the verdict sends a message that anti-choice zealots cannot commit these crimes with impunity. It may not be enough to discourage future acts of terrorism against abortion providers, but at least we have assurance that the rule of law is still operative in America.

New on the Guardian: Beyond Debating God’s Existence
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About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, City of Light, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Quidam

    Let’s not forget that Britain has compulsory religious education and, at least when I was at school there, daily prayers and hymns. As a kid I was very annoyed that the RC’s and Muslims got to skip RE and prayers, but I didn’t.

    This decision only makes sense in that context. America doesn’t (officially) teach religion in schools so being taught about atheism or humanism would be no more appropriate than Catholicism

    But maybe forcing kids to learn about God in schools why he’s less popular in the UK. Perhaps if American schools taught God and Creationism it would become as unpopular as science, maths and critical thinking is now.

  • http://lenoxus.pbworks.com Lenoxus

    I agreed with the OP on the education thing, but now I agree with Quidam. I guess I’m just easily swayed on things like that…

    Wikipedia sez: Despite there being a statutory requirement for schools to hold a daily act of collective worship, many do not. OFSTED’s 2002-03 annual report, for example, states that 80% of secondary schools are not providing daily worship for all pupils.

    The statutory requirement was made in 1998. Nineteen ninety-eight! Jesus. At least those 80% have common sense.

    Oh, wait, I mean, poor Britain is doooomed to be cursed from the Almighty… (at least, that’s what folks in the US say about cases like Abington v Shempp).

  • http://www.ciphergoth.org/ Paul Crowley

    at least we have assurance that the rule of law is still operative in America or rather that this particular bit of the rule of law is still operative – it’s hard to read this phrase without thinking of all the Bush-era crimes for which no-one was prosecuted.

  • Katie M

    “Perhaps if American schools taught God and Creationism it would become as unpopular as science, maths and critical thinking is now.”

    Maybe, but I’d be too afraid to try it just in case the exact opposite happens.

    So, wonderful news all around. Excellent.

  • billf


    I just found out first hand what a hero Dr. Tiller was. My wife and I ended up needing the services of a man like Dr. Tiller last month. We live in one of the largest cities in the U.S., and we were able to find one doctor to help us. One. If he had been on vacation or otherwise unavailable we would have had to go out of state or out of country for help. Or brought a baby to term who would have had very little chance of ever leaving intensive care during her short, pain-ridden life.

    “Pro Life” my ass. The Doctor and his staff who helped us end this pregnancy are the people who are Pro Life in my book. Maybe the quick no-nonsense conviction of Roeder will make the other nut-jobs like him think a little bit. I doubt it, but perhaps there is some hope.