New push to keep creationism at bay

New push to keep creationism at bay September 20, 2011

EARLIER this year, the UK’s Department for Education issued guidance on how to apply for free school or academy status. Guidelines included the requirement that:

Creationism, intelligent design and similar ideas must not be taught as valid scientific theories.

But, according to this report, critics point out that there is nothing statutory to prevent such teaching from occurring – and nothing in the funding agreements for free schools or academies to prevent them from teaching creationism or “intelligent design”.

Last month a new e-petition, ‘Teach evolution, not creationism‘, was launched by the BHA, inviting individuals to sign up to a similar statement to that on a new website. The petition is one of the most popular on the  Government website, having attracted over 11,000 signatures so far.

Today we learn that top scientists and educationalists – including Sir David Attenborough and a leading science educator who is an Anglican priest, together with five national organisations – have put their names to a statement on a website calling for creationism to be kept out of school science classrooms.

The site says:

Creationism and ‘intelligent design’ are not scientific theories, but they are portrayed as scientific theories by some religious fundamentalists who attempt to have their views promoted in publicly-funded schools. There should be enforceable statutory guidance that they may not be presented as scientific theories in any publicly-funded school of whatever type.
But this is not enough. An understanding of evolution is central to understanding all aspects of biology. The teaching of evolution should be included at both primary and secondary levels in the National Curriculum and in all schools.

The organisations backing the statement are the Association for Science Education, the British Humanist Association, the British Science Association, the Campaign for Science and Engineering, and Christian beliefs and values thinktank Ekklesia.

The thirty leading scientists backing it include three Nobel laureates; naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough; neurobiologist Professor Colin Blakemore; evolutionary biologist Professor Richard Dawkins; President of the Royal Society Sir Paul Nurse; and science education expert the Rev Professor Michael Reiss.

Commenting on the launch, the Rev Professor Reiss said:

Evolution is an extremely powerful idea that lies at the heart of biology. At the same time, it’s a sufficiently simple concept that there’s no good reason why it should be left out of the primary curriculum. If creationism is discussed, it should be made clear to pupils that it is not accepted by the scientific community.

Simon Barrow, co-director of Ekklesia, added:

Mainstream religious bodies as well as mainstream scientists reject the ideology of ‘creationism’, which posits an unnecessary and intellectually flawed conflict between faith and science. They regard it as vital that proper science is taught and respected in Britain’s classrooms, and indeed among civic organisations, both religious and non-religious. Teaching creationism as if it was scientific is dishonest and harmful.

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