Posts Tagged 'education'

The Plague Spreads

I’ve recently come across a rather unwelcome piece of news: one-third of science teachers in the UK want Creationism taught in some form in schools.

Three in 10 science teachers believe creationism should be taught in science lessons, according to a new survey.

And more than a third (37%) of primary and secondary teachers in general believe that the subject should be taught alongside evolution and the Big Bang theory.

The Ipsos Mori poll of more than 900 primary and secondary teachers in England and Wales found that while nearly half (47%) believe it should not be taught in science lessons, two thirds (65%) agree that creationism should be discussed in schools.

This rises to three quarters of teachers (73%) with science as their subject specialism. Two in three science specialists (65%) do not think that creationism should be taught in science lessons. But few teachers think creationism as an idea should be dismissed outright.

Just one in four (26%) agree with a view expressed by Professor Chris Higgins, vice-chancellor of Durham University that “creationism is completely unsupportable as a theory, and the only reason to mention creationism in schools is to enable teachers to demonstrate why the idea is scientific nonsense and has no basis in evidence or rational thought.”

Higgins has the right idea. I agree that Creationism absolutely should be brought up in science classes, but only as part of a comprehensive lesson on how to not do science. Teachers could work through it point-by-point, exposing and explaining each fallacy and piece of minsinformation as they go. The students could even join in! (And I’m not just being snarky here. I actually think this would teach a lot of valuable lessons that kids too often don’t learn in school. It might also equip them with properly working ‘bullshit detectors’.)

In the USA, Creationism is part of an attempt by the Religious Right to defeat what they see as a materialistic, ‘Darwinist’ bias in society. In the UK, I fear it will come under the far more agreeable guise of multiculturalism.

Fiona Johnson, head of education research at Ipsos Mori and director of the Ipsos Mori Teachers Omnibus, said: “Our findings suggest that many teachers are trying to adopt a measured approach to this contentious issue, an approach which attempts not only to explain the essential differences between scientific and other types of ‘theory’, but also to acknowledge that – regardless of, or even despite, “the science” – pupils may have a variety of strongly held, and arguably equal value, faith-based beliefs.”

It does not matter if someone’s belief is strongly held. You can claim that 1+1=3 until you’re blue in the face, but that doesn’t make it right. Nor should science teachers refrain from teaching evolution just because it might offend students with more delicate constitutions. A school has an obligation to teach the best and most certain ideas in a given field, and in biology the theory of evolution absolutely fulfills those criteria. In no sense could a ‘faith-based’ creation story be of ‘equal value’ in a science class to a rigorously tested theory like evolution. What standard is Johnson using to define ‘value’ here? Whether something makes people feel all warm and fuzzy inside?