Government says creationism is off the agenda in UK school science
The British governmentís Department for Education and Skills (DfES) has given a general assurance that it will not allow British school science lessons to be infiltrated by ëcreationistí ideas, after a group calling itself Truth in Science mailed teachers trying to persuade them to take their ideas anti-evolutionary ideas seriously.
The UK Christian think tank Ekklesia and the British Humanist Association took the unusual step of writing a joint letter to education secretary Alan Johnson, asking him to ensure that his Department, OFSTED (the Office for Standards in Education) and the QCA (Qualifications and Curriculum Authority) were ensuring proper scientific standards in teaching.
They did so to ìto make it absolutely clear that the issue of the integrity of evolutionary theory as a cornerstone for teaching modern biology is not one of religious or non-religious conviction, but a matter of straightforward scientific truthfulness.î
A spokesperson for the Department for Education and Skills told the BBC: ìNeither creationism nor Intelligent Design are taught as a subject in schools, and are not specified in the science curriculum.î
The DfES continued: ìThe national curriculum for science clearly sets down that pupils should be taught that the fossil record is evidence for evolution, and how variation and selection may lead to evolution or extinction.î
Ekklesia says that it is pleased with the general assurance, but believes that clear guidelines need to go round to science teachers to ensure that they resist pressure from creationists and IDers.
ìWe look forward to a more detailed and specific response from the DfES in due courseî, said Ekklesia co-director Simon Barrow.
Creationism has been promoted vigorously by the religious right in the United States, where it has been used to try to undermine science teaching. The creed is based on a narrow reading of the biblical book of Genesis ñ one rejected by mainline Christian scholars and churches.
More than 10,000 clergy in the USA have now signed an online petition defending the compatibility of Christian faith and modern science, including evolutionary biology.
The Clergy Project is now building a huge base of support in churches and is preparing for Evolution Sunday in February 2007.
The statement says: ìWe the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as ëone theory among othersí is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children.î
It continues: ìWe believe that among Godís good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator. To argue that Godís loving plan of salvation for humanity precludes the full employment of the God-given faculty of reason is to attempt to limit God, an act of hubris. We urge school board members to preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge. We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth.î
Explains coordinator Michael Zimmerman: ìFor too long, the misperception that science and religion are inevitably in conflict has created unnecessary division and confusion, especially concerning the teaching of evolution. I wanted to let the public know that numerous clergy from most denominations have tremendous respect for evolutionary theory and have embraced it as a core component of human knowledge, fully harmonious with religious faith.î
Ekklesia points to the work of bodies such as the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion (University of Cambridge) and the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences (California) as among the major places where scientists, theologians and philosophers enjoy positive interaction.
Further infomation: An open letter concerning religion and science; A report on Evolution Sunday 2006; Articles and sermons on faith and evolutionary perspectives; An index to creationist claims; Evidences for macroevolution; God and evolution; TalkOrigins archive.
[Also on Ekklesia: Christians and humanists call on government to rule out 'creationism' in science classes 29/09/06; Creationism distorts truth in science, says vicar 25/09/06; UK anti-evolutionists seek to lure parents with new website 25/09/06; Theologians and scientists welcome Intelligent Design ban; Schools minister says creationism has no place in classroom science; Exam Board rules out creationism in UK classrooms; US churches celebrate 'Evolution Sunday'; Vatican astronomer says creationism is superstition; Archbishop of Canterbury criticises teaching of creationism; Creationists target schools and universities in Britain; Dawkins attacks creationist plans; Faith schools may allow extremists in, say critics; Creationists plan six more schools; Christians to explore values in science and technology; New Christian academy rejects creationism as 'rubbish']