A recent episode of Horizon on BBC2 asked the fascinating question, ‘What makes us human?’ Professor Alice Roberts considered why human babies are born helpless, whilst other animals have offspring with information hard-wired into their brain, and so are able to fend for themselves very quickly.
Definitions of what it means to be human have been sought out for centuries in many academic disciplines, says Kristel Clayville. Theology and philosophy have been at the forefront of this humanistic inquiry, but since Darwin's writing, biology and psychology have posited their own definitions.
The issue about creationism in schools is part of a wider set of misleadingly contructed arguments about religion and science, says Bob Carling. But ‘culture wars’ are often played out often by ignoring (or unfairly vilifying) those who take seriously the religious aspects of being human (and thus are theistic or agnostic) and who on the other hand take seriously the scientific evidence for evolution.
Creationism and ‘intelligent design’ are not scientific theories, but they are portrayed as such 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, say a group of eminent scientists and science educators. They include an Anglican priest and they are backed by five organisations: three scientific, one secular humanist and one Christian.
On 12 May 2011 an open letter was sent to the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, signed by key figures from both the scientific and religious communities. It calls for a change to the national Department for Education (DfE) guidelines to prevent creationism being taught, presented, or otherwise promoted as a valid scientific position to children in publicly-funded schools.