Not Saussure

December 12, 2006

At last some good news…

Filed under: Education, junk science, Politics — notsaussure @ 9:17 pm

From The Telegraph

A group of Christian academics promoting the Biblical story of creation in school science lessons have been told to end their campaign.

In a letter, officials at the Department for Education and Skills told the group that creationism and its more recent off-shoot, intelligent design, have no place in the national curriculum and schools should refuse to use their teaching materials.

This comes as a pleasant surprise to those of us who remember Tony Blair’s notorious response to Jenny Tonge in 2002

Q5. [40149] Dr. Jenny Tonge (Richmond Park): Is the Prime Minister happy—[Hon. Members: “Yes.”] Is the Prime Minister happy to allow the teaching of creationism alongside Darwin’s theory of evolution in state schools?

The Prime Minister: First, I am very happy. Secondly, I know that the hon. Lady is referring to a school in the north-east, and I think that certain reports about what it has been teaching are somewhat exaggerated. It would be very unfortunate if concerns about that issue were seen to remove the very strong incentive to ensure that we get as diverse a school system as we properly can. In the end, a more diverse school system will deliver better results for our children. If she looks at the school’s results, I think she will find that they are very good.

and who noted his rather sanguine approach to the topic only last month in an interview with New Scientist:

One subject that is of great concern to scientists is creationism. There has been a suggestion that creationism is being taught in some British schools. What are your views on this?

This can be hugely exaggerated. I’ve visited one of the schools in question and as far as I’m aware they are teaching the curriculum in a normal way. If I notice creationism become the mainstream of the education system in this country then that’s the time to start worrying. As I’ve said, it’s really quite important for science to fight the battles it needs to fight. When MMR comes out, or stem cells, or GM, that’s the time to have a real debate.

To my mind, that’s a bit like agreeing it would be a cause for concern that most schools taught Roman history from Shakespeare’s Roman plays but since only a few are, that’s no need to worry. It also reveals that he fundamentally (if I may use the term) misunderstands some of the religious basis for opposition to stem cell research and, consequently, why scientists might well see the debate about creationism as relevant to stem cells. After all, if you start teaching the theory — held by a great many more people than believe in creationism, I’d think — in biology lessons that human life begins at conception, is a gift of God and involves a soul, then a good deal follows, as Ruth Kelly would doubtless be happy to explain.

Be that as it may, the article continues,

But this week Jim Knight, the schools minister, issued its strongest statement yet that creationism or intelligent design have no place in science lessons.

Answering a Parliamentary Question on Monday, Mr Knight said that the DfES had written to Truth in Science outlining its position.

“Officials have responded that schools are under a duty to follow the science programme of study which sets out the legal requirements of the national curriculum,” he said.

The letter also states that neither intelligent design nor creationism is a recognised scientific theory and they are not included in the science curriculum.

“The Truth in Science information pack is therefore not an appropriate resource to support the science curriculum. The letter also mentioned that the department is working with the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to ensure that schools are completely clear as to the reasons for this position.”

However, he said that such material would be appropriate in religious education lessons.

“Creationism can be explored in RE as part of developing an understanding of different beliefs,” he said, adding that it was up to schools and local authorities to “set the syllabus for how this should be done”.

(In the interests of accuracy, perhaps it should be noted the final quote comes from a Written Answer from the week before.)

Showing their approach to the notion of evidence, the somewhat ironically-named Truth In Science website takes this to mean nothing like what anyone else would think:

The national curriculum is a minimum standard. It exists to guarantee that every young person receives a basic education. Teachers are free to go teach more than the minimum requirements of the national curriculum. Even if intelligent design is “not included in the science curriculum,” this simply means that it is not compulsory in all schools. It does not constitute a ban.

The views of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster on this set-back are yet to be determined.

On which subject, I think I’ve found a design for a Season’s Greetings card that’ll wind up the Daily Mail good and proper.


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