Thinking Anglicans

creationism in English schools

The government recently made a statement about this. Riazat Butt reported for the Guardian that Free schools will not teach creationism, says Department for Education.

The Department for Education has said Michael Gove is “crystal clear that teaching creationism is at odds with scientific fact” after a warning that the government’s new free schools could be exploited by fundamentalist churches looking to promote a literal interpretation of the Bible.

The remarks follow a letter to the education secretary from the British Centre for Science Education (BCSE) suggesting that creationists planned to use government legislation on free schools to mount a “concerted attack” on science education…

Here is the full text not only of the letter, but also the attached memorandum that they sent.

But the government response is not as simple as the unknown headline writer suggests. As the Guardian article makes clear:

“Creationism will be embodied as a belief at Everyday Champions Academy, but will not be taught in the sciences,” said its leader Gareth Morgan. “Similarly, evolution will be taught as a theory. We believe children should have a broad knowledge of all theories in order that they can make informed choice.”

The DfE spokesman said groups setting up new free schools in the UK will be vetted to ensure that they have “strong education aims” and “high curriculum standards”. He said: “The education secretary is crystal clear that teaching creationism is at odds with scientific fact. Ministers have said they will not accept any proposal where there are concerns about the people behind the project.”

See this website for more information about the proposed new school.

A question was recently asked in Parliament by Julian Huppert MP. Emphasis added.

Julian Huppert (Cambridge, Liberal Democrat)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education what his policy is on (a) ensuring that free schools are not permitted to teach creationism outside the religious education curriculum and (b) requiring evolution to be taught as a science in such schools.

Nick Gibb (Minister of State (Schools), Education; Bognor Regis and Littlehampton, Conservative)

Academies and free schools will benefit from having freedom over the curriculum they deliver. However, we have been clear that creationism should not form part of any science curriculum or be taught as a scientific alternative to accepted scientific theories. We expect to see evolution and its foundation topics fully included in any science curriculum. Under the Government’s planned reforms to school inspection, there will be stronger focus on teaching. Teachers will be expected to demonstrate that their subject knowledge is secure. If creationism is being taught as a scientific fact in science or any other areas of the curriculum outside denominational RE and collective worship, this would be noted in the Ofsted report.

Why is it that the only people who are expressing public concern about this issue are Humanists?

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Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

As long as they also explain that a theory in science is not just something someone thinks is possible.

The really shocking thing is how many people will claim that some scientific thinking or other is “just” a theory and thereby opening doors to the claim that a religious idea can be elevated to the same level as a scientific theory.

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

Good luck with this. Experience in the US tells me that “evolution will be taught as a theory” is code for “we will emphasize each and every dispute among scientists in order to discredit evolution, while ignoring the overwhelming consensus that evolution is the only theory that fully explains the observations in the real world.” And, of course, we have the usual misinterpretation of the meaning of “theory” in the scientific milieu. It is not a synonym for “guess”–it means a detailed explanation for facts as observed. Let me note that “gravity” is a theory, as well. Will Gareth Morgan… Read more »

Cynthia Gilliatt
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Cynthia Gilliatt

Can someone explain “outside denominational RE and collective worship?” Does this mean that they ‘can’ teach creationism in religious education [RE?]classes and during worship?

I am not comforted either by the Champions Academy statement pledging to teach evolution “as a theory.” In the States, the unspoken word after “as” is “only.” The creationists routinely misuse this precise scientific term to cast doubt on evolution. Sorry to see this religious attack on science on your side of the pond.

Laurence Roberts
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Laurence Roberts

If this schools even get off the ground they cannot last. Another mad policy at a time of cuts.

Will we soon have unqualified doctors and nurses in the NHS ? If not, why not ?

Father Ron Smith
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“The Department for Education has said Michael Gove is “crystal clear that teaching creationism is at odds with scientific fact” after a warning that the government’s new free schools could be exploited by fundamentalist churches looking to promote a literal interpretation of the Bible.” Whatever comes out of this recent UK Government initiative, must surely be positive – if only for the fact that educational establishments have been warned that ‘Creationism’ is only a theory, and cannot be taught in schools as factual – i.e. scientific. There is, and ought to be, no room for government-sponsored educational facilities to promote… Read more »

Scott
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Scott

The statement from Champions seems clear and ominous: ” We believe children should have a broad knowledge of all theories in order that they can make informed choice.” In the US what that means is that “Creation Science” is one theory and “Evolution” is another theory – and informed students will pick from these options… except one is a scientific theory and the other is claptrap. But it also seems to me that mainstream Christians need to be clear about rejecting “Creation Science” since it does great harm to scripture. Genesis contains powerful and important truths, but it does not… Read more »

Richard Ashby
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Richard Ashby

‘Why is it that the only people who are expressing public concern about this issue are Humanists?’ A very good question. The issues has been highlighted for a number of years now and politicians especially have been very mealy mouthed about it. Their desire for ‘free’ schools seems to over ride their responsibility for a rounded education for all young people. The result was seen in Labour’s ‘Academy’ programme where schools have been established by creationist car dealers and now fundamentalist sects are jumping on the bandwagon, seeing public funds as a means to push their agenda agaist the wishes… Read more »

Sara MacVane
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Sara MacVane

Well, although one of my passports is UK, I am really an American and so I think you can’t beat separation of church and state.

Simon Dawson
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Simon Dawson

Erika said “The really shocking thing is how many people will claim that some scientific thinking or other is “just” a theory” Michael Gove is “crystal clear that teaching creationism is at odds with scientific fact” But speaking as scientist, I am crystal clear that science contains only theories, and never facts. Science values and promotes those theories that are most closely matched by scientific observation and experiment. When new scientific observational data comes along which conflicts with those theories then we need to ditch the theories and come up with new ones. The contents of any theory (such as… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Simon,
yes, but most people do not understand your qualifier “Science values and promotes those theories that are most closely matched by scientific observation and experiment”.

If you ask many of them, they will say that gravity is a fact while evolution is a theory.

And if you teach the theory of evolution apparently on the same footing as the theory of creationism you haven’t appreciated what a scientific theory is vs “something I believe in whether it fits with any other evidence or not”.

Simon Dawson
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Simon Dawson

Erika – you wrote “Simon, yes, but most people do not understand your qualifier “Science values and promotes those theories that are most closely matched by scientific observation and experiment””. I agree with you, but it is sad that your “most people” includes the UK Secretary of State for Education. In a debate, if your opponent makes a true statement, it is always a mistake to oppose him/her by making a false statement in reply. The creationsts are actually making a true statement (according to the philosophy of science) by saying that evolution and creation are both theories that may… Read more »

Laurence Roberts
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Laurence Roberts

That is very helpful, Simon. I think I’ve got it now. I’ll try to avoid that trap in future !

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Simon
I absolutely agree in principle.
In practice, our RE teachers are not generally trained scientists and our scientists don’t generally understand Christian theology.
So who is doing this critical analysis of faith and science? Who knows how to use the right language for both disciplines? Who can avoid taking sides and appearing to make the other side look silly or unintelligent or faithless?

Robert ian Williams
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Robert ian Williams

You can laugh at the creationists, but there are some intelligent folks amongst them. I think the Catholic Church takes the best line ( that God specifically created man, and that polygenism did not occur..and that we all descend from first parents)…but I find that evolution as a theory is more and more discredited.

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

RIW, We all descended from first parents? Pope Benedict does not seem to be quite so dogmatic: In the symposium of 1985, Cardinal Ratzinger unmistakably stated: ‘In no case should the appearance of a new dispute between natural science and faith be created, because in fact that is not at all what this dialogue is about’ (quoted in: Creation and Evolution, p. 10). It does not pose a problem to faith to allow ‘the scientific hypothesis of evolution to develop in peace according to its own methods’ (ibid.). It is not the exact scientific work on the theory of evolution… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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“I think the Catholic Church takes the best line (that God specifically created man, and that polygenism did not occur..and that we all descend from first parents)” – Robert I Williams –

Robert, is this an offical dogma of the R.C. church, or did you just make that up? Do you think that God just created Adam? Really? And that Eve suddenly appeared (without God’s help) from the rib of Adam? Sounds a bit bizarre!

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

RIW:

“…evolution as a theory is more and more discredited.”

By whom? By any scientist with the credentials/experiments/observations/theory to back it up? Or by people whose belief system is shaken by the idea that they may not really be the center of the universe after all?

The discovery of DNA–and the fact that all living things share the same genetic code at the base–ought to have put paid to any attempt to deny evolution as the primary theory of life on earth.

Or do you think DNA is a hoax or something?

David Shepherd
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David Shepherd

It’s clear that the Genesis story is rich in metaphor. A serpent tempts Eve, but even a hardened literalist shouldn’t have to wait until Revelation to discover its true identity to be ‘that Old Serpent, Called The Devil, and Satan’. However, Genesis 1: 3 does establishes the transition of the universe’s energy into the visible spectrum: ‘And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.’ My initial assumption was that surely this is another problem: since light has always existed, hasn’t it? Strangely, physicists now refer to a specific primordial epoch as the Dark Ages of the Universe.… Read more »