Comments: creationism in English schools

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.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 24 March 2011 at 11:06am GMT

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 emphasize that in his science classes?

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Thursday, 24 March 2011 at 11:45am GMT

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.

Posted by Cynthia Gilliatt at Thursday, 24 March 2011 at 3:35pm GMT

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 ?

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Thursday, 24 March 2011 at 7:41pm GMT

"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 myth as real, observable, scientific facts.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 24 March 2011 at 10:59pm GMT

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 tell us how the world was made. To read if for that is to make it literal and thereby debase the powerful symbology.

Posted by Scott at Friday, 25 March 2011 at 1:22am GMT

'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 of the vast majority of the population.

Quite frankly I think the problem goes back to the whole question of 'faith schools'. The State came to an accommodation with Church of England and the Roman Catholic schools in the 19th century and as a result we have a system where 'faith' schools are lauded as somehow better that those provided directly by the state. Many people see 'faith' schools as divisive but for the Churches they are seen as a way of maintaining Christian influence in the education of the young now that their influence in wider society is negligible. Fundamentalist sects have latched on to this now that public money is available and the Churches can hardly attack this development for fear of undermining their own case for 'faith' schools.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Friday, 25 March 2011 at 8:36am GMT

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.

Posted by Sara MacVane at Friday, 25 March 2011 at 9:10am GMT

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 darwinian evolution) are only ever the best match to the data at any given time, and always provisional until other data might come along to modify or disprove the theory.

Science without a constant hermeneutics of suspicion, and an awareness that any given theory might be incorrect, is not science.

Only religion contains a belief in unchanging facts, scientific facts or otherwise.

Simon Dawson

Posted by Simon Dawson at Friday, 25 March 2011 at 10:44am GMT

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".

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 25 March 2011 at 4:49pm GMT

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 explain the nature of the world. The way to oppose creationist teaching in schools is to explore the nature of the evidence behind these theories, and not to insist that darwinian evolution is a fact or absolute law. That would put you in the same non-sceientific camp as your opponents

Best wishes

Simon

Simon

Posted by Simon Dawson at Saturday, 26 March 2011 at 9:09am GMT

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

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Saturday, 26 March 2011 at 3:47pm GMT

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?

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 27 March 2011 at 8:16pm GMT

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.

Posted by Robert ian Williams at Wednesday, 30 March 2011 at 6:34am BST

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 that is the problem, but its ‘remodelling’ into a philosophical explanatory model with a claim of totality.

And in the Regensburg address in 2006 Pope Benedict says:
“It must be clear that to the Catholic point of view no scientific findings will present an obstacle to faith.”…

…There is, in the first place, a rationality of matter itself. One can read it. It has mathematical properties; matter itself is
rational, even though there is much that is irrational, chaotic, and destructive on the long path of evolution. But matter per se is legible.
Secondly, it seems to me that the process, too, as a whole, has a rationality about it. Despite its false starts and meanderings through the narrow corridor, the process as such is something
rational in its selection of the few positive mutations and in its exploitation of the minute probabilities….

Pope Benedict has often addressed this issue. In his Sorbonne speech he says: ‘In the end this concerns a choice that can no longer be made on purely scientific grounds or basically on
philosophical grounds. The question is whether reason, or rationality, stands at the beginning of all things and is grounded in the basis of all
things or not. The question is whether reality originated on the basis of chance and necessity […], and, thus, from what is irrational; that is,
whether reason, being a chance by-product of irrationality and floating in an ocean of irrationality, is ultimately just as meaningless; or whether the principle that represents the fundamental convictions of Christian faith
and of its philosophy remains true: “In principio erat Verbum” – at the beginning of all things stands the creative power of reason

http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_academies/acdscien/2009/acta_20_pas_01of07.pdf

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 30 March 2011 at 9:13am BST

"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!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 30 March 2011 at 10:22am BST

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?


Posted by Pat O'Neill at Wednesday, 30 March 2011 at 11:24am BST

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.

'When the Universe cooled down after the Big Bang, about 13.7 billion years ago, electrons and protons combined to form neutral hydrogen gas. This cool dark gas was the main constituent of the Universe during the so-called Dark Ages, when there were no luminous objects. This phase eventually ended when the first stars formed and their intense ultraviolet radiation slowly made the hydrogen fog transparent again by splitting the hydrogen atoms back into electrons and protons, a process known as reionisation. This epoch in the Universe’s early history lasted from about 150 million to 800 million years after the Big Bang. (Galaxies during the era of reionisation: http://www.eso.org/public/images/eso1041a/).

Ah, so that bit might be true!

Then there's the entropy argument which is swiftly dispatched by indicating that while the overall degree of disorder of a larger system may indeed increase in accordance with the Second Law of Thermodynamics, sub-systems may increase and decrease in entropy via energy transfers between each other.

Of course, the entropy argument challenged the previously accepted notion that the universe was a closed system. At that time, scientists struggled to explain how useful structure and order (rather than fractrals) could culiminate randomly from chaos.

Now, chaos theory, parallel universes and even the discredited search for extraterrestrial intelligence are joined by a vast supporting cast of sub-atomic particles to deliver an atheist theory of the known universe.

Unfortunately, many Christians prefer an insistent literalist reaction to intelligent debate. This actually undermines the basis of our faith. For instance, would these modern discoveries have led Paul to return to his unforgiving, persecuting ways, or persuaded Mary Magdalene to go back 'on the game'? Probably not, their lives were clearly transformed by the intervention of divine power, rather than acceptance of a scientific theory. It was this type of unanswerable intervention that glorified the gospel message.

Behind this drive to introduce creationism into the curriculum is an attempt to mass-produce a return to the Good Old Days of Christian Society. It's lazy and I can't imagine a greater formula for encouraging hypocrisy, than the pressure of unyielding religious conformity in our schools.


Posted by David Shepherd at Thursday, 31 March 2011 at 9:35am BST
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