Friday, 4 May 2007

Creationism in schools (again...)

Poor useless David 'Dave' Cameron showed up in the press being 'ambiguous' about whether creationism ought to be taught in science class. To be fair, what Cameron said doesn't seem horribly unreasonable: he said "Personally I don't support the teaching of creationism," but he added, "I'm a great believer that we need to trust schools and governors of schools to get these things right and I think that's the right approach." He said he advocated a "more devolved system" for deciding what schools were allowed to teach.

What worries me about this is that we would be likely to end up with the same miserable culture wars that periodically afflict the US, when some local school board in the bible belt decides that creationism ought to be taught in science class, as a competing 'theory' to evolution. We can probably all do without that, I reckon, having enough on with the endless attacks on civil liberties and ongoing foreign policy disasters. The problem is that the alternative to 'a more devolved system' is imposing a top-down curriculum, which is not exactly a comfortable option. But perhaps it's the only way of safeguarding our children from the cranks.

I also think that the scientific community is in danger of a massive PR defeat on this. I think that a lot of people fail to see why creationism should not be taught in science class. After all, what is wrong with teaching the merits/de-merits of competing theories? Now, scientists know the answer to this: creationism is not a scientific theory. The clue is in the name: any system of thought that has a ready-made answer for the questions it asks (in this case, God) is not science, whatever else it might be. In that sense, comparing evolution and creationism is just a category mistake. However, I think the message that gets out is the one propagated by those who shout the loudest (I'm thinking of Richard Dawkins and other militant atheists). I don't think it's a particularly brilliant idea for science to be seen as telling people that they're bonkers for believing in God. Now, I'm an atheist myself, but to me this issue has nothing to do with whether there is a god or not, and everything to do with what science is and is not.

3 comments:

Mich said...

Congratulations on your new blog!
Here's your first comment:

Creationism belongs in religious education class where it has historical and social context. Did people learn nothing in school? Why is it only scientists that seen to have a grasp of scientific theory? In a world dominated by phrases like clinically proven, this is a little worrying.

Stef said...

Amen...

George Walks said...

Nice take. That lad talks sense...