According to yesterday’s Guardian, a group of scientists that include David Attenborough, Richard Dawkins, Paul Nurse (head of the Royal Society), Lewis Wolpert, Helena Cronin, and Colin Blakemore, have banded together to fight creeping creationism in Britain, both in schools and elsewhere:
A group of 30 scientists have signed a statement saying it is “unacceptable” to teach creationism and intelligent design, whether it happens in science lessons or not. The statement claims two organisations, Truth in Science and Creation Ministries International are “touring the UK and presenting themselves as scientists and their creationist views as science”.
“Creationism and intelligent design are not scientific theories, but they are portrayed as scientific theories by some religious fundamentalists who attempt to have their views promoted in publicly funded schools,” the scientists say.
“There should be enforceable statutory guidance that they may not be presented as scientific theories in any publicly funded school of whatever type.”
The scientists claim organisations such as Truth in Science are encouraging teachers to incorporate intelligent design into their science teaching.
“Truth in Science has sent free resources to all secondary heads of science and to school librarians around the country that seek to undermine the theory of evolution and have intelligent design ideas portrayed as credible scientific viewpoints. Speakers from Creation Ministries International are touring the UK, presenting themselves as scientists and their creationist views as science at a number of schools.”
Free schools and academies were not obliged to teach the national curriculum and so were “under no obligation to teach evolution at all,” it added.
You can find the statement and the list of 30 signatories here.
I was surprised to learn not only that evolution is not a mandated part of the national curriculum, but also these two facts, which seem more characteristic of the US than Britain:
- The BHA says that some schools continue to promote creationist ideas in place of established scientific facts. It bases its conclusions mainly on information shared with it by parents. A 2006 survey by Opinionpanel found that nearly 20% of UK students said they had been taught creationism as fact by their main school.
- In 2009, an Ipsos Mori survey found that more than half of British adults think that intelligent design and creationism should be taught alongside evolution in school science lessons – a proportion higher than in the US. [JAC: the figure is 54%, nearly three times higher than the response in Egypt!.]
Curiously, the Telegraph article on the same issue has this description:
The naturalist [Attenborough] joined three Nobel laureates, the atheist Richard Dawkins and other leading scientists in calling on the government to tackle the “threat” of creationism.
Why is Dawkins identified as “the atheist” rather than as “the biologist”? After all, Dawkins has written far more about biology than about atheism, and that’s how he got famous in the first place. Moreover, Wolpert, Attenborough and Paul Nurse (and probably others) are atheists too.