Answers in Genesis praises Scottish Government’s creationism teaching policy
Posted by Paul Braterman
This week, under the headline “Scottish Government Rejects Creation Ban”, Ken Ham, President of Answers in Genesis, writes as follows:
“I wanted to share some good news with you and give you an update to a blog post I wrote in September about a potential ban on teaching creation in Scottish public schools.
The Scottish government has decided not to ban teaching creation. According to the Herald Scotland, the head of curriculum unit at the Scottish government’s Learning Directorate said, “I can (therefore) confirm that there are no plans to issue guidance to schools or education authorities to prevent the presentation of creationism, intelligent design or similar doctrines by teachers or school visitors.” This means that teachers in Scotland still have the freedom to present the problems with evolution and millions of years as well as possibly present other alternatives, such as biblical creation, to their students. This is a victory for academic freedom in that country. Sadly, the secularists were trying to protect the teaching of their atheistic religion as the only worldview imposed on the current and future generations of kids.”
Ham, predictably, goes on to spout his usual nonsense about what he calls biblical science having the same status as real science when dealing with past events.
Ham has influential friends within the Scottish educational system. Dr Nagy Iskander, an unelected appointee on the Education Committee of South Lanarkshire, is a close associate, and has himself spoken at the Creation Museum, while People With Mission Ministries, who run the Challenger buses that are frequent visitors at schools throughout Scotland, sell Answers in Genesis materials.
We had predicted that failure of the Scottish Government to act on our petition would be welcomed by creationists as a licence to continue spreading their disinformation, but did not expect this to happen quite so soon.
Meanwhile, the Society of Biology, one of the Scottish Government’s own advisers through its panel of learned societies, has come out in strong support of our petition, saying
“As the voice of biology we advocate that biological evolution (together with the geological and astrophysical evidence on the history of the earth and universe) forms a core component of the biological sciences and as such should be taught in biology lessons, alongside the importance of an evidence-based approach to understanding our world. In contrast, creationism, intelligent design and similar ideas are not based on scientific evidence and therefore should not be taught in the context of a science class or presented as scientific theory.
We recognise that questions regarding creationism and intelligent design may arise in the classroom, for example as a result of individual faith and beliefs or media coverage. When such topics arise in a science class there are opportunities to explain or explore why creationism and intelligent design are not scientific theories. We encourage the Scottish Government to follow the strategy taken in other nations of the United Kingdom to provide clear guidance to schools and the teaching community stating explicitly that creationism and intelligent design are not considered to be scientific theories based on tested hypotheses, and therefore should not be taught in science lessons. Furthermore we urge the Scottish Government to provide teachers with appropriate training opportunities to develop the skills to answer controversial questions posed in science lessons in a clear and sensitive manner.”
The Society of Biology is the largest professional organisation of biologists in the UK, with branches and experience in Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. We welcome, although it goes beyond the scope of our original petition, the Society’s advice that teachers in general receive training on how to respond to the creationist challenge.
Because of a failure in the Parliamentary Clerks’ office, the Society of Biology submission was not available to the Scottish Government when it drafted its own statement, the one that Ken Ham so warmly welcomes, despite being submitted a month earlier. We very much hope that the Government will take the opportunity to think again. It can please Answers in Genesis, or it can please the Society of Biology, but it cannot please both.
Three further comments of my own.
- The Scottish Secular Society petition did not explicitly mention intelligent design, but what goes by that name in Scotland is deeply creationist, as analysis of its materials shows. The Glasgow-based Centre for Intelligent Design is for this reason opposed to our petition, and on its own website accuses us and our supporters of scientism (whatever that may mean) and confused thinking.
- Whatever advice is given, it should not be restricted to the science classroom. If a student were to raise the question of creationism in that classroom, it should not be ignored, but dealt with on its merits, as a viewpoint that was tenable two centuries ago, but no longer. Likewise, the study of separate creationism may have an important role in religious or philosophical studies, but will be seriously misleading unless it is made clear to students that it has long since been scientifically refuted. In the Society’s words, it “should not be … presented as scientific theory”, and this applies to any classroom.
- Finally, this debacle is turning Scotland into an international laughing stock. The Sensuous Curmudgeon, an internationally acclaimed satirical anti-creationism site with over 3 million page hits to its credit, had already criticised the Scottish Government here, and has just done so again, here.We can only guess how much damage is being done to Scotland’s reputation by its Government’s refusal to stand up to the tiny minority in our midst who think that the classroom curriculum should be consistent with the eccentric doctrine of biblical literalism.
Links to creationist sites are set at “nofollow” and do not increase their documented hit rate. I refer to “separate creationism”, in order to avoid the confusion, exploited by some, between creation of the Universe as a whole (a worthy topic for consideration) and the separate creation of different kinds of living thing (false).
About Paul BratermanScience writer, former chemistry professor; committee member British Centre for Science Education; board member and science adviser Scottish Secular Society; former member editorial board, Origins of Life, and associate, NASA Astrobiology Insitute; first popsci book, From Stars to Stalagmites 2012
Posted on December 27, 2014, in Creationism, Education, Politics, Religion, Scotland and tagged Answers In Genesis, Challenger Buses, Ken Ham, Nagy Iskander, Petition to Scottish Parliament, PWAMM, Scottish Secular Society, Sensuous Curmudgeon, Society of Biology. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.
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