Fight against Creationism in Scotland gains powerful allies; imminent developments

Yesterday I posted about Motion S4M-12149, which a Dinosaur had posted to assert that 6-day creationism had not been scientifically disproved, and that Scottish schools should present it as a viable world-view.

Today I discovered that this was a reaction to the following:

Motion S4M-12148Stewart Maxwell, West Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 23/01/2015

Crackdown against Creationism

That the Parliament congratulates South Lanarkshire Council on taking decisive action to prevent the teaching of creationism in schools by introducing new guidance; condemns any promotion of creationism in publicly funded schools, including the reported distribution of creationist books at Kirktonholme Primary School; believes that creationism should not be presented as a scientific theory and viable alternative to the established theory of evolution, and supports the Society of Biology and the Scottish Secular Society position in opposing the teaching of creationism in the classroom.

Five MSPs from the governing Party, as well as the eloquent Patrick Harvie whose support will be no surprise to those who know the Scottish scene.

Whereas the Dinosaur’s motion has no signatures but his own. How embarrassing.

The Motion refers to developments in South Lanarkshire, which I wrote about here. South Lanarkshire is the authority in charge of Kirktonholme Primary, scene of an outrageous episode in September 2013, when lunatic fringe 6-day creationist books, showing dinosaurs as farmyard animals and describing evolution as wicked, were handed out in Assembly. It has now introduced admirable guidelines regarding chaplains, making Head Teachers responsible for their actions, requiring a member of teaching staff to be present during all their formal in-school activity, and requiring them to respect the guidelines of the Curriculum for Excellence. Since the Curriculum for Excellence explicitly acknowledges evolution as a key concept, this effectively precludes the teaching of creationism as a viable alternative.

The Society of Biology position is spelt out in its submission to the Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee, in support of the Scottish Secular Society’s Petition

Calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to issue official guidance to bar the presentation in Scottish publicly funded schools of separate creation and of Young Earth doctrines as viable alternatives to the established science of evolution, common descent, and deep time.

The Society of Biology submission says, among other things, that

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.

That last sentence is one that I wholeheartedly endorse, and that widens the debate on how to proceed. And in Scotland the question is not confined to science lessons, since concepts of creation are (and should be) discussed explicitly in RE, which is a compulsory component of the curriculum. [1] So for me, this sentence implies a two-way interaction. RE teachers and others concerned with discussing the history of ideas should be aware that separate creationism and what nowadays calls itself Intelligent Design have been utterly discredited scientifically, while science teachers should be able to explain that in every religion,with the possible exceptions of Mormonism and Seventh Day Adventism/Jehovah’s Witness, the creationists’ claim to speak for all believers is bogus and may even be blasphemous.

The Petitions Committee, regular readers may recall, seriously considered killing our Petition when they took evidence on it in November, but decided on a vote that crossed party lines to collect further evidence. The Committee meets again on Tuesday, with 5 new members. It should be an interesting occasion. The meeting is open to the public, but if you want to attend you had better book your seat now. The hearing will also be webcast live here, with transcript posted abut a week later here.

I am of course enormously gratified to see the Scottish Secular Society, to which I am scientific adviser, singled out for mention, and language that I helped draft, finding its way into a Parliamentary Motion that may well signal a turning point in this discussion.

But I will, nonetheless, be relieved when all this is over and I can get back to writing about science.

1] Individual parents, and pupils over the age of 16, have the right to withdraw from RE. In principle, RE is meant to be informative rather than confessional, but this is not always the case in practice.

About Paul Braterman

Science 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 January 25, 2015, in Creationism, Education, Politics, Religion, Scotland and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. The only context I would accept is that humanity was not created .. but gods were. People just are not familiar on how and why gods were created. They are programed to believe that gods were our creators, when the truth is the opposite. To kill the gods, we need to teach people just what gods are, who created them and why. It has been discovered who created the christian god Jesus and why.. This link is pretty clear on explaining this and you can also visit the Caesar’s Messiah web site for more details.


  1. Pingback: Keeping creationism out of Scottish schools; the long, long paper trail | Eat Your Brains Out; Exploring Science, Exposing Creationism

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