Back in the 1970s, Ben Bova wrote an editorial in Analog magazine regarding christian groups demanding “equal time” for creationism in American school science lessons. I wondered why he was worried about it, I didn’t believe for a moment that a nation as scientifically and technologically advanced as the USA would succumb to religious fundamentalism. Subsequent history shows how well I called that one.
It is becoming a major issue in Britain and the rest of Europe. All secondary school science departments recently received an unsolicited “teaching aid” that pushed intelligent design. In my department it never saw the light of day, I think our HOD filed it in the cylindrical cabinet but I am sure it is being used elsewhere, in schools such as Emmanual College in Gateshead whose Head of Science, Stephen Layfield, gave a lecture supporting creationism. You can find the text here http://www.darwinwars.com/lunatic/liars/layfield.htmlbut not on the College website because it was removed when the College realised Layfield had given the game away.
The College is 10% funded by Sir Peter Vardy, a fundementalist christian car salesman. For his 10% he gets to dictate the school’s ethos, recruitment policy, admissions policy, the appointment of the majority of the College governers and much else besides. In effect, he is receiving a 90% state subsidy to run a school pretty much as he sees fit.
The National Union of Teachers is not happy with the Academy program in general, points out that their results are no better than state schools and that they put their money to rather interesting uses. often buying services from businesses run by their 10% benefactor and in the case of another Vardy school, King’s Academy in Middlesbrough, paying £14,039 to the Billy Graham Evangelist Association.
The Christian charity Oasis Trust is lined up to run Enfield Academy in North London. This group has set up the Faith Works consultancy to help church groups set up Academies. They also campaign for faith organisations to be allowed to employ only followers of their own religion and provide advice on getting round the laws that prohibit discrimination against gays. What happened to diversity and even civil rights?
When asked to justify State subsidy of the teaching of creationism as science by Jenny Tonge MP, Tony Blair (then our Prime Minister) justified it on the grounds of having a “diverse education system”. He has also claimed that the time to be concerned is when the teaching of creationism becomes mainstream. As the American experience demonstrates, when creationism has become mainstream it is too damned late to do anything.
There are apologists such as Professor Michael Reiss who suggest we should teach creationism because many of our students believe in it, see http://education.guardian.co.uk/schools/story/0,,2184632,00.htmlfor details. I daresay students whose parents are BNP voters believe blacks are inferior to whites – does Reiss believe we should teach that because students believe in it? Others say we should “teach the controversy”. FFS, there is no scientific controversy. The evidence clearly points to an ancient Earth and evolution; it is this we should be teaching in science classes. If a student queries the evidence it can be discussed and the teacher explain why the evidence supports the consensus but in general a discussion of creationism belongs in RE classes.
Incidentally, if Blair et al value diversity, why limit it to biblical/koranic creation myths? Why not, for example, discuss the ancient Scandinavian myth that Odin formed us from the maggots that feasted on the body of the frost giant Ymir? The truth is that the fundies are not the slightest bit interested in “diversity”. They believe they have the word of God and want to shove it down our children’s throats. If you doubt me, consider what happened when Dr. Paul Kelley, Head of Monkseaton High School attempted to have his school offer a purely secular education: he was told it was not politically possible because the bishops in the House of Lords would oppose it!
Most people in this country do not buy literal creationism, hence the fundies attempts to sneak it in by the back door under the guise of “Intelligent Design” which says that certain parts of life are “irreducibly complex” and therefore must have had a Designer. (incidentally, the obfuscation about the “Designer” originated with American creationists as a means of getting round the Constitutional ban on religious indoctrination in American publicly funded schools)This is in effect a variant on the Argument From Personal Incredulity and goes something like this:_
I don’t understand how this came about
Therefore nobody else understands it
Therefore nobody can ever understand it
Therefore it cannot have happened naturally
Goda Designer did it.
The problem with this of course is that new discoveries are made and explain the supposedly “irreducibly complex”. There is also the problem of who designed the designer. These do not really concern the religious though so long as their aim of claiming scientific backing for God is achieved.
The faith based Academies and “Intelligent Design” are fronts for sneaking the indoctrination of our children into schools. One wonders why the religious think that their omnipotent god needs such furtive and underhand behaviour.