‘Induction over the history of science suggests that the best theories we have today will prove more or less untrue at the latest by tomorrow afternoon.’ Fodor, J. ‘Why Pigs don’t have wings,’ London Review of Books, 18th Oct 2007

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Professor Reiss and teaching creationism in schools

Professor Reiss, director of education at the Royal Society, has again argued that science teachers should allow discussions about creationism and intelligent design in schools. Banning such teaching he argued is counterproductive and alienates children from science.

"My experience after having tried to teach biology for 20 years is if one simply gives the impression that such children are wrong, then they are not likely to learn much about the science…"

Reiss is also an ordained Church of England minister. Speaking at the British Association, Festival of Science in Liverpool he commented that science teachers should consider creationism as an alternative world view, and not see it as a "misconception." He commented that good teaching is about respecting the students' views. "I do believe in taking seriously and respectfully the concerns of students who do not accept the theory of evolution while still introducing them to it."

Prof John Bryant, who is a retired professor of cell and molecular biology at the University of Exeter, agreed that alternatives could be admissible for discussion in science classes. "If the class is mature enough and time permits, one might have a discussion on the alternative viewpoints [to evolution]." (Although he doesn't think intelligent design or creationism should be placed on an equal footing).

Reiss was also critical of Prof Richard Dawkins for saying that teaching creationism is akin to child abuse. "This is an inappropriate and insulting use of the phrase child abuse as anybody who has ever worked [in this area] knows."

Professor Reiss is not a creationist, but a one-time 'evangelist' for Darwinism who now recognises that respectful dialogue is the way forward with the present impasse between evolution and creation. I think this is a welcome development that can only increase understanding of the complexity of biological life for both sides.

Read the articles in the press

Daily Telegraph article
Times online article
Reiss - Guardian science blog
Guardian article

Andrew S

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