The BBC have published a story this morning about the Royal Scoiety’s concern over teaching Creationism in schools. I must admit a certain interest in this as one of the schools, the King’s Academy in Middlesbrough, is a school I could have gone to had I been a few years younger; the school I went to was closed to allow the academy to open.
Teaching Creationism as science bothers me. A lot. I must admit to some bias here, being as I am both a science graduate and an atheist. There are some in the scientific community, such as Richard Dawkins, who don’t make this rising tide easier to fight as they refuse to discuss the issue with those who adhere to it, claiming that it is some sort of debasement of science to engage with it in a scientific way. I personally believe that this is the only way to fight: by sheer weight of evidence, even tohugh one knows that trying to appeal to reason in matters of faith is not always something that is possible. We have to try.
Meanwhile, some Creationists attremtp to paint the Darwinian position as merely another position of faith and belief, making their own point of view equally valid.
There is a fault here is both camps. One could quite easily believe that the moon is made of green cheese. Furthermore, one’s right to believe this is not in question, One could believe whatever one chose. The problem is that the evidence demonstrates that the belief is not based in fact: the moon isn’t made of green cheese at all, no matter what one might believe, but that does not necessarily preclude one from believing it.
And yes, Darwinism is ‘wrong’ in some way. Perhaps the best explanation of why Darwinism is ‘wrong’ can be found in an article by Isaac Asimov, called The Relativity of Wrong which, oddly, is not about this particular subject at all, but about the general scientific problem of modelling the world. What the article does say is that pretty much everything in science is wrong in some way, the progress is made by understanding just how wrong we were on the last iteration and making it closer this time.
Unfortunately, Creationism is a faith position. Pure science is not: it relies on observation and evidence. Darwinists have over 150 years’ worth of collected data and analysis to fall back on as part of their argument, including the world now in addition to the fossil record. Creationists effectively have one book, by authors unknown, written at various times, filtered through several generations of oral retalling before being written down and translated many times.
What is more insidious about the Vardy Foundation’s position is something few people have even really considered: if Creationsm is worth teaching, which version is the right one: the Judeo-Christian; the Islamic; Buddist; Hindu; Sikh? If they’re going to do this properly, then each of these explanations should be given equal weight with the science. But we know that this is not very likely and, as it stands, is discriminatory. Even worse, the DfES seem to be hiding behind the National Curriculum and claiming that it isn’t even happenning. First hand reports from students who’ve studied in Vardy schools tells a rather different story, however. (Note: Rod Liddle’s short documentary on Channel 4 earlier in the year talked about this at great length)
By all means, teach (Judeo-Christian) Creationism wih the other faiths and give them a place in the curriculum, but don’t pretend that it is science; it’s just not.