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And God created a rumpus

Pupils will be asked to discuss creationist theories in science lessons in a new GCSE syllabus, The TES has learned.

The recommendation will be hugely controversial and follows criticism over similar lessons in schools run by evangelical Christian groups. The contentious modules, contained in new biology syllabuses, say students should be aware that creationism - the strict biblical theory that God created the earth in six days - contradicts Darwin's theory of evolution.

Critics said it was misguided to confuse biblical theory with accepted scientific fact, and suggested that the proper place for creationism was religious education. Last week Jacqui Smith, schools minister, fuelled the debate, by indicating that pupils should be allowed to consider creationism and intelligent design in science lessons.

In a written answer to a parliamentary question, she said it was not in the science national curriculum, but that children had to debate how "scientific controversies" can arise from different interpretations of evidence.

Direct references to creationism are made in OCR and Edexcel exam board biology syllabuses. This follows a government-backed recommendation that the science curriculum should allow pupils to debate controversial issues.

David Rosevear, chairman of the Creation Science Movement, said: "There is nothing wrong with presenting a different point of view to promote debate.

It does not mean a student is going to say 'I believe in Genesis chapter one' any more than they are going to say evolution is fact."

But James Williams, science course leader at Sussex university school of education, said: "This is not science, it is not recognised by the scientific community and to legitimise it like this is wrong."

News 8, leader 22

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