Burning issue

29th June 2007 at 01:00
As the argument about discussing intelligent design in science lessons rumbles on, it is a perfect moment to consider the teaching of critical analysis across the whole curriculum.

Firstly, in science, we try to develop the difficult skills of analysis and evaluation based on evidence, not opinion. In other subjects, such as history, different perspectives are balanced against lines of evidence to arrive at a conclusion. At the heart of English lessons lies the ability to criticise poetry and novels constructively. One subject, however, does not open itself to real criticism - and that is RE.

Having taught biology for 27 years, I am happy to open up debate on any topic. I would discuss the idea of intelligent design in lessons on evolution. But this would not be without consequences. Religious opinion is moving directly into the area of science. It is throwing down a gauntlet.

If opinion-based theories such as intelligent design are to be debated in science, then why stop there? Let us assess the validity of all religions by the scientific method. Extending this argument further, should we ask students to assess the idea of a virgin birth from a scientific angle and let them draw their own conclusions?

This will not be done, of course, as it would open a Pandora's box and release a host of furies by directly challenging pillars of faith, pitching sets of ideas against each other and asking people to choose.

So bringing intelligent design into the science curriculum might not be such a good idea. It could be the fuse that lights an uncontrollable fire.

Rebecca Pascoe

Fairfield Park


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