Creation debate out of bounds

10th March 2006 at 00:00
As if the science curriculum wasn't overcrowded enough, exam boards wish to add creationism to the syllabus. What do they suggest teachers drop? Darwin? Newton? The laws of motion?

Creationism has no place in science. It is neither objective nor testable.

It has only a tenuous hold on myth, beyond the extremes of fundamentalist Christianity. For examiners to give credence to its place in science is irresponsible. To use creationism to interpret scientific evidence is just bad science.

Jacqui Smith, schools minister, did teachers and pupils no favours last week by suggesting creationism had a place in debating how "scientific controversies" can arise. Creationism is not a science, it is a belief from before the Age of Enlightenment and the rise of science.

There are plenty of controversies around science to provoke debate in schools - for instance how Galileo proved the earth was not flat. This goes somewhere, whereas creationism is a cul-de-sac. Worse, it is a U-turn on the sort of reasoned scientific enquiry that all schools should nurture in young minds.

The big problem for creationists is that theories of evolution have been around long enough for scientists to witness evolution in action. The evidence is finding a place in school science teaching. Disarmed by the relentless rise of reason, creationists invented the facile and intellectually dishonest notion of intelligent design. This argues that living organisms are so complex they must have been created by a higher force rather than evolving from more primitive forms.

This concept is nothing but guesswork - again, neither objective nor testable. There are far more important subjects to pursue in valuable school time.

The latter may have a place alongside Zoroastrianism in comparative religious education - if more crucial debates around the relationship between Islam, Judaism and Christianity in the modern multi-faith world leave time.

Examiners hope the controversy around creationism will halt the exodus from science by making it more interesting. In which case, a module on Star Trek would be better and more scientifically sound. That would really have pupils saying: "I don't Adam and Eve it!"

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