How will evolution carry on?

24th August 2012 at 01:00

I am pleased that schools minister Nick Gibb has taken on board the concerns that I and many others have over free schools and the teaching of creationism, and that he robustly defends evolution ("Creationism causes a stir", 17 August).

I am, however, afraid that he has missed the point made in my article "If you don't Adam and Eve it, say so" (10 August) about how evolution will be taught in these schools. It may well be that the schools will stick to the "letter" of the agreement, but will they observe the spirit?

If the ethos of the schools is that "no matter what we tell you in science, we all know that it isn't true and creationism is the truth" or if evolution is badly taught, such that the only outcome for pupils is to reject the evidence for evolution in favour of that for creationism, then damage will be done. Will these schools be inspected on their teaching of evolution? Probably not. Can they provide evidence that they are teaching evolution only in science? Probably, yes. What is on paper is not the point; it is how the science is presented. It is easy to undermine good science teaching simply by teaching that which you disagree with, badly. To me, that is as bad as teaching creationism as science.

James D. Williams, Lecturer in science education, University of Sussex.

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