Support for creationist debate

17th March 2006 at 00:00
Science and religious education teachers should collaborate to provoke debate on contentious issues, such as creationism, a leading academic said this week.

Marianne Cutler, director of curriculum development at the Association for Science Education, said that science teachers could "learn more from the discursive approach" used in RE lessons.

She was speaking after The TES revealed last week that creationism, the Biblical theory that God created the world in six days, will be included in some GCSE biology syllabuses to provoke debate. The move angered many scientists who said religious theories such as creationism and its offshoot, intelligent design, (ID) should not be confused with established scientific fact.

But Ms Cutler said: "Do we deny students the chance to discuss this in science because there is no scientific basis to ID? I think probably not.

But the emphasis should be looking at the factual basis of the arguments, the evidence from data, how theories developed. Should this be a matter for RE to discuss instead, or is this a good case for collaborative teaching between RE and science?

"This could be a way forward, with both RE and science teachers gaining from the different ways of teaching and perspectives that their subjects bring."

Her view reflects government guidance that new science syllabuses should allow more discussion of controversial issues - part of an attempt to boost the subject's flagging popularity.

However, teachers are split over the issue. One science teacher said in the TES online staffroom: "If I had to teach creationism, I would find another job." But a biology teacher said: "I personally don't believe in evolution and therefore teach it as a theory."

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