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Monday, March 13, 2006


Teaching creationism in schools?

Both the BBC and the Guardian carried the news that creationism is going to be taught in science classes. Both the BBC and the Guardian have got the story wrong.

The headlines and thrust of the stories, and their choice of interviewees, suggest that the plan is to adopt some kind of principle of ‘equal time’, or to teach evolution as if it were a current scientific controversy.

It is nothing of the sort. The plan is to devote a handful of lessons to teaching how knowledge, as a product of human social action, emerges from a historical, social and economic context. Should this be in a science class, rather than a history or sociology class? Perhaps not, but teaching this is no less science than lessons devoted to the social and historical impacts, rather than constitution, of scientific knowledge.

Presenting the teaching of the historical, social and economic contexts of science as if it were the teaching of creationism is akin to arguing that teaching children about the emergence of Nazism is, in actual fact, teaching them Nazism. At best it terrible journalism. Worse, it is a scare-mongering lie that will keep an insightful analysis of science and knowledge off the curriculum. And at worst it is obscurantism masquerading as a defence of rationalism.

If the press would like to look at a real threat to a decent, open-minded education, they would identify our Government's anti-democratic obsession with handing power over education to those with capital as the villain.

Fair point but

(a) I still don't think this stuff has any place in science lessons

(b) whatever the plan may be, I do worry that creationists will see it as an opportunity to "teach the controversy"

To follow your analogy, if we knew that there were schools in the country, run by Nazis who were just aching for an excuse to teach children Nazism, then lessons about the emergence of Nazism would certainly be where they'd do it.
"obscurantism masquerading as a defence of rationalism."
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