November 30, 2006
Creationism as cultural deprivation
One of Britain’s leading scientists has had enough:
Britain risks “sleepwalking into a future shaped by extremists” unless academics make their voices more clearly heard, the country’s most senior scientist warned today.
Lord Rees, the president of the Royal Society, said that “mavericks” were grabbing too large a share of media attention in public debates on issues like climate change, stem cell research and nuclear power.
He also spoke out against the teaching of creationism in British schools, describing the denial of access to education about scientific views of the origins of life as “cultural deprivation”.
In the Royal Society anniversary speech later today, Lord Rees, who is also the astronomer royal, will urge scientists to make greater efforts to explain their work to the public in order to counter the arguments of “extremists”.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “There is a tendency for minority, strident views to get exaggerated attention.”
… “Technology and science are changing the world in the 21st century faster than ever and in more drastic ways. Science and the world face ever more complex issues such as climate change, stem cell research and nuclear power.”
“How science is applied and prioritised shouldn’t be decided just by scientists. These choices should be made after the widest possible public discussion by the public, but in the light of the best scientific evidence.”
He added: “Scientists should make clear exactly what the benefits are, exactly what is involved in the experiments and they should engage with the public.”
… Lord Rees said it was “fortunate” that British schools had not fallen under the “grip” of creationism in the way seen in parts of the US.
Asked about the teaching of creationism, he responded: “As a scientist, I feel that science is part of our culture and anyone is culturally deprived who can’t appreciate how our universe evolved from mysterious beginnings to the creation of atoms, stars, planets, biospheres and eventually brains that can wonder about it all and share in the wonder and mystery.”
You should be able to find a Webcast of the speech here.
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