November 28, 2006
Science vs. fiction revisited
Hundreds of state schools may be teaching the Biblical story of creation in science lessons, a leading academic said last night.
James Williams, head of science teacher training at Sussex University, said confusion over GCSE and A-level science syllabuses had “opened the door” to groups trying to widen understanding of creationism and its more recent off-shoot, intelligent design.
In September, a coalition of academics and clergymen sent teaching materials to every secondary school science department in the UK, suggesting that pupils should be allowed to debate Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.
The group – Truth in Science – mailed a booklet and two DVDs to 5,700 private and state schools as part of a £20,000 project personally funded by its backers, who include senior professors in engineering from the universities of Leeds, Bristol, Sheffield and Cardiff.
Yesterday, Richard Buggs, the group’s spokesman, said 59 schools had written back so far saying that the materials “were suitable for classroom use”. However, critics said the number was likely to be much higher.
Mr Williams said last night that continuing ambiguity surrounding official Government guidance in biology meant hundreds more schools might be employing creationism as a tool to debate Darwin’s theory that man evolved from apes.
“The problem we have got is that no one has carried out any proper research to find out how widespread the teaching of creationism and aspects of creationism are in science.”
“There may be hundreds out there, but the Department for Education and Skills [DfES] and Ofsted cannot give us straight answers.”
… A new “21st century” science curriculum, launched this September, attempts to make the subject more appealing by promoting debate of “controversial” issues. Mr Williams said in some schools this legitimised the use of creationism to debate evolution.
It was fuelled by a new GCSE biology syllabus sent out this year by OCR, one of three exam boards in England, which said that pupils should be able to “explain that the fossil record has been interpreted differently over time (eg creationist interpretation)”.
… Last night, a spokesman for the DfES said that new guidance would clarify its position that creationism cannot be debated in science.
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