UK Goverment advice on ID/Creationism: it’s not science
The British government has finally issued its promised guidelines regarding the teaching of creationism and intelligent design in science class. The verdict: they are not science, and they have no place in the curriculum.
From a government obsessed with creating “faith schools”, this is a welcome breath of fresh air. These guidelines from the Department of Children, Schools and Families are a model of clarity and reason.
On the meaning of the word “theory”:
The use of the word â€˜theory’ can mislead those not familiar with science as a subject discipline because it is different from the everyday meaning of being little more than a â€˜hunch’. In science the meaning is much less tentative and indicates that there is a substantial amount of supporting evidence, underpinned by principles and explanations accepted by the international scientific community. However, it also signals that all scientific knowledge is considered to be provisional as it can be overturned by new evidence if this is validated and accepted by the scientific community.
Creationism and intelligent design are sometimes claimed to be scientific theories. This is not the case as they have no underpinning scientific principles, or explanations, and are not accepted by the science community as a whole. Creationism and intelligent design therefore do not form part of the science National Curriculum programmes of study.
But what if students ask about intelligent design or creationism in science class?
Science teachers can respond positively and educationally to questions and comments about creationism or intelligent design by questioning, using prompts such as â€˜What makes a theory scientific?’, and by promoting knowledge and understanding of the scientific consensus around the theories of evolution and the Big Bang.
On intelligent design:
Attempts to establish an idea of the â€˜specified complexity’ needed for intelligent design are surrounded by complex mathematics. Despite this, the idea seems to be essentially a modern version of the old idea of the “God-of-the-gaps”. Lack of a satisfactory scientific explanation of some phenomena (a â€˜gap’ in scientific knowledge) is claimed to be evidence of an intelligent designer.
What about students who hold creationist beliefs?
Some students do hold creationist beliefs or believe in the arguments of the intelligent design movement and/or have parents/carers who accept such views. If either is brought up in a science lesson it should be handled in a way that is respectful of students’ views, religious and otherwise, whilst clearly giving the message that the theory of evolution and the notion of an old Earth / universe are supported by a mass of evidence and fully accepted by the scientific community.
Should ID/creationism be taught at all?
Teachers of subjects such as RE, history or citizenship may deal with creationism and intelligent design in their lessons. If such issues were to arise there might be value in science colleagues working with these teachers in addressing them.
We could quote more, but it’s such an excellent document you should download and read it yourself (it’s in Word).
Good work the DCSF!
(Hat tip Ekklesia)