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NSS hits out at plan to introduce creationism into Hampshire schools

THE ever-vigilant National Secular Society has sounded an alert this weekend about an attempt to insinuate creationism into secondary schools in Hampshire.

Behind the move is a local SACRE (Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education) – a ludicrous body which is  one of hundreds in the UK that are responsible in law for advising local education authorities on RE and collective worship.

Hampshire SACRE has recommended that evolution and creationism be taught jointly in RE and science lessons. The aim, says the SACRE, is for pupils to explore the science and theology together, then come to their own conclusions.intelligent-design

The new unit of work was set up after Clive Erricker, county inspector for RE, was asked to examine the suitability of a dual approach. According to a local newspaper report Erricker said:

The tensions between religion and science should not be denied but nor should we paint a black and white picture.

He added that the evolution-creationism debate was “complex” but could be simplified – and he has written a teachers’ guide with subjects for pupils to study. When asked how it would work in practice, Mr Erricker said:

There are no models. We will create a new model of learning.

National Secular Society President Terry Sanderson expressed dismay at the news.

This is an extremely retrograde step. Creationism and intelligent design are not sciences and schools have no business introducing them into science lessons. It is bad enough that such nonsense is even considered in schools at all, but if it must be discussed, let it be confined to RE lessons.

Government guidance on the teaching of creationism in science lessons states:

Creationism and intelligent design are not part of the science National Curriculum programmes of study and should not be taught as science … Any questions about creationism and intelligent design which arise in science lessons, for example as a result of media coverage, could provide the opportunity to explain or explore why they are not considered to be scientific theories and, in the right context, why evolution is considered to be a scientific theory.

Sanderson said:

There is a big difference between answering students’ questions about creationism and actually introducing it into the lessons in the first place as part of the curriculum. If the teacher raises the topic, then it takes on an authority that it does not deserve. Hampshire should think again about this proposal. It will add nothing to the education of children, but will create confusion in their minds about what is science and what is religion.

15 responses to “NSS hits out at plan to introduce creationism into Hampshire schools”

  1. John Owen says:

    To Barry Duke:

    Could you please clarify the statement “responsible in law for advising local education authorities on RE (religious education) and collective worship”. In the US I am not familiar with any laws that specify a role for a particular religious organization to be consulted on matters of education or collective worship. Certainly “faith based organizations” have crossed the line in the US in terms of receiving funding and political favoritism, but I am not aware of instances where these relationships have been legislated so as to codify government sponsored religion. Even where faith based organizations received funding, the funding was specified not to be used for religious purposes. Of course, it is far from perfect and the deterioration of the separation of church and state in the US is a tragedy of “Biblical” proportions (sorry!)

  2. Barry Duke says:

    John Owen, my post has a link to SACRE which explains its role. The Education Act, of 1944 (if I recall correctly) made Christian religious education and collective worship compulsory in all state schools, and I think SACREs were later set up to co-ordinate and oversee RE in these schools.

  3. John Owen says:

    The British are to be commended that in spite of (or maybe because of) state sponsored religious education and collective worship the majority do not accept creationism or intelligent design:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/mar/02/charles-darwin-creationism-intelligent-design

    I am afraid the same cannot be said of the US population in spite of our so called separation of church and state:

    http://worldnetdaily.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=90950

  4. newspaniard says:

    May I (again) publicize a link which I found yesterday and appears to be greatly undersubscribed.

    This was a petitions on the Prime Minister’s site “…to ban the teaching of religion in school science lessons…” and seems to fit the bill for this article.

    http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/Sciencenotfaith/ (Expires 31 Mar 2009)

    Sadly there were only 173 signatures (174 after mine was registered)

  5. DannyJ says:

    “Ever notice how people who believe in creationism look really un-evolved? Big hairy hands & feet, eyes real close together… I believe God created me in one day… yeah, Looks like he rushed it”

    Bill Hicks, Circa 1995. Genius.

  6. Stonyground says:

    “The evolution/creationism debate is complex.” No it isn’t, its really really simple. Evolution is based on mountains of overwhelming publicly available evidence and is to the best of our knowledge true. Creationism is a bronze age myth, one of many creation myths and appears in a book that is such an authority on worldly matters that it states that the Earth is flat, that insects have four feet, that animals talk and that dead people come back to life on a regular basis.
    Of course Christians regularly demonstrate the truth of the Bible by performing telekinesis and drinking bog cleaner without coming to any harm.

  7. Brian Jordan says:

    Erricker was asked to set up the unit by the vice-chairman of the SACRE – a local counciller. It seems, according to the SACRE minutes, that
    “The Vice-Chairman raised concerns over the production of the television programme The Genius of Darwin. The Vice-Chairman proposed that SACRE sent out guidance to schools on how to deal with the religion and Science debate. The Council felt this was an issue that needed more time devoted to it and SACRE would take a measured approach.” So it’s Dawkins wot did it!

    You may be interested to know that the Cornwall SACRE has also produced its own “guidance” and written to Ed Balls asking that the official government guidance be redesignated a “basis of consultation”. They seem to have been inspired by creationist engineering professors Andy McIntosh and Stuart Burgess – who they list among “pioneers of scientific thinking and methodology”!

  8. Neuroskeptic says:

    “The aim, says the SACRE, is for pupils to explore the science and theology together, then come to their own conclusions.”

    I love how they expect schoolkid’s to evaluate all the evidence, critically appraise all the arguments, cut through the sometimes sophisticated nonsense, and come to an informed conclusion about this. If schoolkids could do that, they’d be teaching adults.

  9. Angela K says:

    This action by Hampshire SACRE is very dangerous indeed. Hard pressed science teachers will have to waste precious time discussing fairy tales, rather than educating the very much needed next generation of scientists and engineers; more tragic because so few students bother to study the sciences. I was not taught Physics mixed with any other subject, nor Chemistry, RE or indeed any subject. “Creationism” should be discussed in RE or better still, not at all in schools. “If you don’t preach in our schools, I won’t think in your church”

  10. Alan C. says:

    I just don’t get it with the cretonists, what exactly do they want taught? It would be a very short lesson “Goddidit” End of story.
    So what do they discuss in next weeks lesson?
    I think they should be told to come up with say…………A dozen half hour lessons on intelligent design, and lets see how they get on.

  11. Tim Danaher says:

    Newspaniard —

    Thanks for the link, I just signed… but did you see what the eighth signatory wrote?

    What a twat.

  12. Brian Jordan says:

    I fear that with only 178 signatures so far, it will do more harm than good unless there’s a sudden rush. I doubt it’s because of the poor wording – more likely the lack of organised publicity. If the creo’s had had a petition saying the opposite it would have got thousands of signatures – unlike cats, they’re very easily herded indeed.

  13. valdemar says:

    Okay, why doesn’t the NSS start a campaign to put science in religion classes? If these people want a fight, take the battle to the enemy, attack them on their own ground. The atheist bus campaign succeeded because it was something positive, rather than another instance of us all wailing ‘It’s not fair’. We know we can raise huge sums quickly and efficiently. Why not use it produce humanist teaching material for schools? Bombard the buggers with reason.

  14. Sean Ellis says:

    The British are to be commended that in spite of (or maybe because of) state sponsored religious education and collective worship the majority do not accept creationism or intelligent design

    I’m a firm supporter of the “because of” explanation – see http://secweb.infidels.org/?kiosk=articles&id=312 for a more detailed take on the matter.

    Anyway, back on topic, here’s the contact page for Hamshire County Council: http://www3.hants.gov.uk/childrens-services/contact-cs/cs-offices.htm

  15. David Green says:

    See http://www.hants.gov.uk/decisions/decisions-docs/090224-standi-R0212114725.html for what I think is the report Hampshire SACRE voted on.

    I’m a believing Christian and a regular churgoer, so I suppose that I’m trespasser here. I’m interested in this topic because I view creationism/ID as bad (or rather non-)science, and view attempts to steamroller them into the mainstream as a considerable disservice to my religion, apart from anything else. I agree with quite a lot of what Angela K writes above: except that you are welcome to think in the church I attend.