back to article Royal Society: Schools should show creationism 'respect'

The Royal Society has backed the discussion of creationism in school science classes, kicking off what promises to be a spectacular row amongst the country’s top boffins. The boffinry talking-shop’s director of education told the British Association’s festival of science in Liverpool that creationism should be examined in …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    'Respect for views' is not a good enough reason to teach total rubbish in classrooms. It is irrelevant whether the people being taught agree with the teaching or not, education should be about teaching the truth, and the accepted theories and ideas in science, not something else that opposes it just because it is 'an alternative'.

  2. Xander
    Thumb Down

    Way to spark a shit-storm

    If this was any other context I'd think he was going for an epic troll. Science help us if he's serious.

    Creationism is based off one source, a very old story book. If they are going to teach creationism in science it should be in the context of "Bad Science" and how people will try to manipulate others into believing things that are utter fooey.

  3. Simon Painter
    Thumb Down

    But the creationists know it's only a faith...

    The creationists themselves are the first to point out that the absence of scientific evidence leaves ID and creationism firmly in the field of faith rather than science. Let's keep this stuff for the theology classes and save the science lessons for stuff that has some sort of evidence to support it.

  4. Paul Howie

    Bloody stupid idea

    "Even more controversially, perhaps, The Royal Society told the Times that Reiss’ position reflected that of the society, on the basis that “teachers need to be in a position to be able to discuss science theories and explain why evolution is a sound scientific theory and why creationism isn’t”

    Oh yes, why not teach flat earth theory and suction-based gravity theory as additional examples of 'what isn't actually science' in a science classroom.

    Why not take it to every subject? We can teach Middle Earth map reading in geography, 2+2=16 in maths and Playstation in P.E.

    Heaven forbid we should devote a short lesson to teaching the actual bloody subject.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Crikey, fIrst the Scientologists, now this lot

    I know, it was the Water Bears.

    At some stage we might end up back in some form of intolerant theocracy. I guess its a bit harder to overthrow a tyranny with the power of religion behind it. Even if they are all space aliens.

    Still being burned at the stake as a heretic might be a saving on the really quite shocking fees for cremation these days.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    What about other isms

    I follow Yedism. I am a Yedi ! And God of Spaghetti. Trust there are many Spaghists out there. RE in science. I will pray that earth become flat so they all can walk off the edge and fall down. Better to have a full division of Evolution schools and creationists schools. Another way to divide and rule the masses.

  7. Haku

    Stupidity reigns...

    If by some (hm, strange, I was about to say god-awful even though I'm athiest) absurd screw up creationism does get taught in schools, it should only ever be as part of RE (Religious Education) because to put it in the mainstream teaching like fact based science etc. would be very bad.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Let's follow America

    Let's just follow America. We've turned our military machine into a tool for securing oil rather than a tool to do good. We are following America's stance of doing as little to save the environment as possible.

    So why not follow and let the religious crazies start to have more influence on our lives. Tony Blair prayed together with Bush, so we have started bowing down to the religious crazies already...

  9. Gavin Ayling

    I agree with Richard Dawkins

    The arguments against Creationism are not required in the debate, but are strong nonetheless.

    Creationism is barely more defensible than a nursery rhyme and the suggestion by anyone with any amount of intelligence, that it should move into the class room where *facts* are taught belies belief.

  10. Chris Miller

    Where does this end?

    I demand equal rights for Pastafarianism! Should we be teaching Scientology or Jedi* studies in RE? If we mention the history of the moon landings, must we also say that of course there are a large number of web sites that claim they were all faked?

    * As reported in the last census, there are more folks claiming followers of The Force than Creationists in the UK.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    "flat earth" is also a point of view.

    It is also a pile of mince. I recall that being discussed in school along with *why* it was a pile of mince. Creationism should get the same treatment. The only possible exception is a religious studies class.

    If it's not Scientologists, it's the bloody Christians trying to drag us back to the stone age.

  12. Jim Coleman

    And while you're at it... can make sure school science classed are made aware of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. All the kids should be raised as Pastafarians anyway and pay due homage to the Great One and His Noodly Appendages.

    Only if this is done alongside teaching Abrahamic Creationism will balance be maintained.

    Mine's the techicolour dreamcoat.

  13. David Barrett Silver badge

    Ahh I remember it well....

    Physics, Chemistry, Flying Spaggetti Monster...

  14. Anonymous Coward

    God is dead

    And it was all a mythunderstanding anyway..

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Alright then.

    So its a numbers issue? According to the 2001 census, there are more Jedi than Sikhs, Jews or Buddhists. As a jedi parent, I want the force to be part of the curriculum.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle


    "Creationism doesn’t challenge science, it denies it." - says it all really.

    Please don't let this country turn into America; Science and Religion do not mix; Politics and Religion do not mix.

    I hope this never comes off and that Creationism stays confined to RE classes.

  17. Danny

    Easy solution

    Evolution should be taught in SCIENCE classes

    Creationism should be taught in RELIGIOUS EDUCATION classes

    Both arguments are heard and then left to the individual to believe what they like.

    Why the creationists are kicking up such a stink recently about their beliefs being taught as science I have no idea when the methods leading to their conclusions blatantly have no basis in science whatsoever.

    Alien, cos while we're at it why not also teach what the scientologists believe in science too?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Clarification from the Royal Society here

  19. Neil Hoskins

    See also...

  20. Mo

    I see the point

    I think creationism is bunkum (lots of natural things don't demonstrate a huge amount of intelligence in their design, unless you can also attribute malice)

    However, being able to explain why creationism isn't science and evolution is is entirely sensible, and that sort of analysis is a skill that children should be taught (logical, rational, reasoning applies to a whole bunch of things, after all).

    The money quote is:

    “teachers need to be in a position to be able to discuss science theories and explain why evolution is a sound scientific theory and why creationism isn’t”.

    This is entirely spot on. Teachers AND children need to be able to do this.

  21. censored

    Mention Creationism...

    in passing, then go on to present the vast amounts of data, evidence and common-sense which shows that evolution is right and true.

    Then fail them in their exams if their unable or unwilling to see the creation myth as just a nice story.

  22. Anonymous Coward

    my science teacher...

    was a 'born again' chap. The classic words I'll always remember... 'I don't believe this but it's in the syllabus so I have to teach it.'

    Kids don't learn much useful at school as it is without having to put up with subjects with no real world impact.

    Dump humanities and do critical thinking.

    Science needs to become science and engineering (ie. mix of industrial and fundamentals).

    Religion should not even be on the radar.

  23. Keith McWhan
    Thumb Down


    Well there goes my 'respect' for the Royal Society. What a load of nonsense. Lets teach the 'magic man done it' theory in class. We have no evidence for it, not even a coherent idea, but hey let's say it's valid anyway 'cause someones opinion might be hurt if we dont. Shall we go for the Allfather as the 'magic man'? I have no evidence for him but he does sound nice and beardy.

    Religion only has one place in the world. That's down the toilet with the other shite.

  24. J


    Its discraceful that this rubbish is even being considered by the royal society. Its worse still that this man has been allowed to gain such a presdigious seat in the scentific community. He isn't a scientist, he's a priest and shouldn't comment on scientific teaching as he is not capable of understanding its principles.

    This has annoyed me quite considerably. I thought England was above this kind of stupidity, the Americans and their fundamentalist fools might think this is a good idea but any sane, educated persion should not.

  25. Ferry Boat

    Eat the pudding

    No, it should not be taught in science lessons. Teach it in RE if you must subject children to this kind of rubbish.

    I wonder how a science lesson will go:

    Sir: Now lets look how the world formed about 4.5 billion years ago.

    Pupil: But sir, it was formed by God about 6 thousand years ago.

    Sir: Interesting idea, do you have any proof?

    Pupil, Err.... my mummy and the man in the dress said so.

  26. Carl


    More than 10% of families are probably also racist, xenophobic and homophobic (Well if daily mail sales figures are anything to go by).

    Should we also be teaching these 'equally valid' viewpoints?

  27. Andy

    "should be examined as a legitimate point of view"

    Fine by me, so long as it's not examined as a *scientific* point of view, because it isn't one.

    It's perfectly legitimate to hold irrational beliefs. Lots of us have them. For example, I believe that if I keep buying those little tickets at the post office I'll one day become a millionaire. (Then again, it's also perfectly legitimate to take the mickey out of those that think their irrational beliefs are rational, too.)

    It seems to me that a sensitive, reasoned discussion about why creationism isn't good science would be a perfectly good way to teach the scientific method.

    Assuming that the teachers and pupils can manage that, of course.

  28. Paul Buxton


    As a secularist I have no objection to schools teaching creationist theories in classrooms as long as they are even handed in their approach and include all creationist myths.

    This should be fun when they get to Egyptian mythology as Atum was the first god arising from the waters of chaos. He created the world by masturbating and also gave birth to two other gods, Shu and Tefnut from his emissions.

    There are many other amusing stories of creation, it should keep the children entertained for a while and may even serve to get the kids who were unfortunate enough to be indoctrinated into their parent's religion to start thinking logically about the whole issue.

    So as long as they are going to teach creation myths and not just A creation theory with a heavy bias on christianity, islam, judaism, whatever then I have no problem with it whatsoever.

    Teaching it alongside evolution theory and labelling it as science is, however, ludicrous.

  29. Anonymous Coward

    Quote time!

    The church says the earth is flat, but I know that it is round, for I have seen the shadow on the moon, and I have more faith in a shadow than in the church - Ferdinand Magellan

    Says it all really.

    Flame as being a militant agnostic (I don't know and NOR DO YOU!) I'll be first to the stake!

  30. Dr. Mouse Silver badge


    Serious point here, in spite of the sarcastic comments drowning my brain at the moment:

    "teachers should convey a message of “respect” for those beliefs while continuing to teach evolution"

    Is this not what RE is for? Religious eductation should be taught from the standpoint of respect for others' beliefs. They should encourage respectful debate over the points of view involved, as all religious people will have to do this at some point, and most non-religious people will also (probably when the Jehovahs Witnesses call round).

    Teach about Science in Science lessons. Teach about Religion in RE lessons. Is this too much to ask?

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    <no title>

    How would legitimising creationism by discussing it in class, in any way encourage pupils to view evolution as one way of understanding the universe? How would not discussing the creationist myth prevent such a view?

    If the estimate of 10% of pupils have "creationist leanings" (1 in 10 !!!) is correct, then it looks as if we are already losing the battle for sanity in this country.

    Surely this is just another leg pull ?

  32. KarlTh


    "The Royal Society told the Times that Reiss’ position reflected that of the society, on the basis that “teachers need to be in a position to be able to discuss science theories and explain why evolution is a sound scientific theory and why creationism isn’t”."

    Or, to put it your way, teachers should teach that: "Creationism is a pile of mince. This is *why* it's a pile of mince".

    Nothing to see here. Move along.

  33. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    Royal Society for the Stupid?

    Obviously all the real scientists were busy the day this joker got the job. Hopefully this public statement of complete idiocy will force his resignation.

    Oh, for the benefit of the obviously anti-Yank anonymous moron above, the majority of Americans I talk to do not want creationism taught in schools, and that includes some that are more than just one-day-a-week Christians. We are indeed following America in fighting off a tide of creationist nonsense.

  34. B Johnson
    Paris Hilton

    Geography and Design and Technology

    I demand that Geography teaches about beer volcanoes and DT teaches about how stripper factories work.

    As a biologist, I am sure that the learned reverend professor would also want to include a section on the management, feeding, breeding etc. of invisible pink unicorns.

    Keep god in MyTheology classes.

  35. Sandra Greer

    Caught it from us, have you?

    I thought only the U.S.A. was overrun with holybolies. Most of us would prefer to have our children proficient in sciences, if they have the brains. An increasing number of us, however, evidently would like their children to be badly educated and unable to compete. Goody, more for me! Too bad they can vote.

    Think of it as an opportunity to teach the scientific method, if only the teachers were trained to do that!

    I can tell you that the people who teach sciences in the U.S. are frequently not so very well trained. You Brits can develop a national lesson plan for this sort of thing. We can't here (or won't). One would think that "No Child Left Behind" would include an emphasis on science teaching and learning, but considering the source, it can't.

    NASA is sending a turnip wagon to Mars next.

    Religion deserves NO respect, IMHO. I keep mine to myself.

    Now y'all can fight -- I'm just leaving...

  36. Writebaby
    Paris Hilton

    Children should not be taught nonsense?

    This seems a sensible proposition until you come across examples such as Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, estwhile bottom of the gardeners, witches, monsters...

    ... the fact is human beings and not just children are natural magical thinkers (magical thinking is a fundamental belief that a) the universe should revolve around me, why else is it here? and b) I can control the universe although I sometimes have to do bizarre rituals in order to establish that control) and as real scientific thought takes considerable effort with little or no emotional impact, it is generally rejected.

    It is much easier to do something wrong but which appears to deal with the situation and how I feel about it than to do something right. Magical thinking is a way of dealing with stress, not just sorting out stressful situations. But it helps e.g. to misquote (in all likelihood) Cromwell 'Say your prayers and keep your powder dry' i.e. carry out a stress relieving ritual and simultaneously do what you really need to do.

    So, bizarrely, it is easier to believe that the world was made in 7 days (try it for a few days) than that it took 15.4 billion years to come about. It also relieves stress because it allows human beings to wrap the universe around them like a baby blanket. it's small enough to think about therefore it is small enough to be controlled.

    Should creationism be taught in classrooms. Yes, but not as a serious contender, but as an example of the contrast between scientific thinking and magical thinking.

    Paris... because she makes me think magical thoughts and go through bizarre rituals.

  37. Adrian Barnett
    Thumb Down

    Ah, creationism

    The legitimate scientific theory that:

    A Mysterious Being created all things, using a Mysterious Process, for Mysterious Reasons.

    Why should Christian creationism be given the privilege of being discussed in science classes? There are literally thousands of other creation myths of equal merit (i.e. none) out there. The Biblical creation story is not special.

    Another problem with this nonsense is that there will be pupils who really believe this crap, and will argue with the teacher or even go so far as claiming discrimination if the teachers explain why it is "not science", taking away time which would be better spent teaching the actual subject.

    We need Critical Thinking classes in schools so kids can learn for themselves why Creationism and similar drivel is a load of bunk.

  38. Chris
    Thumb Up

    Doesn't go far enough

    We should also be teaching the 5 elements in physics, the 4 humors in medicine and that the sun orbits the earth.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The only teaching they should do is...

    ...why creationism and ID are bogus concepts, but why give them the oxygen they don't warrant? There are plenty of other crackpot, anti-science, idiotic notions out there so why should these be elevated to a level above them?

  40. isawch

    Religion has no place in eductation

    Religion has no place in education or schools.

    As Chris E said above, education is about truth and fact and ideas that can be approached via empiracl, reproducible scientific methods, not myth, fear and speculation.

    Religion evolved out of (hu)man's need to explain the unexplainable and add some form of meaning and reason to what seemed like completely magical phenonmena, like thunder & lightning, earthquakes, flood & droughts, disease & famine, etc.

    Nowadays, many people are "educated" and know that there are scientific, factually based reasons and explainations behind these events which terrified our early ancestors.

  41. This post has been deleted by its author

  42. Dan Cooke


    I'm sure a lot of people agree it shouldn't be taught, but hang on one second...

    "It is irrelevant whether the people being taught agree with the teaching or not, education should be about teaching the truth, and the accepted theories and ideas"

    wow, now _that_ would be a great way to completely ignore the whole point of science and set about creating a totalitarian state the commies and George would be proud of. The point of science is to think and evaluate, not blindly accept. Its nothing to do with respect granted, but you can't just sweep creationism under the carpet and hope it goes away. Yes it should not be taught as a scientific theory in the same way as evolution, but we do need to educate people about it - the same goes for any religious hocus pokery 1) teach them the science behind it (like theories of why religion came about, the history behind it, what came first - morals or religion, etc etc) and then 2) teach them to think for themselves and question things (why the hell are religious people considered 'moral' when they need a book/ some idiot to tell them how to behave) The key out of this is education and free thinking. No, the 2 keys are education, free thining and evidence. No, the 3 keys are...

  43. CTG

    Banning doesn't help

    I think creationism *should* be taught in science classes - specifically, it should be taught that creationism is a load of bollocks. By banishing it altogether, you lend it a veneer of respectability, "the truth they don't want you to hear" etc.

    Then again, so little actual science is taught these days that it might be a bad thing to mention creationism at all. What we *really* should be teaching kids is the ability to think critically and independently, rather than just telling them one theory or another is the "truth".

  44. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    A balanced view...

    While religious / spiritual elements certainly should NOT 'creep out' of the RE class into the science labs, considering 'intelligent design' and creation as a plausible theory certainly should, (Einstein would agree). Also, in relation to creationism being 'un-scientific' on the basis of opposing evidence, (particularly the age of 'stuff'), the same scientists should at least acknowledge that evolution is equally problematic in that the entire known fossil record has not produced one single example of an 'intermediate form', but rather complex forms such as entire species groups as well as functions such as flight, sight etc. appear whole and complete without the millions of 'in between' variations that macro evolution through natural selection would require. As well as this issue, there is also the problem of mutation vs. genetic variation. While nobody can dispute the fact that selective breeding causes changes and developments within species groups, this is limited by the quantity of genetic material available. Rather than the increasing diversity that evolution describes, we see a narrowing of both diversity and the ability to diversify as any particular species develops down an environmentally imposed path (look at the sabre toothed tiger which died out along with the large pray that it's highly developed incisors helped it bring down). Darwin was entirely un-aware of the limitations thermodynamics imposes on genetic development, however modern Evolutionary theory requires that genetic mutation comes into play in order to explain both the development from one species to another as well as the increasing diversity and complexity of life, but even if we accept that mutations can be helpful, the timescales involved in waiting for these rare occurrences to produce evolution is MASSIVE in comparison to the gene pool 'clock of doom' which is racing much faster in the opposite direction.

  45. Francis Boyle Silver badge

    And as a member

    of a little-known Pastafarian splinter group that worships the Labial Lasagne I demand my portion of respect and insist that my beliefs be taught in schools. Surely it won't be a problem that our sacred books are a collection of 1970s lesbian porn mags that miraculously appeared under my bed one night in 1987. Remember faith trumps such trivial matters as evidence, logic and human welfare.

  46. Carl Berry
    Paris Hilton


    Member of RS defends creationism and says it should be taught in schools shock!

    Except of course he didn't suggest any such thing. RS has clarified its position (which hasn't changed) and pointed out what Prof. Reiss actually said rather than what is being reported

    Which amounts to that increasing number of kids are being taught this rubbish at home so wouldn't it be a good idea if when asked about it science teachers could give an explanation of why creationism isn't science. Presumably if kids ask about flat earth, FSM, aliens, homoeopathy etc. they'd get similar responses.

    Paris because after this and the LHC stuff earlier this week she'd do a much better job of science reporting in the main stream media than the current lot :(

  47. Tom Chiverton
    IT Angle

    "teachers should convey a message of “respect” for those beliefs"

    Respect ? Why ? The sooner the kids move out from under their parents shadow and start taking a rational view of how things work the better.

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lets Assume

    That God is all powerful.... Who's to say creationism isnt how it happened.

    All the evidence for evolution could have been created for Human amusement, and if evolution is the way it happened - why has it stopped at Humans?

  49. Charles Ullman

    Re: Clarification

    Good work AC. Everyone commenting here should read the Royal Society link above. The Royal Society are explicitly against teaching creationism. The point was that if a child asked a question about creationism, the teacher should take the time to explain why it's bollocks, and not just say "whoa, too political, I'll leave that one to the RE teacher."

  50. Justin

    The trouble with Creationism

    The trouble with Creationism is that it assumes the existence of the Creator which may or may not be "God" and which may or may not be detectable. A lot of people can't cope with that premise. On the other hand, a lot of people claim to have met God, and use that as evidence, so there is a stand-off.

    The trouble with Evolution, is that we don't really know what ultimately started the universe /life off, and though there is lots of evidence, there are many aspects that remain a mystery. Evolution also starts with some assumptions, some of which we have been brainwashed into accepting as "facts".

    The trouble with this whole debate is that it is so emotionally charged (and has been since the day of Darwin), that nobody is really prepared to put their own agendas (mainly based on the question of a "Creator") to one side, and analyse it in a real scientific way - by which I mean looking at the assumptions (on both sides of the argument) and testing the hypothesis (regardless of how weird it seems) - instead of everyone bashing everyone else saying "you are wrong".

    Father Fessio is right - we have lost the art of Philosophy.


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