back to article Royal Society says goodbye to creationism row vicar

The Royal Society has parted company with Professor Michael Reiss following the furore over the reverend slash biologist’s recent comments on how science teachers should tackle creationism in the classroom. The top boffin club issued a statement late yesterday saying that “Professor Reiss and the Royal Society have agreed that …


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Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward


If Creationism has a place, and I don't believe it does, then it is in "the study of Myths and Legends" or in religious studies as an aspect of "Western Abrahamic-based beliefs". Despite the presentational spin provided by eminent people, who should IMO have better things to do with there time given the problems humanity faces, it has been shown not to be science or scientific and has no place in being parachuted into science biased lessons.

By all means, have an open mind and encourage open thoughts. We fill our young people heads with enough inconsequential data let's not add "creationism" to it, please.

David Arno

Why the fuss?

Since evolution has been proven beyond all rational doubt, those that do doubt it are ignorant, stupid and/ or insane. That's all a science teacher need say on the subject of creationism. This hardly impacts on class time at all.

Planeten Paultje

PZ Myers

I agree with PZ Myers' stance on this issue:

Creationism does not belong in science class, but you have to explain what science is and does and why creationism has no basis in science.

Anything that blatantly goes against solid evidence is crap and should be exposed and dismissed as such.

Graham Dawson

Has no place?

Well I would assume that teachers need to be able to discuss the subject when it comes up. To simply say "it has no place here!" would just encourage the typical child to start chasing up on the subject whenever they could, out of bloody-minded rebelliousness. Blanket censorship of an idea gives it a cachet. It's also unscientific.


All a big misunderstanding?

Did he basically say, "If a child brings up creationism, a science teacher needs to be able to explain how it is not scientific?"

I'm strongly against the teaching of Creationism in schools, but even I think he has a point - if you dont tackle the root of the fallacies, perhaps you will never get children to properly understand evolution and why creationism is not scientific. Anyone got a link to his original statement, before the damage control?

On a side note, I received a pamphlet the other day from a local Baptist church about evolution. Only problem was, it confused evolution, abiogenesis and the theory of the Big Bang. I was tempted to write to them to explain the difference, just so that they could form a better opinion of why they were against evolution. Cos, you know, you cant disagree with something if you dont even know what it is.


Religion in Science classes

Get your Physics teacher to explain how the soul of a suicide bomber, after being blown into several hundred small pieces (two or three still-twitching, depending on the accelerant) will go straight to Nirvana with eleventy-billionz virgins and all the cocain he could want, or whatever.

If we're going to talk about religion in science class, we should talk about ALL of them, especially the topics with some relevance;

- Air-speed velocity of an unladen skull

- Lateral forces on the tendons in Jesus's hands

- Weight in Newtons of Buddha's beer-gut

I'm sorry if I offend anyone; I just can't take "Religion in Science Classes" as a serious topic of debate.

James Pickett

Dear God

"Reiss will return to his regular job as Professor of Science Education"

You couldn't make it up! It's like something from the Middle Ages...

Still, I'm glad the Royal Society has finally seen sense, although why they gave the job to a priest in the first place remains a mystery.

Matthew Ellen

Oh well

At first I felt possessed by the twat-o-tron when I heard the idea of creationism in a science class. Then when the clarification came the next day, that he didn't mean teach creationism, but to explain the difference between it and science, I felt that it was a good idea.

Shame it's come to him stepping down.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

We teach String Theory as a Science

Look, we teach quantum theory as a science don't we? What is so wrong about teaching a religion like quantum mechanics, as long as the science teacher reminds them that it's just a theory that fits a few things and clashes with others.

String theory is taught in science class, I always think it should be taught on a stage, as a comedy stand up routine, but no they teach it as a theory in science class.

Creationism is a theory, why not teach it, show the problems with the 5000 year thing and the convienience of adding a 'God' creator. You could even make this 'god creator' make extra dimensions in string theory if you like, it would help them develop their own critical thinking skills.

A J Stiles

How to deal with creationists

There are only four words a science teacher need ever say to a creationist:

"You are talking bollocks".


How do you 'teach' creationism anyway?

Surely that would be the shortest course ever, and with the easiest end of term exam. Saying 'goddidit' takes about 1/3 of a second. What do you do for the rest of the 2 hour lesson?

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward


I wouldn't mind the following:


The society hit back last Friday issuing a statement quoting Reiss saying, "Creationism has no scientific basis."


.....if evolution was taught as a theory and not fact and that all the problems with evolution were also discussed (missing fossil records etc).

It seems hypocritical for people to complain about creation as not being scientific and yet ignore problems with the theory of evolution.

Daniel Turner

Doesn't really intrest me...

But I love the tagline/subheading :D


To forstall godbotherer input

If you think this is proof of "rabid atheists" quashing ideas, how many normal christians got pissed off at the archbishop saying that Islam is a really nice religion and we should allow it in the UK?

Or when he says that gays should be allowed in the ministry. Women too.

Oh boy, are the threats zinging about then!

Anonymous Coward
Thumb Up

Good riddence.

Religious mumbo jumbo (and practioners thereof) have no place in Science.

Good night and may your 'fictional deity /big sky spirit thing' go with you.

Anonymous Coward
Thumb Down

Makes Me Sad

I find it very sad when someones comments are taken out of context. This guy basically said that if a kid asks a question, albeit a controverisal one to some, it shouldn't be ignored.

My wife is a science teacher and would answer honestly if a kid asked about creationism, and in fact has done. That doesn't mean in any way that she advocates the theory, it's simply a scientific discussion, or at worst a discussion about a lack of scientific evidence. As long as it's relevant to the topic being studied, it should be available for discussion.

I would have thought that the guys at the Royal Soc would have been comfortable enough in their own beliefs that they could have advoated the discussion in schools, knowing their arguments were right. Very sad.

On a different note, the poor guys comments have been taken totally out of context in most media reports. They claim he said creationism should be taught in schools. He said creationism should be discussed as part of the discussion on evolution... what's wrong with that?

Anonymous Coward

OK people this is how it works,

You are campaigning for something stupid like creationism or the breakup of a country or some other bull shit that is popular or profitable to WASP conservatives.

So you make something up or better still misrepresent what some poor bugger say's.

You turn this none news into a press release and fax it off to the editors of all the big news outlets (WASP conservatives will provide these editorial fax numbers).

Sloppy hacks will then turn this into a big news article and print it on page one, everyone will read it and perhaps a few might think that it sounds like bull shit but if it's in the paper then there must be something to it right?

When it turns out to be utter bullshit, the retraction will be a story hidden amongst the small adds at the back of the paper and only the propaganda effect is left. You can even openly boost about doing this, it will get a round of applause from other WASP conservatives at an after dinner speech.

Job done let's go and have another war...

sorry,that sounded a bit off message.

Save the world from warmongers war criminals and satanists.

Paris Hilton

Wrong Result

The Royal Society should have refused his resignation.

His choice of language was poor, and there was much confusion as to what he meant, but IMHO he was advocating that teachers should address the matter of creationism, and demonstrate why it isn't good science (or even science). This would have helped stimulate critical thinking, debate, the different standards of evidence, and the full implications of what accepting creationism means in terms of physics, biology, chemistry, geology and all the rest.

As it is now, his resignation becomes "Proof" (Proofiness?) that science hates religion.

Christianity <> Creationism. Any battles of Science v Religion are wrong, they are being described as such in order to appeal to base instincts; Neither side can win, but both sides can be harmed. The actual battle is Creationism v Science. This is one that should be trivial to win, or even to avoid.

The other thing to bear in mind is that Evolution is not addressing how life was created initially, which Creationism is. Don't let the debate turn into that. Technically it is possible (IMHO for small values of "technically") that God created the universe 15 billion years ago, the earth about 6 billion years ago, and then natural selection took over.

Welcome back, Paris Icon.

Anonymous Coward

The only sensible way to deal with creationist students...

...ruthless and harsh punishment.

Anonymous Coward
Thumb Down


"However, when young people ask questions about creationism in science classes, teachers need to be able to explain to them why evolution and the Big Bang are scientific theories but they should also take the time to explain how science works and why creationism has no scientific basis.”

So in other words science teachers should explain how science works, why I never. What are the so-called scientists problem with him then, he said creationism has no scientific basis, or do they hold a non-justifiable belief that the word creationism should be censored in schools. Isn't it just such "non-justifiable beliefs" that got them angry in the first place? Seems to me they are just plain radical as they accuse creationists of being.

Regarding the "scientific basis bit", I think there is no scientific basis for creationism as it is a relatively simple theory: some deity/ies creates everything or some things and allow/s it to live. If someone goes on to explain in more detail the impact/implications and proof of creationism theory (in a scientific manner) then maybe it could (not should) be taught in schools. Similarly evolution should be taught properly or not at all.

PS: I am a "creationist"

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

What is it with these religious zealots ?

I'm with Ash on this one. The amount of people that believe in a crackpot idea can't be a yardstick for determining if it should be included in a curriculum. It's a crackpot idea, no mather how many people believe in it.

'Believe' being the operative word.

Mike Richards
Silver badge

The problem with Reiss' idea is...

...he was trying to address the problem of kids not believing in evolution because they come from the closed-minded part of the readership of the Bumper Book of Fairy Stories.

He thought that a science teacher could say 'no, creationism is wrong because...' and win over his audience. When in fact, if you ever try talking to these people, you won't get anywhere - they believe it absolutely. The Creation is in the Bible, end of story, now let's go stone some gays and people who wear two kinds of cloth. The whole class would be given over to discussing the Great Flood when the 9/10 kids who are normal could have been learning about really exciting things like genetics, finches or Pangaea.

There's one answer to this. You teach evolution. It is compulsory. If someone doesn't believe in it or doesn't want to study it they fail the class. No loss to science there, they can join Sarah Palin and the population of Kansas back in the 13th Century.

If it upsets 'faith' - screw them, they can turn the other cheek.

* It is - TWICE! Genesis 1:1 - 2:3 and Genesis 2:4 - 2:25. Despite coming one after the other and being the Word of God (TM), they can't even agree on basic things like what happened in what order or even how long it took. Mind you, I've had plumbers like that.


re: Has no place?

So if a kid wants to talk about sex education in geography, it must be discussed? If they want to talk about music appreciation in maths class, that's okey-dokey? If they want to talk about satanism in RE class, that's fine by you?

John Chadwick

God's last message to creation

Was I believe, "Sorry for the inconveniance".

As a Christian, I believe that there is a god and he's omnipotent, and he could very well have created the universe in six days. However, if that's what he did, why has he left us so many clues as to it's being many billions of years old, that life has evolved from a simple organic soup, and so on. I'd guess, that he wanted to teach us something.

My school Biology teacher was a creationist, and so far as I remember all his pupils thought it was looney. I'm also fairly sure most of the uniformed branch of the church in the school thought so too.

So now where's my Total Perspectivity Vortex, I'm thinking of putting a few creationists in it.

Inclusion of creationism as a viable alternative to science is stupid and dangerous. Not only that it's insulting to the vast majority of Christians.


@James Pickett

It appears that it is not just Creationist's who are ignorant. The vast majority of Christians are not Creationists, and who read the creation scriptures as myth. There are many eminent scientists, who fully embrace evolution as the correct explanation of the development of life who also are people of faith, including some who are ordained. To equate 'priest' with 'creationist' is indeed ignorant, and in this particular case shows that you didn't even take time to read the article and find out what the person in question actually said.

The Badger

Re: Oh well

"Then when the clarification came the next day, that he didn't mean teach creationism, but to explain the difference between it and science, I felt that it was a good idea."

I think most people were upset by a representative of the Royal Society entertaining the idea that creationism be discussed in science class (even if it is to explain why it has nothing to do with science), mostly because junior creationists might interpret that message as a green light to pester science teachers with frequent, intellectually-challenged interruptions about what various pieces of religious literature have to say on various subjects.

In other words, there are the guidelines for the teachers which tell them how to deal with the Genesis-botherers, and there's the message that one sends to the wider public. I think people were annoyed that the former message went out to a less discerning audience - the latter - with all the resulting potential for misunderstanding and manipulation with people with an axe to grind.

The Fuzzy Wotnot


Yes, satanism is valid religion, as far as the other religions go, so yes that's fine for RE class.

Music appreciation in Maths? If the RIAA sues 55 defendents for copyright infringement on 2 CDs of the latest, talentless, supermarket, pop drivel at £15 each, how much can the lawyers in each case hope to obtain a) for their clients, per infringement and b) the lawyers fees?

SexED in geography? Well the sight of the Italian boot and the bulging bottom-shape of the USA coastlines get me going every time! I've gone too far haven't I? I'll get know...

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Genesis 1:1-2:3 Isn't that quote wrong?

"* It is - TWICE! Genesis 1:1 - 2:3 and Genesis 2:4 - 2:25. Despite coming one after the other and being the Word of God (TM), they can't even agree on basic things like what happened in what order or even how long it took. Mind you, I've had plumbers like that."

I seems to recall Genesis 1:1 was "I know what I want and I like what I know, getting better in your wardrobe, stepping one beyond your show"

Which would imply that the wardrobe came before the earth, and before Adam and Eve started to wear clothes, to put in the wardrobe. So what did they put in the wardrobe before clothes? Perhaps the missing string theory dimensions that's what!

Hence God must have *known* that Adam would eat Eve's forbidden cherry and hence be cast out of the garden of eden *before* it happened in order to have already created wardrobes. Was Adam led by his trouser snake? No because he didn't have trousers, only snakes.

QED Proof positive!

Anonymous Coward
Thumb Down

Is this how scientists should behave?

It strikes me that those who were baying for Michael Reiss' blood were bigots*.

In the first place, as has already been said a number of times, he is not a Creationist and was not calling for creationism to be taught. Bad headline and worse 'verdict'.

In the second place Evolution is not truly a theory, it is a hypothesis favoured by the consensus just as geocentrism was in Galileo's day.

Anyone who claims that Evolution is a fact just doesn't understand science. This argument is not about science but about philosophy.

*Someone intolerant of views other than their own.

Paris Hilton

All aboard the failcopter...

If a child is asking a question in a science lesson, no matter how misguided, at least they are THINKING. It is not the questioning students we should worry about, but the silent ones.

Whether you consider ID/Creationism science or not, nobody should object to teachers answering questions from students fairly and honestly (even if they just say "I don't think that question is appropriate now, but I'd love to have a chat after the lesson").

What disturbs me most of all is that supposedly rational, intelligent individuals could react so irrationally to what was (correct or incorrect) a rational proposal. This isn't science.

Ironically, creationism is *already* in the science curriculum. A friend of mine is a teacher at a rural state comprehensive and as part of the "Science in the News" course the kids must learn about "alternative views" and critically analyse them.

Paris, because her policy proposal video was more rational that some of the comments I've seen here.



Do they teach Satansim in RE ?

Ed Blackshaw
Silver badge

@We teach String Theory as a Science

I think the reason we teach quantum theory as a scientific theory is because it is a scientific theory which provides testable hypotheses.

String theory is misnamed, as it does not, at least yet, provide any testable hypotheses and so, in the strictest sense, isn't a scientific theory. However, it is not, as far as I know, taught in schools. It may be taught at universities on Physics courses, if we still have any universities with Physics departments left in this country, that is. This is because it attempts to unify the two generally accepted theoretical frameworks of quantum theory and general relativity, in a slightly more logic-based framework than 'the sky-pixie did it', and is still science. It is not, however scientific 'fact' and is not taught as such.

Creationism is not a theory. It provides no testable hypotheses. It also conflicts with observable facts. That makes it nothing more than an idea, and a fairly wrong-headed one at that. Calling it 'intelligent design' doesn't change the fact that is isn't science and shouldn't be taught in science classes at any level.

David Szuter

Correct but still wrong

I am fully in agreement that religion does not belong in a science class but...

Despite all the good work done on adaptation, scientists still have there own myth to worry about and that is the fable of the the "Lighting bolt and the primordial soup". The fact that there are people who genuinely believe that once upon a time the "Adam" cell sprung to life out of stuff (amino acids), instantly knowing how to grow and reproduce (divide) and adapt, is simply hogwash! Add to this that it had to have happened millions to billions of times due to "mortality" and failure to adapt and you have one humdinger of a myth. Lets not even begin with the evolution of sensory organs or two sexes......silly.


6 days?

What a laggard!

Pander to one, you have to pander to them all.

oliver Stieber

the c word

I think it would be far better to mention the c word in science classes and completely debunk it then it would be to have some kids that have been brainwashed by their parents thinking that it wasn't debunked so it must be true.

Mines the one with good news in the pocket

Gold badge

@Johan Hartman

Creationism isn't censored in schools, it's not taught in science lessons. That's an entirely logical move as it's a religious belief and not a science. You'll find it being taught in RE, where it belongs.

If you can't understand the difference between facts and fairy stories, maybe you could start by attempting to appreciate the difference between censorship and classification. Think of it as being like going to the library and wanting a book on automotive design. You wouldn't start by looking in the romantic fiction section now, would you?

Robert Harrison

@Why the fuss?

"Since evolution has been proven beyond all rational doubt, those that do doubt it are ignorant, stupid and/ or insane."

That absolutely made my lunchtime. "Scientific theory proven beyond all rational doubt" - I'm surprised it didn't make the papers. You were there then were you? When the first molecules spontaneously began replicating themselves and mutating over generations? Hurry, the Royal Society probably would like to talk to you.

But seriously, a theory, albeit a very good theory, it remains.

Frumious Bandersnatch
Silver badge

creationism *does* have a scientific basis

... it's called "addition". As in, find any "begats" in the story, then add up all the ages of the begettor at the time they supposedly begat the begattee. Unfortunately, that's as "scientific" as it gets.

If creationists are serious about debate, I'd like to pose some questions, for instance:

a) how many of the begettors were under-age at the time they begat?

b) why did God feel it was necessary to speed up radioactive decay in the first ~7,000 years or so, while making all our experiments since Curie's time show that the rate of radioactive decay follows a fixed logarithmic equation? Is He trying to fuck with scientists specifically?

c) the light we see from stars are "past images" due to the time it takes their light to reach us. Why does that show that many stars are older than 7,000 years (even allowing for measurement error of up to one light-week)?

d) (anticipating the answer to (c) to be something about Genesis being metaphorical) how can we be sure when *any* day, week or a year in the Bible is meant to be interpreted as being a metaphorical day, week or year, or one in keeping with our current time-keeping devices? Isn't it equally possible that, say, Moses lived to be maybe a million or so of our current years?

e) on triangulation of sources for the ages of each person mentioned in the creationist timeline, is there any other authority for age of begetting besides God speaking through the Good Books? Eye-witnesses? Government ID records? Mentions in contemporary biographies? Anything? Anything?



I agree, it is clear that only the ignorant (or demon-possessed) accept creationist drivel. It degrades both science and religion. From a Christian's point of view, it tends to bring their religion into disrepute (but please don't ask ME about its reputation). That being said, it must be asked why Christians put up with it.

Defend your sacred space! Throw out the creationist heretics! Prepare the stake and faggots!

BTW, thanks El Reg for returning the 'flames' icon. The other was too namby-pamby.

Jason Hall

@Robert Harrison

"That absolutely made my lunchtime. "Scientific theory proven beyond all rational doubt" - I'm surprised it didn't make the papers. You were there then were you? When the first molecules spontaneously began replicating themselves and mutating over generations? Hurry, the Royal Society probably would like to talk to you."



I'm not sure really. You could be both?


@Johan Hartman

But why should they waste time doing it when they can show things like "iron filings follow lines of magnetism".

Philosophy of science is a college course for sixth-form college/BTech/etc. Or for a half unit in a degree course.

Not for secondary schools.

There's neither the time nor the inclination.

About the only answer possible to give in the time available to "what about creationism" is "see your RE teacher".

Luther Blissett

They already teach creationism in science class

Only they call it the Big Bang.

Two things are evident from this thread:

1. People like their prejudices, whether they are religious or scientific or whatnot, and enjoy waving them about.

2. Suppressing creationists and discussion of creationism is not a solution, and demonstrates that only the preferred consensus ontology has changed in 1000 years - the underlying lack of rationality is just the same. The resort to naked exercise of power and coercion always indicates the arguments are less than persuasive.

I've heard more rational discussion, scrupulous respect for facts, and honest attention to implications, from groups of football fans.

PS. Pray tell what is a "slash biologist"?


@The fuzzy wotnot

"Music appreciation in Maths? If the RIAA sues 55 defendents for copyright infringement on 2 CDs of the latest, talentless, supermarket, pop drivel at £15 each, how much can the lawyers in each case hope to obtain a) for their clients, per infringement and b) the lawyers fees?"

the answer to this requires symbolic maths, not taught until university.

The answers you gave will not work. what outrage would there be if RE started addressing questions of satanism? What outrage if Jimmy comes home and says he learnt about boobies in geography class? Etc. Shit, there's a big enough outcry by letting Islam into schools!


@Robert Harrison

Proof? You can't HANDLE the proof!

As evidenced by the copious evidence showing that our DNA is closer to that of the Chimp than the Gorilla. Closer to the Dingo than the Cabbage. How about Bird Flu? Or the searching in other animals genetic material evidence on how to improve the human biology?

What other explanation of the world than Darwin's theory of speciation through adaption is there, and where is the proof for that?

That you missed it all shows you can't handle the truth because you don't wish it to be true.


Re: Is this how scientists should behave?

You seem somewhat bigoted yourself, AC. You do not believe in the Royal Societies requirements for senior members to remain senior members and instead of accepting this as the opinion of a group you will not be interacting with, you deride them with the perjorative "bigot".

Less bigotry please. THEN you can talk about bigotry in others.

Anomalous Cowherd
Silver badge

@ Mike Richards

If these were adults I would agree, but they're not. Their fragile little minds have not yet been frozen in ignorance, and if a kid pipes up in GCSE Chemistry "so, what about what it says in the bible then" that could be the ONE opportunity anyone has to seed them with an alternate point of view.

And to everyone that's said "tell them it's rubbish and be done": teachers are there to explain why, you numpties. Don't know what kind of school you went to but luckily when I got stuff wrong, someone explained why. This process is known as "teaching".


@Robert Harrison

"Since evolution has been proven beyond all rational doubt..." is a perfectly accurate statement.

It has nothing to do with the start of life, which is still a difficult one, with plenty of suggestions but no real proof yet.

But evolution - ah, yes - you really do prove yourself to be a scientific ignoramus if you do not believe that evolution is correct. It has been tested over and over, via the fossil record and via DNA testing. Predictions have been made and confirmed. And no-one - not once - has found a fossil which cannot be explained realistically by the theory of evolution.

Gravity is only a theory - albeit a very good theory. But it has been proven beyond all rational doubt.


Easy answer.

If the question is off topic, or a departure from the curriculum then you don't answer it.

Under the age of 18 kids are learning to pass the exam, they're free to believe whatever the hell they like, but if they don't answer the question as per the curriculum then they will fail. End of.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Theory of music

Something "just" being a theory doesn't mean that ic annot be considered _true_ *for the practical values we encounter daily". Gravity. The theory is *wrong*. It's an approximation, but it works for the practicalities of all manner of human endeavour, just as Sir Isaac described.

Evolution by selection doesn't perhaps have the direct impact on day to day life that gravity can, but disease and inherent curiosity (what's that bit of stone that is animal-shaped? How did it get there? Why aren't there any animals quite like that nowadays?) both touch it

Music in maths isn't such a stretch, actually. There's a lot of math in music.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Oh you religious zealots....

"I think the reason we teach quantum theory as a scientific theory is because it is a scientific theory which provides testable hypotheses."

So does creationism, they say the world was created 5000 years ago, you test it, find fossil older than 5000 years, QED time travelling fossils! Similar to the particles you observe travelling backwards in time in your bubble chamber.

They say, God lives in heaven above, and you look up and say, there is no 'above' the earth is a sphere and we've been 'above' and he's not there. And they say, well if we had 6 more dimensions he would be living in the 'above' (+ve) of dimension 5....

It's just a religion you know, the Large Hadron Collider is just a church.

Developing critical reasoning skills is important, and so creationism it's problems and claims should be taught in science class, not because it's useful facts like history, but because it teaches critical reasoning skills.

That way, the next time they see lightning travel upwards *into* the sky, they don't think the electrons are travelling backwards in time. They apply their critical reasoning, realize it's just an effect of the way we observe it and don't go wasting bucketloads of tax payer money building a church in Geneve to worship it.


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