Comment »Posted on Monday 10 November 2008 at 2:16 pm by Jacob Aron
In Education, Evolution, Getting It Wrong

A survey by Teachers TV has found that nearly a third of the 1200 teachers who participated belive that creationism should be given the same status as evolution in the classroom. More worryingly, out of the 248 science teachers who were included in the poll, 18% agreed with this notion. Should these people really be allowed to call themselves science teachers?

I do have a few doubts about this poll. It was conducted via email, which means that selection bias could be a factor. Those who are strongly propionate’s either way about this issue are more likely to respond to an email poll than those who aren’t too bothered. This could likely mean that the percentage of science teachers in the UK who believe creationism should be taught in school is lower than 18%. This isn’t really that important to what I have to say, however.

Regardless of how representative the poll is, there are still 44 (or possibly 45, as 18% of 248 doesn’t give you a whole number) science teachers out there who would like to teach creationism in their lessons as an equal alternative to evolution. This is nonsense.

I’m largely reiterating points I laid out in the wake of the Michael Reiss incident, in which the director of education at the Royal Society was widely misreported to have called for creationism to be taught in science lessons, ultimately leading to his dismissal from the post. What he actually said is that science teachers should be able to answer questions on creationism rather than deflect them, and more importantly show why it is not science.

Creationism isn’t science for the same reason that science cannot prove or disprove the existence of God: it’s unobservable, untestable and most importantly cannot be falsified. Evolution can be falsified. For example, if DNA sequencing of two species that appear to be similar (say, chimpanzees and humans) showed wildly different genomes, then it could not be possible that we evolved from a common ancestor. Fortunately for evolution, we share something like 96% of our genes with chimps.

The previous paragraph is an example of how I would like to see creationism taught in schools. Thankfully, almost half of the surveys respondents agree with me, in that they feel the complete exclusion of creationism from the classroom is counter-productive. The question is, how do you change the minds of those teachers who truly believe it is science?


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