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Teachers should tackle creationism, says science education expert - Comments

practicing atheis's Avatar Comment 1 by practicing atheis

i don't think there are many people who are against teaching creationism as an idea. The opposition comes when people want to teach creationism as an 'alternative' to scientific theory when it clearly is the farthest thing from scientific theory. I firmly believe that creationism (in all of it's worldly 'creations'!) should be taught in sociological, philosophical, and religion classes where it belongs. The only worthy mention of creationism in science class is that which highlights its own shortcomings as scientific theory.

Thu, 11 Sep 2008 10:28:00 UTC | #232790

c_mullark's Avatar Comment 2 by c_mullark

I am a bit confused about Reiss's intentions.

He's a science teacher (a previous "evangelical evolutionist teacher", made me shudder when I read that) who thinks that something by his own admission isn't science should be taught in the science classroom?

This would only downgrade real science (read: evolution) and put forth the misconception that creationism actually "is" science, which if anything children should be taught that it isn't.

Thu, 11 Sep 2008 10:30:00 UTC | #232793

michabo's Avatar Comment 3 by michabo

excluding alternatives to scientific explanations for the origin of life and the universe from science lessons was counterproductive and would alienate some children from science altogether.


I suppose that excluding alternatives to the Jewish Holocaust are perfectly acceptable in a History class. After all, it would be counterproductive when dealing with deniers and neo Nazis.



Does anyone else find it disturbing that freaking director of education thinks that actually educating people about reality should be abandoned whenever people come into class with demonstrably false ideas about the world? What is the point of an education if not to inform and challenge students?

If this quisling thinks that little good comes from challenging creationists in the classroom he should just wait to see the damage that comes from not challenging them. You may not be able to push the ocean back, but those dams are holding back a lot of stupid.

Thu, 11 Sep 2008 10:35:00 UTC | #232796

tobybarrett's Avatar Comment 4 by tobybarrett

"Reiss, who is an ordained Church of England minister", 'nuff said.

Thu, 11 Sep 2008 10:36:00 UTC | #232798

Koreman's Avatar Comment 5 by Koreman

It is abuse. Period.

Thu, 11 Sep 2008 10:42:00 UTC | #232806

InfuriatedSciTeacher's Avatar Comment 6 by InfuriatedSciTeacher

Reiss agreed that creationism and intelligent design are not scientific theories, but he said that did not automatically exclude them from science lessons. "Just because something lacks scientific support doesn't seem to me a sufficient reason to omit it from the science lesson …

Really? I would say that is THE reason to omit something from a science lesson.

Reiss, who is an ordained Church of England minister, told the British Association Festival of Science in Liverpool that science teachers should not see creationism as a "misconception" but as an alternative "world view". He added that he was not advocating devoting the same time to teaching creationism or intelligent design as to evolution.


Is this religion being passed off as cultural relativism? Should we give heed to other irrational beliefs that may conflict with the science curriculum? The only thing about what Reiss has to say that isn't completely appalling is that he doesn't feel creationism needs to be given equal time with evolution. I can't accurately comment on British schools, but I know the Bio curriculum in the US is so packed that it is compeletely absurd to consider adding a topic that isn't even science. (which makes his least horrific comment a load of manure, whatever else it might be)


This is an inappropriate and insulting use of the phrase child abuse as anybody who has ever worked â€" as incidentally I have over many years with children who have been either sexually or physically abused â€" knows."
Right, great point... it's too bad that Dawkins was talking about mental/emotional abuse, and therefor what could seem to be a good point is completely invalid. I'd attempt to respect his views, as he suggests, if they weren't inane and irrational.

Thu, 11 Sep 2008 10:44:00 UTC | #232809

Opisthokont's Avatar Comment 7 by Opisthokont

"Creationism doesn't challenge science, it denies it."

That is a beautiful quote.

As for presentation of evolution in classrooms, all that the teacher needs to say is that evolution is the prevailing scientific theory for a very good reason, and that it is important for the students to understand it. "Alternatives" simply need not be brought up by the teacher; if they are by the student, one need only resort to what my Microbiology professor said at the beginning of his course: "For this course, we're going to have to pretend that the scientists are right."

Of course, if the student really thinks that creationism is a legitimate alternative, that can be discussed outside class (if the teacher is willing and able, anyway).

Thu, 11 Sep 2008 10:49:00 UTC | #232813

Koreman's Avatar Comment 8 by Koreman

We need science philosophy to be taught in schools. What is the scientific method, why do we use it, how did it develop, why is pseudoscience not science? You can skip the creationism and ID part altogether.

One should not advocate evolution but common sense. Facts. In biology class there is no room nor either time for philosophy, that's discussed a few classrooms down the hallway.

Thu, 11 Sep 2008 10:50:00 UTC | #232818

Koreman's Avatar Comment 10 by Koreman

Running Maid Palin talks about 'information'.

http://www.sciam.com/blog/60-second-science/post.cfm?id=palin-brings-creationism-debate-bac-2008-09-11

I agree. As long as discrete mathematics are to be taught too.

Thu, 11 Sep 2008 10:55:00 UTC | #232828

Bruno's Avatar Comment 9 by Bruno

You know, Chapman, in his book "40 Days and 40 Nights" (about the Dover trial) makes the case that Intelligent Design SHOULD be taught in science classes, where teachers can demonstrate to students why it's not even a theory and basically tear it to shreds. I guess I'm not that confident that the majority of teachers (at least in the U.S) would do that.

Thu, 11 Sep 2008 10:55:00 UTC | #232827

Donald's Avatar Comment 11 by Donald

From this article:
Reiss is director of education at the Royal Society
Reiss is an ordained Church of England minister
Reiss says excluding alternatives to scientific explanations for the origin of life and the universe from science lessons is counterproductive
Reiss says science teachers should not see creationism as a "misconception" but as an alternative "world view"
Reiss agreed that creationism and intelligent design are not scientific theories, but he said that did not automatically exclude them from science lessons. "Just because something lacks scientific support doesn't seem to me a sufficient reason to omit it from the science lesson.."


Breathtaking. The damage religious indoctrination does to rational thought seems to be boundless.

I hope some readers here will contact the Royal Society and let them know what non-deluded people think of a person with such views as their "director of education".

http://royalsociety.org/

Thu, 11 Sep 2008 10:57:00 UTC | #232830

ksskidude's Avatar Comment 12 by ksskidude

Ok class today we are going to study "creationism."

"God did it"

That ends the lesson......

Thu, 11 Sep 2008 11:06:00 UTC | #232840

Nova's Avatar Comment 13 by Nova

practicing atheis:

sociological, philosophical, and religion classes where it belongs
I've seen this before, when trying to keep creationism outside of a science class they give it more territory than just the one subject of Religious Studies and usually hand it philosophy and in this case sociology as well. I appreciate the sentiment however they don't understand these subjects and just say creationism could fit in them because they think they're mailable enough to take it. The ONLY place creationism belongs is in Religious Studies.

Thu, 11 Sep 2008 11:07:00 UTC | #232841

quantum_flux's Avatar Comment 14 by quantum_flux

I don't see any problem with teaching evolution in a science classroom, I sure as heck never got evolutionary theory in any classroom in my entire life but I did get Creationism (the Adam and Eve Version complete with a 40 ft tall Angel with a Flaming Sword gaurding the Entrance to the Garden of Eden, I also got the 6000 year Old Earth Theory, the Tower of Babel, and the Noah's Flood, the whole package if you will).

That being said, I was always good at mathematics, and Albert Einstien was a heroic mathematician because he was German :)

Anyhow, I recommend people and teachers alike seriously read about or learn evolution, physics, and cosmology outside of the classroom environment.

Learning Evolution: Your Inner Fish

Learning Cosmology:

MIT Exploring Black Holes: General Relativity & Astrophysics

lecture 10: The Universe and Three Examples

lecture 13: Cosmic Structure Formation; From Inflation to Galaxies


Learning Physics: The Feynman Lectures on Physics

Thu, 11 Sep 2008 11:07:00 UTC | #232842

ukvillafan's Avatar Comment 15 by ukvillafan

The guy clearly has no understanding of the concept of child abuse, whether he has worked with abused children or not.

Along with all forms of cruelty to children there is an associatd psychological consequence. In physical and sexual abuse cases, it is the psychological harm that is often the most damaging and long-term. Emotional and psychological abuse also occur independently, as well as being consequences of other forms of abuse.

Forcing a child into a rigid way of life with a defined mode of thinking and compelling them, for example, to believe that they will roast in the fires of hell if they misbehave is, quite obviously, a direct form of emotional abuse. That this man, a professor no less, is unable to see this demonstrates the blind spot that faith creates.

Nothing annoys me more than amateurs who claim to have knowledge that they do not, in reality, possess.

(If anyone needs to know I have been a lawyer specialising in child abuse cases for 20 years. I know I do not know everything, but I do know that anyone who claims that the inculcation of religion is not psychologically damaging to a child does not know enough to be spouting forth about it!)

Thu, 11 Sep 2008 11:08:00 UTC | #232843

Foxblood's Avatar Comment 16 by Foxblood

I think what he is trying to say is if you teach Creationism along side of (Real Science, Evolution etc) it will give kids a chance to compare them side by side. Obviously if you do a comparison side by side almost anyone will see what a stupid idea creationism is. It also might open up a child to the idea of Real Science that may have already been brain washed by his parents to disregard Real Science all together!!

The problem with this is we have waisted valuable time and effort on something as bullshit as Creationism when that time could have been spent else where in more credible educational endeavors

Thu, 11 Sep 2008 11:09:00 UTC | #232845

Jay Cee's Avatar Comment 17 by Jay Cee

Comment #245780 by Ultraviolet G

"I agree that maybe some of you Brits ought to write in to the Royal Society. (Very politely and very carefully: try and do a better job than the PZ Myers debacle where most of the letters from supporters seemed to be about themselves, or how stupid Catholics were)."

I agree and I will write a letter.

Thu, 11 Sep 2008 11:18:00 UTC | #232852

blueollie's Avatar Comment 18 by blueollie

Here is the problem: there are many different types of creationism, and science education (training for science teachers) doesn't cover this.

So, which creationism should be discussed? A literal interpretation of Genesis has two contradictory creation stories.

some creationists use 6 24 hour periods, some use 6 "periods", some use the "man out of dirt, woman from man", some use other interpretations.

Also, what about someone from a all-together different religious tradition?

What about us Pastafarians? :-)

Thu, 11 Sep 2008 11:19:00 UTC | #232853

Roger Stanyard's Avatar Comment 19 by Roger Stanyard

Let's get one thing straight first. Teachers are not allowed to teach creationism or ID in science classes.

Secondly, ID is not just not science, it is a political tool to re-engineer society (see the Wedge Document). Let it into the science classroom and you have just let in politics.

There is no half measure about this. Truth in Science has been pushing ID for all it is worth. It is still doing so.

Thirdly, precisely what is it the fundamentalists want "taught" in the science lesson:

1. Young Earth Creationism?

2. Old Earth Creationism?

3. Muslim creationism (a third variant)?

4. Intelligent Design?

5. Theistic Evolution?

6. Hindu creationism?

7. Recolonisation theory (another YEC variant)?

Teach these and there is no time left for proper science.

Riess also has a problem in that the courts in the USA have repeatedly concluded that there is no science in creationism and it is solely a religious position.

So what Reiss is calling for is religion to be taught in the science classroom to serve the political objectives of deeply conservative fundamentalists.

It's worse than that, though because the creationists don't limit themsleves to undermining the theory of evolution. It's any part of science that contradicts their religious position including physics, chemistry, geology, physical geography and no doubt others.

So ever time a physics teacher says that the speed of light is a constant, he/she has to explain heaven knows what crackpottery that claims it isn't because the world is only 6,000 years old?

Or if the geography teacher explainingg where coal coal comes from has to present Professor Andy McIntosh's idiocy that coal seams were formed in a few days?

I'll continue. What er, text books are going to be used to "explain" all this idiocy? Of Panda's and People? Or McIntosh's work on geology? What are the teachers going to do apart from hand out religious tracts?

Are they going to hand out the gibberish from BAV even when the books themselves are full of breaches of copyright?

Talk about screwing up the educational system.

Roger Stanyard, British Centre for Science Education

Thu, 11 Sep 2008 11:29:00 UTC | #232855

KevinPhillips's Avatar Comment 20 by KevinPhillips

Intelligent and lucid comments already posted cover almost everything that I would like to say about adding nonsense to science classes at school.

What would like to add to the debate is how little time is spent on Science in UK schools already. That someone at the Royal Society could advocate spending ANY of that precious time on fairy stories is deeply depressing.

Thu, 11 Sep 2008 11:30:00 UTC | #232857

Quine's Avatar Comment 21 by Quine

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Reiss said he understood Dawkins' point, but said: "This is an inappropriate and insulting use of the phrase child abuse as anybody who has ever worked - as incidentally I have over many years with children who have been either sexually or physically abused - knows."


By this "reasoning" we really should not convict a defendant, who beats his wife, of a crime, because as anybody who has ever worked - as incidentally I have over many years with people who have been murdered - knows.

Thu, 11 Sep 2008 11:33:00 UTC | #232862

Sciros's Avatar Comment 22 by Sciros

By this "reasoning" we really should not convict a defendant, who beats his wife, of a crime, because as anybody who has ever worked - as incidentally I have over many years with people who have been murdered - knows.
No, by that reasoning we wouldn't call them a murderer. T_T

Anyway, indoctrination is a form of abuse, though how harmful its effects are depends on the kind of indoctrination and how it affects the individual. On a case-by-base basis one might be able to say whether such abuse was more or less malign than physical/sexual abuse, but to generalize is IMO irresponsible.

Thu, 11 Sep 2008 11:37:00 UTC | #232869

Quine's Avatar Comment 23 by Quine

Sciros, can children be abused mentally?

Thu, 11 Sep 2008 11:53:00 UTC | #232892

golemXIV's Avatar Comment 24 by golemXIV

Creationism belongs to the science class. But they should not teach creationism, but rather about creationism. It is a prime example of what IS NOT a science. And it should be presented as such. In order not to fail the students, teachers should present and debunk creationism, in sharp contrast to science. It should not be presented as a scientific alternative, but it cannot be ignored. Students here about it elsewhere anyway, and it is presented as science there. So where else but in science class should that statement be refuted?

Thu, 11 Sep 2008 12:08:00 UTC | #232909

atp's Avatar Comment 25 by atp

The only place ID and creationism has in a science class are as case studies of what science is not.

You can't otherwise begin to miseducate people because you're afraid to turn them away from science.

However, it is important to recognize that science in no way disproves God or any other fantasy beings. Science just makes sense of the world we live in, and together with logic shows why no gods are necessary.

So leave gods and other fantasy beings out of science all together, they have no place there.

Thu, 11 Sep 2008 12:37:00 UTC | #232945

KRKBAB's Avatar Comment 26 by KRKBAB

As an atheist, by default I cross my arms and stand firm whenever this evo/ID shit comes up, but there is something not being mentioned.
Integrity dictates there should be no comprimise in the creationism silliness- BUT- realistically, WHAT IF it backfires? Then we should be accused of being stubborn instead of a circle jerk of integrity!
This is what I mean- we (on this website) all know that creationism is NOT an alternative theory to evoluton. But a scary percentage of the population DOES! If we keep saying- no it's not! no it's not! no it's not!- eventually this deluded percentage of society (maybe they're already there?) will view public education AS A WHOLE to be the enemy. I think we have to find a way through a very regulated procedure to "teach" that although the science community doesn't view creationism as a valid alternative, a segment of the public does. Now students, lets see how creationism compares as a viable alternative to evolution....
We may feel like we've compromised a bit, but it should get a lot of student's attention.
I think this tactic should be considered. We may loose too much ground out of pride and stubborness.

Thu, 11 Sep 2008 13:00:00 UTC | #232960

textnotspeech's Avatar Comment 27 by textnotspeech

Creationism is not science. We shouldn't teach nonsense because it just so happens to be a popular misconception. Besides, what is there to teach about it other than saying "some people don't want to accept this theory".

Thu, 11 Sep 2008 13:05:00 UTC | #232964

NewEnglandBob's Avatar Comment 28 by NewEnglandBob

I also have an alternative world view: Reiss is a imbecile.... of course, that follows from him being an ordained minister.

Thu, 11 Sep 2008 13:16:00 UTC | #232973

scoobie's Avatar Comment 29 by scoobie


Reiss, who is an ordained Church of England minister...

I'm guessing I didn't miss anything by stopping reading at this point?

Thu, 11 Sep 2008 13:28:00 UTC | #232980

Quetzalcoatl's Avatar Comment 30 by Quetzalcoatl

Now I would be more content simply for them to understand it as one way of understanding the universe," he said.


No, moron. Evolution is the way that is backed up by mountain-ranges of hard evidence. Creationism is the way that is backed up by vacuous wishful thinking. There's no damn contest.

Thu, 11 Sep 2008 13:31:00 UTC | #232983