This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

← UPDATED: British GCSE exam: evolution FAIL

UPDATED: British GCSE exam: evolution FAIL - Comments

Bernard Hurley's Avatar Comment 1 by Bernard Hurley

Dumbing down is a frequent complaint about recent exams. This isn't dumbing down; this is dumbing out!

Tue, 15 Feb 2011 15:45:29 UTC | #592102

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Comment 2 by Richard Dawkins

This is a disgrace. Jerry Coyne gets it exactly right. I'm trying to discover the right address to send complaints.


Tue, 15 Feb 2011 15:46:15 UTC | #592104

Degsy's Avatar Comment 3 by Degsy

I would want to know what exam board this came from, when it was written and who were those responsible for writing such questions. Is this a common feature of Biology and Science GCSEs now? Feedback from teachers would be much appreciated on this topic as I am wanting to pursue a career in teaching Biology.

Tue, 15 Feb 2011 15:50:47 UTC | #592106

Reveille's Avatar Comment 4 by Reveille

I know that it happens both in the UK and also in the U.S. but it never ceases to be appalling to see Creationism and Intelligent Design put forth as valid scientific theories.

Tue, 15 Feb 2011 15:56:28 UTC | #592108

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 5 by Steve Zara

This is outrageous, it is scandalous. It's either a close-to-unbelievable level of incompetence or a deliberate attempt to sabotage the exam by creationists.

Tue, 15 Feb 2011 15:58:55 UTC | #592109

William33's Avatar Comment 6 by William33

In Scotland it is actually advised creationism/intelligent design is not to be considered a science.

What types of guidelines do the good people of England have when it comes to creationist/intelligent design propaganda?

I am quite suprised really as it seems religous nonsense is more common in England compared to Scotland (which has the history of deep rooted religous influence).

Tue, 15 Feb 2011 16:00:41 UTC | #592110

Zelig's Avatar Comment 7 by Zelig

Pardon my cynicism, but surely those setting and overseeing these questions actually know their subject, for if this was not so it would be a rather inexplicable occurrence. Thus I assume those setting the questions know exactly what they're doing. How can they get away with it? Why are they doing it? I suspect the answer to both of these questions is that "community harmony" , "social cohesion", and "inclusiveness" matters far more than truth.

Tue, 15 Feb 2011 16:01:54 UTC | #592111

casco6768's Avatar Comment 8 by casco6768

wow! just wow!

Tue, 15 Feb 2011 16:02:13 UTC | #592112

Mark Jones's Avatar Comment 9 by Mark Jones

Agreed, it's a disgrace; this looks like they're teaching the controversy! Is this part of the Government's usual pandering to faith, or a cock-up? As soon as I know where to complain, I will.

Tue, 15 Feb 2011 16:03:07 UTC | #592113

Austin K's Avatar Comment 10 by Austin K

This can't be real. Utterly disgraceful.

Tue, 15 Feb 2011 16:04:10 UTC | #592114

Tabz's Avatar Comment 11 by Tabz

I'm a student currently taking GCSES in triple-science, and I would like to say that exams are really not being "dumbed down".

For every stupid question like this, there are dozens more which are the tough ones.

Tue, 15 Feb 2011 16:04:15 UTC | #592115

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 12 by Jos Gibbons

When I took GCSE Biology less than 6 years ago, nothing remotely like this appeared either in the papers we sat nor in any past papers we used for practice & revision. Has a horrid change occurred since then (and under whose government), or is this board specific? I wish I could remember which board we were with, and I wish we knew which board published this rubbish. I cannot believe scientists would have written this. But why is anyone else writing science exam papers? Why does only science suffer like this? Where are the Holocaust-or-not questions in history exams? (Then again, maybe they do exist; I hadn't been aware of these creationism examples before.)

However, I must admit the exams we faced still didn't reach a gold standard when it came to evolution; they almost entirely ignored the topic. Some of the highest scores in GCSE Biology in my school - indeed, this was also true at A-level - went to open Islamic creationist students. Natural selection, described in a way which only explicitly credits microevolution to it, treated as one topic among many was the limit of exams at both levels on the topic of where adaptation comes from.

Tue, 15 Feb 2011 16:04:34 UTC | #592116

Sora-Livana's Avatar Comment 13 by Sora-Livana

Must be a bad exam board - I finished my GCSEs over a year ago, and the exam board I was on didn't even waste time giving anything other than evolution any validation in the course. Creationism was never mentioned once during the course, except maybe in derision by a teacher.

Also, I disagree with the statement that exams are being 'dumbed down'. Just because some of the questions are stupid, doesn't mean the entirety of them are easier than they used to be. I sometimes feel all this hullabaloo is solely to bring teenagers down and make them feel useless/incompetent compared to their ever-so-wise elders.

And the newspapers hate us, too :P

Tue, 15 Feb 2011 16:10:11 UTC | #592118

Ted_Cunterblast's Avatar Comment 14 by Ted_Cunterblast

Richard, please let us all know the right address to send complaints to.

Tue, 15 Feb 2011 16:11:22 UTC | #592120

ajs261's Avatar Comment 15 by ajs261

What exam board is this!?!?

I took AQA GCSE in 2006 and I don't recall anything like this travesty ever being allowed anywhere near our exam paper.

Whoever is responsible for this should be removed immediately - I would have assumed an understanding of science is a prerequisite for writing a science exam.

Tue, 15 Feb 2011 16:11:38 UTC | #592122

Aerandir's Avatar Comment 16 by Aerandir

This is unbelievable... I don't know what I would do if I saw a question like this on exam...

Tue, 15 Feb 2011 16:13:04 UTC | #592123

superbeanson's Avatar Comment 17 by superbeanson

Don't tell me- this was set in a predominantly muslim school?

Tue, 15 Feb 2011 16:13:32 UTC | #592124

smegely's Avatar Comment 18 by smegely

If you want to see what the criteria are then you can probably find it all in the Science key stage 4 section of Qualifications and Curriculum Development Authority.

Tue, 15 Feb 2011 16:18:36 UTC | #592127

BroughtyBoy's Avatar Comment 19 by BroughtyBoy

I doubt if this is malicious, but it speaks volumes for the educational qualifications of the examiners.

Tue, 15 Feb 2011 16:24:28 UTC | #592131

Graxan's Avatar Comment 20 by Graxan

Whoever is responsible for this should be not only fired but face court procedings. If you examine the questions in the article there is absolutely no doubt that this is deliberate creationist propaganda aimed directly at the most impressionable. 3 of the 4 questions and prior pieces of information were creationist 'theories'. Notice also how Darwinism was last in the list, as if it was an anececdotal option, of least importance .

My oldest child is 9 next month which means we have no more than 5 years to clean up this travesty in the exam boards, so that he is not filled with this indoctrinal crap.

I took GCSE Double award science in 1993 and I recall nothing of the subject of evolution in the exam material or in class, which bothers me greatly now looking back but neither was there any creationism. there where just pictures of anatomy and labelling them etc...I also remember my strange biology teacher throwing a set of sheep's lungs on the desk for us to play with once...

Tue, 15 Feb 2011 16:25:28 UTC | #592132

Graxan's Avatar Comment 21 by Graxan

I'd also like to add that this is PRECISELY the reason why the university who refused to hire the science teacher in Kentucky got their decision right. (A previous discussional thread)

edit:: "Religion no excuse for promoting scientific ignorance" - The Martin Gaskell case.

Tue, 15 Feb 2011 16:26:53 UTC | #592134

mixmastergaz's Avatar Comment 22 by mixmastergaz

Fuck me, I wouldn't have expected that here in dear old Blighty!

I can understand talking about creationism and intelligent design in religious studies lessons...

...but these 'ideas' have no place in a science examination.

Do please post the address for complaints Richard. I'll certainly write and complain.

Tue, 15 Feb 2011 16:29:41 UTC | #592135

mixmastergaz's Avatar Comment 23 by mixmastergaz

...Forgot to add...

I took all three available science GCSEs (biology, chemistry and physics), oh about 20 years ago. There was definitely no woo-woo of this sort then. When did it change I wonder, and what was the 'thinking' behind it?

Tue, 15 Feb 2011 16:32:57 UTC | #592137

The Plc's Avatar Comment 24 by The Plc

I'm stunned by this. How could this happen? In the UK of all places? Is it what a previous contributor has suggested, something to do with an Islamic school board?

Tue, 15 Feb 2011 16:34:11 UTC | #592138

tboulay's Avatar Comment 25 by tboulay

This is insane. I really don't know what else to say. I can't believe that any educational organization would be allowed to put evolution and intelligent design on the same level in a question.

Tue, 15 Feb 2011 16:38:29 UTC | #592141

superatheist's Avatar Comment 26 by superatheist

I had the pleasure of studying the Oxford University GCSE Biology textbook, 5 years ago and there was no mention of creationism or intelligent design at all. They stated that creationism is wrong and had two wonderful chapters about evolution. This is a shock for me! And I hate to be rude about this, but Darwin is British and if any nation is to pride itself with its biological achievements it is the UK, and NOT babble about creationism or idiotic design???!!!!

Tue, 15 Feb 2011 16:40:49 UTC | #592142

jel's Avatar Comment 27 by jel

We're going backwards if this is typical of the questions now being set. I took my GCE's (they didn't become GCSE's until way after I left school) way back in the 70's and no way would they have given us anything like this.

Tue, 15 Feb 2011 16:42:13 UTC | #592144

alphcat's Avatar Comment 28 by alphcat

Actually I don't believe it is legal to teach ID or creationism in Engish schools and I would be interested in knowing which exam board and which year that question comes from? Both ofsted and ASE (association for science education) have said quite clearly that neither qualify as science, not even bad science hence neither should be taught as such. ASE even goes as far as saying that if the topics arise in subjects over which it has no jurisdiction, such as RE, it should be discussed as purely a religious belief and not as anything with any scientific credibility at all.

This is not a dumbed down question (the exams have not been dumbed down) this is a specific piece of religious indoctrination. Whoever wrote it knew exactly what they were doing and I'm not sure how it got through. Are you sure it came from a biology paper and not an RE one?

Tue, 15 Feb 2011 16:50:07 UTC | #592145

Rawhard Dickins's Avatar Comment 29 by Rawhard Dickins

Creationism is a belief. Not a theory.

Lamarkism isn't a theory, it's just a bit of early guess work that has been completely discredited.

Intelligent design probably too recent to rank amongst the rest and it's easily discredited, anyway it's part of creationism.

And evolution isn't a theory either. (At least not in the way it is presented against other "theories" in the question.

Tue, 15 Feb 2011 16:50:10 UTC | #592146

Hammert1me's Avatar Comment 30 by Hammert1me

This is way too stupid to be real.

Double check your sources, get hold of some printed, paper past exam papers. Check the dates, make sure it's not from 1946.

OK, looks legit.

If this is real, AQA should be held accountable. Young biologists need knowledge of creationism like chemists need knowledge of the greek parthenon and physicists need knowledge of ghosts.

Callling ID and Creationism 'theories' is incorrect, misleading and just plain wrong.

Tue, 15 Feb 2011 16:54:36 UTC | #592148