Science award and possible ‘creationist teaching’ spark debate

Richard Dawkins at the 34th American Atheists ...
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From The Independent Letters pages: Teaching Creationism

Your articles on science and faith today (“Scientists in uproar at £1m religion prize” and “Scientists and humanists fear creationist teaching is set to creep into more classrooms”, 7 April) were both perfunctory accounts of conflicts between foolish extremists. You might as well have invited a panel of Marxists and Thatcherites to discuss the merits and demerits of the welfare state.

Most religious faith cannot be conflated with fundamentalism and the rejection of evolution. Nor is reasoning based on empirical reality all there is to rational thought. There is no real conflict between science and faith. There is a conflict between atheists who do not want to enquire into what empirical reasoning cannot reach, and ignorant religious fundamentalists who fear scientific truth – these two have one thing in common though; they think that evolution invalidates faith in God.

People of faith have made and continue to make key contributions to science, including evolution for that matter. Have the crusading atheists forgotten who founded genetics as we know it? And who came up with the Big Bang theory?

As for education, I for one would like to keep all bigots out of the classroom, and this includes religious as well as atheistic fundamentalists. Faith, for both good and ill, is an undeniable human experience, and needs to be approached intelligently and wisely.

Dr Nicholas Deliyanakis.

Brussels, Belgium

Scientists should not worry about whether schools teach Intelligent Design or even Creationism alongside evolution (“Talking about our evolution”, 7 April) as long as the teaching is good. If the teachers convey the idea that scientific truth is decided by a sceptical approach and the weight of evidence, there should be no problem in allowing students to arrive at the likelihood of evolution for themselves. If we restrict what can be taught – thereby sending the message that truth is derived from authority not evidence – then we won’t end up with good scientists.

Dr Stephen Black

Biggleswade, Bedfordshire

Some very rich religious people think God’s creation is a marvellous thing. Someone else finds out a bit more about that creation and shows it to be even more marvellous than previously thought. The rich people give a small portion of their huge wealth to the other person to show their appreciation. End of story. There is nothing underhand going on here, and it seems to me, despite what some others might think, that faith is not being shoe-horned into science, but rather science is being shoe-horned into faith.

The Templeton Prize celebrates scientific achievement for its contribution to understanding the human condition. I would have thought Professor Dawkins et al would be all for such a development.

Andrew T Barnes


The only example Michael Behe – the scientist whose theories form the supposed scientific basis of Intelligent Design – had of an organism which seemed irreducibly complex was a flagellum which propelled itself along with a motor, which turned out not to be so. It came to light that the motor was made up of individual parts which had different functions when not part of such a motor. Ten of its 50 proteins are identical to the formation of a type-III secretory system, which injects proteins into other cells.

If everyone realised that Intelligent Design (which is little more than a resprayed form of creationism) had no evidence to support its thesis whatsoever, we wouldn’t be having an argument over whether it could be taught in schools, it being known that it was obviously false.

And while I’d agree with Jerry Coyne‘s statement that “science is based on doubt and questioning”, I’d say that faith was very much the same thing. My theology teacher (who is also both a reverend and a teacher of physics) always tells me that “the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty”.

There is no reason why science and religion should not be compatible. The originators of what we call modern science were trying to find evidence of God‘s complex design instead of the other way around, and indeed there are many scientists today whose scientific understanding of the universe goes hand in hand with their belief in God’s existence.

Henry St Leger-Davey

Winchester, Hampshire

What could have tempted Martin Rees to accept the £1m Templeton Prize?

Stan Hughes

East Hagbourne, Oxfordshire

Full article :

Scientists and humanists fear creationist teaching is set to creep into more classrooms

Last summer the British Humanist Association co-ordinated a letter from scientists and educators to Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, urging him to specifically include the teaching of evolution in the primary schools curriculum. The Department of Education’s reply indicated that this would be too prescriptive. However it went on to discuss creationism and intelligent design (ID), saying that, because they are not scientific, they do not form part of the national curriculum and should not be taught in science class.

The BHA was concerned that this reply did not go far enough. And so it was with particular concern that Andrew Copson, its chief executive, received the news recently that Everyday Champions Church – an evangelical Christian church with creationist views – had applied to set up a free school.

Mr Copson told me: “We fear that schools that are able to opt out of the national curriculum, such as the new free schools, will be able teach a range of untruths, such as creationism, even in science class. And because the Government has refused to say that it will ensure evolution is taught at primary level, these schools won’t even have to teach evolution at all. It really is a scandal that in a time of austerity, taxpayers’ money will be wasted on funding free schools which provide such confused scientific teaching.”

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