a long way to go

29 October 2007

So, South Africa will start requiring high schools to teach evolutionary theory. One is tempted to ask why they waited until 2007 to do so, but reading this article answers such questions: the degree of ignorance about science, both on the part of teachers and the author (consider that it is stated, apparently in all seriousness, that “evolution theory, and its growing body of followers, invariably generates tension between secular, atheist scientists and conservative religions.”, and “Evolution…is rated highly by education experts because they believe it teaches learners to think critically and analytically..”) Yes, it looks like an uphill battle, but certainly one that needs to be fought.



08 October 2007

In a rather frightening development, British educators are actually suggesting the teaching of creationism in public schools: the actual article is here; the salient point is:

“(Reiss)said science teachers must treat pupils who have creationist beliefs with respect. “What I am saying is teach evolution as a really good part of science but be open to the fact that in most classes there are increasingly likely to be some children who come from families that cannot accept that – and don’t denigrate those pupils and their beliefs. The days have long gone when science teachers could ignore creationism when teaching about origins.”

This guy is apparently an Anglican priest and holds a doctorate in evolutionary biology. I am not quite sure what to make of this mess: obviously this is bullshit of prime texture and odour, along with any demand to treat religious beliefs with “respect” solely because they are religious. Since there is no evidence for creationist beliefs outside of the believers’ deluded little minds, such beliefs do not belong in a science classroom. Comparative religion, perhaps. What’s next? Should we teach racialist ideologies in class just to appease several Nazi skins that happen to hold some idiotic precepts about the superiority of the Aryan race? Or entertain the possibility of ships falling off the edge of the Earth to pacify an occasional flat-earther? And should the content of science classes be geared to reflect the cultural and religious diversity of the student population?

We can and we should ignore creationism when teaching about the origins. As far as we know (which is not much, currently, I admit freely), Flying Spaghetti Monsters had nothing to do with the emergence of life on this planet. Some people believe so. Let them; that’s their problem. But no scientist worthy of the title should present their belief systems as anything that they are: primitive guesswork illuminated by a rigid set of morals and unamenable to change and growth–the exact opposite of science.

The increasing fundamentalism is definitely a problem, but one that will not be cured by coddling it. Remember Chamberlain?