AS A REGULAR critic of creationists, I find myself feeling unexpected sympathy for Professor Michael Reiss, who has resigned as The Royal Society’s director of education.
It seems to me that he didn’t suggest that creationism should be taught as science. He was, rather, talking of the difficulties of communicating science to pupils who already, for whatever reason, believed in the creationist myth. This is what he actually said:
My experience after having tried to teach biology for 20 years is if one simply gives the impression that such children are wrong, then they are not likely to learn much about the science.
I realised that simply banging on about evolution and natural selection didn’t lead some pupils to change their ind at all. Just because something lacks scientific support doesn’t seem to me sufficient reason to omit it from the science lesson… There is much to be said for allowing students to raise any doubts they have – hardly a revolutionary idea in science teaching – and doing one’s best to have a genuine discussion.
If a pupil were to raise the issue of creationism in science class, surely far better to meet that head-on, to face down such nonsense with scientific analysis and process?
I recently met a class of primary school pupils from my constituency at the Glasgow Science Centre’s planetarium and agreed to answer questions from them. Most were really interested in astronomy and science, but one asked “Did men really land on the moon?”
By answering the question in full, by taking it as a serious query and giving reasons why the conspiracy theories are all rubbish, was I indulging such theories? I don’t think so. And I see nothing wrong in respecting students’ beliefs on creationism while exposing them in a positive way as anti-scientific. What better place to do so than in a classroom?