A little over a month ago I blogged about the UK Royal Society’s director of education, Michael Reiss, demanding creationism teaching in science classrooms. I wondered, then, what might have been going through the guy’s head. It turns out that in addition to his scientific degrees, Reiss is an Anglican priest — so my question was answered!

He resigned within a few days, claiming that he was misunderstood, and that he was talking about how to address creationism if a student brought it up in class. While he did discuss such a scenario in his remarks, and he later claimed to believe that creationism is not appropriate in a science classroom, his initial remarks included the following sentence:

I feel that creationism is best seen by science teachers not as a misconception but as a world view.

Reiss’s problem, of course, is that — scientifically speaking — creationism is most assuredly a “misconception.” Whether or not it’s a worldview, is irrelevant, in light of that.

Reiss’s remarks and his subsequent resignation are controversial in Britain’s science world. There are some who think his position reasonable and that he should not have been fired for it. He also has vehement critics. A sampling of the matter:

A defender of Professor Reiss’ position on the BBC radio I heard argued that the creation myth was a metaphor, not to be taken literally. Hence scientists should not be so touchy. A critic could argue, however that if that were the case then that is exactly why the teacher should indeed to refer the pupil to poetry, drama or religious studies where parables as metaphor are appropriate. The problem is that as soon as you bring it into a science lesson you risk confusing science and parable. This is not helped by creationists who insist that the creation myth is not a parable but true and should at the very least be taught as a valid theory alongside evolution. This then makes a mockery of science.

That, of course, is the real problem here. If we were talking about a kid who — say — denies the reality of gravity, that’s easily addressed in science class, by explaining the workings of gravity and devising an experiment to show that it works.

But if a kid says, “Mah preacherman dun tol’ me we ain’t no apes, ’cause the Bobble dun says so,” there is really no way for a science teacher to address and debunk this … because nothing the teacher says or does can do so! The kid’s preacherman has pre-empted any possible scientific response, by convincing the child to take the literal word of the Bible over anything and everything else — including valid, time-tested science. It is, in short, a game that the science teacher cannot win.

What’s more, the science teacher’s failure would only become further “evidence” of creationism’s truth, in the eyes of the child. (There are, in fact, already apocryphal stories of believers demolishing atheist teachers, which are — in spite of their known apocryphal nature — used among other believers as “evidence” of the intellectual bankruptcy of atheism. So don’t think this cannot happen.)

Yes, creationism teaching is an insidious force in the lives of the world’s youngsters. Its goal is not only to indoctrinate them in certain metaphysical beliefs, but also to cheat them of the possibility of ever learning the truth. In short … it’s evil.

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