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BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW: NIGEL McQUOID, Emmanuel City Technological Centre MARCH 17th, 2002
Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used
DAVID FROST: When Charles Darwin first put forward his theory of evolution it caused quite a storm but for more than a hundred years it's been accepted as scientific fact, the idea of God literally creating man in his image is a fable rather than precisely what happened all those billions of years ago. That's been the orthodox view. But now there's something of a storm brewing in Gateshead, where a local head teacher is proposing to give the creation theory equal billing with the evolution theory and he's with us now to talk about it. Good morning, Nigel, are you there? Yes you are. You've taught creationism but now you'd like to put it into the syllabus, into the curriculum - that seems to be what the papers are saying, is that right?
NIGEL McQUOID: Yes, the papers are saying a lot of things and thanks for the opportunity to put a few things clear. Obviously schools are teaching creation in every assembly and every RE lesson because so many people actually believe that God did make the world. I don't quite know what creationism means but if it means that God made the world, yes of course that's got a place in assemblies and in RE.
DAVID FROST: But let me just come in for a minute. I mean the point about creationism is that you think if you believe creationism that it wasn't made, the world wasn't made billions of years ago, as the fossils show or whatever, but within, within the last ten thousand years or something, yes?
NIGEL McQUOID: Well the national curriculum in science actually asks us to look at the whole controversy around the theory of evolution and that whole question begs the idea that people look at this evidence in different ways and for many years, as you've said, people have looked at the evidence and said well we can't actually age the earth and some scientific papers, recently, have begun to question those things. And in college we have decided that we must look at the scientific papers before we present them to children and to see whether or not they have any scientific validity. That's a debate and I suppose we're concerned that people are trying to stop that debate because we feel that science has always been best when it's allowed itself to ask these difficult questions. And when science says we've got everything sorted, we've got everything sussed, I think that's a dangerous position.
DAVID FROST: And in terms of the teaching of the subject, teaching of creationism, would you plan to do that, and to the extent that you do it already, would you plan to do that in the science classes or in the divinity, religious, classes?
NIGEL McQUOID: Well there's certainly no doubt that it's part of RE but it's also part of the national curriculum in science, where we're asked to deal with controversies relating to evolution. But before this is brought into the science classes, I've got to satisfy myself, as a head teacher, that there is scientific validity behind it. Now these papers have been published, I'm looking at them and before we would bring them into science classes we've got to make sure that they are more than just tooth fairy science. And that's the debate which we're trying to look at but some people are saying oh don't dare look at it and I don't think that that's good science.
DAVID FROST: And in terms - where do you stand on this issue yourself?
NIGEL McQUOID: I believe that God made the world. I don't know how he did it -
DAVID FROST: When?
NIGEL McQUOID: - I don't know how long it took him, I believe that we can look at science and see if that can help us and for years Darwin propagated a theory which he accepted had gaps and now people are beginning to find out more and more about all sorts of things in science and ask new questions. I think if we're going to teach children that you must look at all sides and ask good questions in order to find out possibly new things, then that's a good thing and we'll look to see whether or not there's any questions that need to be answered.
DAVID FROST: And in fact the Bishop of Oxford, as you will have read, said do these people really think that the world-wide scientific community is engaged in a massive conspiracy to hoodwink the rest of us. Do they really believe that - do you believe that?
NIGEL McQUOID: I think that everybody's got opinions and the bringing together of people's faith and their science is a very interesting and sometimes difficult scenario. When children are hearing in assemblies, for example, God made the world, and then in science that God didn't make the world, then of course they ask well is my faith scientific nonsense. And I think we've got to help them look at the evidence, if science says no God couldn't have done it, well then let's say that. If science says well we're not sure - and I don't think Darwin said he was a hundred per cent sure and I don't think even Professor Dawkins says he's one hundred per cent guaranteed proven sure - I think children have got to have the chance to make up their minds. And science will always move forward and ask us new questions, sometimes it asks us amazing questions and sometimes that's when it makes its greatest leaps forward.
DAVID FROST: And the Reverend Arthur Peacock, who is a winner of the Templeton Prize, of course, he said, commenting on what you're doing and planning, creationism is bad religion and false science. What do you say to that?
NIGEL McQUOID: I think if the science is allowed to speak for itself we will find out. I don't have any agenda to prove the bible because I've got scientific theory. As a head teacher I must look at papers that staff are bringing me, that are being published in the public domain, I must look at papers and say is this nonsense or has this got some possible contribution to the debate in science. I'm looking at it now and the debate is obviously kicking off right across the country - I think that's good.
DAVID FROST: And in terms of, most people though, because it causes us anguish, just the mention of what you're doing and so on, people get very uptight about it and so on, and will you be teaching creationism and evolution as equally valid theories and leaving it, and leaving it up, in the end, to the pupils to make up their own minds - because some people have said that that's a bit like teaching, teaching people the world is round but teaching them as well that it's square and then they can make up their own mind.
NIGEL McQUOID: Uhuh. Well I think now that we know the world is round you wouldn't, you wouldn't present nonsense to poor children. We must teach evolution, I'm quite happy to teach evolution, it's had a massive effect on our scientific community and our way of looking at the life, at life, but faith is there as well and faith is possibly now asking have we a scientific basis on which to actually put more than just faith into the things that we think and believe? And I can assure you of this, that as a college, state funded, we will teach evolution as we're asked to and the controversy surrounding it and it will be for children to view the science and, as it will be for adults, to see what they then wish to believe. I believe in openness, I believe in debate, I believe that children, with respect, have a great sense of ability to see when they're being brainwashed and when they're being given a choice. Let the science speak for itself.
DAVID FROST: Nigel, most interesting, thank you very much indeed.
NIGEL McQUOID: Thank you.
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