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Tuesday, 19 March, 2002, 11:16 GMT
Creation or evolution: What should schools be teaching?
Leading scientists are calling for school inspectors to re-examine a faith school in north east England over the way it is teaching evolution.
Professor Richard Dawkins, of Oxford University, says children at Emmanuel College in Gateshead are being taught "ludicrous falsehoods".
Professor Dawkins, and other scientists, claim fundamentalist Christian teachers at the school are steering children towards a purely biblical explanation of how the world was created.
The British Government supports faith schools as part of diversity in education and Prime Minister Tony Blair has defended Emmanuel College saying reports that it was promoting creationism were "somewhat exaggerated".
The row mirrors those in the United States, between religious groups, which want Creationism taught in schools, and scientists.
What do you think? Should all schools be forced to teach both religious and scientific explanations for evolution?
This Talking Point was suggested by Jane, Wales, UK :
Should faith schools be allowed to teach creationism?
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This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Evolution may just be a theory, but it is a theory that is supported by overwhelming evidence from every scientific field: genetics (Mendel's sweet peas); palaeontology (dinosaur fossils); chemistry (structure of DNA); embryology; quantum theory (carbon-dating); astronomy (Eppur si muove!); geology (continental drift and species diversification) among many, many others, including plain common sense.
The Earth was not illuminated by God on the first day; it was by Charles Darwin on 24 November 1859.
The creationists do not believe in evolution started off billions of years ago by God starting with the big bang, they believe the world was created mere thousands of years ago and fossils are a trick by the devil. The argument about who/what started/designed evolution is not the creationist vs. evolutionist argument. The creationists do not believe that species evolve into others.
In the bible it says that first god made the day & night.
Then god divided the water from the earth, made dry
land appear and covered it with plants. Next god filled the air and
sea with uncountable creatures and birds of every size. On the 6th
day god created man.
In a way, the above is a lay description of a form of evolution.
Although the bible talks about 6 days, if you were to expand the concept
and thought of the
description of the days as being much longer than 24 hours (more along
the lines of 100's of millions of years) then it is possible to see the Christian view of creation as a form
of evolution. It seems to me that we are quibbling
over the interpretation of the length of period of a day rather than a fundamental
difference in the two alternate beliefs. I'm an atheist and also a huge fan of
Richard Dawkings work and have read both the Blind WatchMaker and the
Selfish Gene, but in this case I think he may have overreacted slightly.
I would suggest that children be given access to all the possible theories and beliefs
and let them make up their own minds since they are much more capable of discerning
a truth that they are comfortable with than we give them credit for. It worked for me.
Whilst I don't believe in god, I do respect anyone who does.
We don't have conclusive evidence for either and probably never will.
Creationism should be part of the curriculum, presented in context with the religion around it, similarly evolution should be part of the curriculum, presented in a scientific biological context. Neither should be presented as absolute fact.
Better to give kids all the information they need to make an informed decision for themselves about where they came from, they don't need to have psuedo facts and conjecture shoved down their throats as absolute truth, by either side of the debate.
The problem with teaching evolution is that it's always been taught as fact which it isn't. It's all theory with a lot of assumed evidence. As a Christian I believe we were created by a God who loves us. If that God chose to use certain "scientific"methods to make the world then fine. I cannot believe that this beautiful world and our superbly intricate bodies came about by chance. Trouble is, if you don't believe in God then you have to believe in evolution - the alternative is too scary for most.
Religion of any sort has no place in any educational establishment unless it is conducted on a voluntary attendance basis. Surely children could be benefiting from so much more rather than wasting valuable time on such a futile subject. All religion does is teach people intolerance and hatred. Without any religion this world would be a much better place. I may sound cynical but what purpose does it really serve?
Creationism was made up by groups of people over many generations.
On the other hand, Evolution was a set of discoveries that humans came across and often surprised the discoverer.
Evolution is based on observation and fact.
It seems that everyone who has posted comments associates "creationism" with "Christianity" and therefore, everyone is picking holes in fundamentalist Christian theory. Don¿t forget that there are other religions, all "pro" creationism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism etc so just because Christianity cannot explain things (probably due to the translations over the ages) DONT FORGET that there are other religions out there with creationism theories! Creationism is the belief that a "creator" made the universe, Christianity is believing in Jesus. People (who have already posted comments) who say that creationism is stupid because of unanswered questions in the bible are forgetting the other billions of people in other religions who also believe in creationism! Personally I am Christian, and one of my fundamental beliefs is that God created the universe, whether it be 5000 years ago or billions of years ago. But answer me this, if there was a "big bang" how did the "big bang" come into being? Science does not help here. With current laws of physics, "energy cannot be created or destroyed", indicating the universe never "started" it has just been around "forever" which is silly. People may say material "suddenly" collided and caused the explosion, but where did the "initiator", or in fact the pre-universe "material", come from? From a "creator" of course!
Perhaps Huw would like to explain where the creator came from?
I am a Christian, I also have a Degree in Physical Geography. I believe one of these accounts is the scientific 'HOW' and the other is the socio-religious 'WHY' both of these need to be taught in schools and children need to be able to make up their own minds. To present one side or the other exclusively or in a biased manner is not education but indoctrination. Lets credit school kids with the intelligence they have and arm them to make decisions of their own.
A school is a place where children should be shown as many points of view as possible. A school should inspire thought but not indoctrinate theories by heart. So children should be presented with the scientific point of view and be encouraged to discuss it, although religious points of view could be shown as well. But children, with the help of their teacher, should understand the difference between scientific research and religious belief.
I am extremely appalled at how vehemently some people oppose Creationism. Evolution is a theory, not a fact.
Scientists are imposing their 'belief' on every classroom but when parents embrace the Bible's views they're called ignorant. Evolution is anti-God and it's sole purpose is to lull people away from faith in God. May I ask evolutionists to enquire as to what happened to our friend Darwin. He ended up believing in God you know. I suppose these scientists will call this unscientific, but we call it history. Christians are in no way opposed to education. May I also remind people who established the education systems in both the USA and UK - Believers. I believe in God, but I would never shove my belief down an atheist's throat. But that's exactly what these professors are doing in our schools. The Bible may be a fable to them, but it's Christian's life. And since when is a Government established on the basis of science - I thought we elected them so they can enforce our Human rights. Well, I want my right to not believe in Evolution - a bunch of fancy fables.
Richard Dawkins is not just a 'leading scientist', he is also fervently anti-religion. An evangelical atheist, if you like. That being so, I would like to see just what this school really is teaching, rather than simply accepting his claims as fact.
When I studied A-level Biology we were taught that evolution was the clear scientific consensus, but that some groups, for religious reasons, preferred other models. This seems to me to be sensible: evolution and creationism are not of equal validity scientifically, and shouldn't be taught as such, but you have to recognise that for some people other criteria are important.
Two thoughts for Med to consider.
2 We talk about Creationists but we mean Christian Creationists. What about Hindu, Buddist, Inuit and even Viking and Ancient Greek creationist beliefs. If the Christian Creationism has a right to be heard as on a intellectual par with evolution then surely so do Australian Aboriginal ones and Ancient Egyptian ones. They are and were held with the same degree of faith and on the same intellectual basis as Christian Creationism
I am terrified that we could stop teaching Evolution as a fact and start teaching children that the Earth was created in seven days. What next - stop teaching electronics and teach children that it is magic? This is the 21st century not the dark ages.
Whilst studying Geology at a well-respected London University I once asked a friend of mine who is a strict Mormon how she dealt with being taught evolution and the creation of the Earth and universe. She simply responded by saying that it was a theory she chose not to believe but that she wanted to understand. Teach kids both but let's do it in a rational and informative way. After all creationism and evolution should be taught in different contexts anyway as the kids should be having science lessons as well as what we called R.E.
Zacc, ... and teach Creationism as a myth, because that is all it is.
Thank you BBC for providing the Creationism Web link. When I saw the site quoting the death of dinosaurs as being as little as 9,000 years ago, citing scientific evidence, it confirmed my worries that these people will distort children's knowledge if they are allowed to continue this misrepresentation. What will we be seeing in the GCSE & 'A' Level papers in the near future?
Steve Bowler, England
Evolution is fact, where as the creation story is a bunch of mumbo-jumbo written by people who had no understanding of the world they lived in. The creation story is a lie, pretty much like every other story in the Bible - teaching it to children is akin to teaching them that 2 plus 2 is 5. We should not let the religious zealots harm us or hold us back anymore than they have already. I pity the children of the USA who have been brought up with this pathetic form of brainwashing; we should not inflict it upon our own.
As a Christian, I take the view that God is the author of creation. However that does not mean I support the so-called creationist position. The Bible is not a scientific text. It is a theological text which teaches theological principles not science. On the other hand, a little more humility on the part of the scientists would not go amiss. There is a great deal that we do not know about how the world came into being and we should be willing to admit that.
Greg H, UK
If a maths teacher taught that 2+2=5, how long would it be before a crowd of accounting school flunk-outs sued him for malpractice? Emmanuel College's exclusively "creationist" curriculum will go the way of the dodo sooner or later. It's just a question of how many students are harmed, and when they decide to take their revenge.
One word will end this debate - Dinosaurs
What's needed is an understanding which synthesises both creationism and evolutionism. Science shows us Evolution happens but its driving force may have a divine origin and inception.
If you teach Creation, then you teach religion at the same time. Whose version of creation do you teach, and which god do you attribute creation to? Science classes should teach evolution, religion classes should teach creation. It's that simple.
Martyn Smoothy, UK
This argument simply goes to show that there are still many naive people out there who cannot accept that the Bible is just a book telling a story. In the 21st century I think it's rather sad that we allow such people to still have influence over young impressionable minds.
Wow, at least the exam will be nice and easy! On the first day God created light...and on the seventh day he rested. Not much to revise there!
Creationism and the religious nonsense that goes with it are responsible for most of the troubles in the world. It has been so throughout history.
Toby Woodwark, UK
Evolution theory is science, creationism is about faith. I don't see how the two can be compared meaningfully when they proceed from different axioms. Claiming that teaching creationism as an
alternative view is okay because the theory of evolution is "just a theory" shows a deep misunderstanding of the meaning and purpose of
a scientific theory. Creationism judged as science fails immediately, because it's highest standard of proof is "It says so in the Bible", which is not acceptable to science. Different axioms, different
The real falsehood is teaching the theory of evolution as fact not theory. Children should be taught the evidence supporting this theory and the evidence supporting biblical creation (-yes it does exist), to allow them to make their own decisions.
Isn't the problem here that if the creationists accept Evolution all religions are seen for what they are - superstition.
Ah Christians, those wonderful people who gave us the Spanish Inquisition...small wonder they haven't evolved. Such a pity we continue to appease these throwbacks.
Schools should be forced to teach either both creationism and evolution or evolution alone. Creationism is a myth which, in line with many other stories of the world's creation, is quite entertaining but does not in any way reflect reality. However, there is no reason why Creationist stories should not be told to schoolchildren alongside the facts of evolution. More knowledge never hurt anyone.
Both sides are wrong. We're actually descended from Martians - that's why the human body clock is better suited to 25 hour days (length of a Martian day) than 24 hours...
Well, that makes more sense that the creationists anyway...
Joe, Bristol, UK
The school's results are excellent - including science. So what's the problem? They're obviously teaching the curriculum, or the students wouldn't be passing. Plus the parents I've seen interviewed seem happy with it too. So what is the problem?
I think Bill Hicks said it best in that if the Bible covers everything from creation to the present day, how did they forget to put in anything about dinosaurs?
Iain Young, Scotland
Evolution theory is just that, a theory, but it is the best explanation for the history of life on Earth.
Creationists would have us believe that the world was created 6000 years ago (instead of 4.65 billion). That dinosaurs did not walk the earth 60 million years ago, the earth was created in 6 days and that the human race started by just two people. Ignoring the fact that humans could not have survived for 6000 years if the genetic base was just two people, there is ample evidence to prove that creation is a story, used explain the world to people of a more innocent age. Creation stories have a place in school. Religious Education classes should be used to discuss ideas on the beginning of earth from all religions, and they should all be respected as some people's beliefs, but in no way should creation ideas from any religion be taught as fact.
To discuss Creationism within the context of the Bible is fine, but to put it up as arrival theory to evolution is ludicrous. What really concerns me about the fundamental Christian movement of the USA and now apparently UK is that given the chance they would be no better than the Taleban with religious schools only. This is a one-way ticket back to the Dark Age.
Teach them both by all means. Any children with more than two brain cells will quickly see where the truth lies! Learning about the rubbish that religious fundamentalists are taught in all faiths will also help them to understand why these people cause such trouble in the world.
I beg to differ with Sarah from Australia. I think what causes trouble in the world is our lack of understanding of other religious beliefs. The views of all religions should be taught in an overview style to give us all a broad idea of what other people believe. To discard beliefs as religious fundamentalist rubbish is to discard all hope for peacefull co-existence. Knowledge, Respect and understanding are things lacking as you have just so eloquently proved.
Yes, I think creationism should be taught, along with the story of Santa, the Easter Bunny, and views of the Flat Earth Society.
Evolution isn't just a theory. Creationism is based on a book thousands of years old. In reply to Chris, if we know something to be false, why teach it as fact, which I'm afraid to say happens here in the Deep South quite a bit. The idea that nothing on earth or in space is more than 6,000 years old (or 10,000 years old depending on your church) is laughable. Of course there are a few gaps in evolutionary theory, but compared to one big gap in creationism I think it's worth going with, don't you?
Teach evolution as a theory, because that is all it is.
Will they start teaching pi=3 in maths lessons? After all that's what 1 Kings 7:23 says, so it must be true.
That this subject even merits discussion in schools is astonishing. Creationism is simply a view put about by blinkered religious types. It has no substantiation, other than of course the bible. You'd think by the twenty-first century, we'd have outgrown this superstitious claptrap as a species. Parents must be free to pass on their beliefs as they see fit, but to push them on kids at school as fact, rather than belief, will simply confuse them.
Question: Did Adam have a belly button? I've always believed that the Bible was allegorical, but then I was never taught otherwise.
I think that Science should speak. Evolution is just a theory. In fact it is a collection of inconsistent theories, which contradict each other. The underlying theme being that nothing turns into everything given enough time. The thing evolving most on this planet is evolutionary theory. Only empirically proved science should be taught at schools - not theories based on ludicrous suppositions. We should strive to teach only the truth, the most consistent truth being found in God's word.
Who created God?
It depends what is meant by creationism. If it means presenting the Bible version as historical fact then I disagree with that. The Bible contains some great insights but people who insist that every word of it is literally true make it difficult to take seriously and give Christianity a bad name.
Evolution is a theory, and most scientists would admit that there are gaps in the theory which we haven't explained yet - the reason that it still remains a theory. The major problem I have with creationism is that if the universe can't exist without a creator then how can a creator exist without a creator? All that belief in a creator has done is add another "level" to the problem. I consider myself to be a scientist, and as such do not believe or disbelieve in the existence of god(s). Just as I cannot say that evolution is fact - it just happens to be the best theory that we have at the moment.
It's interesting to me that every person in this column who has supported the theory of evolution while denouncing creation from having any plausible ounce of truth, that they themselves are proving the Bible true. The Bible warns that in the end times, people will 'deliberately forget' that God created the universe, and many false teachings will be adopted by world. See - the Bible warned us ahead of time.
Huw, who created the creator? Please don't tell me it was him/herself. That'd be the same as the big bang theory, which you apparently have little BELIEF in.
I wonder how many of those who support the THEORY of Evolution have really looked at the "facts" of evolution in an unbiased manner, rather than started with the premise that creationism requires a God, and there isn't one, so evolution must be true and lets find some evidence?
And incidentally, re. Nick, UK, microevolution - which occurs within species, is no evidence that macroevolution between species occurred.
Physicists will tell you that 'scientific' and 'fact' rarely go together (and when they do, the facts tend to change as the science improves).
However, this debate is missing the point. The real issue is who has the right to determine what my child learns, and what influences the belief system they are developing. Education is the prime responsibility of the parent. The government demands that we pay for a state school system - whether we use it or not. Because I am paying for a state system I cannot afford an alternative, therefore for as long as that is the case, I am going to demand the right to determine what the system teaches my children.
What is all this fuss about whether natural selection is fact or theory? It's only a 'theory' that the earth goes round the sun, but it's got a lot of evidence on its side. It's only a 'theory' that life evolves by natural selection, but again, the evidence is overwhelming. One cannot doubt the evolution part--the world does gradually change over time--it's the principle of natural selection that needs to be understood. Perhaps part of the resistance to natural selection is motivated by the same adherence to dogma that plagued Galileo. His ideas turned out to be right, so will Darwin's.
Jon, while you have been well indoctrinated into Creationism, you haven't studied much of evolution. Your observation about there being no 'transitional' fossils shows this. All animals, and therefore all fossils, are 'transitional'. No body form is irreversibly set, and this is what evolution is. It isn't even necessarily what you would call progress, but it is continuous, small, incremental change. And for my money, it stands up to any scrutiny you want, unlike something that requires faith, which by its definition, doesn't stand much scrutiny.
SM: actually, I was indocrinated into evolution for 40 years. I accepted it as fact and wouldn't even bothered arguing with anybody daft enough to sign up to the Biblical account of creation. That was until I met the living God - Jesus.
Andrew: ref 1 Kings 7:23. Take into account the dimensions of the width of the rim of the bowl (verse 26) and you will find the value of pi is more precise than the 22/7 that is usually accepted in the classroom as the ratio of the the diameter to the circumference of a circle. Not only does God not tell lies - He is a stickler for accuracy.
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