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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 March 2006, 12:08 GMT
Fears over teaching creationism
Planet Earth
Creationism is not part of the national curriculum
Schools should not be teaching the Bible-based version of the origins of the world, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.

Asked in an interview with the Guardian if he was comfortable with the teaching of creationism in schools, Dr Rowan Williams said: "Ah, not very."

However, he said this did not mean that it should not be discussed.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said creationism was not taught as a subject in schools.

He said: "Neither creationism nor intelligent design are taught as a subject in schools, and are not specified in the science curriculum.

"The National Curriculum for science clearly sets down that pupils should be taught that the fossil record is evidence for evolution, and how variation and selection may lead to evolution or extinction."

If creationism is presented as a stark alternative theory alongside other theories I think there's just been a jarring of categories
Dr Rowan Williams

Dr Williams said: "I think creationism is, in a sense, a kind of category mistake, as if the Bible were a theory like other theories.

"Whatever the biblical account of creation is, it's not a theory alongside theories. It's not as if the writer of Genesis or whatever sat down and said: 'Well, how am I going to explain all this... I know: in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth'.

"So if creationism is presented as a stark alternative theory alongside other theories I think there's just been a jarring of categories. It's not what it's about."

Asked if it should be taught, he said: "I don't think it should, actually. No, no. And that's different from saying - different from discussing, teaching what creation means.

Darwinism

"For that matter, it's not even the same as saying that Darwinism is - is the only thing that ought to be taught. My worry is creationism can end up reducing the doctrine of creation rather than enhancing it."

The National Curriculum Online website says for science at Key Stage 4 (GCSE level): "Students should be taught how scientific controversies can arise from different ways of interpreting empirical evidence (for example Darwin's theory of evolution)."

Classes should also cover "ways in which scientific work may be affected by the context in which it takes place (for example, social, historical, moral, spiritual), and how these contexts may affect whether or not ideas are accepted."

OCR, one of the three main exam boards in England, recently announced that creationist theories were to be debated in GCSE science lessons in mainstream secondary schools in England.

Theory

The exam board said candidates needed to understand the social and historical context to scientific ideas both pre- and post-Darwin's theory of evolution.

A spokesman said: "Creationism and 'intelligent design' are not regarded by OCR as scientific theories. They are beliefs that do not lie within scientific understanding."

The area is contentious, with critics claiming that inclusion of creationist or intelligent design theories in science syllabuses unduly elevates them.

In England, the Emmanuel Schools Foundation, sponsored by Christian car dealer Sir Peter Vardy, has been criticised for featuring creationist theories in lessons in the three comprehensives it runs.

'Faith position'

Sir Peter has said the schools present both Darwin's evolutionary theory and creationism.

In 2003 he said: "One is a theory, the other is a faith position. It is up to the children."

In the United States, there have been court cases over what schools should teach.

Last month scientists there protested against a movement to teach intelligent design - the theory that life is so complex that it must be the work of a supernatural designer.

In December, a judge in Pennsylvania said it was unconstitutional to make teachers feature the concept of intelligent design in science lessons.




SEE ALSO:
Creationism to be in GCSE papers
10 Mar 06 |  Education
Would you Adam and Eve it?
01 Apr 05 |  Magazine
Academy makes a hi-tech new start
05 Sep 03 |  Education


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