Published on Thursday, June 22, 2006 by the Independent / UK
World Scientists Unite to Attack Creationism
by Sarah Cassidy
The world's scientific community united yesterday to launch one of the strongest attacks yet on creationism, warning that the origins of life were being "concealed, denied or confused".
The national science academies of 67 countries warned parents and teachers to ensure that they did not undermine the teaching of evolution or allow children to be taught that the world was created in six days.
Some schools in the US hold that evolution is merely a theory while the Bible represents the literal truth. There have also been fears that these views are creeping into British schools.
The statement, which the Royal Society signed on behalf of Britain's scientists, said: "We urge decision-makers, teachers and parents to educate all children about the methods and discoveries of science and foster an understanding of the science of nature. Knowledge of the natural world in which they live empowers people to meet human needs and protect the planet.
"Within science courses taught in certain public systems of education, scientific evidence, data, and testable theories about the origins and evolution of life on Earth are being concealed, denied, or confused with theories not testable by science."
The statement followed a long-running row over claims that some of Tony Blair's flagship city academies teach creationism in science lessons. Schools in the North-east backed by one academy sponsor, Sir Peter Vardy, have been accused of promoting creationism alongside evolution. The schools have denied the claims and insisted they abide by the national curriculum.
Academics in the US have voiced concern over similar theories being taught in American schools. Scientists also fear the spread of a theory known as "intelligent design". This suggests that species are too complex to have evolved through natural selection and must therefore be the product of a "designer".
Martin Rees, president of the Royal Society, said: "There is controversy in some parts of the world about the teaching of evolution to pupils and students, so this is a timely statement that makes clear the views of the scientific community. I hope this statement will help those who are attempting to uphold the rights of young people to have access to accurate scientific knowledge about the origins and evolution of life on Earth."
It has been revealed that creationism is being included in the science curricula of a growing number of UK universities. Leeds University plans to incorporate one or two compulsory lectures on creationism and intelligent design into its second-year course for zoology and genetics undergraduates next Christmas, according to The Times Higher Education Supplement. At Leicester University, academics discuss creationism and intelligent design with third-year genetics undergraduates for about 20 minutes in lectures.
In both cases, lecturers argue that the controversial theories will presented as fallacies irreconcilable with scientific evidence. But the fact that these "alternatives" to evolution have been proposed for formal discussion in lectures at all has sparked concern among British scientists.
A THES investigation has also discovered there are at least 14 academics in science departments who consider themselves creationists. They believe all kinds of life were designed rather than evolved. Several others are proponents of intelligent design, which rejects evolution.
© 2006 Independent News and Media Limited