Monday, November 2, 2009

Fair and Balanced

Something has gone wrong in Britain:

About 54% of the 973 polled Britons agreed with the view: "Evolutionary theories should be taught in science lessons in schools together with other possible perspectives, such as intelligent design and creationism."

In the US ... 51% agreed that evolution should be on the curriculum alongside other theories, like intelligent design.

Across the 10 countries, 43% agreed with this statement.

It was found that Britons were almost three times more likely than Egyptians to want creationism and intelligent design to be included in the teaching of evolution.
Britons are more amenable to non-scientific material in science courses than Americans? More than Egyptians? How odd!

Of course, polls can be misleading in various ways, and perhaps an unusually high proportion of British respondents had something like this in mind:
Alison Ryan, policy adviser of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers Union, said that if a "good teacher handled the lesson", presenting creationism and intelligent design need not be problematic. "Science teachers could introduce creationism as a theory that some people hold, but that is not based on evidence."
I could see the value of broaching creationism as an example illustrating the difference between science and non-science, but there's quite a bit to teach and learn in biology, so I would hope not too much time would be devoted to this in biology class.

I hope the above, or something close to it, is what many or most Britons giving the ostensibly pro-creationist answer had in mind. Whether they did or not, science is not determined by popular vote, so even if 100% of Britons came to believe that creationism is a valid explanation for the diversity of life on earth, it would not make it so -- it certainly would not constitute evidence for it (millions and millions of people can indeed be wrong!) -- and it would not make it a good fit for science curricula.

Creationism in schools? Sure, in the "Bullshit 101" course, or the critical-thinking courses, or perhaps in the history of ideas courses -- but not in science.

(image source: Stephen Law, though it did not originate there)

1 comment:

Paul said...

Yes........well there's 2 forces at work here:

1. A high (40% where I came from) of schools in the UK are religious schools....catholic mainly. They're not exactly cool on this "science" fad.

2. Us Brits do still have an incredible adversion to anything that could be deemed embarassing (like Biology).

Of course - as you noted in your Maine story 11/4 - most people will be lying to the pollsters and will be going home to don the gimp costume and self-flagellate themselves to within an inch of their (or their partners) lives.

Rule Brittania.