Gove tells scientists ‘no creationism in science classes’ but BHA calls for legal powers

The BHA has called for greater safeguards to keep creationism out of science classrooms after the Department for Education (DfE) stopped short of guaranteeing that the study of evolution will be protected in the government’s education reforms.

The DfE was replying to a letter, co-ordinated by the BHA, from twenty-six of the UK’s top scientists and science educators calling on Mr Gove to promote science in schools and to include evolution in the primary curriculum.

The response received by the BHA confirmed the government’s view that creationism should not be taught as part of science but failed to give details of any statutory safeguards that could ensure this.

The response said: ‘Creationism and intelligent design are sometimes claimed to be scientific theories. This is not the case as they have no underpinning scientific principles, or explanations, and are not accepted by the science community as a whole. Creationism and intelligent design therefore do not form part of the science National Curriculum programmes of study and therefore should not be taught as part of science.’

The official response follows Mr Gove assurances to members of the education select committee in July that creationism and intelligent design would not be taught in ‘free schools’, but so far the government has refused to say how this will be guaranteed. The government will publish a new education white paper, which will include a new National Curriculum, next month.

BHA education campaigns officer James Gray said: ‘While we welcome any public statement that the coalition government opposes the teaching of creationism, these assurances do not go nearly far enough. We need clear safeguards, such as legislative change and statutory guidance, to ensure not only that evolution is placed at the heart of the science syllabus for all ages but also that is not contradicted by religious instruction.’

‘We know that in some ‘faith’ schools pupils’ understanding of evolution is already being undermined by highly doctrinal and insular RE lessons that present religious myth as scientific fact.  If this is happening now in maintained schools, it does not bode well for the new religious ‘free schools’ which do not have to follow the National Curriculum and are outside local authority control.’

NOTES

For further comment or information contact James Gray by emailing [email protected] or calling 020 7462 4993.

The signatories to the original letter to the education secretary included  Richard Dawkins, former professor for the public understanding of science at the University of Oxford, and science education experts James Williams and Revd Professor Michael Reiss.

Read the reply from the Department for Education.

Read the original joint letter.

Support the BHA’s education campaigns.

The British Humanist Association is the national charity representing and supporting the interests of ethically concerned, non-religious people in the UK. It is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief, and for a secular state.