Reiss’ wrong-headed naivete

There is another article, this time posted in the New Statesman, by Michael Reiss the former director of education at the Royal Society. He resigned in September 2008 but not before a group of eminent scientists who are members of the Royal Society wrote to the President indicating that Reiss should be asked to resign because his comments about creationism and the handling of same in UK schools had the danger of bringing that prestigious organisation into public disrepute.

So, Reiss resigned. He is still Professor of Science Education at the Institute of Education, University of London and he has again written in favour of discussing creationism alongside evolution in the science classroom.

It is so very disturbing when ‘former’ scientists (Reiss trained as an evolutionary biologist) try to insert non-scientific ideas into science within the public education system. Of course, he claims that students should be able to question origins by citing creationist ideas. Reiss implies that such questioning will lead to being able to teach students how to assess the abundant evidence for evolution.

But, this is a clever thin edge of the wedge in allowing non-science (Reiss calls it a ‘world-view’) into discussions in the science classroom where students are learning about and questioning science not pseudo science. I can’t think of a single person who even thought about creationism in the middle of any biology class in the 1950s when I was at school.

Why does it need currency now? There is no other credible ‘side’ to evolution. Are students less intelligent that they can’t be taught the value of submitting ideas to scientific scrutiny without bringing religion-based dogma in as counterpoint? I don’t think so. I think that is an insulting position to assume. And how many ‘creation myths’ would be discussed? There is a multitude. Does the partisan ‘cultural christian’ point of view only address the Christian myth and why?

Public education is trying to combat the concerted and lately vociferous effort by the religites, the post-modernists and other woolly-headed thinkers to infiltrate the schools’ curricula. The obvious growth in fundamental religious indoctrination is starting to have a deleterious effect on public education’s independence from dogma. This is the 21st Century and for the first time in my memory there is argument about whether to teach students science or pseudo science. What an appalling state of affairs.

Public education also appears to have to combat the creationist ideas of some science teachers. I have read, from some former students of biology, that (some, a few) teachers have said bluntly that they don’t ‘believe’ evolution but have to teach it. So they do so as minimally as possible. That is a worry for the public education system.

Having to screen science teachers to ensure they don’t deliberately sabotage science lessons is an onerous (and should be unnecessary) task. It looks like job applications and interviews will have to address this issue in order to protect the hard-won freedoms in science education to teach what is rather than religious dogma (an a partisan one at that).

Creationist organisations like Truth in Science have an insidious agenda. The following statement heads the TiS home page:

Our concern in TiS is for UK education to be conducted in a fair and transparent manner which properly reflects the differences of views concerning the interpretation of scientific evidence. We are deeply concerned that our education policy is dominated by an overtly atheistic and humanist agenda which has a declared aim of stifling any serious academic debate. There is no doubt that there is a growing concern with this totalitarian approach to education as a whole and to science education in particular.  If it is unacceptable for education policy to be governed by a religious agenda, it is equally unacceptable that it should be governed by a humanist / atheist agenda. The entrenched views of materialist evolutionists must be open to full and proper questioning in our scientific institutions and such healthy debate should be appropriately reflected in education policy and curricula. We are planning to work with other groups to convince the education policy makers that a commitment to openness and honesty makes this an issue of central importance that must be addressed.

This isn’t the sort of thing that Reiss is suggesting and I would assume that he would walk many miles away for any association with such an organisation. The problem is that he, like other so-called ‘moderate’ religites, is offering organisations like TiS the advantage of the thin end of the wedge.

I first came across an organisation that started to publicise the misinformation being fed by creationist organisations like Truth in Science a few years ago. The British Centre for Science Education keeps a ‘Creationist Watch’ on the insidious push to include creationism in school curricula. The BCSE site has some interesting reading and deserves support.


One comment on “Reiss’ wrong-headed naivete

  1. Dod says:

    The TiS site also says “there are questions that science cannot address”.

    This is crap of the highest order! There are no questions that can’t be addressed but there are plenty not worth addressing!

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