Derek has written several reports on various aspects of education.
This report on Creationism from 2002 is an excellent analysis of the position up to that time. Here are some key selections from the report;
Creationism: bad science, bad religion, bad education
The only people who have a problem with evolution are those fundamentalist Christians who wish to believe that the Bible is, in every detail, the literal and inerrant word of God. 'Darwin's name has become a byword for atheism in fundamentalist circles, yet the Origin was not intended as an attack upon religion, but was a sober, careful exposition of a scientific theory.' Indeed, Darwin himself was 'always respectful of religious faith.' (Armstrong 2000)
And now 'the fundamentalist doctrines that have polluted US education' (Robin McKie and Martin Bright The Observer 17 March 2002) are spreading to Britain. In March 2002 The Guardian reported that Emmanuel City Technology College in Gateshead had hosted a 'creationist' conference and that senior staff have urged teachers to promote biblical fundamentalism.
The current furore is the result of revelations in The Guardian that Emmanuel is teaching its students creationism alongside evolution. Head Teacher Nigel McQuoid (left) has claimed that he wants his pupils to learn to make up their own minds but several members of his staff have urged teachers to 'show the superiority' of creationist theories. Vice-principal Gary Wiecek has said 'As Christian teachers it is essential that we are able to counter the anti-creationist position.' Maths teacher Paul Yeulett has declared that 'a Christian teacher of biology will not (or should not) regard the theory of evolution as axiomatic, but will oppose it.'
In a lecture at Emmanuel College on 21 September 2000 Head of Science Steven Layfield told teachers 'Those of us engaged in the struggle to show the superiority of a creationist world-view against the prevailing orthodoxy of atheistic materialism and evolutionism in science have been viciously attacked.' Teachers, he said, 'must be prepared to express without compromise the integrity and infallibility of the biblical historical narrative.' In particular, science teachers should 'note every occasion when an evolutionary/old-earth paradigm is explicitly mentioned or implied by a textbook, examination question or visitor and courteously point out the fallibility of the statement. Wherever possible, we must give the alternative - always better - biblical explanation. (The Guardian 9 March 2002)
But Emmanuel College is not the only problem. As the National Secular Society's Keith Porteous Wood pointed out in a letter to The Guardian (11 March), Emmanuel is not the first state school to teach creationism. 'A Seventh Day Adventist School in Tottenham is already part of the maintained sector and taxpayers have been stumping up the cash for it since 1998.' And it probably won't be the last. Creationists are hoping to develop another Christian school at Torfaen in South Wales and have already sought advice from staff at Emmanuel. Baptist minister Revd Richard Harrison, a leading supporter of the project, has said of evolution 'OK, it's a plausible theory, but it's a hoax'. The establishment of the new school is currently in doubt. The Welsh Assembly's Education Minister, Jane Davidson, fears that children might be brainwashed and David Rosser, the Director of CBI Wales, which had agreed to sponsor the school, said 'The CBI wouldn't be involved in anything like that.' (Tania Branigan The Guardian 9 April 2002)
And it's not just schools. A determined campaign is being waged to infiltrate UK universities and colleges. The Australian 'Creation Research' organisation already has a British office and has sent its international director, John Mackay, to take part in debates with academics at meetings held by Christian Unions at several universities. Now, one of its members, fundamentalist Christian John Forbes, is carrying out a survey of staff at British universities to ascertain their views on the origins of life.
'Creation Research' complains that the media and schools have indoctrinated people with evolutionary humanism 'which denies creation, the Bible and Christ.' Its UK website even suggests that belief in evolution is to blame for the attack on the World Trade Centre. 'Believers should not be surprised when things like this happen ... The root cause of this increasing violence is sin - sin which is rooted in the refusal to glorify The Lord as the God who created the universe.' (Tania Branigan The Guardian 25 March 2002) A bizarre interpretation, to say the least, of an attack perpetrated by Paradise-crazed individuals on a country where forty-five per cent of the population believe in the Genesis account of creation.
Bishop of Oxford Dr Richard Harries (right) speaking on BBC Radio 4's Thought for the Day (15 March 2002) said he was saddened that Christians should oppose evolution, which 'far from undermining faith, deepens it.' He went on 'Historians of science note how quickly the late Victorian Christian public accepted evolution. It is therefore quite extraordinary that 140 years later, after so much evidence has accumulated, that a school in Gateshead is opposing evolutionary theory on alleged biblical grounds. This attempt to see the Book of Genesis as a rival to scientific truth stops people taking the Bible seriously. Biblical literalism brings not only the Bible but Christianity itself into disrepute.'
Episcopal Bishop of Newark John Spong agrees. 'Those who insist on biblical literalism become unwitting accomplices in bringing about the death of the Christianity they so deeply love ... The Bible relates to us the way our ancient forebears understood and interpreted their world, made sense out of life, and thought about God. Our task is the same as theirs. We must interpret our world in the light of our knowledge and suppositions.' (Spong 1991)