Saturday, 19 October 2013

BCSE writes to Scottish Government

Text of letter sent and emailed 19/10/13


Dear Mr Russell,

BCSE wishes to add its voice to the growing chorus of those demanding clear guidance from the Scottish Government, similar to that in force in England and Wales, regarding the problem of creationist infiltration into schools. Our concern in the BCSE is to oppose creationism in education; BCSE takes no position on other religion-related matters.

The official position has been that no guidance regarding creationism or Intelligent Design is necessary because there is no problem. You have said as much yourself, and this was the official position taken by SQA when contacted in 2010. However, during this school year alone, four separate problems of this kind have come to light. In two cases, books were distributed in non- denominational schools presenting Noah’s Ark (with dinosaurs on board) as historical fact, in one school there is reason to suspect that a physics teacher had for some years been using his position as classroom teacher to claim that evolution (which is, of course, an essential component of the Curriculum for Excellence) is scientifically unsound, and in numerous cases it has become clear that schools are receiving materials for the teaching of Religious Education from an organization that promotes Answers. This, incredibly, is a magazine produced by Answers in Genesis, an organization dedicated to the belief that the Earth is 6,000 years old and that the consensus science of the past three centuries is scientifically, as well as theologically, mistaken in maintaining otherwise. It has also become clear that numerous school chaplains, as well as at least one Council Education Committee religious representative (an unelected position, as I am sure you know), are committed to creationism, including the crudest form of Young Earth creationism. In view of what we already know to have happened, it cannot be assumed that all of these will refrain from importing creationism into the curriculum.

The corrupting effects of creationism are not confined to biology and evolution; the vast age of the earth and the universe is taught in physics and chemistry, physical geography teaches both the vast age of geological formations and ice ages stretching back millions of years, and history will refer to early humans going back a hundred thousand years (e.g. the Mesolithic and Neolithic eras discussed on the official educationscotland.gov.uk website) and to Egyptian civilization going back to 5000BC. Thus when creationism is brought into schools either in class or in extra-curricular activities it totally undermines teaching across a very broad range of subjects. It also undermines the teaching of RE, whether in denominational or non-denominational schools.

The direct teaching of creationism in science is of course destructive of science teaching, but so is its subtle introduction through providing creationists a platform in RE or RO and the activities of biblical literalist groups taking lunchtime meetings or running social clubs on school premises. In this way, pupils are presented with creationism as true, and thus all science teaching is undermined. This is the case whatever the type of school, although in Scotland, such problems seem to be more common on non-denominational schools, perhaps because the Catholic Church accepts the historical fact of evolution.

In 2008 your colleague Fiona Hyslop, at that time Cabinet Secretary for Education and Life-Long Learning, assured Patrick Harvie in response to a Parliamentary Question: “Scottish schools and the Scottish Government would challenge creationism if it were taught in our schools.”

We respectfully submit that the time has come for the Scottish Government to do so. 

Sincerely,

Paul S. Braterman, MA., DPhil., DSc., Professor Emeritus (U. North Texas), Honorary Senior Research Fellow (University of Glasgow) (Scottish representative)

The Rev Michael Roberts B.A., M.A. , Dip.Th., F.R.Hist., BCSE Spokesperson M.A. F.R.Hist.S. (retired Anglican Vicar)

For BCSE 

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