Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Close that loophole Mr Gove

The BCSE is very pleased to announce that a letter from CrISIS has today been delivered to Michael Gove at the Department for Education formally asking him to close the loophole that allows creationists into state funded schools to present Creationism to our children as a valid scientific fact.

This is the next part of the CrISIS campaign we told you about here and here - if you haven't done so yet - please sign the petition.

The letter is signed by the following people:

Laura Horner B.Sc., PGCE (CrISIS founder and parent)
Jim Al-Khalili, Professor of Physics, Professor of Public Engagement in Science
Simon Barrow for Ekklesia
Dr Susan Jane Blackmore, BA (Hons), MSc, PhD
Professor Paul S. Braterman M.A. D.Phil , D.Sc (Oxon) for the British Centre for Science Education
Andrew M. Colman, BA (Hons), MA, PhD, Professor of Psychology 
D. Colquhoun FRS, Professor of Pharmacology, University College London 
Richard Dawkins, DSc, FRS, Emeritus Professor, University of OxfordProf 
Christopher C French, Professor of Psychology, BA PhD
Adam Hart -Davis, MA (Oxon), D Phil (York)
Julian Huppert, Member of Parliament for Cambridge
The Rev Canon David Jennings, M.Phil., B.D., A.K.C., Rector of Burbage,Canon Theologian of Leicester Cathedral
Professor J Steve Jones
Dr Stephen Law
Clifford Longley, Consultant Editor to the Tablet, BBC Moral Maze panellist
Terry Sanderson, President of National Secular Society
Rev Michael Roberts, M.A. (Oxon - geology) B.A. (Dunelm- theology) F.R.Hist.S Vicar of Cockerham, Winmarleigh and Glasson, Hon Research Fellow in History, Lancaster Univ.
Simon Singh MBE
Canon Prof J.S. K. Ward D.D (Oxon) D.D. (Cantab) , F.B.A. Emeritus Regius Prof of Theology, Oxford
James D. Williams BSc MEd FSB CSciTeach
This list of signatures, put together in just a few days, and comprising key figures from science, education and religion, demonstrates the following points:

  • The issue in question is not one of atheists versus the religious.
  • The issue is one of concern for educational standards.
  • Creationists are flagrantly abusing a guideline that says Creationism can't be taught in science classes by simply teaching it in other subjects.
  • This makes a mockery of the current guidelines and some state funded schools are taking advantage of this to advance their own fundamentalist agendas.
  • This has important implications for the Free Schools policy.
The letter text reads as follows:
Dear Mr Gove,
Creationism In Schools Isn’t Science - CrISIS
Despite existing Department of Education guidance on the teaching of creationism, some recent events at St Peter’s, a state secondary school in Exeter, Devon show additional protection is necessary.
In March, Philip Bell, a full time Evangelical preacher and Chief Executive of Creation Ministries International (who presents creationist views that the world is about 6000 years old as scientific fact and denies the validity of the theory of evolution) was invited by the school to lecture to Year 11 students as part of an RE revision day.
It should be noted that his organization states on its website that their preferred method of evangelizing is infiltrating at a grassroots level via a sympathetic teacher, introductions and magazines as they feel this is a more successful method of achieving conversions. His website showed that he considered the event “Ministry to school students”. Mr Bell and his colleagues have already made appearances at other schools and according to his website more are planned.
The school is adamant it has done nothing wrong within the current guidelines despite presenting creationism on equal terms with modern science to sixteen year olds and in a letter to a parent describing Mr Bell as a “scientist” who “presented arguments based on scientific theory for his case” and describing modern biology as “evolutionism ".[1] This echoes Christian Schools Trust policy on evolution[2] which is to teach biblical creationism as historical and scientific fact, present evolution and creationism as competing scientific standpoints, and present evolution in such a way that it will not be believed.
Recently, the Department of Education has stated that you are ‘crystal clear’ that creationism has no scientific validity and should not be taught as science. Yet here we have a school presenting Creationism as a valid scientific position, and justifying this by reference to Religious Education. These events show that creationists are now openly using the RE syllabus to advance their claim to be offering a valid scientific alternative to established knowledge, from within the State funded school system.Therefore, we believe that the guidelines need clarifying to prevent Creationism being presented as a valid scientific theory both in lesson time and outside of it in state funded schools, as we are aware that this is also happening in clubs in and out of school time. Given the nature of the internet, we also believe that the Guidance should state that websites which promote creationism as a valid scientific theory, like other unsuitable resources, should not be used. We believe this is necessary to protect the plain intent of the current Guidelines.
In addition, you will shortly have to deal with applications for Free School status from Everyday Champions Church (ECC), the Christian Schools Trust and for Academy status for St Peter’s among many others. Recent public statements from ECC and its associates suggest, if anything, an even more anti-scientific approach in its preferred teaching.[3] This would suggest that the current Guidelines will need modification to reflect emerging practice.
The parent involved in the Exeter school incident (Laura Horner) and the British Centre for Science Education together with the groups and individuals listed at the end of this letter have therefore come together to launch CrISIS (Creationism In Schools Isn't Science), whose views are summarised in our petition:
Creationism is known, and officially acknowledged, to be contrary to scientific fact. We therefore demand that creationism should not be presented as a valid scientific position, nor creationist websites and resources be promoted, in publicly funded schools or in any youth activities run on publicly funded school premises.
Since this is in accord with Government policy as we understand it, we look forward to your support in this matter and a clarification of the Guidelines to reflect these demands.
[2] Christian Schools Trust 2009 Policy on the Teaching of Evolution, quoted in full by Sylvia Baker, Ph.D. Thesis in Education, 2009, available at, pp 354 on 11/5/2011
The BCSE calls on Mr Gove to issue an unambiguous statement confirming that state funded schools should not promote creationism as a valid scientific position in any class or activity at all.

This solution is quick, simple and free.  The BCSE and other groups will then have an effective tool to use when we receive reports of creationists active in state funded schools.

Close the loophole now Mr Gove.

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