Creationism to be taught in science lessons in Hampshire

Creationism threatens to slip into science lessons in Hampshire secondary schools if the local Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education (SACRE) is allowed to have its way.

The SACRE (a multi-religious advisory body, required by statute, that guides local schools’ religious education policy) has recommended that evolution and creationism be taught jointly in RE and science lessons.

The aim, says the SACRE, is for pupils to explore the science and theology together, then come to their own conclusions.

The new unit of work was set up after Clive Erricker, county inspector for RE, was asked to examine the suitability of a dual approach. According to the local paper, the Daily Echo, Mr Erricker said: “The tensions between religion and science should not be denied but nor should we paint a black and white picture.”

Mr Erricker said the evolution-creationism debate is “complex” but can be simplified and has written a teachers’ guide with subjects for pupils to study. When asked how it would work in practice, Mr Erricker said: “There are no models. We will create a new model of learning.”

The National Secular Society expressed dismay at the news. “This is an extremely retrograde step,” said Terry Sanderson, the NSS president. “Creationism and intelligent design are not sciences and schools have no business introducing them into science lessons. It is bad enough that such nonsense is even considered in schools at all, but if it must be discussed, let it be confined to RE lessons.”

Government guidance on the teaching of creationism in science lessons states: “Creationism and intelligent design are not part of the science National Curriculum programmes of study and should not be taught as science. However, there is a real difference between teaching ‘x’ and teaching about ‘x’. Any questions about creationism and intelligent design which arise in science lessons, for example as a result of media coverage, could provide the opportunity to explain or explore why they are not considered to be scientific theories and, in the right context, why evolution is considered to be a scientific theory.”

Terry Sanderson said: “There is a big difference between answering students’ questions about creationism and actually introducing it into the lessons in the first place as part of the curriculum. If the teacher raises the topic, then it takes on an authority that it does not deserve. Hampshire should think again about this proposal. It will add nothing to the education of children, but will create confusion in their minds about what is science and what is religion.”

6 March 2009