The Guardian today (23/12/08) reports that in an Ipsos/Mori poll* of teachers in England and Wales 29% of science specialists agreed with the statement: "Alongside the theory of evolution and the Big Bang theory, creationism should be taught in science lessons."The newspaper has also published a response to this alarming news from Richard Dawkins:
"The 'Michael Reiss position' is defensible. Just as a chemistry teacher might discuss the phlogiston theory, or a physics teacher might discuss the Ptolemaic theory of the planets as history of science, so it is defensible to teach that there are people called creationists, and they believe what they believe.
But if teaching creationism 'alongside' evolution means what it seems to mean, it is no more defensible than teaching the stork theory alongside the sex theory of the where babies come from.
If 29% of science teachers really think creationism should be taught as a valid alternative to evolution, we have a national disgrace on our hands, calling for urgent remedial action in the education of science teachers. We are failing in our duty to children, if we staff our schools with teachers who are this ignorant – or this stupid."
Perhaps, to be charitable to these teachers, they have not been challenged to think about the issue of creationism, and the unexpected requirement for an instant response has caused them to take refuge in some woolly instinct to appear inclusive. Whether or not creationism presents the same threat to the rational, ethical pursuit of science in this country as appears to be the case in the USA, our science teachers should be challenged to think about it. If only because the discipline may sharpen their understanding of what science is. So Dawkins is right in calling for urgent remedial action.
* poll of 923 primary and secondary teachers conducted between 5 November and 10 December - results statistically weighted by sex, age and teaching phase to the known profile of primary and secondary school teachers in England and Wales.