Professor Alice Roberts is of the opinion that children in private faith schools risk being subjected to ‘indoctrination’ because of the teaching of creationism in science.
Laws should be introduced banning the subject from biology classes in all schools, including those in the fee-paying sector, the science broadcaster said. Professor Roberts, the new President of the Association for Science and Education, said that teaching about creationism alongside evolution risked closing pupils’ minds to scientific discoveries.
She made her controversial comments after the Christian Schools Trust – a network of forty independent schools – confirmed that teaching about creationism in science was common in its institutions. The Trust said that there was ‘strong sympathy to Young Earth, six-day creation’ in its schools, but insisted this did not amount to indoctrination. (Young Earth Creationism is the belief that God directly created all living beings, meaning that the theory of evolution is rejected from its doctrine.)
Professor Roberts, presenter of Coast and The Incredible Human Journey, said: ‘There should be regulation that prevents all schools, not just state schools, from teaching creationism because it is indoctrination. It is planting ideas into children’s heads.’
The Professor of Public Engagement in Science at Birmingham University told the Times Educational Supplement: ‘We should be teaching children to be much more open-minded. People who believe in creationism say that by teaching evolution you are indoctrinating them with science, but I just don’t agree with that. Science is about questioning things. It’s about teaching people to say, “I don’t believe it until we have strong evidence.”’
The new National Curriculum for primary schools, due to be introduced this September, contains a clear requirement for pupils to be taught about evolution. But the curriculum only applies to state schools, not private ones. Graham Coyle, of the Christian Schools Trust, said its schools taught creationism and evolution together in a balanced way. He said: ‘There are people who would outlaw the discussion of creationism but that is a very dangerous position to adopt. Indoctrination is a misused word – it really means a point of view without any opportunity for discussion.’
To my way of thinking both creationism and evolution are uncomfortable bedfellows. Neither can be proven conclusively without a good measure of strong belief, otherwise the validity of each becomes redundant. There are some aspects of science which can be proven without the introduction of a distinctive faith, for one can see it working in practice. However, religion requires total faith and, unless one is endowed with such strong convictions, then it is pointless to win an argument on the premise that anything is tangibly apparent. Even miracles cannot be conclusively a religious phenomenon.
But if you are a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist, or any other faith, you automatically believe in a divine being to whom we are responsible on our day of judgement. Take that creed away from us and life becomes meaningless. Evolution as a science does not in any way give us the comfort we are seeking in the prospect of another life, while faith in God is the better option.
I would rather play it safe, for gambling has never been one of my favoured pastimes.