A Pointless Debate?

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Evolution by natural selection is well evidenced, yet people still refute it. That’s fair enough, but when it comes to education, should we take a stand?

Britain has an illustrious scientific history, from the “father of modern science”, Francis Bacon, to luminaries such as Michael Faraday and popular scientists such as the ever familiar Brian Cox and Alice Roberts. This great tradition is still alive today, with universities holding science fairs, and scientists giving popular public lectures in the pub. Arguably one of the greatest scientific achievements put forward by British scientists is  the theory of evolution by natural selection, devised by Charles Darwin and the lesser known Alfred Russel Wallace.

Time has passed since the theory of evolution was first put forward, and it has expanded to include a wide range of mechanisms and processes, such as genetic drift (the random passing on of genes to the next generation) and epigenetics (the inheritance of non genetic changes). Evolution is well evidenced, and the theory that explains how it happens (the modern evolutionary synthesis) has been thoroughly and rigorously tested. This makes it all the more worrying when it is attacked by those who seek to undermine education. Creationism is normally considered a very much American phenomena, and indeed it is worryingly prevalent there. However, the United kingdom is unfortunately not immune to the dumbing down of science that creationism represents. This is brought to light by the events that have occurred in Scotland recently. Kirktonholme Primary school in East Kilbride was the centre of a scandal, as a US based evangelical group was caught using assemblies to hand out creationist material. As a result, the Scottish Secular Society has submitted a petition to Scottish MPs calling for the teaching of creationism as an alternative to evolution to be banned.

However, opponents of the petition are claiming that limiting creationism to religious education classes would prevent the “cross curricular approach” that the school stands for. It is worth noting here that these opponents seem perfectly happy limiting science to science classes, likely due to the outrage that would ensue should science be turned on theology, as some scientists, such as evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne, are prone to do. Put simply, creationism belongs in the biology classroom in the same way that alchemy belongs in the chemistry classroom and in the same way that astrology belongs in the astronomy classroom. This is the modern world, and yet we are having a debate over creationism! It’s time to face the future, not live in the past.

 

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I'm a newly arrived PhD student of ocean and earth science at the national oceanography centre. I have a passion for wildlife, the environment and the beauty and power of evolutionary theory.

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