This is the title of an opinion piece that appears in the latest issue of the liberal-left weekly UK magazine, New Statesman. It is written by Michael Reiss, who 18 months ago was forced out of his position as director of communications at the Royal Society because he said that creationist and ID views should be treated critically but respectfully, when raised by students in science classes. (As you can see from the end of the piece, he is eminently qualified to speak on these matters.)
Reiss’ sacking has been perhaps the most public demonstration of an Expelled-like phenomenon in Britain to date. To this day, I am surprised at how little outrage it generated. I protested immediately at the time.
To his credit, Reiss, who appears to be a free-floating theistic evolutionist, has not backed down from his original position. However, his reformulation is quite interesting, as it now rests on a distinction between what one teaches and teaches about in science classes. He is clearly making the point that the classroom is not about indoctrination, and so one can teach about creationism without ‘teaching’ it per se as dogma.
I would have thought that the same equally applies to evolution and any other controversial theory that may be inferred from a field’s agreed facts and concepts. After all, since a course normally concludes with a written examination – and not a profession of faith – students might easily reproduce all they have been taught about evolution without coming away believing in the theory. (Imagine the question: ‘Describe the basic tenets and supporting arguments for the dominant theory of the emergence of life on earth’.) Interestingly, Reiss leaves the door open to that prospect, though the overall tenor of the article would have easily enabled him to close it.