I was intrigued to read Professor Larry Moran’s latest post, UK bans teaching of creationism – which, it turns out, is a rehash of old news, which I covered over a year ago. However, I was deeply heartened to read that Professor Moran regards the British government’s decision to ban the teaching of “any doctrine or theory which holds that natural biological processes cannot account for the history, diversity, and complexity of life on earth and therefore rejects the scientific theory of evolution” as a scientifically valid theory at schools receiving public funding (including academies and free schools) as morally indefensible. In his own words:
This is ridiculous. I’m opposed to American politicians who meddle in science teaching and I’m opposed to British politicians who do the same even though I think creationism is bunk. Politicians should not be deciding what kind of science should, and should not, be taught in schools…
In addition, there are other reasons why this is a bad idea.
1. Where do you stop? Do there also need to be laws banning the teaching of astrology, climate change denial, homeopathy, and Thatcherism? Do they need laws defining the correct history of how the traitors in the Thirteen Colonies formed an alliance with the French in order to overthrow well-meaning British governments?
2. Why give creationists the ammunition to claim that they are being persecuted—especially when it’s true?
3. What’s wrong with showing that creationism is bad science and refuting it in the classroom? Is that forbidden? Evolution is true, it doesn’t need legal protection.
4. Are the Brits so afraid of creationism that such a law is necessary in order to prevent creationist teachers from sneaking it into the classroom? If so, fix that problem by educating teachers.
5. Was this a serious enough problem to warrant giving creationism a huge publicity boost?
6. The government funding agreement notes that creationism “… should not be presented to pupils at the Academy as a scientific theory …” Why not? I think that some parts of Intelligent Design Creationism really do count as valid scientific hypotheses, albeit bad ones. Why is the government taking a stand on the demarcation problem—especially an incorrect one?
Professor Moran makes some very telling points here.
However, one commenter on Professor Moran’s thread attacked him for inconsistency, writing:
You’re infamous to the creationists for your dictum that teachers can flunk all students who believe in creationism and/or Intelligent Design, or as you put it, “Flunk the IDiots.” (As a result of the “Flunk the IDiots” dictum, the Discovery Institute will never regard Larry as a defender of academic freedom, no matter what.)
So you seem to believe in absolute, authoritarian power for teachers with zero accountability, versus no academic freedom for students. Teachers can teach factual falsehoods, slander scientists as fraudsters in on the international conspiracy– hell, teachers can make up whatever shit they want, and never be held accountable; but then you say students can be flunked for believing in creationism, even if they put the right answers on the exam. It seems that is a vast disparity in power, freedom and accountability between teachers and students.
Another commenter defended the British government’s decision, arguing that high school biology teachers who teach creationism “are directly comparable, not in damage caused but in failure to do what they are paid for, to a doctor prescribing arsenic to treat a headache, to a builder constructing a bridge support from paper mache, to a waiter serving you petrol when you asked for apple juice.”
Funny! Personally, I would draw the opposite comparison. I would describe any car dealer who told you that you that your car could run on orange juice as a snake oil salesman, and I would say the same of any scientist who confidently asserted that simple organic chemicals (such as amino acids) were capable of assembling themselves (over a one-billion-year period) into even a basic replication-translation system with a genetic code. There’s just as much evidence for the second assertion as for the first: none. In fact, the first assertion is more plausible than the second – see here and see this peer-reviewed article here.
Funnily enough, none of Professor Moran’s commenters seem to have noticed that what Moran calls the “recent decision” by the government of the United Kingdom to ban the teaching of creationism in “all Academies and Free Schools, both those that already exist and those that will open in the future” actually took place over a year ago. Now that’s funny.