Richard Dawkins celebrates a victory over creationists
Leading scientists and naturalists, including Professor Richard Dawkins and Sir David Attenborough, are claiming a victory over the creationist movement after the government ratified measures that will bar anti-evolution groups from teaching creationism in science classes.
Department for Education has revised its model funding agreement,
allowing the education secretary to withdraw cash from schools that fail
to meet strict criteria relating to what they teach. Under the new
agreement, funding will be withdrawn for any free school that teaches
what it claims are "evidence-based views or theories" that run "contrary
to established scientific and/or historical evidence and explanations".
British Humanist Association (BHA), which has led a campaign against
creationism – the movement that denies Darwinian evolution and claims
that the Earth and all its life was created by God – described the move
as "highly significant" and predicted that it would have implications
for other faith groups looking to run schools.
Dawkins, who was
one of the leading lights in the campaign, welcomed confirmation that
creationists would not receive funding to run free schools
if they sought to portray their views as science. "I welcome all moves
to ensure that creationism is not taught as fact in schools," he said.
"Government rules on this are extremely welcome, but they need to be
Free schools, which are state-funded and run
by local people or organisations, do not need to follow the national
curriculum. Scientific groups have expressed concerns that their spread
will see a reduction in the teaching of evolution in the classroom.
creationist groups have expressed an interest in opening schools in
towns and cities across England, including Bedford, Barnsley, Sheffield
and Nottingham. Critics say they seek to promote creationism, or the
doctrine of "intelligent design", as a scientific theory rather than as a
myth or metaphor.
One creationist organisation, Truth in Science,
which encourages teachers to incorporate intelligent design into their
science teaching, has sent free resources to all secondary schools and
A BHA campaign, called "Teach evolution, not
creationism", saw 30 leading scientists and educators call on the
government to introduce statutory guidance against the teaching of
creationism. The group said if the government would not support the
call, an explicit amendment to the wording of the funding agreement
could have the same effect. Last week the Department for Education
confirmed it had amended the agreement, although a spokesman denied it
was the result of pressure from scientists. He said the revision made
good on a pledge regarding the teaching of creationism given when the
education secretary, Michael Gove,
was in opposition. "We will not accept any academy or free school
proposal which plans to teach creationism in the science curriculum or
as an alternative to accepted scientific theories," the spokesman said,
adding that "all free school proposals will be subject to due diligence
checks by the department's specialist team".
The revised funding
agreement has been seized upon by anti-creationists who are pressing for
wider concessions from the government.
"It is clear that some
faith schools are ignoring the regulations and are continuing to teach
myth as though it were science," Dawkins said. "Evolution is fact,
supported by evidence from a host of scientific disciplines, and we do a
great disservice to our young people if we fail to teach it properly. "
spokeswoman for the BHA said: "The government's new wording is quite
wide and in practice could prevent those who promote extreme religious
or particular spiritual or pseudoscientific approaches from including
them as part of the school curriculum as science or as evidence-based."
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