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Friday, 12 September 2008

Creationism – a media plot

Contrary to most of the newspaper coverage, Professor Michael Reiss, Director of Education at the Royal Society, does not believe that schools should teach creationism in science classes. The assembled hack pack must be wrong because the Royal Society says so. It has gone as far as to issue a press release pointing out their devious tricks "No change in Society position on creationism".

"Some media reports have misrepresented the views of Professor Michael Reiss," it tells us. That so many hacks got it wrong is a bit of a puzzle.

Maybe it is the language that the good professor used. "I have referred to science teachers discussing creationism as a worldview'; this is not the same as lending it any scientific credibility."

Just what he means by a "worldview" is not clear. Isn't evolution, or the whole of science, a worldview?

Maybe the RS doesn't mean the newspapers that unleashed the story. Over in the Financial Times, Clive Cookson quoted Reiss as saying "“Most scientists and science educators believe science teachers should not discuss creationism in science lessons – I disagree.”

Nothing there to suggest teaching creationism as science. Talking about creationism is a far cry from teaching it.

Maybe the RS meant The Times, which wrote "Creationism should be taught in science classes as a legitimate point of view, according to the Royal Society, putting the august science body on a collision course with the Government."

The Independent went so far as to editorialise on the story, writing "Sir Michael Reiss, the director of education at the Royal Society, voiced concerns that up to a tenth of children in Britain hold 'creationist' beliefs in the origins of the world". Again, nothing to suggest that he wants creationism to have equal time with evolution.

Perhaps the RS should be a bit more specific in its denials, naming names and saying just which of the many interpretations of Reuss's comments caused it to get so hot under its stuffy collar.

Anyone wanting more depth on the prof's views should turn to the Guardian's Science Blog. Here he writes "Just because something lacks scientific support doesn't seem to me a sufficient reason to omit it from a science lesson." Not quite the same as teaching it as science, but all too easily misinterpreted.