The Govenment's Position on Creationism and Intelligent Design in the Classroom
In 2007, the Labour government received an e-petition from Science Just Science which stated:
"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to prevent the use of creationist and other pseudo-scientific propaganda in Government-funded schools."
Details of Petition:
"The Prime Minister has recently spoken about the importance of science education in the UK. Creationism & Intelligent design are greatly featured in the media and are being used disingenuously to portray science & the theory or evolution as being in crisis when they are not. Moreover groups such as Truth in Science are targeting our nation's children and their science education with material that is not only non-scientific but have been rejected by the scientific community. These ideas therefore do not constitute science, cannot be considered scientific education and therefore do not belong in the nation's science classrooms."
The government responded on 21 June 2007:
The Government remains committed ensuring that young people have an understanding of the importance of science and the world around them.
Science is a core subject of the National Curriculum throughout every Key Stage. The National Curriculum secures for all pupils, irrespective of background and ability, an entitlement to a range of areas of learning. Its aim is to develop the knowledge, understanding, skills and attitudes necessary for each pupil's self-fulfilment and development as an active and responsible citizen. It makes expectations for learning and attainment explicit to pupils, parents, teachers, governors, employers and the public, and establishes national standards for the performance of all pupils. All materials that support the teaching, learning and assessment of primary and secondary education, can be found on the National Curriculum website (new window).
The Government is aware that a number of concerns have been raised in the media and elsewhere as to whether creationism and intelligent design have a place in science lessons. The Government is clear that creationism and intelligent design are not part of the science National Curriculum programmes of study and should not be taught as science. The science programmes of study set out the legal requirements of the science National Curriculum. They focus on the nature of science as a subject discipline, including what constitutes scientific evidence and how this is established. Students learn about scientific theories as established bodies of scientific knowledge with extensive supporting evidence, and how evidence can form the basis for experimentation to test hypotheses. In this context, the Government would expect teachers to answer pupils' questions about creationism, intelligent design, and other religious beliefs within this scientific framework.
We will be publishing guidance for schools, on the way creationism and intelligent design relate to science teaching. It will be possible to ensure that the weight of scientific opinion is properly presented. The guidance will be available on the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority website in due course.
This statement follows on from earlier information received from government ministers, the details are which follow below.
"Neither intelligent design nor creationism are recognised scientific theories and they are not included in the science curriculum. The Truth in Science information pack is therefore not an appropriate resource to support the science curriculum."
From a written answer in Hansard from Jim Knight, Minister of State, Schools and 14-19 Learners, in response to Graham Stringer MP, 1st November 2006 (see the original here)
Throughout the course of 2006, in particular, a number of concerned citizens in Cambridge wrote to their MP, Mr David Howarth, to express their concern over the rising threat of creationism to their children's science education in schools. In late 2006, BCSE member Michael Brass contacted Mr Howarth to add his voice to the growing chorus of concern. Mr Howarth kindly responded and included a statement he received from Jacqui Smith, the then Minister of Minister of State for Schools and 14-19 Learners, in which she outlined the position of the government on teaching creationism and ID in the classroom.
Dated 8th April 2006, the government response unequivocally states that "Creationism cannot be used as an example of a scientific controversy" and that Intelligent Design "has no underpinning scientific principles or explanations supporting it".
We believe that this letter is a devastating statement on Truth in Science's attempts to get its scientific hocus pocus into the classroom. Both the government's and Mr Howarth's responses are reproduced below, with the kind permission of Mr Howarth.
Thank you for your letter of 21 March addressed to Ruth Kelly enclosing correspondence from your constituent, Cambridge about the teaching of creationism in the GCSE curriculum. I am replying as the Minister responsible for this area of education.
The science programme of study is statutory and indicates what must be taught, it does not list what should not be taught as such a list would inevitably become prohibitively long. Creationism and intelligent design are not included in either the present science programme of study or the revised science programme of study, to be implemented in September 2006.
The purpose of the science programme of study for key stage 4 is to enable young people to develop their understanding of science as a subject discipline ("how science works"), together with the skills and knowledge to make appropriate decisions about science as it affects their lives now and in the future.
The present science programme of study indicates that pupils should be taught:
- that the fossil record is evidence for evolution, (Sc2.3h)
- how variation and selection may lead to evolution or to extinction, (Sc2.3j)
- how scientific controversies can arise from different ways of interpreting empirical evidence [for example Darwin's theory of evolution]. (Sc1.1b)
The scientific controversy referred to in the programme of study is that arising from Darwin's rejection of existing scientific theories based on the evidence he had collected. An example of such a theory is inheritance of acquired characteristics supported, among others, by the French scientist Lamark and based on the available scientific evidence at the time.
Creationism cannot be used as an example of a scientific controversy as it has no empirical evidence to support it and no underpinning scientific principles or explanations. It belongs in a different realm of knowledge, that of religion.
In Religious Education (RE) lessons pupils could work from unit 9B in the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority/Department for Education and Skills scheme of work for RE, which explores where the universe came from. This unit investigates the ways in which science and religion are often perceived to be in conflict. It asks whether they can aid each other, and so facilitate learning about and from religion.
The use of the word "theory" can mislead those not familiar with science as a domain of knowledge because it is different from the everyday meaning. In science the meaning is much less tentative and indicates a substantial amount of supporting evidence, underpinned by principles and explanations, and accepted by the international scientific community. However, it also signals that all scientific knowledge is considered to be tentative as it can be principle be disproved by new evidence.
Intelligent design is sometimes erroneously advanced as a scientific theory but it has no underpinning scientific principles or explanations supporting it and it is not accepted by the international scientific community.
Jacqui Smith, MP
(Minister of State for Schools and 14-19 Learners)
Letter to BCSE Member Michael Brass
Dear Mr Brass,
Thank you for your e-mail of 29 September about the inclusion of creationism in the teaching of science in schools.
I strongly agree with you that creationism has no place in a science curriculum, for the reasons you outline in your note.
The national curriculum is set by the Secretary of State for Education and Skills and changes are not usually debated by Parliament, but earlier in the year I passed on several similar letters to the Education Secretary. I am attaching the reply from the Department of Education, which I hope you will be interested to see.
(Member of Parliament for Cambridge)