18 September 2008

Hoist by their own petard

I've been thinking about posting a comment on the 'creation in science lessons' issue, and my anger has just about settled down enough for me to do so. (David Keen has some good background on the topic here)

Shame on the Royal Society for 'allowing' Michael Reiss to resign over this issue! Surely what he said was absolute common sense! This is what I understand he said (my paraphrase):

If, in a science lesson (or anywhere else, for that matter), a child asks questions about the scientific credibility of the creationist view, rather than being rudely dismissive (the Dawkins approach), the teacher should seek to engage the child in a full discussion about the subject.

In his speech he estimated that 1 in 10 children come from a background where a literal view of creation is accepted. I'm not sure if the estimate is accurate, but even if his estimate is inflated, it's likely that there's a large number of children in this situation. Of course these children should be engaged over their views/beliefs. But note the use of the word 'engaged'. You can't expect a child to learn anything if you simply dismiss the view they've held for their entire knowing life as rubbish.

The Royal Society said that Reiss's comments had 'led to damage to the Society's reputation'. This seems somewhat ironic; I think that they have done it themselves.

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