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December 23, 2008

Bad science or bad journalism

Writing about web page http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2008/dec/23/science-evolution-creationism-education

I found this through an RSS feed from a colleague’s blog .. headline “Would you Adam and Eve it? Quarter of science teachers would teach creationism” with the tagline
• 29% say science classes should include theory
• Poll supports views of former education head

That’s then generated responses from Steve Jones and Richard Dawkins such as “I find this very depressing” and “If 29% of science teachers really think creationism should be taught as a valid alternative to evolution, we have a national disgrace on our hands.”

Too right, education is about lifting up people’s minds, not filling them with crap. However, reading further on in the piece, the Grauniad supplies this additional piece of information …

“that only 26% of all teachers and 46% of science specialists agree with Professor Chris Higgins, vice-chancellor of the University of Durham, who is quoted as saying “the only reason to mention creationism in schools is to enable teachers to demonstrate why the idea is scientific nonsense”.”

in other words (doing the maths) that only leaves 3% treating it as a valid alternative.

Even the statements that Reiss made (the former education head) that they’re said to support aren’t controversial – those were that while creationism had no scientific basis, science teachers risked alienating pupils who believed in the idea by dismissing it out of hand. “They should take the time to explain how science works and why creationism has no scientific basis,” – in other words treating the believers with respect (but not the belief). How else are you going to deprogramme them?

The reporter James Randerson is the Grauniad’s Science Correspondent and makes the mistake of referring to creationism as a theory – as opposed to something someone made up off the top of their head. He should really know the difference. But then he doesn’t seem to know the difference between news and something he just made up off the top of his head.


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