Monday, September 15, 2008

The Science Equivalent of Religious Nutters

Apparently Michael Reiss, the first ever director of education at the prestigious Royal Society, has caused an uproar with his comments about creationism and science classes. And what did he say?

The complaints of his critics make it sound like he wants creationism taught in science class. Just listen:

Richard Roberts: "I think it is outrageous that this man is suggesting that creationism should be discussed in a science classroom. It is an incredible idea and I am drafting a letter to other Nobel laureates - which would be sent to the Royal Society - to ask that Reiss be made to stand down."

Rowan Hooper: "to the dismay of many scientists in the UK, the director of education for the Royal Society, Michael Reiss, has called for creationism to be taught in biology classes in the UK."

The only problem - these claims are false. False and easily disproven. These critics seem to have binary lenses on: viewing anyone who talks about this issue as either for creationism being taught in science class or against it. And then they take sides and try - using whatever positions they have - to bash or ban anyone that isn't totally on board with them. It reminds me of someone who gets elected head of the PTA so they can ban books they disagree with from the local library.

So what did Reiss actually claim. From this audio interview he says:
“Creationism is not science, and it should not be given equal time in science lessons, and it shouldn't be presented by science teachers as a scientifically valid alternative. But as a teacher, I'm comfortable when dealing in science lessons with what students bring to the lesson even if it isn't good science. So I would want to acknowledge without in any way ridiculing the student.... I want to acknowledge that for the student that is how they understand the world, and I can respect them for that, but I want to make it very clear that's not the way the overwhelming majority of scientists understand the world, and we have very good evidence-based reasons as to why scientists understand the world they do, and then nothing would delight me more than to get into the scientific evidence for evolution or the history of the universe.”
As can easily be seen by anyone without blinders on, Reiss is making a pedagogical point: To really teach students in science class, you have to address their concerns without alientating them. Woh. Radical. He should be fired.

His point isn't to teach creationism in science classes, its to teach creationists in science classes. Its to teach the widening percentage of creationists that are already in the classrom the rules of evidence-based reasoning that is the halmark of science, and why this reasoning supports the theory of evolution.

You can read one of the more sane blog posts on the issue here. And if you really can't get enough, checkout the Slashdot post here.

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