A debate rages in the Royal Society over the continual appointment of Michael Reiss, who in an article mentioned that creationist views of students should be discussed in the classroom. Nobel Laureates Sir Harry Kroto and Sir Richard Roberts have written to the President of the Society to dismiss him.
Reiss in an article wrote:
Just because something lacks scientific support doesn’t seem to me a sufficient reason to omit it from a science lesson. When I was taught physics at school, and taught it extremely well in my view, what I remember finding so exciting was that we could discuss almost anything providing we were prepared to defend our thinking in a way that admitted objective evidence and logical argument.
So when teaching evolution, there is much to be said for allowing students to raise any doubts they have (hardly a revolutionary idea in science teaching) and doing one’s best to have a genuine discussion. The word ‘genuine’ doesn’t mean that creationism or intelligent design deserve equal time.
The question is was he suggesting that in the Science classroom teachers challenge student doubts about how old the world is and the validity of evolution (which he claims) or that creationism should be taught as an alternative so that the scientific viewpoint could be considered as a different world view (which the Nobel Laureates rightly oppose). The problem is saying another world view makes it sound like an equal alternative.
If Reiss was suggesting that the discussion should be student led, with the teacher showing the validity of the scientific method then this would be a good thing. One that I would have benefited from at school seeing as I was brought up to believe that evolution was wrong on a scientific basis – if we could have discussed the science behind evolution and why we know the world is billions rather than thousands of years old would have been brilliant.
Reiss clarified his remarks this way at the Royal Society website saying:
“Some of my comments about the teaching of creationism have been misinterpreted as suggesting that creationism should be taught in science classes. Creationism has no scientific basis. However, when young people ask questions about creationism in science classes, teachers need to be able to explain to them why evolution and the Big Bang are scientific theories but they should also take the time to explain how science works and why creationism has no scientific basis. I have referred to science teachers discussing creationism as a worldview’; this is not the same as lending it any scientific credibility.”
I have just posted that clarification on the Dawkins website. It seems too many people were making judgments about him being sacked based on second hand comments of what he said, rather than reading his original article.