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UK Government Mandates the Teaching of Evolution As Scientific Fact 783

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-more-monkeying-around dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A story at the BBC explains how the UK government has put an extra clause into a funding bill to ensure that any new 'free schools' (independent schools run by groups of parents or organizations, but publicly-funded) must teach evolution rather than creationism or potentially lose their funding. 'The new rules state that from 2013, all free schools in England must teach evolution as a 'comprehensive and coherent scientific theory.' The move follows scientists's concerns that free schools run by creationists might avoid teaching evolution. Sir Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, said it was 'delighted.' Sir Paul told BBC News the previous rules on free schools and the teaching of evolution versus creationism had been 'not tight enough.'"
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UK Government Mandates the Teaching of Evolution As Scientific Fact

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  • good (Score:4, Insightful)

    by aldousd666 (640240) on Friday November 30, 2012 @12:37PM (#42142739) Journal
    good
  • by clickclickdrone (964164) on Friday November 30, 2012 @12:37PM (#42142755)
    Seriously, when you have to pass a law to ensure fairy tales aren't taught as facts in school, something is horribly wrong with society.
    • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Friday November 30, 2012 @12:52PM (#42143079)

      Seriously, when you have to pass a law to ensure fairy tales aren't taught as facts in school, something is horribly wrong with society.

      There is a precedent - outlawing Holocaust denialism. Ordinarily, being an idiot isn't a crime, but when it starts posing danger to others, you generally make it one (ditto for safety code violations when someone else than the idiot gets hurt etc.). It's not very systematic, I'll give you that, but I don't think anyone in the world has come up with a better idea to this day.

    • by BMOC (2478408) on Friday November 30, 2012 @12:53PM (#42143101)

      Yes, it means you have politicians doing things they shouldn't be.

      This is a horrible precedent. Evolution is likely the correct explanation for life on earth, but what happens when science is wrong? (it often is, that's how we learn) Do we then just say "oops, sorry, we didn't mean to legislate teaching you what wasn't known for certain yet."

      Politicians should not be involving themselves in science, lest they quickly become little better than a monarchy.

      • by Nadaka (224565)

        Science is never wrong.

        When science adjusts or overthrows previously held beliefs based on empirical experimentation or new evidence, it becomes more right.

      • by gstoddart (321705) on Friday November 30, 2012 @01:34PM (#42143881) Homepage

        This is a horrible precedent. Evolution is likely the correct explanation for life on earth, but what happens when science is wrong? (it often is, that's how we learn) Do we then just say "oops, sorry, we didn't mean to legislate teaching you what wasn't known for certain yet."

        Find me one piece of credible, scientific evidence for creationism. Go ahead, I'll wait.

        So far, people have put forth theories to try to shore up their belief in creationism, but there's precisely zero evidence for it. The best attempt I've ever seen is "this is so complex it couldn't have happened through natural processes, therefore it must have been magic".

        We have observed evolution and speciation. We haven't observed any creation occurring, nor is there any evidence for it.

        So when people try to teach creationism in school, it largely amounts to a religious point of view, and is presented as if it's an equally valid "theory" -- because they abuse the scientific definition of "theory" to say "well, that's just what you think". (If Newton had proposed the law of Gravity in the last 100 years or so, it would stil be a theory.)

        Politicians should not be involving themselves in science, lest they quickly become little better than a monarchy.

        They're not dictating the outcomes of scientific endeavors, they're saying that since there is no credible scientific evidence for creationism -- you can't teach it alongside science as an equally valid view, because there is precisely zero science involved in it.

        If the public is paying for people to be educated, it expects people to come out of that system understanding what is real and what isn't. Creationism isn't objective reality, it's trying to make the universe adhere to your religious beliefs.

        So, if you want to teach your children that 2+2=58 million, that water is made up gumdrops and moonbeams, and that some creator god whipped up the world in 7 literal days ... well, you can bloody well pay for it yourself, and expect them to be mocked relentlessly when they get out into the world.

        But all those people saying that fossils were there to test their faith, and that the world is only 6000 years old -- well, we can't exactly accept that their version of reality is equally valid so we don't hurt their feelings, especially when it contradicts real physical measurements.

        If there is a creator god, he/she/it is vastly more complex and unknowable in light of everything we know about the universe. it would have to encompass everything we know about physical reality. And if people can't include reality in their religious beliefs, it's not the states job to pay for funding their version of it.

        I've known professors of computational astrophysics who are still quite religious. They have no problem with the duality of it -- because if God did create the universe, he's so far outside of any of the bits we can ever directly see and measure, that you have to take those parts on faith.

        Science and religion deal with different areas of human endeavour. But you can't twist science to match what your religion tells you.

        Creationism is not a scientific theory by any meaningful definition. It isn't testable, falsifiable, or evidence based. It's based on thousands of years of beliefs, most of which were borrowed from civilizations which came before the religions who now say that their bible tells them that the world was created in 7 days (the creation myth was borrowed from the Sumerians or Babylonians almost verbatim).

        You should be free to believe whatever you think god has told you about morality and the like -- but it really can't be placed along side of science as a plausible alternate answer to these questions.

    • Well, it's all the brits fault to begin with.
      You *had* to have your stupid tea tax didn't you? See how silly that sounds now?
      Yeah, now look at you. McDonalds on every corner, getting fat and fundamentalist.
      Look at what you have wrought.
      I could have been a nice, loyal, queen-loving, crooked-teeth-having, meat-pie eating subject, but noooooo you had to be a tough guy.

      Thanks England!

  • Cool (Score:5, Interesting)

    by _0x783czar (2516522) on Friday November 30, 2012 @12:44PM (#42142897) Homepage Journal
    I'm a creationist, and I have no problem with this. School systems' curriculum has to be governed by science first. I likely don't have a problem with this, because I don't claim to know how God created everything. From a faith-based point of view, I have some problems with Evolution, but I don't see how that should govern the curriculum in schools. I see Science as our way of understanding God's power, we may not understand everything yet, but if we don't endeavor to learn everything we can through Science, we will only block our own growth.
    • Re:Cool (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mr1911 (1942298) on Friday November 30, 2012 @12:57PM (#42143161)

      I likely don't have a problem with this, because I don't claim to know how God created everything. From a faith-based point of view, I have some problems with Evolution

      It is not about how science fits in to your religion's book of stories. Science is observable whereas religion is believed only because the believer wants to, or, more likely, is afraid of the punishment their religion promises for deviating from the church. It is amazing how people dismiss science to believe their religious teachings, quite often centered around an all-loving, all-forgiving deity that will send them to eternal suffering for failing to believe properly.

      we may not understand everything yet, but if we don't endeavor to learn everything we can through Science, we will only block our own growth.

      The most sensible statement I have ever seen by someone self-identifying as a creationist. Congratulations, but saying such sensible things might get you thrown out of the creationist club!

      • Re:Cool (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 30, 2012 @01:30PM (#42143813)

        It is amazing how people dismiss science to believe their religious teachings, quite often centered around an all-loving, all-forgiving deity that will send them to eternal suffering for failing to believe properly.

        It's not amazing at all. I begin with some prior probability distribution that describes my set of beliefs about the origins of the universe. I then encounter some data that purports to support the idea that the universe is almost 14 billion years old. What happens to my beliefs?

        The naive answer (that they shift in the direction of believing the universe is 14 billion years old) is wrong. In reality, each of us applies a small probability that the data is just wrong (last year, OPERA claimed 6-sigma evidence for superluminal neutrinos. Everybody thought this was a mistake - we didn't all start doubting relativity a bit.) Now, if my prior probability for the universe being 14 billion years old is of any reasonable size, the data does what you expect - it increases my belief in a 14 billion year old universe. If, on the other hand, my prior beliefs are that there is scarcely any or no chance that the universe is old, after getting the new data I think it's far more likely that the universe is young, the data is wrong, and probably that there's evidence of a conspiracy to hide the truth. This is why it's hard to convince a young-earth type of the age of the universe by showing him the data - his prior probabilities are distributed such that the extra data just hardens his position.

  • by iggymanz (596061) on Friday November 30, 2012 @12:44PM (#42142905)

    Most educated christians and muslims and Jews have no problem with evolution, despite the stereotypes thrown about on slashdot by people obsessed with a certain minority. While establishing his theory of evolution, and for many years after Charles Darwni himself continued to be a practicing Christian

    • by roninmagus (721889) on Friday November 30, 2012 @01:06PM (#42143347)

      Most educated christians and muslims and Jews have no problem with evolution, despite the stereotypes thrown about on slashdot by people obsessed with a certain minority. While establishing his theory of evolution, and for many years after Charles Darwni himself continued to be a practicing Christian

      As an "educated" Christian myself who believes in Evolution led by God, I used to think exactly what the parent says here. Unfortunately, that statement is just not true. 46% of adult Americans believe that humans were created by God in their present form, less than 10,000 years ago. I was very troubled when I saw that. As for those who hold my belief, 32%. http://www.gallup.com/poll/155003/hold-creationist-view-human-origins.aspx [gallup.com]

      • Most educated christians and muslims and Jews have no problem with evolution, despite the stereotypes thrown about on slashdot by people obsessed with a certain minority. While establishing his theory of evolution, and for many years after Charles Darwni himself continued to be a practicing Christian

        As an "educated" Christian myself who believes in Evolution led by God,

        Unfortunately they are fundamentally incompatible. You cannot have evolution led by anything, because then it becomes not evolution, but very gradual incremental design.

  • free, or free... (Score:4, Informative)

    by sribe (304414) on Friday November 30, 2012 @12:58PM (#42143181)

    So, it seems these are not such "free" schools after all. They are not forced to follow the national curriculum, so the government makes an additional set of curriculum rules to tell them what to teach.

    Pay more attention to the summary--they are "free" as in beer, not speech. They are government funded, and so should expect the government to impose reasonable criteria on the use of those taxpayer funds. Apparently the purpose was to allow broad discretion in the curricula, but now the government is deciding that teaching creationism as "science" is out of bounds for use of public funds.

    • Re:free, or free... (Score:4, Informative)

      by tomtomtom (580791) on Friday November 30, 2012 @01:27PM (#42143759)

      Pay more attention to the summary--they are "free" as in beer, not speech. They are government funded, and so should expect the government to impose reasonable criteria on the use of those taxpayer funds. Apparently the purpose was to allow broad discretion in the curricula, but now the government is deciding that teaching creationism as "science" is out of bounds for use of public funds.

      No, "free schools" are a special type of state school and "free" means that they are free from a number of the diktats usually imposed upon the rest of our state-funded schools, including the requirement to adhere to the national (government-mandated) curriculum. They are a new thing in the past year or two. The idea was to get rid of some of the bureaucracy involved in founding a school so that groups of parents and other people could more easily open their own new schools to create more competition in the state-funded sector which in turn would drive up standards across the board.

  • by rueger (210566) * on Friday November 30, 2012 @01:10PM (#42143433) Homepage
    My Lord! If they've done this, what could be next? National socialized health care?
  • What about... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by balaam's ass (678743) on Friday November 30, 2012 @01:42PM (#42144007) Journal
    ...mandating that students should be able to add fractions? My college students can't even manage that. Can 'we as a culture' devote a little less time to the creationism/evolution circus, and at least make sure that basic scientific proficiency is getting through?

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