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UK Government Mandates the Teaching of Evolution As Scientific Fact 783

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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  • 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.

  • by Dr. Manhattan ( 29720 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `171rorecros'> on Friday November 30, 2012 @01:08PM (#42143391) Homepage
    Hitler was sort of a neo-Pagan quasi-Christian who explicitly rejected evolution and based his racism on the idea that the 'races' had been created separately []. The Holocaust owed far more to the virulent strain of anti-Semitism that Martin Luther embraced and fostered. That was certainly the motivation for the majority who actually carried out the crimes in person.

    BTW, as to the Communist states under Stalin and Mao - they also explicitly rejected neo-Darwinian evolution and embraced (and enforced) Lysenkoism [] instead. The resulting crop failures when reality failed to match up to "worker's science" killed a huge fraction - possibly the majority - of the millions who died under those regimes.

    Ironically, the people under Hitler, Stalin, and Mao would have been better off if their leaders had accepted neo-Darwinian evolution.

  • Re:good (Score:5, Informative)

    by DickBreath ( 207180 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @01:19PM (#42143595) Homepage
    The new theory would still have to explain all currently observed evidence as well as any new evidence not explained by current theory. If there is no new evidence, then the new theory would need to be an even simpler explanation of all current evidence, and also have predictive power.
  • Re:good (Score:5, Informative)

    by Thansal ( 999464 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @01:22PM (#42143645)

    No, bad.

    Just because it is the supported theory, and all the archeological evidence does support it, and we of the scientific community hold that it is the 99% best supported explanation, it is not a fact.

    If it was truly a fact, then no more resources would be spent studying evolution. And, it is way too soon to close that checkbook.

    I really think it is bad when politicians and fools get involved with science.

    and that's why you at least read the summary, instead of the terribly written title:

    "...all free schools in England must teach evolution as a 'comprehensive and coherent scientific theory.'"

    They aren't required to teach it as fact, they are simply required to actually teach it (no hand waving or "the evil overlords that oppose us require us to tell you about their lies").

  • Re:good (Score:4, Informative)

    by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @01:27PM (#42143751)

    I disagree.
    You may teach your children as you like, but to never teach them about evolution is abuse.

    You may feel free to teach them about evolution and your own view that a magic man in the sky created everything. That would be silly, but not abusive.

  • 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.

  • Re:good (Score:5, Informative)

    by History's Coming To ( 1059484 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @01:39PM (#42143961) Journal
    Firstly, explanatory power alone does not make a scientific theory. Personally I'm a big fan of the various multiverse theories, they provide a very elegant solution to the fine tuning problem and various other issues, but the problem is they explain EVERYTHING. Want to know why a bug flew in your mouth last week? Multiverse theory. The problem is that it makes no testable predictions, and as such is not yet science.

    Secondly, yes, absolutely, if something we teach in schools is shown to be wrong then we should change it, and there is no shame in this. Physics education does this a lot - age 15 you get Newton's Laws, then at 16 the teacher explains that this isn't really what's going on and it's just a limiting case, then you get Relativity. Darwin's original theory is viewed in much the same way as Newton's Laws anyway, it's a few-hundred-year-old theory which doesn't stand up to very deep scrutiny, but DOES have a modern descendant which has had a few of the wrinkles ironed out.

    Backing down and admitting you're wrong when faced with evidence isn't bad for science, it IS science.

    Aside: for any non-UK Slashdotters wondering about UK politics and religion, we tend to keep the two separate. You'll sometimes hear a politician refer to god (as Blair somewhat infamously did over Iraq), and there is a lot of "god" in our legal and political oaths etc, but the electorate (even the religious ones) don't much care for "I'm voting like this because god says so", we prefer our leaders to keep their faith in a place of worship and their politics in the House of Commons.
  • Re:good (Score:4, Informative)

    by amicusNYCL ( 1538833 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @01:54PM (#42144239)

    Parents can teach their children whatever they want to teach them. Nobody is disputing that or making any laws contrary to it. Hell, even schools can teach their students whatever they want. But a school that receives public money is held to a higher set of standards. That's what is going on here. If the school wants public money, then they need to be responsible in what they teach. That includes teaching facts as facts.

  • Re:good (Score:4, Informative)

    by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <mojo@wo[ ] ['rld' in gap]> on Friday November 30, 2012 @01:56PM (#42144299) Homepage Journal

    Unfortunately most people don't seem to understand the meaning of the word "theory". Gravity is a theory, but for most intents and purposes it can be considered a fact. This lack of understanding makes it very hard to debate with people who are convinced that anything which is a theory must just be guesswork.

  • by StillNeedMoreCoffee ( 123989 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @01:59PM (#42144337)

    Your kidding right? Evolution as a process, like most scientific theories it has predictive and explanatory power. We see that evolution happens, take drug resistant bacteria. We see how with selective breeding in just a few thousand years we can have widely divergent dog breeds and types of plants. In our world of computers, Genetic algorithms can solve difficult problems by just following those parts of genetics that combine parts of solutions and introduces mutations and a survival rule that culls the herd. It works, I have done that. I have come up with 'intelligent' answers to problems that the only driving principle was survival, not some unseen intelligent force. So we know that the process of Evolution is a fact and practical. The teaching of creationism on the other hand is a cop out. They claim the world is 6000 years old, they claim dinosaurs co-existed with man (and woman), that man (and woman) suddenly appeared full sized and full figured in God's image (he must have been a Black Man then). That the scientists have it all wrong about radioactive decay and tree rings and layers of sediment to show when things happened. They are much like some segments of the political parties that have no problem of making up facts to fit their theories. And also we know they think that Rape is part of God's design.

    I'm sorry but there is no equivalence here. None. It is the same equivalence that is being drawn by those in politics that say that both political parties are the same. A little rational thought is in order.

  • Re:good (Score:4, Informative)

    by rahvin112 ( 446269 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @02:29PM (#42144831)


    Evolution is a Theory AND a Fact. It's a fact because it's an observed natural phenomenon. It exists and is therefore fact. There is absolutely no debate in the scientific community over the existence, only the method. The existence or "fact" portion of the debate was settled before Darwin died.

    The mechanism of evolution is the theory portion. We know with absolute certainty that evolution exists, what we don't understand fully is the method or methods by which is operates. The operation and rules that guide that operation are the theory. Natural Selection was Darwins theory of operation, punctuated equilibrium is another.

    The Ironic part is those that deny the fact and accept the theory. I've met plenty of creationists that accept natural selection implicitly yet deny evolution. Therefore they accept Darwin's theory of evolution but then deny the fact of it's existence. But that's the irony of denying scientific fact.

  • Re:good (Score:5, Informative)

    by ilsaloving ( 1534307 ) on Friday November 30, 2012 @03:11PM (#42145551)

    I think the problem is a unique one. Well, almost unique. There are (too many) people out there who not just deny evolution exists, but rabidly so. They go so far as to try to get local education ministries to change their curriculum to suit their own twisted world view.

    You mention Newton's laws, but that's not comparable. There are no groups of people roaming the countryside with placards in hand trying to deny that gravity exists and insisting that schools teach students that an big invisible hand is coming out of the sky and pushing things down towards the ground.

    There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the state of science education itself. The problem is all the whackjob morons out there that *think* they know better, trying to undermine the efforts of said education.

    This is evolution we're talking about. It is an indisputable fact. If they were trying to pass legislation demanding that, say, pre-birth fetuses are actually parasitic organisms, then I can see it being a controversy. But to mandate that everyone is required to teach a fundamental, indisputable fact of our reality, to me makes sense, in the same way that teaching mathematics as defined by mathematicians (ie: NOT 2+2=67) makes sense.

    I see it as an attempt to nip a potentially massive source of bullshit and future headaches in the bud.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"