Welsh Government told to teach evolution, not creationism

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An Anglican priest is among the UK's leading scientists, including Sir David Attenborough, to have signed an open letter to the Welsh Government demanding a ban on the teaching of creationism as a science in schools. 

The Rev Prof Michael Reiss, who trained as a priest in the Church of England before becoming a leading bioethicist, has added his name to the letter alongside around 50 UK scientists and educators.  He is joined by another Christian, Simon Barrow, director of the faith and public life think tank, Ekklesia. 

The letter has been organised by Humanists UK and expresses concern over the Welsh Government's draft national curriculum, which does not explicitly ban the teaching of creationism as a science in schools.  This contrasts with England, where creationism is not allowed to be taught as a science, and evolution is part of the national curriculum in primary schools. 

The signatories, who also include the British Science Association, the Association for Science Education and the Campaign for Science and Engineering, want Wales to follow suit and introduce evolution to classrooms much earlier than the current 14- to 15-year-old age band. 

The letter reads: "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution. It is a fundamental concept that describes and explains the development of the diversity of life on the planet.

"Pupils should be introduced to it early – certainly at primary level – as it underpins so much else. What's more, without an explicit ban on teaching creationism, intelligent design, and other pseudoscientific theories as evidence-based, such teaching may begin to creep into the school curriculum, when it is vital children in Wales are not exposed to pseudoscientific doctrines masquerading as science.

"State schools in England, including primary schools, are already required to teach evolution 'as a comprehensive, coherent, and extensively evidenced theory', and 'must not allow any view or theory to be taught as evidence-based if it is contrary to scientific or historical evidence or explanations'. We urge the Welsh Government to introduce the same requirements in Wales." 

Creationism has been embraced by some Christians who believe that Genesis is a literal account of how God created the Earth. However, it is not universally accepted among Christians.

At the height of the creationism debate a decade ago, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, said that the Bible's account of creation should not be viewed as a "theory alongside other theories". 

"I think creationism is, in a sense, a kind of category mistake, as if the Bible were a theory like other theories. Whatever the biblical account of creation is, it's not a theory alongside theories," he said in 2006.

"It's not as if the writer of Genesis or whatever sat down and said well, how am I going to explain all this... 'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth...'" 

A 2009 survey of British attitudes timed to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin found that around one in 10 people believed in creationism.

Around 12% were in favour of a similar concept, intelligent design (89%), which argues that evolution alone is not enough to explain how the world came about and that an invisible 'designer' must have played a part.

The same survey of 2,060 people by Theos found that many people were not fully convinced by evolution, with only a quarter saying that Darwin's theory was "definitely true", and around half saying they were either strongly opposed to the theory or confused about it.