The UK Government has published a consultation document on the teaching of Scientific and Technological Understanding. This is one of six new broad curriculum areas in primary schools to replace the existing, more rigid structure of 11 subjects.1 The consultation document has been criticised in an open letter, organised by the British Humanist Association. Their letter criticises the proposals for not including mention of the teaching of evolution.
Interestingly, a report on the BBC’s flagship radio morning new program, Today, failed to mention that the letter had been organised by the BHA.2 Instead they concentrated on the “quality” of the 26 signatories, which, they said, included three Nobel laureates and Professor Richard Dawkins. This latter point is an attempt to add credibility to the BHA’s letter by use of the argument from authority logic fallacy.3 Among the signatories that I noted were at least four well-known atheistic evolutionary scientists and a “token Christian,” the Reverend Dr. Michael Reiss. Dr. Reiss was forced out of his job as professor of education with the Royal Society for suggesting that children with creationist views should at least be treated with respect by their teachers. Ironically Dr. Reiss had been publicly rebuked over that by several of these now-fellow signatories.
The BHA letter’s problem on the subject of teaching evolution is as follows:
We find it extraordinary that evolution and natural selection find no place in the section ‘Science–life and living things’ (page 6). The theory of evolution is one of the most important ideas underlying biological science. It is a key concept that children should be introduced to at an early stage so as to ensure a firmer scientific understanding when they study it in more detail later on. The wealth of new resources on evolution available for children of primary school age clearly demonstrates their ability to grasp its central concepts. We consider its inclusion vital.4
The BHA’s complaint is disingenuous. There is a clear agenda in mind: to create mischief on the subject of teaching science in order to propagate their evolutionary opinions. The section from the DCSF document that they quote recommends that children should be taught:
L14. to apply knowledge and understanding to describe and explain the structure and function of key human body systems including reproduction
L15. to investigate the structure, function, life cycle and growth of flowering plants and explain how these are linked
L16. to investigate, identify and explain the benefits of micro-organisms and the harm they can cause5
The fact is that there is no material difference between these ideas and the existing National Curriculum points.6 The existing National Curriculum does not explicitly use the word evolution in the primary science curriculum. In fact, the word evolution is not introduced explicitly until the current Key Stage 4 (age 14). So, the timing and substance of the BHA letter is a red herring.
For instance, it will also be noticed that the consultation document—which, we must remember, concerns the teaching of science to those age 11 and under—does not explicitly mention atomic theory or Ohm’s Law. In other words, even for those who believe in evolution, it is clear that the level of terminology used should be appropriate to the age of the children. There is nothing in the new proposals, or the existing NC, that prevents a teacher from discussing aspects of evolutionary theory with pupils.
In one of the most disingenuous parts of the Today program interview, the Rev. Dr Reiss said that all he wanted was to argue for children to be taught to think critically. If that were so, then he should have no cause for concern, as the existing regulations allow teachers freely to discuss children’s views on origins, whether creation or evolution. However, those who have signed the BHA’s letter are not really interested in teaching critical thinking.
Andrew Copson, BHA’s Director of Education, said: “The wealth of colourful and engaging resources that explain evolution and natural selection to under 11 year olds demonstrates how easily children of this age can be introduced to these important scientific concepts.”
It, rather, seems as if the BHA’s agenda is to make sure that children are indoctrinated with evolutionism at as early an age as possible, precisely to insulate them from the critical thinking that would enable them to understand the paucity of evidence for evolution. If the BHA’s objections are taken seriously by the DCSF, then Christian parents in England will need to think again very seriously about whether state education is the best place for their children to be.