The Science National Curriculum was born at a time when there was a move in science teaching towards training children to think scientifically, rather than just filling them with scientific “facts.” This trend has, in my opinion, been reversed in recent years—a reversal which is to be regretted, particularly when many of the “facts” are not facts at all, but based on atheistic evolutionary presupposition.
When I was a school teacher in state schools,4 I had no problem teaching children about evolution. After all, the National Curriculum used to say:
Students should be taught . . . how scientific controversies can arise from different ways of interpreting empirical evidence [for example, Darwin’s theory of evolution]
Students should be taught . . . ways in which scientific work may be affected by the contexts in which it takes place [for example, social, historical, moral, and spiritual], and how these contexts may affect whether or not ideas are accepted
The first statement enabled evolution to be taught critically. Pupils were invited and encouraged to question the “facts” they were being given. The second statement justified lessons being able to encourage pupils to consider the spiritual implications of their work.
Snuffing out Inquiry
In the new National Curriculum, the second statement has been replaced with the much blander statement:
Students should be taught . . . to consider how and why decisions about science and technology are made, including those that raise ethical issues, and about the social, economic and environmental effects of such decisions
Time will tell as to whether the QCA consider that the word ethical can imply spiritual. As for the concept of criticizing evolution: this has now been replaced with the following bold instruction.
In their study of science, the following should be covered: . . . variation within species can lead to evolutionary changes and similarities and differences between species can be measured and classified.
Exam syllabuses based on this National Curriculum—which have to be endorsed by the QCA—take the statements further, leaving little room for doubt. For the first time, they conflate molecules-to-man evolution with what can actually be observed in nature. Natural selection is erroneously given credit for explaining the evolution of fish to philosophers. For example:
Explain the main steps in Darwin’s theory of natural selection leading to the evolution or extinction of organisms:
- presence of natural variation;
- competition for limited resources;
- “survival of the fittest”
- inheritance of “successful” adaptations;
- extinction of species unable to compete.
How should Christians respond to these changes? In the past, science lesson content progressed through four levels of interpretation:
- the National curriculum laid down the content
- This was interpreted by the various exam boards for their GCSE syllabuses5
- Text books were produced to match the syllabuses
- Teachers would base their lesson plans on the syllabus and texts.
In the past, the first of these steps did not contain statements on the “factual” nature of evolution. Such an interpretation was only added usually at step three or four. Now, for the first time, state schools are required by law (because the National Curriculum is the legal statutory curriculum for state schools) to teach evolution as fact.
Christian parents and churches in England will need to consider whether this changes their attitude to having their children educated in the state system. The changes in the National Curriculum lends weight to those who argue that the state system is not the appropriate environment for our children to be educated. Christian parents whose children attend state schools will need to be increasingly vigilant about what their children are being taught.
Perhaps it is worth noting that the Welsh and Northern Irish National Curricula in science still encourage the criticism of all scientific theories. The Welsh GCSE syllabus, for example—endorsed by ACCAC, the Welsh Curriculum Authority—still contains this requirement:The specification provides a framework and includes specific content through which individual courses may address spiritual, moral, ethical, social and cultural issues.
Ken Ham has commented:“If the textbooks don’t start with the Bible as foundational to their thinking, then they are secular in philosophy.”
Christian parents need to be aware that their children’s science lessons are not neutral. If they are not centred on God and His word, then they are actually teaching your children that God is irrelevant.