What a Difference One Word Makes

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Today in the UK, May 4, has been called by a number of theologically conservative Christians as a National Day of Prayer—two days before the nation’s General Election. This election will determine the government of the United Kingdom for the next five years as voters elect Members of Parliament (MPs)—somewhat analogous to members of the U.S. House of Representatives. 1

We at AiG–UK are supporting the call for prayer on May 4th, and AiG has made it the subject of the podcast episode 20. Many Christian commentators are saying that there is a particular importance to this election, as issues regarding the tolerance of Christian witness and preaching may depend on the outcome. For that reason, evangelicals are calling for a National Day of Prayer. There is a Facebook page for the May 4th National Day of Prayer.

In particular, there has been a considerable amount of controversy recently in the UK over the attitude of educationalists to the teaching of creation and evolution in schools. Spokespersons from both main parties, Labour and Conservative, have made comments about the interface between faith and science.

When the current Labour Government came to power in 1997, the Science national curriculum in both England and Wales used to specify that pupils should be taught about scientific controversies, and it suggested that Darwin’s theory of evolution was an example. Even the 1999 revision kept that statement. However, the 2007 revision, under the new Secretary of State for the Department for Children, Families and Schools (DfCFS), Ed Balls MP, removed this clause and mandated the teaching of evolution as fact. A DfCFS document told schools that creationism was only to be mentioned in religious studies lessons and not in science lessons.

Recently, the opposition, the Conservative Party, appear to be making the same point. In a recent BBC TV interview, the shadow Conservative spokesman for the DfCFS, Michael Gove MP, said: “you cannot have a school which teaches creationism and one thing that we will make absolutely clear is that you cannot have schools which are set up, which teach people things which are clearly at variance with what we know to be scientific fact.” This appeared to suggest that the Conservative Party were accepting the policies of the Labour Party, in opposing creationism.

The best educational position is for all such ideas to be scientifically and critically tested in science lessons.

To gain clarification of this position, I sent an email to Mr. Gove’s office. I received a reply from one of Mr. Gove’s assistants which read: “we take on your points about Evolution not being ‘proven’ however, we do believe that it is important to separate Religious Education from Science and a school should not be solely teaching Creationism as Science.”

Ignoring for a moment the fact that no reason is given for why the separation of religious education and science should be important, we should take note of the use of the word “solely.” What Mr. Gove might originally have said is “you cannot have a school which teaches creationism,” the media have assumed that he meant “you cannot have a school which teaches any creationism.” In fact, it appears that he means “you cannot have a school which teaches solely creationism.” This is, in fact, in line with the attitude of Answers in Genesis. We have never suggested that creationism-only should be mandated in schools, whether in the UK or the USA. Of course, evolution should be taught in schools, as it is a presupposition believed by many scientists. However, the best educational position is for all such ideas to be scientifically and critically tested in science lessons.

For more on the teaching of origins in UK’s schools, see English Schools Now Teach Evolution as Fact.


  1. In the U.S., however, members of the Executive Branch of government must not be members of Congress. In the UK it is the opposite—the Prime Minister must be a Member of Parliament. Therefore, the Queen will call for a government that can command a majority of MPs in the House of Commons. The current Prime Minister is Gordon Brown, the leader of the Labour Party. He was not elected at the last election in 2005, but took over after the resignation of the former Labour leader, Tony Blair. The other main contender for Prime Minister is David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party. There is a significantly sized third party—the Liberal Democrats—which is led by Nick Clegg. (There are also a number of minor parties.) All UK general elections are significant—as important to the UK as presidential elections are to the U.S.


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