Hmm, an interesting week.
You may have picked up in the press a few days ago a prominent member of The Royal Society was apparently advocating the inclusion of Young Earth Creationism (YEC) as part of science lessons in UK schools. This would of course be quite newsworthy as the Royal Society (like all other prominent science organisations) is steadfast in its refusal to acknowledge YEC in any way as a legitimate topic for science lessons.
Unfortunately it turned out that comments attributed to Prof. Reiss were not actually made by him. Instead they were his comments but with a bit of media spin added to them. What he had instead been advocating was that rather than just dismissing a pupil's YEC viewpoints (of which ~10% of pupils have according to Reiss) those pupils with such worldviews should be engaged with and given decent explanations why science-based evidence doesn't support YEC views and that teachers themselves need to be equipped to do this respectfully.
This is not only a mark of respect to the pupils themselves as worthwhile individuals but also shows that science is prepared to listen and discuss rather than simply engage in its own brand of dogmatism.
However, the Royal Society would appear to disagree and amongst concern for their reputation and standing Prof. Reiss has stepped down from his position as Director of Education at the Society. This is apparently by mutual agreement and not at all to do with pressure from certain society members known for operating an anti-religion agenda of their own.
Unfortunately for the Royal Society's reputation the very fact that they have 'disposed' of someone who ran the potential of having the media twist his words appears to have backfired on them. The general consensus that is emerging on blogs, comments to newspapers and amongst large portions of the science communication community in general is disagreement with what the Society has done which has paradoxically probably damaged their reputation more so than Reiss' originally misinterpreted comments.
The image of a smoking gun pointing at a foot is springing to mind but amongst it all people do also seem do be commenting on Reiss' original thoughts - that creationism in the classroom needs to be engaged with. Not advocated as a scientific view of the world by any means, but rather that pupils will have real, genuine views on these issues that need to be listened to and engaged with rather than simply responded to by bashing with fact. Such views tend to be too deeply and passionately held to be altered by a simple one-off dishing out of facts and figures, but instead need to be engaged with at a more fundamental and perhaps long-termlevel.
This is an area where the Church should be stepping in as this is where these viewpoints are held and fostered. But in week when a leading Christian bookseller (which shall remain unnamed) advocates anti-evolution books under the banner of 'science books' in its weekly emails it is difficult to envision this happening on the wider scale that is needed at present.
I can see why the Royal Society is so concerned with YEC and I fully agree with their concerns. However, in this case they have just thrown more fuel on the fire when there really was no need or point to.
Is Evolution a Random Process?
12 hours ago