Debating Darwin
Should evolution be taught as the only truth?
Sunday 28 October, 8.00am until 8.45am, Lecture Theatre 1 Breakfast Banter

The debate over creationism has sprung up as the latest flashpoint in the battle between secularism and religion. While the US has seen extended conflict over the theory of evolution – from the 1925 ‘Scopes Monkey Trial’ to the recent Dover, PA court case – new challenges to Darwinism under the guise of intelligent design (ID) have arisen in the UK. Concerns centre on school science education, from Sir Peter Vardy’s Emmanuel Schools Foundation to the controversial teaching packs distributed by the anti-evolution group Truth in Science. The rise of ‘Islamic creationism’, modelling itself on ID, adds to concerns that Islam poses a special threat to secularism in Britain. Although the Royal Society and much of the scientific establishment have denounced the teaching of creationism, a recent MORI poll revealed that over 40% of the public believe that creationism or ID should be taught alongside evolution in school science classes.

While few seriously endorse the literal biblical story of creation, ID on the other hand claims to highlight Darwinism’s shortcomings on scientific grounds. Evolution is ‘just a theory’ after all - surely in the spirit of encouraging critical thinking we should ‘teach the controversy’? Science is about questioning received truths rather than establishing certainties for all time. Does this not permit a more flexible approach to science education, where debate is encouraged? Further, the sheer complexity of evolutionary theory leads ID advocates to claim it is best to cultivate a critical eye in pupils, rather than have them take as truth a misunderstood Darwinian theory.

Is science, or ‘scientism’, just as fundamentalist as religion, arrogantly claiming to know everything, or are doubts such as these a reflection of scientists’ failure to make the case properly for what science does have to offer?  Is this merely another case of the ‘balance fallacy’ – the mistaken belief that even falsehoods should be given air time?

 Speakers

Professor Steve Fuller
Auguste Comte Chair in Social Epistemology, University of Warwick
Professor Simon Conway Morris
professor of evolutionary palaeobiology, University of Cambridge; author, Life's Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe
David Perks
founder and principal, East London Science School; director, the Physics Factory
Chair:
Alex Hochuli
communications consultant, researcher and blogger based in São Paulo

 Produced by

Alex Hochuli communications consultant, researcher and blogger based in São Paulo
 Recommended readings

Root and branch
The question of whether to teach anti-Darwinism is distinct from the question of the validity of its criticisms. Indeed, they are 'boring, demeaning and insufferably dull'
Ian Hacking, Nation, 7 October 2007

Creationism gains foothold in schools
When treated simply as an alternative belief system it becomes possible for a form of creationism to be taught in schools
Christopher Morgan and Abul Taher, The Times, 30 December 2006

Who are you calling old?
A look at why creationism is on the rise at a time when one would expect it to have as many adherents as the flat earth society
Rob Blackhurst, Financial Times, 15 October 2006

recommended by spiked

Intelligent design and educational stupidity
David Perks, 13 March 2006

Creationism, pluralism and the compromising of science
Joe Kaplinsky, 28 February 2005

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