UCL News


Trouble in Paradise

18 May 2006

For once, an evolutionary biologist and a creationist agree on something.

Professor Steve Jones [UCL Biology], the author of an updated version of Darwin's Origin of Species, and John Mackay, an Australian preacher who believes the book of Genesis constitutes literal truth, are both convinced that creationism is making a comeback in British classrooms.

"It's a real social change," says Jones. … "For years, I've sympathised with my American colleagues, who have to cleanse creationism from their students' minds in their first few biology lectures. It's not a problem we've faced in Britain until now. I get feedback from Muslim schoolkids who say they are obliged to believe in creationism, because it's part of their Islamic identity, but the people I find more surprising are the other British kids who see creationism as a viable alternative to evolution. That's alarming. It shows how infectious the idea is." …

Jones's concerns are shared by the Royal Society and other scientific organisations, by the British Humanist Association (BHA) and the Secular Society and by teachers' unions such as the NUT, who at their recent conference called for an end to state funding for faith schools "to prevent the growing influence of religious organisations in education and the teaching of creationism or intelligent design as a valid alternative to evolution." …

Jones has met teachers keen on creationism during his lectures to schools, which have confrontational titles such as "Why intelligent design is stupid". He is "disappointed that teachers would do this. It's very hard for anyone with two neurons bolted together to believe that the earth was created 6,000 years ago. Deliberate irrationalism is dangerous, but it's most dangerous to the people that believe it.

"Think of an intelligent 11-year-old who's told by a teacher that humans and dinosaurs lived together on the earth 6,000 years ago. Then think of the same kid doing A-level biology at 16, when it becomes clear that that's complete nonsense. Why, then, should they believe anything else that their religion tells them?"

Tim Walker, 'The Independent'