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Australian Christian schools in creationism row

Many are calling this the thin edge of the wedge for Christians everywhere…

Published: 9 March 2010(GMT+10)

iStockphoto

Class room

“Christian schools angry over ban on teaching creationism” were the headlines on the Sydney Morning Herald website article on March 3, 2010.1

The issue was a policy release by the South Australian Non-Government Schools Registration Board “to effectively ban the teaching of creationism.”

The policy stated that the Board required ‘’teaching of science as an empirical discipline, focusing on inquiry, hypothesis, investigation, experimentation, observation and evidential analysis’’. So far, so good. But it also said that it

“does not accept as satisfactory a science curriculum in a non-government school which is based on, espouses or reflects the literal interpretation of a religious text in its treatment of either creationism or intelligent design.”

If a Christian school has its registration withdrawn, it means that parents who continue to send their children to that school would be in breach of truancy laws. In effect, it would shut down the school.

In short, even teaching the evidence for evolution fully and fairly (which we support, especially if it is “warts and all”) would not be enough to qualify for registration if a school decided to also permit its students to be exposed to even the possibility that the Bible’s account of creation might be true. Nor would they be allowed to tell them that this is supported by highly qualified scientists who have repeatedly shown that the same evidence that is interpreted to support evolution makes, overall, even more scientific sense when one starts with the proposition of the Bible’s truth. Even those who might not agree with that assessment should at least agree that students should have the opportunity to hear about the evidence that is claimed, by so many qualified folk, to do this; how else can they say they have been permitted to fairly consider the question?

Science teachers could not even use the controversy to teach their students critical thinking skills.

Nor could science teachers in schools under the South Australian restrictions even use the controversy to teach their students in science classes critical thinking skills. They could not use the debate to explain to students how science works in relation to the past, and how two ways of looking at the world each try to make sense of the evidence within their framework.

The only mention of Genesis and the Bible that would be permitted would be in ‘religious’ classes. Consider the irony; the British Museum, for example, is full of artefacts that show the historical reliability of the Bible, utilizing the historical science of archaeology. But any discussions about that science in science classrooms could not lawfully mention that there is evidence that supports the Bible! It is equally ludicrous to not permit science students to hear about or discuss/analyze any of the evidence in other historical sciences (such as aspects of geology/paleontology) which supports the Bible’s account of creation (e.g. the evidence of ‘stasis and sudden appearance’ in the fossils; polystrate fossils, paraconformities, and so on.) Even the evidence of pollen reported in rocks supposedly formed billions of years before there was meant to be pollen, and reported in Nature2 as such—all of this evidence could not be discussed even as to whether or not it did support creation as possibly supporting creation!

But wait, it gets worse. From the Board’s statements, even schools which avoid the issue of Genesis history, creation in six days, global Flood and so on cannot even use the ‘ID’ approach. This reasons from the evidence of biology and biochemistry etc. merely to logically deduce, on the basis of empirical observations, that the mechanisms proposed by evolution simply could not have generated the vast complexity of living systems; the inference from observation is that they required an intelligent (unnamed) agent. Even this ultra-low-key approach is now made impossible in SA Christian schools, because it can be said to ‘reflect’ a religious text, albeit very indirectly. So science teachers in Christian schools could not lawfully encourage their students to even reflect on whether the awesome design in the molecular machinery of living cells might suggest that God had a hand in it!

South Australia is not the only state to have had pressure on Christian schools about creation. In the Australian state of New South Wales, there has for some time been a policy which makes it very difficult, though not impossible, for schools that wish to give creation evidences a fair hearing.

In the state of Victoria, while no such formal restriction has yet been issued, it has long been an open secret among Christian schools that school inspectors are applying informal pressure to individual schools on the subject of creation, hinting about how their registration might be under threat if they teach it. The tactic has been described by some as seeking to ‘pick us off one by one’.

Religious freedom itself is ultimately at stake

Fortunately, many Christian schools, even in states outside South Australia, are waking up to the storm clouds that have been gathering around them for some time, with creation as the focal issue. Many, including those who might not be altogether onside with everything CMI stands for, are beginning to see the South Australian ruling as the ‘thin edge of the wedge’ on religious freedom as a whole. And the issue is galvanizing them into action. Even secular Australian broadcasters are highlighting the increasingly evident battle lines. The national government-funded broadcaster, the ABC,3 reported that “Australian Christian schools will campaign against what they see as the effective ban on the teaching of creationism in South Australian schools”.4 With a South Australian election looming, the timing of all this could well be critical.

While CMI as a Christian information ministry is apolitical and not a lobbying organisation, we think it is crucial for all to be aware of these pressures on Christian schools. South Australians in particular may be well advised to ask their elected representatives and political candidates where they stand on this. Home schooling, too, could well be next on the hit list.

And the next phase of this encroachment on religious freedom can already be seen in other parts of the world. In the UK, for instance, a law has just been passed in the lower house which, it appears, will mean that Christian schools could lawfully be forced to teach children such things as how to get an abortion and also that homosexuality is normal.5

The increased ‘evolutionization’ of our culture has increasingly emboldened the antichristian forces

In all countries (especially the once-Christian West), the increased ‘evolutionization’ of our culture has meant not only a weakening of the authority of the Bible—it has also increasingly emboldened the antichristian forces, with all manner of antitheists pushing their agenda more brazenly than ever. The Global Atheist Convention in Melbourne on March 14, with its title The Rise of Atheism openly crowing about what is happening worldwide, is just one symptom of this. As, too, is lionization of their star attendee, Richard Dawkins, by the fawning Australian media. (For CMI’s formal response to the Global Atheist convention in Melbourne see here. This event will also include the public launch of Dr Jonathan Sarfati’s book, a devastating point-by-point rebuttal of Dawkins’ The Greatest Show on Earth: the evidence for evolution. Called The Greatest Hoax on Earth? Refuting Dawkins on evolution, this book could be a great rallying point for believers to refute these nonsensical bans on telling students that God really did create.)

We encourage Australian readers in particular to throw their voices of support behind the Christian schools in this crucial battleground issue.

In the rest of this article, we will simply reproduce without comment a detailed (and we think, very well constructed) formal letter to the New South Wales Minister for Education by Robert Johnston, executive officer of the Australian Association of Christian Schools in response to an official notice by the NSW Board of Studies in June 2009 about the teaching of creationism and intelligent design.

(We thank the author for giving permission to republish this, which as he said to us is already in the public domain. The granting of such permission does not necessarily imply agreement with all of CMI’s stance, nor does our publishing it necessarily imply agreement with all of its contents. One of the good things that is coming out of this governmental pressure is that believers in creation by God are seeing that it is important to stand shoulder to shoulder in this battle where possible.

The reasoning in this formal letter will, we think, be very helpful to many in this conflict, including those in countries where the battlelines are not yet as clearly drawn. We encourage folk to pass this article on widely.)

23rd October 2009

The Hon Verity Firth
Minister for Education
Level 31 Governor Macquarie Tower
1 Farrer Place
SYDNEY NSW 2000

Dear Ms Firth

Formal Submission to Minister for Education
Re the Official Notice 17/09
Advice to Teachers of Science from the Board of Studies

I write on behalf of the member schools of the Australian Association of Christian Schools in NSW concerning the “Official Notice 17/09 – Advice to Teachers of Science” issued over the signature block of the Inspector for Science, Ms Gina Grant.

First, on behalf of our member schools, I want to make it very clear that we are not, and have never been, opposed to the teaching of scientific paradigms/theories/models/ concepts/evidence/hypotheses that might have the effect of challenging the faith perspectives that are distinctive to our schools. Quite the contrary, our schools are very much about encouraging discernment and unwrapping the complex mix of observations, questions, hypotheses, apparent evidence, patterns and data from repeatable experiments, tentative explanations, concrete theories, gaps in evidence, issues of consistency, assumptions, perceptions of objectivity, issues of belief, evidences for belief, etc.

It is not in our interests, nor our students, for these young people to enter the complex, challenging world of their day without knowledge, discernment and skills to weigh all these factors (and many others) and to contribute constructively to debate, the application of scientific data, paradigms, hypotheses and theories and to engage positively and proactively in their dynamic pluralist, globalized society.

It therefore alarms us that the wording of this Official Notice is so unguarded and simplistic and that its implications are so far reaching both for the many faith-based schools that explore these issues in depth and for the cause of genuine scientific enquiry which, we believe, is seriously compromised by this Notice. We note with some confusion and curiosity that the Notice is in direct conflict/tension with statements in the Board’s own Science Syllabus documents.

We therefore call on the Board to withdraw this Notice to allow sufficient time for meaningful consultation with representatives of faith-based education bodies over the concerns that have apparently given rise to the issue of the Official Notice 17/09.

In regard to the specific content of the Notice, we offer the following observations:

1. “extensive consultation with experts in the field” – Having read widely in the field, I am aware that experts from the many different scientific disciplines that contribute evidence to the many models of origins/evolution/etc are far from united in their conclusions. In fact, it is not uncommon to read of serious conflicts between experts from opposing scientific disciplines over the application of evidence and the conclusions drawn.
2. “consistent with accepted scientific knowledge and understanding” – It seems inconceivable that the Board would permit a reference to such a loose authority for the justification of this Notice. While we would acknowledge that the dominant models associated with issues of origins, adaptation, cosmology, etc are evolutionary in nature, it is not fitting for an independent organization that serves both government and non-government schools to appeal to a crude non-scientific measure of opinion – ie “accepted scientific knowledge and understanding” – to justify this Notice. It seems most disconcerting that leaders in the field of science education should compromise the integrity of scientific objectivity and established scientific process by settling on a nonscientific survey of selected experts as evidence for their demands. Surely an appeal to a simple majority in a non-scientific survey is a dangerous precedent for the future of science education.
But it goes further. To dismiss and demean the academic rigour and integrity of those academic scientists who propose a different model from that of the authors of the Notice is one thing. To dismiss, by implication, the evidence on which they rely as irrelevant and unworthy of consideration is tantamount to academic dishonesty. It is certainly playing raw politics with science education – a battle of ideologies and worldviews.
But, finally, this part of the Notice begs an important question: What have the Board and science educators got to fear or hide in taking this step?
3. “Creationism and Intelligent Design are not part of the Board’s Science syllabus” – Christian Schools have, for many years, accepted this position as a reasonable representation of the majority opinion both in society at large and within the science education community. We are not challenging this position nor appealing for an alternative position to be formally incorporated into the NSW Science syllabus. However, many of those in faith-based schools are claiming the right to identify, within their school curricula (whether in science or other disciplines) alternate models for origins and the evidence on which those models draw, keeping in mind that, scientifically, all models and theories must be held provisionally. Philosophically speaking, that’s science!
4. “If taught as part of any school-based program, it must be clear to students that Creationism and Intelligent Design:
  • Are not scientific, nor evidence-based
  • Will not be included in any task … ..
  • Will not be tested in any … examination … ”

One of the main distinctives that differentiates some schools from others is the worldview that is applied and taught in their schools—whether formally or informally.

To say the very least, this demand is both menacing and intrusive. It compromises a basic bipartisan commitment in Australian politics to choice in schooling. The very basis of choice in schooling is that schools must be free to establish their distinctive characteristics. One of the main distinctives that differentiates some schools from others is the worldview that is applied and taught in their schools – whether formally or informally. At the heart of any worldview is a set of beliefs, commitments, assumptions, authorities, values and cultural mores that are consistently applied in the articulation of the world view and reflected in curriculum content, resource selection, the policy framework, preferred pedagogies and selection of staff.
To insist that a BOS syllabus should be the basis of the corresponding curriculum taught in a school is one thing. To intrude into any school-based program is a very dangerous precedent and one that our schools will always strongly oppose.
At this time in the history of education in NSW, almost 40% of those receiving secondary education are attending non-government schools. Around 85% of those students are attending faith-based schools, a great number of which would have profound concerns about the requirements of this part of the Notice.
The very existence of the two paradigms that are the main focus of this Notice (ie Creationism and Intelligent Design) is the product of a body of evidence that invites a response. While accepting that these paradigms may not fully satisfy the demanding criteria of a fully developed scientific theory, there is, without doubt, a substantial body of evidence that constitutes grounds for plausible, if controversial, propositions to be put forward and considered. This is as true of the paradigm of Evolution by chance as it is of Creationism or Intelligent Design.
There is much in all three paradigms that has to remain speculative because no observations were made of the beginnings; none of the speculative theories can be repeatedly tested and proven; there are major gaps in the evidence and even contradictions in evidence.
Notwithstanding these observations, Christian faith-based schools do not demand that the scientific paradigms of Creationism and Intelligent Design be included in formal assessment tasks nor examinations that contribute to the award of the SC or HSC. There are many within our schools who would find the science behind the Creation Science model and the Intelligent Design paradigm less than convincing. We do, however, appeal to the Board to withdraw the offending and dishonest Notice that they “are not scientific, nor evidence based”. That statement is simply indefensible and misrepresents science, logic and truth.
Again, we say that such a statement dismisses and demeans the academic rigour and integrity of those who hold to a different view from those responsible for the wording of the Notice. Again we would say that such a statement is playing raw politics with science education – unbecoming of the leaders in that field to say the least.

In addition to the observations arising from specific content, we also make the following general observations.

5. Any professional scientist who operates in a supervised and peer-reviewed environment that produces data/evidence which invites a response and further investigation is worthy of respect, irrespective of how inconvenient their data may be. Evidence is evidence. By what authority do the authors of the Notice discredit some science and accept other science?
6. Much of education, including science education, is about teaching the skills of weighing evidence and evaluating it in the light of dominant theories and plausible paradigms. However, not only do we teach with an eye towards evidence and scientific method, we also teach with an eye towards other evidence (historical, archaeological, etc), critical thinking, logical argument, statistical correlation, resonance with human experience, consistency with data across disciplines, issues of philosophy and ideology, issues of belief and faith, etc.
The Notice gives the very clear impression that ideological considerations relevant to science education are being elevated above other issues and philosophical considerations relevant to other disciplines within K-10 school education. The implication is clear; perceptions and insights gained in other disciplines must be set aside in favour of an overriding ideology that is declared by edict to be strategically unassailable and therefore protected.
7. Philosophically, what human beings believe will always shape the questions they ask, the hypotheses they propose, the evidence they draw upon, the theories they put forward and the confidence with which they espouse their theories. That’s human experience and it is true for those with non-theistic and anti-theistic beliefs as much as it is for those with theistic beliefs. Sometimes those beliefs cloud our judgments and mask our assumptions and, in such situations, it is possible that inelegant and implausible ideas, theories and propositions will be put forward.
Many within faith-based schools would regard much of the science surrounding the theories of evolution as interesting, though, in their present state of development, as implausible or incomplete or overstated. We reserve the right to critique the theories and to identify the underlying ideologies that potentially mask assumptions that may even underpin the science. We also expect and welcome a constructive critique of other paradigms that we find interesting and even compelling. That’s education. To dismiss such crosscritiquing out of hand by means of an Official Notice in our view demeans science. If evolutionary models are really the best models going around, what has the curriculum committee for Science to fear from those who don’t embrace them with enthusiasm?

Finally, the following observations arise from a reading of the BOS Science syllabus.

8. The BOS K-10 Curriculum Framework, amongst other statements, makes the bold guarantee that the BOS syllabuses are about preparing “all students for effective and responsible participation in their society, taking account of moral, ethical and spiritual considerations” (p5). With respect, how can such a guarantee have any credibility when those who oppose or reject faithbased paradigms (as in Notice 17/09) move to compromise spiritual considerations in the syllabuses and in pedagogy?
9. The Framework also expresses the intention that its syllabuses will “encourage and enable all students to enjoy learning, and to be selfmotivated, reflective, competent learners who will be able to take part in further study, work or training” (p5). The theories of evolution and natural selection have far reaching implications far beyond the disciplines of science alone and, with such high stakes hanging off the theory, it is appropriate, even essential, that the science educator should be required to welcome searching reflection within the class, including an examination of possible ideological assumptions and assertions that underpin theories, inconsistencies in evidence between the contributing disciplines of science, unanswered gaps in evidence in the theories, untestable assumptions and evidence of the irrecoverable past, etc.
The Notice has the effect of undermining confidence in the integrity of available evidence unless it is open to genuine reflective critique, debate and investigation.
10. The Framework claims to promote a fair and just society that values diversity” through its syllabuses and curriculum requirements (p5) yet, in the face of what can only be seen as a perceived threat to the status quo that evolution has enjoyed for decades, the Board of Studies approves the constraint of diversity. Not only is this Notice applicable to Science education in schools, but to any school-based program. Surely this constitutes a serious assault on freedom of expression, belief and religion. (Refer to Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Australia is a signatory.)
11. The Framework claims to want students to “access, analyse, evaluate and use information from a variety of sources(p5). It appears that students and teachers can access, analyse and evaluate information (evidence, data) from any source as long as they don’t call it Creationism or Intelligent Design. Is this a blind spot in the logic of the Notice or a flagrant attempt at censorship of beliefs?
12. Science, it is claimed in the syllabus, “provides opportunities for students to become independent learners and promotes the development of informed attitudes towards science and the environment” (p8). We fail to see how there is any credibility in this statement when so-called informed attitudes towards science are censored and restricted.
13. The study of science is said to provide “opportunities for students to develop the skills of working scientifically by engaging them in thinking critically” (p8). If the published Notice is seriously expected to have the effect of engaging young science students in thinking critically and working scientifically, there is something seriously missing from the Notice. It does precisely the opposite. It removes or compromises an opportunity for critical thinking.
14. If the contribution of philosophy of science has resolved anything, it is that science is an evolving body of knowledge that is always of a provisional nature and consists of scientific explanations that are the meeting place of a complex evidence and ideas. The Board of Studies has seriously departed from this view of science in approving this Notice for publication. Instead, it positions itself to reduce/remove the opportunity to explore the “complex relationship between evidence and ideas.” (p8)

This Notice is primarily about the politics of competing ideologies in science education

Conclusion

This Notice is primarily about the politics of competing ideologies in science education and, in our view, seriously compromises the statutory independence of the Board of Studies. We are already aware of at least one of our member schools being called to account against the measure of this Notice as an apparent condition of its continued registration and accreditation. We therefore call on the Board to:

  • withdraw the Notice;
  • refrain from taking any action against faith-based schools based upon the Notice;
  • enter into serious consultation with representatives of faith-based schools to address any specific concerns that the Board might have in respect of the teaching of the science syllabus in general, and evolution and related theories in particular, in NSW schools.

We would be more than willing to meet with you and/or your representatives to address our concerns should you be prepared to proceed down that path.

Robert Johnston
Executive Officer
Australian Association of Christian Schools


Related Articles

Further Reading

References

  1. www.smh.com.au/national/education/christian-schools-angry-over-ban-on-teaching-creationism-20100302-pgjb.html Return to text.
  2. Stainforth, R.M., Occurrence of pollen and spores in the Roraima Formation of Venezuela and British Guiana, Nature 210(5033):292–294, 1966. Return to text.
  3. Australian Broadcasting Corporation, not to be confused with the US’s ABC. Return to text.
  4. ABC Radio National Breakfast program, http://www.abc.net.au/rn/breakfast/stories/2010/2836050.htm, broadcast 4 March 2010. Return to text.
  5. White, H., U.K. Commons Passes Sex-Ed Bill Forcing Schools to Promote Homosexuality, Abortion, LifeSiteNews, Wednesday February 24, 2010; http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2010/feb/10022403.html Return to text.

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Readers’ comments
Conrad N., Australia, 9 March 2010

Our right to teach our children the truth of the Bible and the evidence behind that truth is a very important topic. Christianity actually compels its adherents to provide reasons for their faith to others who are willing to listen, and to raise their children in the way of the faith, and as such any law opposing that is a restriction on religious, personal and parental freedoms of Christians.

We are seeing similar attacks on all Christian institutions around the world such as Roman Catholic hospitals being pushed to provide pro-death services. The Roman Catholics in the USA have responded by basically saying that they will shut the hospitals down and cripple the health industry if the government keeps pushing this issue. I think that we could learn something from that and organised closures Australia wide in support of any school that is set upon by the government with anti-creationist laws. If we have an Australia wide closure for a couple of days then parents will be forced into action, and the media will pay attention. I like other parents am too busy to bother with fighting such issues until it really starts to affect me. I won’t do anything until it all hits the fan [I admit it], so come on schools, push my buttons and close doors for a while, and then I will be motivated.

If all fails then we will just need to have more “religious education” filled with creationist curriculum and the government will be powerless to stop us because we have labeled it “religious education”.

p.s. I really believe that worldwide leading atheists are feeling the pinch of creationists winning the scientific argument and the current anti-Christian tactics are simply a fear response because they know that their atheist religion is about to go the way of communism, into obscurity.

Andrew E., Australia, 9 March 2010

The answer to this problem is obvious.

If you can’t teach creation or ID in science class then you can teach it in religious classes. Students could have an additional class of Religious instruction which could be devoted to the science of the Bible.

Tas Walker responds

Your suggestion is one response but it is not acceptable. The government directive propagates a wrong understanding of what science is. (Since when do governments decide what scientific hypotheses can and can’t be considered.) It also represents the intrusion of a government sponsored atheistic ideology into the private school sector, either through well-meaning ignorance or as part of a deliberate agenda. The education boards that have issued these policies have stepped outside their sphere of responsibility and should be held to account. These draconian, dark-age directives on the teaching of creationism and intelligent design should be withdrawn, and there should be an investigation into the shortcomings of a system that allowed them to be issued in the first place. If schools do not challenge these intrusions, then don’t think such directives will stop at what is being taught in the science class.

Conrad N., Australia, 9 March 2010

This article prompted me to have a read of the proposed Australian National Education Curriculum that is out for public comment now.

The proposed curriculum starts mandatory indoctrination from grade 7 under the history curriculum starting with Ancient World studies up to “60,000 years ago”.

Then in grade 8 under the science curriculum they start with old-earth “evidences”.

By grade 10 the science curriculum has specific requirements for children to be indoctrinated in

#1 evolution by natural selection,

#4 origins of the universe, and the big bang theory.

It is a concerning thought that this proposed compulsory National Education Curriculum might potentially be forced upon Christian schools and home schooling parents.

What’s to stop the Australian government from then forcing similar sex-education curriculum upon Australian Christians as may be happening in the UK and referred to in CMI’s article: Ref 5.

I went to an Australian state school when I was educated and I can remember in 8th grade at the age of 13, a homosexual man coming to give us sex-ed and telling us about his sexual habits. I don’t want that for my children.

Nor do I want them to be bombarded with evolutionist doctrine without at least the chance in the classroom to also be educated on the failings of the theory and the genuine strengths of opposing views.

If the likes of Richard Dawkins can openly claim that aliens may possibly have planted life on earth (watch the movie Expelled) then how can we be restricted in educating our children on the evidence for intelligent design?

I invite concerned citizens to view and make a submission on the proposed Australian National Education Curriculum at http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/Home by 23 May 2010.

Patrick D., South Africa, 9 March 2010

A very encouraging trend in world politics; it proves that we don’t have long to wait for our Lord’s coming! However, let us fight this trend with all our hearts, and firmly teach our children to believe the whole Bible, and instruct them in the ways of deceit, so that they are not caught off guard as so many of us have been, when they are exposed to the (new) world system.

to dictate educational policy or anything else for that matter?

Bruce B., United Kingdom, 10 March 2010

Thank you for publishing Robert Johnson’s excellent letter. It will not surprise me if it makes absolutely no impression whatsoever on the Minister for Education. The arrogance displayed by that department’s decree surely means that they consider themselves to be above correction by menials! The schools are going to have to fight this one themselves.

A great weakness of the evolution movement is its willingness to try and suppress any contrary opinion. Richard Dawkins used a parliamentary question to try and stop Ken Ham speaking in Gateshead UK in 2002. He failed then-would he now? Prof. Steve Jones has indicated that he considers it to be beneath his dignity to debate the issues of evolution v. creationism with creationists. Such an attitude would suggest that evolutionists lack the courage of their convictions so why should they be allowed

Jim M., Canada, 10 March 2010

How ironic that the name of the Minister ultimately responsible for issuing this edict is “Verity”!

No doubt, if she had lived in Galileo’s time, the edict would have mandated teaching that the earth is the centre of the solar system since “extensive consultation with experts in the field [astronomy]” showed that this was “consistent with accepted scientific knowledge and understanding”, despite the objections of a few well qualified scientists who suggested that the observational evidence was also compatible (perhaps more so) with the sun being the centre of the solar system.

For the same reasons, she might have published edicts at other times forbidding teaching that poor pre-operative hygiene might be responsible for high post-operative infection rates since essentially the entire medical establishment believed otherwise, or forbidding questioning the “law” of spontaneous generation for which experimental evidence had been presented and which was an article of faith with many biologists until as late as 1859 … or any number of other things.

How sad it is when those with power over the education of children insist on teaching them what to think rather than how to think.

Here in Canada, things have deteriorated to the point where the official directions from the Provincial (=State) Government for the course of study for high school biology include the following:

Specific Outcomes for Knowledge

  • compare Lamarckian and Darwinian explanations of evolutionary change
  • summarize and describe lines of evidence to support the evolution of modern species from ancestral forms; i.e., the fossil record, Earth’s history, biogeography, homologous and analogous structures, embryology, biochemistry
  • describe modern evolutionary theories; i.e., punctuated equilibrium, gradualism

Specific Outcomes for Science, Technology and Society (STS) (Nature of Science Emphasis)

  • discuss the nature of science as a way of knowing (contributions of Buffon, Lyell, Malthus and Wallace to evolution … )

Specific Outcomes for Skills

Students will:

  • conduct investigations into relationships between and among observable variables and use a broad range of tools and techniques to gather and record data and information
  • gather data, actual or simulated, on organisms to demonstrate how inherited characteristics change over time, as illustrated by Darwin’s finches, peppered moths, bacteria and domesticated plants and animals [emphasis added]
  • analyze data, actual or simulated, on plants and animals to demonstrate how morphology changes over time; e.g., Darwin’s finches, peppered moths, bacteria, domesticated plants or animals [emphasis added]”

Note that evolution is just assumed to be correct and everything is arranged to support this – including the use of simulated data!

Kudos to Robert Johnson for resisting this and to CMI for continuing to provide an outstanding source of information on this topic.

Jim M., PhD

Julie B., Australia, 10 March 2010

Reading this article makes me sick:

“If taught as part of any school-based program, it must be clear to students that Creationism and Intelligent Design: Are not scientific, nor evidence-based”.

I come from a family of scientists (my parents both being science teachers) in addition to my own science qualifications, and the blatant falsehood of this statement borders on the unbelievable.

That statement is a lie, that even an honest atheist cannot agree with. I have a daughter who is only a few years off reaching high school and it worries me greatly that the money I have invested in sending her to a good school is going to be lost by her school being forced to teach a lie—a lie that not only goes against her religion, but a lie that goes against science and logic—a lie that the education authorities must know is a lie (for if they are that uneducated in science themselves to not know it is a lie, they have no business making decisions about science education).

Robert G., Australia, 10 March 2010

A disturbing state of affairs to say the least! I disagree about one aspect though, it’s not a case of religious freedom but intellectual freedom. By mandating the acceptability of one aspect of scientific/pseudoscientific thought be it evolution or for an older example of a controversy, light as a particle, intellectual freedom is challenged. This is censorship at its worst

Also while Tas may rightly criticise Andrew E for splitting Creationism to an RE class and evolution to a science class the SA government does not as yet control RE correct? That being the case why not have an RE class looking at evolution, creation, ID and all other scientific, pseudoscientific and other origin science theories. It may not be assessable but what’s more important knowledge or paper results? Of course this only works if the SA government doesn’t mandate the content of science classes.

James P., Australia, 10 March 2010

I hope that we are able to get Creationism/Intelligent Design taught in our schools … That way we can then start opening our children up to other truths such as the Flying Spaghetti Monster…

Kevin C., Guinea-Bissau, 11 March 2010
“does not accept as satisfactory a science curriculum in a non-government school which is based on, espouses or reflects the literal interpretation of a religious text in its treatment of either creationism or intelligent design.”

A science curriculum based on what would be acceptable or satisfactory? A curriculum based on ideas about the earth being in the realm of millions or billions of year old (with what to support it?) and that life evolved from a non living mixture of chemicals; despite evidence showing that a Creator is much more likely?

To be just, there could have been an comparison of students who graduated from schools where Creation and a Creator are taught with students who graduated from schools where they are not. What would the minister of Education claim is lacking or wrong with those graduating from Christian schools? I would be certain that those from Christian schools would be more open minded to a broader range of possibilities in considering any scientific questions, would live within a society with less problems and generally make the world a better place.

In schools in the U.S., for example, the great decline in moral values and increase in anti social behaviour corresponds clearly with the removal of prayer and the Bible from the classroom.

Science observes, describes and attempts to answer questions such as ‘why?’. Science does not begin by saying that one possible explanation (especially one that fits the observed data very well) should be excluded at the beginning.

Aaron D., Australia, 16 March 2010

This really gets me angry. I removed my children from the state system in South Australia because they wouldn’t protect them from predatory students. Now they want to ruin my choice of school as well with their bigoted views. I personally think that we need to separate state from religion and get atheism and humanism out of our school system. If they want to teach evolution then let them do it in their own faith based schools. I will be making this a point for my electoral candidates this week. I only wish I saw this article before I attended a forum with our electoral candidates on the weekend.

Parents don’t wait for the schools to do anything. Act now. Our school hasn’t considered this important enough to advise us of.

Rodney H., Australia, 16 March 2010

Let us not be intimidated by those who have assumed authority over the education of this and future generations. If we remain silent, we are agreeing to what has been done. If we do not send submissions regarding the Federal proposals to National Curriculum, we are accepting what is proposed without change. We are called to be vigilant, we are without excuse.

Philip Z., Australia, 17 March 2010

Just a cursory glance suggests that there may be play within the words “based on, espouses or reflects”. It appears to me that a science curriculum that teaches evolution warts and all but does make mention of where peer-reviewed evidence supports design is not based on, espousing or reflecting design unless the teacher then draws the conclusions for the students. If for instance a teacher presents a paper pointing out that comparative embryology has been discredited, the teacher is not espousing creationism but teaching critical thinking. The same is true if the teacher presents peer-reviewed science supporting a young age for something that a text says is much older.

If however the teacher brings out material that has not been peer-reviewed to support their argument, only presents contrarian arguments or uses the example of a wrong age to extrapolate that therefore all long age estimates are false and the Biblical account must be correct, they can’t use science as a defence because they’re not being scientific and should not really be teaching that way regardless of the legislation. The first teacher however is protected by the scientific method-anyone that attacks them has to take on science itself as they are using peer-reviewed science in a scientific manner.

The onus here is on both the teachers to use the scientific method properly, and on the scientists to provide a reliable source of peer-reviewed science. CMI could play a valuable role here in resourcing teachers with the peer-reviewed evidence that is available.

Unfortunately ‘in-house’ peer review such as the Creation Journal will be unlikely to cut it as a defence, but with a little work many articles published in this journal could just as well be published in a secular journal.

Peter B., New Zealand, 17 March 2010

I wouldn’t worry too much. The first case that gets to a court room will cause so much negative publicity for the government and so much exposure for true (non evolutionary) science in the media that the enemies might back off. However I am happy that I live and teach in New Zealand where we are able to scientifically show evolution for what it is and use CMI resources in our science classes.

Editor:When Peter B. received an acknowledgement of his above comment from CMI’s Dr Jonathan Sarfati (they knew each other from school chess competitions many years ago), Peter provided this further comment on 19 March:

I want to congratulate you on the work you have done, and the Lord willing, you may continue to do. Never give up!!! Richard Dawkins is smart enough to know to be afraid of you as he evades the real issues of the direction of information change and chemical equilibria directions with peptides / amino acids, etc. He will be a creationist one day (there are no atheists in hell) but I fear he has dug himself into such a hole that he may even be more willing to perish forever rather than publically admit the truth. You are fighting against the corrupt nature of natural man that seeks comfort zones to avoid the issue of an all-knowing God to whom we all are accountable. Your books and DVDs have been extremely valuable to me as a biology/physics/chemistry teacher, and also as principal of an integrated Christian school in NZ. Local biology teachers and even education officials have backed off from me when I have presented the very arguments I have gleaned from your work, including pointing out to them the arguments that creationists do not (or at least should not) use.

Noeleen G., New Zealand, 18 March 2010

To quote Churchill….

If you will not fight for what is right when you can easily win without bloodshed; if you will not fight when your victory is sure and not to costly; you may come to the moment when you have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. there may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves.

I don’t think I need to add to this.

ps. Thanks CMI I am always spurred on by you.

Dianne P., United States, 18 March 2010

Tas Walker is exactly right!

Heather W., Canada, 18 March 2010

I just want to encourage all of you out there that believe in and keep fighting for the truth of a literal creation. I am a university student and every day I am thankful for the biblical worldview my parent gave me. They also taught creation as fact with the help of CMI (then called Answers in Genesis). We are force fed evolution here every day. I see so many purposeless, confused, lost people with no ‘rudder’ to help them steer in the ‘wind’ of ignorant opinion. I live in dorm and when we get into theological debates it always comes back to creation/evolution. I find many of the science students are more open since they can see the incredible, impossible, complexity of our world, but haven’t been utterly indoctrinated in evolution (relatively). The arts students are a bit more difficult since their understanding of the sciences is limited but they don’t know how little they know. I pray you are successful in getting that decision reversed. Anyway, keep up the good fight. We aren’t just fighting for freedom, and a healthy society, but for the eternity of a truly lost generation.

Ken C., Canada, 18 March 2010

This is the downward and backward trend or the slippery slope for the word “Choice” to exist in the dictionary much longer. We will NOT be allowed to THINK because we will be TOLD what to believe. They are the ‘bullies’ who are in FEAR of choice. THEY want control. But ‘bullies’ will always exist.

James H., Australia, 18 March 2010

Considering the type of people now emerging from “secular humanist” state schools (criminal psychopaths and sociopathic misfits!), it would seem that any government would be glad to have students taught something that would go some way to negate this sort of mind-set!

If teaching “science” (falsely so called!) produces such large crops of soul-less degenerates, then, who needs it?

Christians shouldn’t take this “lying down”….they now have considerable political clout in this country and both the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister must pay attention to them (probably one reason why the recent “atheism conference” in Melbourne received not a “zack” of government funding)!

Kim G., Australia, 18 March 2010

Having done religious education (R.E or scripture as it was once known as) for seven years in a Government primary School, I soon discovered if children ask you a legitimate question about the Bibles version of creation, and then they ask why it is different to what the Teacher says. Your best efforts are usually interrupted by the Teacher who is there to control your class, as to the unscientific nature of the Bible. When you do present your scientific response … somehow you end up at the Principal’s office being told that you must only teach what is in the Bible and not Teach science related subjects.

I found a way to counter this by asking the child to write down the question and place their name on the top and you would return the answer the following week. This had several benefits. Firstly … no interjection from the Teacher … secondly both the question and your reply were stapled together, the students would dutifully take this home with them to read, so their parents were also reading the question and answer, therefore there was no possible misunderstanding of what had been asked or answered. This helped reduce conflicts with Parents as to “what little Jimmy had been told and we are taking him out of scripture” situations … thirdly I could spend more time answering the question in detail than I could in the classroom and so I was able to complete each scripture lesson in the time allocated and because I could spend more time with the answer I could keep it simple enough for the student to understand, but make it tinted enough with scientific evidence that the Parent would get the message as well.

It was a great tactic and resulted in the turn around of many students to place faith in God. The Teachers were unable to prevent me from using this teaching system and could only rely on the odd comments from parents about how their children loved scripture and why. After about two years Teachers tried other tactics such as confining me to one room to teach and always making the classes late, so that there wasn’t enough time to teach the lesson. But when that didn’t work they changed the Scripture classes to the end of each day when they knew the students were tired and distracted and only thinking of leaving for home. One other tactic was to reduce scripture from one hour to 30 minute blocks.

I continued to request questions to be written at the end of the lesson regardless of where it finished. I must warn you though, be prepared to put in a lot of work, I would have three classes a week and would always get at least ten questions from each class … many are the same ones! such as “Where did God come from” so I would type my answers and save them, so I could save time by just reprinting them … I do miss doing those classes, but If it were not for the information that I would get from CMI, it would have been a hard slog. If this blog has inspired you, then give thanks by continuing to support this ministry, because they are turning the tide on a vital issue of importance to our faith.

Damien C., Australia, 18 March 2010

Two words: 1) Goulburn, 2) 1962

Bruce B., Australia, 20 March 2010

Irrespective of people’s views on creationism or intelligent design, a science course teaching evolution is surely incomplete without at least explaining that many people (including some scientists) hold a very different view—and what that view is.

Fiona S., Australia, 20 March 2010

As a science teacher, I would REALLY love a petition, or series of letters, to go forth from parents/ children/teachers to Ms Firth requesting that the ‘creation’ version of the start of everything be taught in all state schools, especially with the overwhelming scientific evidence supporting it (thanks mostly to CMI for its easy to follow documentation).

Bruce W., Australia, 21 March 2010

It is obvious that creationism is not a science and should not be taught in science classes. Religious classes fine.

If you allow this biblical creationism into science classes you should also allow all other religions creation myths.

Glenys W., Australia, 22 March 2010

I will always believe in Creation & that God created this world & us.

Helen E., Australia, 26 March 2010

I thank Mr Robert Johnston for his letter and CMI for bringing this to our attention. I have one further question in relation to the “extensive consultation with experts in the field” for Ms Gina Grant. “Who are these experts, how many of them were involved.” Further consultation and community feedback is imperative.

Colin R., Australia, 28 March 2010

I find this edict incredible, particularly since the state science syllabus is seriously flawed, even from an evolutionary point of view. The NSW syllabus (like the Canadian syllabus described by Jim M. on March 10) mandates (among other things) the teaching of recapitulative embryology (i.e. Haeckel’s embryos drawings) and pepper moths—both myths that were exploded by evolutionary scientists years ago.

My own sons were in Year 10 (NSW SC) in a state school last year. The evolutionary component was properly introduced as a theory, and they were told that there were other ideas, and that evolution had not been proved … So far so good. Then they received their first assignment—write a paper showing 5 proofs of evolution! On reviewing the papers, a number of “proofs” were presented by the teacher. Among them were Haeckel’s embryos and the peppered moths!

I later met with the head of school science faculty, and made the point that while recognizing that as a government school, they had to teach evolution, that I objected to the children being taught “evidences” that even evolutionary science had rejected decades ago … To which she replied, we have to teach what’s in the curriculum—and that these “evidences” were in the curriculum.

When the proponents of atheistic philosophies in science find it necessary to include “evidences” proven to be faked up to bolster their position with children, because it looks persuasive, it ceases to be science and becomes brainwashing. I object!

John F., New Zealand, 29 March 2010

Sir Isaac Newton was a Creation Scientist. Therefore, he was not a real scientist. It follows, then, that the scientists who use Newtonian science (e.g. Dawkins) are not real scientists. So, what do they know about real science?

Phil E., Australia, 7 July 2010

Bruce W., Australia, 21 March 2010:

“If you allow this biblical creationism into science classes you should also allow all other religions creation myths.”

Ah! Hello Bruce!

We have a myth that is rammed down our throats every day and everywhere: it is the one about a pile of slime creating itself out of nothing—into a Universe that arrived via a big bang!—and then this slime transformed via incredible leaps and bounds, such that there is no evidence whatsoever that any of it happened!—and we are expected to believe it—fund it’s propagation-support the priests who propagate it—and curse any who challenge it!

Now that is some religious belief system!!!?

peter B., Australia, 15 October 2012

my son is at a baptist christian school that teaches creation as though it is part of the nsw curriculum.how could he do biology in hsc and then move to university with this backward thinking.it seems we are not keeping up with science.by 200 years.

Tas Walker responds

If both creation and evolution are taught properly in the science class school students would be better equipped than students who were only taught evolution. See "I seem to know more than my teachers".

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