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End bad science and discrimination in education policies

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Published: 23 January 2014 (GMT+10)
Composed from 123rf.com/Sutisa Kangvansap 7950-creation-chalkboard

In October 2013 we drew attention to a new education policy about creation and intelligent design published by Education Queensland, Australia, for government schools. That policy said that Education Queensland does not recognize creationism and intelligent design as scientific theory and that creationism or intelligent design is not to be compared with or evaluated against scientific theory.

This is not an issue that is confined to Queensland but a global one. Special-interest groups use the same strategy globally to pressure governments to engage in discriminatory censorship within schools (e.g. see Further restrictive legislation to keep Creation out of UK state-funded schools).

Our report, which generated considerable discussion, showed that this Education-Queensland policy was ambiguous and confusing, discriminatory, scientifically flawed, educationally faulty, and effectively had the state imposing one particular belief system in their schools. A number of people contacted the Minister for Education expressing concern at the policy and asking for it to be rescinded.

Science text books use the word evolution in two different ways, and this ambiguity is the cause of much confusion.

One who wrote sent me the response they received from the Minister’s Office, the main part of which is reproduced here.

You may have noted that the fact sheet is currently unavailable on the Department’s website. The Queensland Studies Authority (QSA) is responsible for curriculum policy, review and development for all Queensland schools and my Department is working with QSA to determine whether its site would be the most appropriate location to host information regarding creationism and intelligent design.

All Australian Education Ministers have agreed to implement the F-10 Australian Curriculum: Science and Queensland schools have been doing so since 2012. In Years 11 and 12, students can select from the QSA senior science syllabuses. These documents support the teaching of scientifically-proven theories of evolution and do not include references to creationism or intelligent design. You may wish to contact QSA for further information by telephone on 38640299 or by email at office@qsa.qld.edu.au.

This position is supported by the Australian Academy of Science and the Australian Science Teachers Associations. Both maintain that creationism is not a valid scientific theory, chiefly because it is unable to be tested by experiment or observation and modified on the basis of evidence.

As well as providing opportunities for students to develop an understanding of science concepts like evolution, the Australian Curriculum: Science includes an explicit focus on questioning, investigating, processing data and evaluating the quality of available evidence and the merit or significance of claims about scientific phenomena.

This response shows that the worldview issues and belief systems involved are still not appreciated. I respond to the letter point-by-point below.

You may have noted that the fact sheet is currently unavailable on the Department’s website.

Good.

iStockphoto end-bad-science
The Queensland Studies Authority (QSA) is responsible for curriculum policy, review and development for all Queensland schools and my Department is working with QSA to determine whether its site would be the most appropriate location to host information regarding creationism and intelligent design.

The policy presented on that Fact-Sheet is inappropriate as an educational policy and should not be hosted on any government site. The policy is ambiguous, confusing, discriminatory, scientifically flawed, educationally faulty, and has the effect of mandating a state-sponsored religious worldview in government schools.

All Australian Education Ministers have agreed to implement the F-10 Australian Curriculum: Science and Queensland schools have been doing so since 2012. In Years 11 and 12, students can select from the QSA senior science syllabuses. These documents support the teaching of scientifically-proven theories of evolution …

As I have said, the policy is ambiguous and confusing. It is first necessary to define what is meant by evolution. Science text books use the word evolution in two different ways, and this ambiguity is the cause of much confusion and the problem raised by the Fact-Sheet. Evolution, the worldview, as presented in school text books, claims that molecules turned into people by natural processes over billions of years (see They are Teaching Lies to Our Kids). This is a belief system about the nature of the world and of reality. It is a philosophical/metaphysical worldview. It is not a proven scientific theory. In fact, the scientific evidence accumulating is becoming more and more an obstacle to the idea that evolution could possibly be true. Some scientists even claim that this evolutionary belief has been falsified (see for example Plant geneticist: Darwinian evolution is impossible ).

… and do not include references to creationism or intelligent design.
It’s like asking the Atheist Association for advice on whether the Bible is true.

The fact that these documents exclude reference to creationism or intelligent design demonstrates that in their present form they are biased and educationally flawed. To mandate the teaching of the evolutionist worldview (i.e. molecules-to-man, naturalism, no God involved), and deny students information on the problems, contradictions and unknowns of that worldview would be educationally irresponsible. To prohibit discussion of alternative possibilities to one particular view of the world would be discriminatory and overstep the role of government in a pluralistic democracy.

You may wish to contact QSA for further information by telephone on 38640299 or by email at office@qsa.qld.edu.au.

This is an issue that should be of concern to the Minister and his Office and they should ensure that this particular policy does not see the light of day.

stock.xchng classroom
This position is supported by the Australian Academy of Science and the Australian Science Teachers Associations.

This is a bigger issue than can be settled by reference to such associations. It’s like asking the Atheist Association for advice on whether the Bible is true. Most members of these associations would be people who believe in the evolutionist, materialist philosophy. They probably have not seriously considered alternative scientific views, and would not appreciate others raising or discussing alternatives. Usually a minority of the members of these organizations are convinced of creation and intelligent design, and believe they are useful scientific concepts.

The policies of these organizations would normally be adopted by its office-bearers in their committee meetings. Members are not usually canvassed, and, even if they were, minority views on this issue would not be represented respectfully. The committees are composed of people who have particular beliefs about God, the Bible, and Christianity, and these beliefs influence their policies.

Some of these associations can be zealous in promoting anti-theistic beliefs, as is documented in the video Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. In fact, the Fact-Sheet policy in question is a classic example of the sort of discriminatory behaviour documented in Expelled.

It is risky for government to rely on advice from these associations on curriculum issues when there are worldview implications involved. It is inappropriate for government to impose the evolutionist, materialist worldview on the children in its schools, and to give that worldview a privileged monopoly.

Both maintain that creationism is not a valid scientific theory, chiefly because it is unable to be tested by experiment or observation and modified on the basis of evidence.

Their view that creation is not a valid scientific theory is really just an expression of their personal beliefs. Government needs to consult more widely.

Evolutionists will complain that you can’t teach creation because it cannot be tested. Then they will say that you can’t teach creation because it has been tested and shown to be wrong. In other words, they contradict themselves.

Any contrary observation will simply be absorbed into the evolutionist worldview by changing details of the evolutionary story.

The fact is that the evolution worldview cannot be tested by experiment or observation. Any contrary observation will simply be absorbed into the evolutionist worldview by changing details of the evolutionary story. Like all worldviews, it cannot be falsified. It’s the same with the creation worldview. Contrary to what is stated, creation scientific models will be modified on the basis of new evidence and observations, so the reason given in the letter is wrong. Creation models and evidence are debated and discussed in peer-reviewed creation journals (such as Journal of Creation, and others). So, if Education Queensland were to decide to ban creationism because it cannot be tested, then to be consistent they should ban evolutionism too.

What needs to be appreciated is that the worldviews of evolution and creation are meta-narrative frameworks that scientists use in order to interpret the evidence. Creation scientific models within the creation worldview can be tested by experiment and observation. There are innumerable examples, but the work creation scientists are doing in the field of genetics is especially interesting (see The non-mythical Adam and Eve).

Government needs to seek a broader perspective of the community’s views. They should not rely on the views of one or two specialist associations that are biased via the sorts of people who are members, and biased in the way they formulate their policies, in a way which may well not reflect the society at large. When canvassed without ‘loaded’ questions, it is more likely than not that Australian respondents, for instance, would support a policy of discussion and critical evaluation of models within competing worldviews.

As well as providing opportunities for students to develop an understanding of science concepts like evolution, the Australian Curriculum: Science includes an explicit focus on questioning, investigating, processing data and evaluating the quality of available evidence and the merit or significance of claims about scientific phenomena.

Indeed, scientific inquiry is all about questioning, investigating, processing data and evaluating evidence. And that is why the Fact-Sheet policy is so educationally and scientifically inappropriate. (And if the Fact-Sheet policy is indicative of the approach of the New Australian Curriculum, then there is a bigger problem in the New Curriculum that needs to be rectified.)

Evolution (microbes to man over billions of years) as presented in science text books and in the National Curriculum is a worldview issue. It makes statements about the past that are ultimately based, not on repeatable observations, but on beliefs. The evolutionary worldview needs to be addressed appropriately in schools so that students appreciate its implications, and are encouraged to question, investigate, process data and evaluate the quality of available evidence.

When it comes to the big questions of life, such as where did I come from, why am I here, and where am I going, our children and their families deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. There has been a long tradition in western democracies, established by struggle and blood, that that government does not use its power and resources to push one particular belief system on its citizens at the expense of others. The evolutionary worldview claims that everything came into existence by itself by natural processes over millions of years. It says God was not involved. We should not be withholding information from our children on these issues. We owe it to our children to provide them with the opportunity to properly consider the evolutionary creation story they encounter in their science text books, and come to an informed decision for themselves.

Helpful Resources

Refuting Evolution
by Jonathan Sarfati
US $12.00
Soft Cover
The Greatest Hoax on Earth?
by Dr Jonathan Sarfati
US $16.00
Soft Cover