UK Government petitioned over origins teaching in schools
Published: 12 October 2007 (GMT+10)
A recent petition, submitted to the UK Government, requested the Prime Minister to:
‘continue the support for faith schools and to ensure that in all schools the teaching of traditional “faith” views of origins is included alongside the more recent scientific “theories” which many scientists “believe”.’1
The Government’s response included:
‘There is scope for pupils to discuss the origins of the Earth and living things in religious education lessons, including different traditional faith views of how the world began,’
‘Evolution is a scientific theory.’
While some Christians might have been heartened at this, although others would rather separate school and state altogether and question whether neutrality is possible (see also CMI’s position on teaching creation in schools), we note in the reply that
- the ‘religious education’ vs ‘science’ categorization is being maintained, i.e. the Government is saying that there is a place to discuss ‘the origins of the Earth and living things’ from a biblical perspective but that the place to discuss it is in ‘religious education lessons’ (i.e. not in science class); and
- the term ‘theory’ is being used in the sense of meaning ‘accepted knowledge’ (rather than ‘an idea’), as the Government’s reply went on to make clear: ‘As part of the science curriculum, pupils learn about scientific theories as established bodies of scientific knowledge with extensive supporting evidence, and how evidence can form the basis for experimentation to test hypotheses.’
We would counsel Christians against using the ‘Evolution is just a theory’ argument (as we have done on this website already—see Arguments we think creationists should NOT use). When well-meaning Christians say ‘Evolution is just a theory’, what they actually mean is ‘Evolution is not proven fact, so it should not be promoted dogmatically.’ Therefore it would be much better for them to say that.
The problem with using the word ‘theory’ in this case is that scientists use it to mean a well-substantiated explanation of data. This includes well-known ones such as Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and Newton’s Theory of Gravity, and lesser-known ones such as the Debye–Hückel Theory of electrolyte solutions and the Deryagin–Landau/Verwey–Overbeek (DLVO) theory of the stability of lyophobic sols, etc.
Therefore it would be far better for Christians to say that particles-to-people evolution is an unsubstantiated hypothesis or conjecture.
As for the ‘religious education’ versus ‘science’ categorization, this is strategically tolerable to the atheist lobby (though they would likely prefer to ban all ‘religious education’ from schools altogether) because it leaves the public with the erroneous perception that it’s the ‘Bible versus science’. This danger was recognized over 100 years ago by the Scots theologian James Denney:
‘The separation of the religious and the scientific means in the end the separation of the religious and the true; and this means that religion dies among true men.’ [Studies in Theology, London, 1894, p.15]
However, the fact is that the Bible has no dispute with operational science, i.e. the real science that put men on the moon, cures diseases, builds technology etc. Rather, the dispute is with a false claim about history that masquerades as science, purporting to show that things made themselves without God.
‘Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today.’