It is beyond my ken that anyone can seriously argue that there is a modern scientific basis to the bible or any of the other religious texts that are at least hundreds of years old. I can appreciate those tomes as sources for social history, as guides to anthropological development or steps to a modern moral framework.
Although I have no faith I can grasp that the religious can cherry-pick stories for as virtuous examples or they can treat the texts as allegorical. They can even try to extract a modern context from the ancient writings that gives some support to their belief. What they cannot do is pass those superstitious legends as an accurate historical record or a scientific truth!
This point is so much more important when it comes to the teaching of the young. In UK state schools there is a proper scientific curriculum that is compulsory. As I have blogged before there are schools backed by churches but these, in the main, exist as part of that state system and so are under a certain amount of local government control. For example I am undertaking a schools project for 30 primary (elementary) schools and five are “church” schools, two Catholic, two Church of England and one Methodist; all are under local council control. All these schools must follow the National Curriculum and keep religion out of science classes.
Now in the UK we are setting up state-funded schools that do not have this control. Free schools are Government-funded, state schools, but outside local authority control, so enjoying a degree of independence. The idea is that Free Schools are set up in response to real demand within a local area for a greater variety of schools. Some of that demand has come from religious fundamentalists who object to the regulations placed on their “teaching” by the local authorities. The guidance from the government specifies faith groups as one type of organisation that might want to establish such a school.
The British Humanist Association recognised that the independence given to Free Schools could open the door to lessons that dismissed science in favour of the pseudo-science favoured by some religious groups. These schools would not have to follow the National Curriculum but just have a “broad-based” teaching pattern.
The BHA and other organisations with the support of leading scientists such as Sir David Attenborough, Professor Richard Dawkins and Professor Michael Reiss promoted “Teach evolution, not creationism!” The campaign called on the government to introduce statutory guidance against the teaching of creationism. The BHA also launched a government petition making the same point and championed a Parliamentary motion that was well supported.
The campaign pointed out, “creationism and ‘intelligent design’ are not scientific theories, but they are portrayed as scientific theories by some religious fundamentalists who attempt to have their views promoted in publicly-funded schools. There should be enforceable statutory guidance that they may not be presented as scientific theories in any publicly-funded school of whatever type.”
A few days ago the Department for Education introduced a new revision of the model funding agreement for Free Schools by the Government in order to preclude ‘the teaching, as an evidence-based view or theory, of any view or theory that is contrary to established scientific and/or historical evidence and explanations.’
Effectively this highly significant change has been made in order to ban creationism from being taught in Free Schools, and prevent creationist groups from opening schools. Having backed the campaign I tweeted about the change and got a response from a prospective school only five miles from those I deal with.
Well I think differently because I know he is a “wingnut”. I also think the change to the agreement for Free Schools is vital to allow children to be free of the religious brain-washing that amounts to abuse. Whether schools such as the one in Sheffield will be established under the regulations is one question now there are these restrictions. A second is whether any wingnuttery will be picked up under the inspection regime if the schools are set up.