Michael Reiss Steps Down

Michael Reiss has stepped down from his post as director of education at the Royal Society. This follows the controversy over his remarks about creationism in science lessons last week. I think he’s right to go as having an ordained minister in such an important role in the Royal Society is pretty silly. I agree completely with Richard Dawkins, who described it as “a Monty Python sketch“.

I’m slightly worried, however, that some of Reiss’s real message has been lost in the furore over what he said. Nowhere did he actually call for creationism to be taught in science classes – and that’s what many of his critics seem to be claiming. What he actually said was that teachers should be ready to discuss creationism when students bring it up in the classroom. He goes a bit wobbly here, saying that creationism should be seen “not as a misconception but as a world view”. This is obviously nonsense. A science teacher should be willing and able to show up creationism as the nonsense that it is whenever it is mentioned in the classroom.

And here’s where the current situation is letting children down. As in so many other areas of life, religion is given too much respect. Teachers are wary of discussing it as it is seen as disrepectful to question the children’s beliefs. Well, of course it’s disrespectful. But creationism doesn’t deserve any respect. Creationism is nonsense. Letting these ridiculous ideas go unquestioned is ultimately more harmful to society than confronting them and showing children exactly why they are nonsense.

To paraphrase a comment I saw on Comment is Free last week[1] – “intelligent, honest, creationist; pick any two”.

[1] And can’t now find, or I’d credit the author.

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