Scotland Refuses To Ban Creationism

We have news from Scotland where, as you know, the government has been considering a petition of the Scottish Secular Society (SSS) to ban teaching creationism in government school science classes. Specifically, they want Education Secretary Mike Russell to issue guidance to publicly-funded schools and colleges to prevent the teaching of creationism and related doctrines as viable alternatives to established science.

Today we have news of the result. The HeraldScotland of Cambuslang, just outside Glasgow, has this story: Schools creationism ban rejected by Scottish Government. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

The Scottish Secular Society (SSS) criticised the response to its petition with the Scottish Parliament calling for new government guidance on the issue in publicly funded schools. The society believes schools should not be allowed to present the belief that the universe originates from acts of divine creation as a viable alternative to established science. The SSS petition was lodged after it emerged members of a US pro-creationist religious sect had been working as classroom assistants at a primary school in East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire.

We wrote about that situation in East Kilbride last year — see Creationism in Scotland — Update. Back to the news story:

Tim Simons, Head of Curriculum Unit at the Scottish Government’s Learning Directorate, has written to the parliament’s petitions committee that there are no plans to introduce ban guidance called for by the SSS. Mr Simmons said: “I can (therefore) confirm that there are no plans to issue guidance to schools or education authorities to prevent the presentation of creationism, intelligent design or similar doctrines by teachers or school visitors. The evidence available suggests that guidance on these matters is unnecessary.”

Yeah, unnecessary. One should be wary of any government agency that calls itself the Learning Directorate. He also said:

: “I can confirm that there are a number of policies and safeguards in place to ensure that children and young people receive a broad and balanced general education. Safeguards include; school managers having oversight of curriculum planning and resources; local authorities with robust complaints procedures, independent school inspections and the development of curriculum materials through a collegiate approach that provides for early identification of any inappropriate material.”

Everything’s under control in Scotland. No worries! Let’s read on:

The SSS said it is “deeply disappointed by the Scottish Government’s response to evidence presented to the Public Petitions Committee”. Spencer Fildes, Chair of the SSS responded to the submission: “The Scottish Government has responded with what they claim are workable ‘safeguards’ that are already in place, yet we have presented clear evidence to the contrary.”

One last excerpt:

Professor Paul Braterman, co-petitioner, said: “This language blurs the crucial distinction, built into the wording of our own petition, between learning about creationist worldviews, and being taught that such worldviews are tenable. The SSS fear this will bring Scottish education into disrepute.”

So there you are, lads and lassies. Will the resulting drool engulf Scotland? Egad — there’s nothing worse than drool-soaked haggis. We’ll have to wait for further developments.

We note, however, that this is a good lesson about centralized government control of education (or anything else). One can never be certain that the right people will be running things — but one can always be certain that the wrong people will be grasping for control. Decentralization is sloppy, but it has its virtues.

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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20 responses to “Scotland Refuses To Ban Creationism

  1. As I said on Paul Braterman’s blog, it’s embarrassing to be a Scot right now.

    this is a good lesson about centralized government control of education (or anything else). One can never be certain that the right people will be running things — but one can always be certain that the wrong people will be grasping for control. Decentralization is sloppy, but it has its virtues.

    I think the problem is the other way round. Russell and Simons are effectively decentralizing the issue, by leaving it up to schools to make their own judgement; the East Kilbride case exemplifies why that’s a stupid approach. What’s needed is for centralized government to take a firm stand on the issue.

    And we’re so lucky here to have decentralization of education to states like Texas, where they can be trusted to make all the right decisions about teaching evolution . . .

  2. I wouldn’t support an outright legal ban on teaching creationism, though I strongly support efforts to keep it out via school curricular standards.

    A legal ban would allow creationists to pay the persecuted-victim game even more than they already do.

  3. There is a sad irony to having creationism taught in Scotland, of all places. A number of key geological discoveries in the British Isles led to the realization that the earth is far older than Genesis says it is. In particular, the analysis of rock formations at Siccar Point on Scotland’s east coast (one of Hutton’s unconformities), helped debunk the fairy tale of Noah and the great flood.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siccar_Point

  4. Maybe scientific literacy is higher in Scotland than in the US. If so, it would be much easier to mock the illiteracy and ignorance of the ID/creationists so that they couldn’t play the “religious persecution” card.

    Given the general scientific illiteracy in the US, it is much easier for ID/creationists to drag the “debate” onto their territory using their misconceptions and misrepresentations of science. They can then claim that people who reject their assertions are so determined to reject their deity that they refuse to acknowledge what is wrong with science; which is, of course, ID/creationist pseudoscience.

    They can’t get away with that ruse among people who know the real science.

  5. Whether they allow creationism or not is not the main problem.
    As an X-teacher I can see many ways of using them as a good teaching tool.
    The real problem happens when you show that creationism is pure BS and the little Johnny xtian cries to his mom & dad and they try to get you fired which wont be hard as the principle is also a raving xtian too and getting a person fired is very easy. So teachers (many of them xtians) will not dare to treat the info with the disdain it deserves.

  6. SC said: “there’s nothing worse than drool-soaked haggis”
    I don’t know. I’ve had some “food” in east Asia that might qualify for that distinction.

  7. OK — what product is Scotland famous for worldwide? Right! Scotch whiskey. As much as it pains me to do this, I shall have to boycott Scotch whiskey until the Scottish government chooses to honor the Scottish Enlightenment.

    Henceforth, it shall be either bourbon or Jack Daniels.

  8. Henceforth, it shall be either bourbon or Jack Daniels.

    Uh, wait; aren’t these associated primarily with the American South?

  9. Scotch whiskey.

    Ahem: Scotch whisky (no “e”).

    I think that calling for people to give up Scotch is perhaps a reach too far.

  10. @Mike Elzinga: Yeah, you’re right. I’ll have to rule out Jack Daniels; it’s made in Tennessee, one of two states allowing Intelligent Design. And it’s a close call on bourbon, since by law it must be made in Kentucky to be called “bourbon”, and Kentucky is the home of Ham’s infamous Creation Tabernacle Museum. But since Kentucky just ruled against special tax breaks for Ham’s Ark Park, bourbon is still on my politically correct list. (Tip — Old Forester is a really good bourbon, but not priced like one. Every bit as good as Wild Turkey or Maker’s Mark. But then, as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, taste is in the mouth of the imbiber. Salut! [But not with Scotch.] )

  11. I think that calling for people to give up Scotch is perhaps a reach too far.

    tartan? kilts? bagpipe music? let’s not make it too hard on ourselves.

  12. @realthog: You’re right. Thanks for the correction.

    As for giving up Scotch, only until the Scottish government comes to its senses. In the meantime, explore different tastes! Bourbon, cognac, Irish whisky (or is that “whiskey”?), wine, craft beers, gins, liqueurs, etc.

  13. I am swearing off haggis.

  14. Eddie Janssen

    I strongly suggest cognac. Moderately!

  15. An excellent alternative for the scientifically conscientious malt head reluctant to forsake their wee dram is Japanese whiskies. They are unexpectedly good, even remarkably so, though they do tend to be a bit pricier. (I’m not sure if the last is true for the US.)

  16. I have tasted bourbon. Also Tennessee whisky. They taste a bit like fermented and distilled molasses to me. Smoky, sweet and thick. Canadian, on the other hand, tastes like perfume. Rye – the only one I’ve tasted is Jim Beam, enough said. The one Japanese I’m familiar with, Suntory Hibiki 12, is pretty good, and I’m sure there are others. But still, it’s Islay malt for me, or if I can’t afford that, Monkey Shoulder. If not that, I’ll stick to a dark beer.

  17. realthog says: “I think that calling for people to give up Scotch is perhaps a reach too far.”

    Even during the Cold War, those who liked the stuff still drank vodka.

  18. @TomS

    I am swearing off haggis.

    If you’ve ever eaten the stuff you’ll realize what a sacrifice you’re making.

  19. Ate Haggis and it aint too bad, the problem occurs when you are silly enough to ask what it is made of….DON’T!!!
    I like tartans, kilts, and bagpipes!!!..Scotch!!!Yuck!!! Puke-central!!