Scottish Parliament Doesn’t Ban Creationism

This one is difficult for us to evaluate. The news comes from The Herald of Cambuslang, just outside Glasgow — the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. In that worthy organ we read Formal ban on teaching of creationism rejected. There’s a comments section at the end, and the second comment there is from Paul Braterman, who sometimes visits this humble blog.

For background, our last post on this topic was a few months ago: Creationist Battle in the Scottish Parliament. A motion, drafted by the Scottish Secularist Society (SSS), was pending in the Scottish Parliament, backed by 19 MSPS (“MSP” means Member of the Scottish Parliament), stating that creationism should not be presented as a scientific theory and viable alternative to the established theory of evolution in classrooms.

Here are some excerpts from the latest news story, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

Calls for an official ban on the teaching of young earth creationism in science lessons in Scottish schools have been kicked out by MSPs. Politicians from across the political spectrum agreed it was unnecessary for the Scottish Government to introduce new guidance on the issue.

Unnecessary? Judge for yourself:

Instead, MSPs from the Scottish Parliament’s education committee said schools should rely on the professionalism of teachers and the existing inspection regime to ensure such theories were not taught as scientific fact.

That sounds like they already have sufficient safeguards in place. Let’s read on:

… Dr Alasdair Allan, Minister for Learning and Science, wrote to MSPs saying it was preferable to leave the curriculum to teachers and “enable them to exercise their professional judgement…. rather than legislate to ban issues like creationism in specific areas”. Mr Allan also said no concerns had been raised with national inspection body Education Scotland and stressed existing guidance on the science curriculum made no reference to young earth creationism as a “legitimate scientific theory”.

Is that enough? We continue:

Closing the SSS petition, SNP MSP [that’s Scottish National Party Member of the Scottish Parliament] Stewart Maxwell, the convener [chairman] of the education committee, said: “It should therefore not be taught as part of science lessons.”

That’s significant. Maxwell had introduced the petition, and he says the petition was unnecessary. Our last excerpt is about the reaction of a preacher, who seems to like the result — perhaps because it gives him a bit of wiggle-room:

Rev David Robertson, the next Free Church of Scotland Moderator, welcomed the decision, but went on to accuse the SSS of scaremongering. He said: “The clear position of the Scottish Government and the teaching unions is that we don’t need politicians telling teachers what they should teach and this is a position we completely agree with. The secularists failed to produce any concrete evidence that creationism was being taught as science in any classroom in Scotland, so in reality this petition was an extraordinary waste of parliamentary time. I am quite convinced that our politicians have better things to do.”

That’s the situation. Creationism isn’t banned from public schools in Scotland, but the consensus in Parliament seems to be that it isn’t much of a problem, so the ban wasn’t needed. Maybe they’re right.

To end on an optimistic note, here’s an excerpt from Paul Braterman’s comment to the newspaper:

The petition has been closed because it has accomplished its purpose. As the Education and Culture Convener pointed out, we now have a clear statement from the Scottish Government that separate creation “should therefore not be taught as part of science lessons.” … Thus it is now established beyond all doubt that there is no place in Scottish publicly funded educational system where the creationism that we object to can be taught as fact, and this is what we set out to achieve.

Braterman was a co-author of the petition, and if he’s satisfied, then so is your Curmudgeon. At least for now.

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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7 responses to “Scottish Parliament Doesn’t Ban Creationism

  1. “we don’t need politicians telling teachers what they should teach” – Rev David Robertson

    No Teachers need witch doctors and side show charlatans telling them what to teach don’t they? Oh and can you spare a fiver?

    The irony meter will always be in need of some repairs following such statements.

  2. The article was by Andrew Denholm, who has repeatedly misrepresented matters. The committee transcript will be available Friday, but meantime I note that he has quote-mined Maxwell (a strong supporter of what the petition was trying to do) and apparently transposed language from the Scottish Government’s smokescreen to the mouths of members of the Scottish parliament. Denholm has form – in the past he has deliberately muddled up creationism (i.e. separate creation of kinds) with the idea of God as creator, in order to make the petition seem unreasonable.

    The slide in the Government’s position from saying (as it always has) that creationism is not part of the science syllabus (i.e. need not be taught) to saying that it should not be taught as science is momentous; a tipping point. For excellent domestic political reasons, they want to pretend that nothing has happened; don’t be fooled. And Robertson is moderator-elect of a tiny biblical literalist splinter church, the Free Church of Scotland. I assume that he and Denholm are buddies; Denholm’s article shows signs of being modeled on a blog piece Robertson wrote *directly before* the relevant committee meeting.

    There is much more to be done, but this is major good news. More later.

  3. michaelfugate

    Comments from the good Rev Robertson in the Scotsman.
    Not even wrong.

  4. Well done, Dr. Braterman!

    And indeed, the petition has served its purpose. All that is needed is the understanding that science classes teach science, no further legislation should be required to make it clear that creationism no more belongs in science classes than a Ouiji board

  5. @Megalonyx: That’s “Ouija board”. And it belongs in every classroom. I always used mine for determining my students’ grades.

  6. Mike Elzinga

    I don’t know how legislative and judicial defeats for ID/creationists play out in Scotland; but here in the US ID/creationists use such defeats to whine about being persecuted by society. It just might be that Scotland has more sense than the US in these matters.

    In the US, politicians like Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, and several others on the Far Right fold that persecution complex into political demagoguery that alleges that Christians and Christianity are under siege in the US.

    Any overt statement by a legislative body, scientific organization, or a court is thus turned into a political campaign theme that inflames Right Wing paranoia and bollixes up the election process; particularly in the primary elections of our Republican Party.

    The result of all this Right Wing inflammatory rhetoric is a slate of nutcase candidates that crowd out any candidate that would focus on important issues in a general election and fill state legislatures with adolescent boys preoccupied with women’s vaginas and female reproduction.

  7. A formal legal ban on the teaching of creationism would let creationists pose a victims of an evil secularist government. Better for this issue to be handled by the educational system itself; after all, astrology isn’t taught as science either, and no legal prohibition was needed to keep it out of the curriculum.