Leader: Time for government to curb creationist call

March 22, 2002

Emmanuel City Technology College in Gateshead has unleashed a whirlwind on those who complacently believed that we in Britain were safe from the creationist enthusiasms that have warped public debate in the United States.

It turns out that the creationists are among us, seeking support in universities and poised to take advantage of the government's policy of introducing more private money into state schools and encouraging "faith" schools. If ever there was an argument against such schools, this is it. At least the present row should serve to alert the government to the dangers.

As Richard Harries says, if there are going to be more such schools - and the case for them is hard to rebut when so many religious schools already exist - then the national curriculum must be unambiguous about the schools' obligation to teach modern science not as a matter of faith but as a matter of reason. The prime minister's statements so far are not reassuring. Those scientists who have his ear had better bend it quickly. Science must and will fight its corner and, provided it does so, should prevail relatively easily given its intellectual power. But there will be collateral damage. Playful, ironic, postmodern relativism, which has too often given cranks a toehold, may come to be seen not as some interesting jeu d'esprit but as a dangerous game.

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