Lisburn Council promotes “an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion”

Yesterday the BBC’s Will Crawley noted the persistent questioning of the Education minister, Caitríona Ruane, by DUP MLA David Simpson on various aspects of the teaching of neo-creationism in schools, and his commenters pick up on some of the answers given. [scroll down] Meanwhile today’s Irish News reports [subs req] that Lisburn District Council has passed a motion proposed by DUP councillor Paul Givan who belives he has spotted a gap in those answers which might allow the teaching of neo-creationism as an alternative to evolution in post-primary schools – and not just, I’d suggest, in classes on religion. Adds This quote from the Belfast Telegraph report

In a statement the Department of Education said the teaching of alternative theories was a matter for schools. A spokeswoman said: “The revised curriculum offers scope for schools to explore alternative theories to evolution, which could include creationism, if they so wish.”

Adds 2 Today’s Newsletter reports that the Culture Minister, Edwin Poots, was among those supporting the motion.The gap appears to be between this answer

Mr David Simpson asked the Minister of Education, pursuant to her answer to AQW 928/07, under GCSE science specifications allowing for the explanation of theories other than evolution to explore the development of life on earth, what resource material will be made available to teachers wishing to explore other such scientific explanations with pupils. (AQW 74/08)

Ms Ruane: It is up to schools to decide what teaching resources they wish to use to deliver the curriculum, in accordance with the needs of their pupils and the ethos of the school. A range of organisations produce teaching materials that schools can choose to avail of. [added emphasis]

and this one

Mr David Simpson asked the Minister of Education, pursuant to her answer to AQW 928/07, what training will be given to teachers to help them to explore scientific explanations for the development of life on earth, other than evolution. (AQW 76/08)

Ms Ruane: Teachers are currently involved in a phased programme of training to support the introduction of the revised curriculum. Any in-service training for teachers follows the requirements of the statutory curriculum and GCSE specifications which do not include any specific reference to alternative explanations of the origins of life. The Education and Library Boards have not received requests from any school or teacher for support on this issue. [added emphasis]

Which, as the Irish News reports [subs req], has prompted the motion to Lisburn Council from Paul Givan

Although the council has no control over the cirriculum, Paul Givan of the DUP suggested that it ask schools in the area to consider teaching the theories.

Intelligent design theory claims that a supernatural designer was involved in the creation of life on earth.

Creationism teaches that God created life, although it does not try to explain how.

All 13 DUP and seven Ulster Unionist councillors voted in favour of the suggestion, which was opposed by Sinn Féin and the SDLP.

Mr Givan said his suggestion had been inspired by a question his party colleague David Simpson had asked education minister Caitríona Ruane in the assembly

He said Ms Ruane’s response had indicated that under the revised curriculum, schools were encouraged to teach pupils greater critical thinking.

“I think these ideas – and there is a disparity of opinions out there – should at least be given equality of treatment,” Mr Givan said.

My view of this should be clear to anyone paying attention. It’s a continuation of the attempts to entwined religion and science. In the US they, thankfully, have a legal ruling that such neo-creationism are non-science in the face of repeated attempts to foist these beliefs onto school science cirriculums – as noted here in December 2005.

The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts of this case makes it abundantly clear that the Board’s ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause. In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.

Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs’ scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.

To be sure, Darwin’s theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions. [added emphasis]

The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.

With that said, we do not question that many of the leading advocates of ID have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors. Nor do we controvert that ID should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.

Will we see such a definitive response to the same questioning of science here?

Update There’s a new post on this topic and the guidance to schools elsewhere.

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