“The use of the word ‘theory’ can mislead those not familiar with science..”

With Lisburn Council encouraging post-primary schools to teach neo-creationists’ untestable hypotheses as alternative theories to evolution, and the NI Department of Education apparently unsure about what they should do about it, James Randerson at the Guardian’s Science blog has pointed to the government’s new guidance to teachers in another part of the UK. And that guidance couldn’t be clearer – creationism and intelligent design are not alternative scientific theories to evolution and “should not be taught as science.” Perhaps someone could tell the spokeswoman for the Department of Education here?From the post by James Randerson

The new guidelines could not be clearer:

Creationism and intelligent design are not part of the science National Curriculum programmes of study and should not be taught as science.” [added emphasis]

That doesn’t mean it cannot be mentioned of course, but the guidelines state that it should only feature as part of discussions about what does and does not make a scientific theory.

The use of the word ‘theory’ can mislead those not familiar with science as a subject discipline because it is different from the everyday meaning of being little more than a ‘hunch’. In science the meaning is much less tentative and indicates that there is a substantial amount of supporting evidence, underpinned by principles and explanations accepted by the international scientific community…Creationism and intelligent design are sometimes claimed to be scientific theories. This is not the case as they have no underpinning scientific principles, or explanations, and are not accepted by the science community as a whole.

And also from those guidelines

Creationism and intelligent design are not part of the science National Curriculum programmes of study and should not be taught as science. However, there is a real difference between teaching ‘x’ and teaching about ‘x’. Any questions about creationism and intelligent design which arise in science lessons, for example as a result of media coverage, could provide the opportunity to explain or explore why they are not considered to be scientific theories and, in the right context, why evolution is considered to be a scientific theory.

If the Northern Ireland Department of Education haven’t issued these guidelines to schools here, they should do so now.

Adds here’s another snippet from the guidelines to teachers elsewhere in the UK

Which subject should deal with creationism and intelligent design?

Teachers of subjects such as RE, history or citizenship may deal with creationism and intelligent design in their lessons. If such issues were to arise there might be value in science colleagues working with these teachers in addressing them.