If the first talking snake had kept shtum, we wouldn't be here. Eve wouldn't have eaten the forbidden fruit. But she listened and was curious. So she fell into humanity, thank God. Good old snake, say I. I celebrate its independence of mind. Satan? Neh, that's a later interpretation. The snake was part of the divine purpose. God allowed it into the garden, aware of its linguistic abilities. He knew what would happen. Jesus commended dove-like innocence. AND the wisdom ... of the snake.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Even the BBC gets it wrong sometimes ....

Creationist theories about how the world was made are to be debated in GCSE science lessons in mainstream secondary schools in England.

The subject has been included in a new syllabus for biology produced by the OCR exam board, due out in September....

.... The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, which oversees the development of the national curriculum, in effect guiding exam boards, said discussions of "intelligent design" or "creationism" could take place in science classes. (my emphasis)

Thus says the BBC, on a web page dated 10 March.

I couldn’t believe this and wrote an "oh surely not" sort of e-mail to OCR.

I hereby reproduce, in full, the reply from John Noel, Qualifications Manager, Maths and Science Qualification Team for the Oxford, Cambridge and RSA examinations board. It includes some of the material included in the BBC’s item, but in such a way as to eliminate certain misinterpretations which could have been read into it (by panicky people like me, for example).

Panic over.

Dear Rev. Snake,

It is actually all a bad dream! The recent media interest in our new ‘Gateway’ GCSE Science specifications, for first teaching from September 2006, has centred on the learning outcome:

Explain that the fossil record has been interpreted differently over time (e.g. creationist interpretation).

This statement occurs in an ‘Item’ entitled ‘survival of the fittest’ which covers natural selection and evolution in detail, including the work of Lamarck and Darwin. The evidence from the fossil record, from examples of natural selection occurring today and from genetics is considered. However, the specification aims to set the development of important scientific ideas in context, so for example it includes the reasons why natural selection met with an initially hostile response. The statement above should be considered in this light – it relates clearly to an historical perspective.

In response to the concerns raised, OCR has issued the following statement:

"Candidates need to understand the social and historical context to scientific ideas both pre and post Darwin. Candidates are asked to discuss why the opponents of Darwinism thought the way they did and how scientific controversies can arise from different ways of interpreting empirical evidence. Creationism and 'intelligent design' are not regarded by OCR as scientific theories. They are beliefs that do not lie within scientific understanding."

There is therefore no scientific controversy here; in these new science courses, no questions will be set on creationism as a theory or on ‘intelligent design’ and no credit will be available to candidates giving such answers to questions about the fossil record, except where presenting an historical perspective.

The interaction between science and belief is worthy of consideration in science lessons. However, this is not a requirement of the specification.

I hope these comments have been helpful.

Yours sincerely
John Noel


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