We’re very pleased to announce that as of 2014, the aims of this campaign have largely been met.
In June 2014, the Government updated its Free Schools and Academies funding agreements to require all such schools to teach evolution, and to preclude the teaching of creationism as science. It also clarified that the same requirements were implicit for all English state schools through the requirement that they teach a ‘broad and balanced’ curriculum.
In August 2014, the Government announced it would close the loophole which allowed creationist private schools to receive state funds through a nurseries scheme.
And finally in September 2014, a module on evolution was added to the national curriculum in primary schools, meaning that all English state-funded schools from primary level onwards must teach evolution, and not creationism.
We’re absolutely delighted that this campaign has been a success and would like to thank all our supporters for making this happen.
Creationism and ‘intelligent design’
In March 2002, following on reports that creationism was being taught in Emmanuel College in Gateshead, the British Humanist Association organised a letter from 43 scientists and philosophers to the Prime Minister and relevant Government departments, expressing concern about this development and asking for improved guidance on Science teaching. BHA supporter Alice Mahon MP tabled an Early Day Motion on the teaching of creationism in schools. When Parliamentary Humanist Group member Jenny Tonge MP asked then-Prime Minister Tony Blair whether he was “happy to allow the teaching of creationism alongside Darwin’s theory of evolution in state schools?”, Blair replied that he was very happy (Hansard, 13 Mar 2002, Column 886-7). In June 2004, the BHA briefed MPs and peers about creationist academies.In February 2006, Department for Education and Skills minister Jacqui Smith MP answered a parliamentary question tabled by Keith Vaz MP in a way that indicated the Government believed creationism could be taught within the national curriculum for science. As a result the BHA wrote to DfES, and subsequently received a reply from Ms Smith, assuring that ‘Creationism cannot be used as an example of a scientific controversy, as it has no empirical evidence to support it and no underpinning scientific principles or explanations.’
In June 2006, the Royal Society and other national academies issued a joint statement on the teaching of evolution and creationism.In September 2006, following on from the launch of the ‘Truth in Science’ creationist group, the BHA and Ekklesia wrote a joint letter to DfES outlining their concerns, and asked the Department to counter ‘Truth in Science’. The Government replied that they were now willing to take action.
Subsequently, in September 2007, DfES issued ‘Guidance on the place of creationism and intelligent design in science lessons’, which states that ‘Creationism and intelligent design are not part of the science National Curriculum programmes of study and should not be taught as science… 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.’
In June 2010, Parliamentary Humanist Group Vice Chair Dr Julian Huppert tabled an Early Day Motion which stated regret at ‘the inclusion of creationist and other pseudo-scientific theories in the teaching of science in some schools’. This attracted over 100 signatures, with the BHA having briefed the Group in support of it.
In February 2011, the BHA met with Minister of State for Schools Nick Gibb to discuss creationism and ‘intelligent design’, with Mr Gibb stating that they have no basis in science and should not be taught as such.
With the introduction of Free Schools, there are renewed concerns about the teaching of creationism, as such schools do not need to follow the national curriculum – they only need teach a ‘broad and balanced curriculum’ agreed with the Secretary of State for Education.
In March, Parliamentary Humanist Group Vice Chair Dr Julian Huppert tabled a Parliamentary Question which asked Nick Gibb ‘what his policy is on ensuring that free schools are not permitted to teach creationism outside the religious education curriculum’. Mr Gibb replied that ‘we have been clear that creationism should not form part of any science curriculum or be taught as a scientific alternative to accepted scientific theories.’
Additionally, in May, the Department for Education issued new guidance on how to apply for Free School or Academy status. This included the requirement that ‘Creationism, intelligent design and similar ideas must not be taught as valid scientific theories.’
However, as the decisions of which schools to approve rests with the Secretary of State for Education, there is nothing to stop a Secretary of State deciding to allow a school that teaches creationism. There are no legal guarantees in place to stop a Secretary of State from doing this. And as there is nothing in the funding agreements for Free Schools and Academies about creationism, there is nothing stopping such schools, once approved, from changing their minds and teaching creationism.
Evolution does not form part of the primary school science curriculum but many scientists and educators feel that it is such an important fact in biology that it should be introduced to children at an early stage.
In March 2002, the BHA organised a joint letter from 43 scientists and philosophers that not only called for creationism not to be taught in schools, but also called for evolution to be taught in primary schools.
In July 2009, the BHA organised a letter from twenty-six of the UK’s top scientists and science educators calling for evolution to be added to the primary school science curriculum. As a result, in November the Children, Schools and Families Bill proposed to change the primary curriculum to include teaching of evolution. However, the new primary curriculum was later dropped with the occurrence of a general election.
In June 2010 the BHA coordinated another letter, again from twenty-six top scientists and educators, urging evolution to be added to the primary curriculum. This was supported by Parliamentary Humanist Group Vice Chair Dr Julian Huppert, who tabled an Early Day Motion calling for ‘the Government to ensure that all schools… include the theory of evolution in the science curriculum at both primary and secondary levels’. This attracted over 100 signatures, with the BHA having briefed the Group in support of it. However, the Department for Education’s reply to the letter stated that they did not plan to adopt changes from the abandoned new curriculum.
With the introduction of Free Schools and Academies, which do not need to follow the National Curriculum, there are concerns that such schools could neglect the teaching of evolution. In February 2011, the BHA met with Minister of State for Schools Nick Gibb to impress on him the importance of teaching evolution in all schools, at both primary and secondary level.
In March, Dr Julian Huppert tabled a Parliamentary Question which asked Nick Gibb ‘what his policy is on requiring evolution to be taught as a science in [free] schools.’ Mr Gibb replied that ‘We expect to see evolution and its foundation topics fully included in any science curriculum.’ Separately, there is a review of the National Curriculum taught in all other state schools currently underway.
Creationism and ‘intelligent design’
Creationism and ‘intelligent design’ are not scientific theories, but they are portrayed as scientific theories by some religious fundamentalists who attempt to have their views promoted in publicly-funded schools. There should be enforceable statutory guidance that they may not be presented as scientific theories in any publicly-funded school of whatever type.
Organisations like ‘Truth in Science’ are encouraging teachers to incorporate ‘intelligent design’ into their science teaching. ‘Truth in Science’ has sent free resources to all Secondary Heads of Science and to school librarians around the country that seek to undermine the theory of evolution and have ‘intelligent design’ ideas portrayed as credible scientific viewpoints. Speakers from Creation Ministries International are touring the UK, presenting themselves as scientists and their creationist views as science at a number of schools.
The current government guidance that creationism and ‘intelligent design’ should not be taught in school science should be made statutory and enforceable. It also needs to be made comprehensive so that it is clear that any portrayal of creationism and ‘intelligent design’ as science (whether it takes place in science lessons or not) is unacceptable.
An understanding of evolution is central to understanding all aspects of biology. The teaching of evolution should be included at both primary and secondary levels in the National Curriculum and in all schools.
Currently, the study of evolution does not feature explicitly in the National Curriculum until year 10 (ages 14-15), but the government is overseeing a review of the whole curriculum with the revised National Curriculum for science being introduced in September 2012 to be made compulsory from 2013. Free Schools and Academies are not obliged to teach the National Curriculum and so are under no obligation to teach about evolution at all.
Our 2011 joint statement, which kick-started the ‘Teach evolution, not creationism’ campaign, was signed by the following organisations and individuals:
The Association for Science Education is a dynamic community of teachers, technicians, and other professionals supporting science education and is the largest subject association in the UK. The ASE is an independent and open forum for debate and a powerful force to promote excellence in science teaching and learning, with unique benefits for members.
Humanists UK is the national charity representing and supporting the interests of ethically concerned, non-religious people in the UK. It is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief, and for a secular state.
The British Science Association is the UK’s nationwide, open membership organisation that exists to advance the public understanding, accessibility and accountability of the sciences and engineering. Established in 1831, the British Science Association organises major initiatives across the UK, including National Science and Engineering Week and the annual British Science Festival.
The Campaign for Science & Engineering is a leading independent advocate for science and engineering in the UK. CaSE’s objective is to communicate to Parliament and the nation as a whole the economic and cultural importance of scientific and technological education and development, and the vital need for the funding of this research by Government and industry.
Ekklesia is an independent, not-for-profit think tank which examines the role of religion in public life and advocates transformative ideas and solutions rooted in theological thinking and dialogue with others. It also looks at the operation of beliefs and values in society and politics more widely.
Professor Jim Al-Khalili OBE is an author, broadcaster, Professor of Theoretical Physics and Chair in the Public Engagement in Science at the University of Surrey. His most recent programme is Everything and Nothing, about the Big Bang and quantum physics.
Sir David Attenborough OM, CH, CVO, CBE, FRS, FZS, FSA is a naturalist and television presenter best known for his contribution to BBC natural history programmes, including the Life series of programmes and Planet Earth.
Sir Patrick Bateson FRS is the President of the Zoological Society of London and Professor Emeritus of Ethology at the University of Cambridge. Sir Patrick is the author of a number of popular science books, most recently Plasticity, Robustness, Development and Evolution.
Professor Colin Blakemore FRS, FMedSci, HonFSB, HonFRCP is Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Oxford and is a former Chief Executive of the Medical Research Council.
Professor Sir Tom Blundell FRS, FMedSci is President of the UK Science Council, President of the Biochemical Society, Chair of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and a former Sir William Dunn Professor of Biochemistry and head of the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge.
Sir Roy Calne FRS is a pioneering transplant surgeon who performed several first transplant operations, including the first liver transplant in Europe in 1968 and the world’s first liver, heart, and lung transplant in 1987. He is a former Professor of Surgery at the University of Cambridge.
Dr Helena Cronin is Co-Director of the Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science at LSE. Dr Cronin also runs Darwin@LSE, is the co-editor of Darwinism Today and the author of The Ant and the Peacock: Altruism and Sexual Selection from Darwin to Today.
Professor Richard Dawkins FRS, FRSL is the former Professor for Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford, an evolutionary biologist and a prominent scientific broadcaster. His books include The Selfish Gene, The God Delusion, The Greatest Show on Earth and The Ancestor’s Tale.
Professor Robin Dunbar FBA, FRAI is Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology and Director of the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology at the University of Oxford.
Professor R. John Ellis FRS is Professor Emeritus of Biological Sciences at the University of Warwick, 2006 winner of the Gairdner International Award and 2008 winner of the Cell Stress Society International Medal.
Professor Sir Anthony Epstein CBE, FRS is Professor Emeritus and former Head of the Department of Pathology at the University of Bristol. He is one of the discoverers of the Epstein-Barr virus, and in 1992 won the Royal Society’s Royal Medal.
Dr Dylan Evans is the author of several popular science books, most recently Emotion, Evolution and Rationality. Until July 2011, he was a Lecturer in Behavioural Science in the School of Medicine at University College Cork.
Professor Sir James Gowans CBE, FRCP, FRS was Henry Dale Research Professor of the Royal Society at the University of Oxford and is a former Secretary of the Medical Research Council.
Professor Robert Hinde CBE, FRS, (hon) FBA, FRCPsych is Royal Society Research Professor Emeritus of Zoology at the University of Cambridge and a former master of St. John’s College, Cambridge. Hinde worked on the biology of behaviour, development and social psychology, and the nature of religion.
Dr Julian Huppert MP is a scientist and the Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Cambridge, first elected in 2010. Prior to his election he was at the Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge, working on the physics of living systems.
Professor Hugh Huxley FRS, MBE worked at the MRC Molecular Biology Laboratory in Cambridge, where he was joint head of the Structural Studies Division, Deputy Director of the Laboratory and was the central figure in developing the detailed structural basis of muscle contraction. In 1977 he won the Royal Society’s Royal Medal and in 1997 the Copley Medal, its highest honour.
Professor Steve Jones is former Head of the Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment at University College London, a television presenter and popular science author. His most recent book is Darwin’s Island.
Professor Sir Hans Kornberg FRS is a biochemist, Professor of Biology at Boston University and a former Master of Christ’s College, Cambridge.
John Krebs, Baron Krebs FRS, FMedSci is Principal of Jesus College, University of Oxford and a former Royal Society Research Professor in the Department of Zoology, Oxford. He was Chief Executive of the Natural Environment Research Council from 1994 to 1999 and is Chair of the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee.
Professor Sir Harold Kroto KCB, FRS was joint 1996 Nobel laureate in Chemistry, which he won for discovering Buckminsterfullerene. Harry is Francis Eppes Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Florida State University and Royal Society Research Professor Emeritus of Chemistry at the University of Sussex.
Professor John Lee MBBS, PhD, FRCPath is Consultant Histopathologist at Rotherham General Hospital, Professor of Pathology at Hull York Medical School, and a broadcaster, presenting a number of programmes on Channel 4 such as the award winning Anatomy for Beginners.
Sir Paul Nurse PRS was joint 1991 Nobel laureate in Physiology or Medicine. He is President of the Royal Society, Chief Executive and Director of the Francis Crick Institute and President of Rockefeller University. In 1995 he won the Royal Society’s Royal Medal and in 2005 the Copley Medal.
Revd Professor Michael Reiss FSB, FRSA, AcSS is Professor of Science Education and Associate Director, Research, Consultancy, and Knowledge Transfer at the Institute of Education, University of London.
Professor Steven Rose is Emeritus Professor of Life Sciences at the Open University and Visiting Professor of Anatomy & Developmental Biology at University College London. He is the author of several popular science books, and for five years was a regular panellist on The Moral Maze.
Sir David Smith FRS, FRSE is a botanist, was Principal of Edinburgh University from 1987-1994, President of Wolfson College, University of Oxford from 1994-2000 and President of the Linnean Society from 2000-2003. He won the Linnean Medal in 1989.
Sir Fraser Stoddart FRS, FRSE is Professor of Chemistry and Director of the Center for Chemistry of Integrated Systems at Northwestern University.
Sir John Sulston FRS was joint 2002 Nobel laureate in Physiology or Medicine and is Chair of the Institute for Science, Ethics and Innovation (iSEI) at the University of Manchester.
Professor Raymond Tallis FMedSci, FRCP, FRSA is a doctor, philosopher, author and poet. He is Emeritus Professor of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Manchester.
James Williams FSB CSciTeach is Lecturer in Science Education at the University of Sussex. James has worked extensively in support of evolution and in opposition to the teaching of creationism.
Professor Lewis Wolpert CBE, FRS, FRSL is Emeritus Professor of Biology as applied to Medicine, University College London and author of a number of books, most recently You’re Looking Very Well: The Surprising Nature of Getting Old.