It’s easy to think that the current attack on science in the USA is a peculiarly American phenomenon – that it doesn’t, or wouldn’t, occur here in New Zealand. After all, a poll (UMR Research Survey: Morality, Religion and Evolution) last year showed 75% of New Zealanders support evolution.
So one expects that we shouldn’t have the same problem teaching evolution in our schools as occurs in the USA. But what about the faith schools? The data in the UMR research Poll indicates that between 40 and 50% of New Zealand’s Christians actually reject evolutionary science. So how does this influence the teaching of evolution, and science in general, in New Zealand’s faith schools?
This issue has come up in Australia. Maralyn Parker, a journalist for the Sydney Daily Telegraph raises this issue in her blog article Teaching Science at Pacific Hills Christian School. This includes a letter to the NSW Board of Studies expressing concern at the way evolutionary science is taught in at least one Christian school. The letter arose from the depiction of a science lesson at this school in a documentary “In Good Faith” shown on SBS television on Tuesday May 19.
The writer, Chris Bonner, says in part:
‘In the video clip the teacher is referring to a chart “Origins – a spectrum of belief”. This spectrum includes:
Young Earth Creationist
Old earth Creationist
And Atheistic Evolutionist
In the video clip the science teacher variously refers to evolution as “this view” and that we have “a whole range of positions” on where we come from. The “atheistic evolutionists” exist on the spectrum as just another belief. The teacher throws in Richard Dawkins as one of these types of “believers”.
“But”, the teacher goes on, “there is a whole range of other ways of considering the evidence”, going on to cite the bible, intelligent design and so on.
The teacher then throws to the students the idea that they can decide between these “beliefs”.
We want to “allow you to ask the right questions”, he says, to “allow you to think about what the world is showing you” and (more pointedly) “what God’s revelation through his scripture shows you, so that you can come to some clear understanding about your view”.
The viewer of this clip is left wondering what credence, in the classroom and in formal assessment, would be given to the views of students who do not take “God’s revelation” into account when developing their “clear understanding”.’
This sort of teaching is completely inappropriate for a science class. It presents an incorrect interpretation of evolutionary science and the scientific method in general. I can’t imagine that it conforms to the educational curriculum and it certainly denies students a proper preparation for further science education and a possible science-related career.
I wonder if this sort of teaching is occurring in New Zealand’s faith schools?
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