The Royal Society yesterday issued a strongly worded attack on the teaching of creationism as a leading scientist compared it to the theory that babies are brought by storks.
The warning from Britain's leading scientific academy comes amid increasing concern over the attempts by religious fundamentalists to challenge the theory of evolution in schools and colleges by teaching the idea that a god created the world, as if that were a scientific theory.
Last night, the Royal Society gave a public platform to Steve Jones, the award-winning geneticist and author, to deliver a lecture entitled Why Creationism Is Wrong and Evolution Is Right. Professor Jones said that suggesting that creationism and evolution be given equal weight in education was "to me, rather like starting genetics lectures by discussing the theory that babies are brought by storks."
The Royal Society had invited Prof Jones, of University College London, to deliver a lecture at its headquarters in London because of concern that many students now believe that creationism and evolution are equally valid theories. An increasing number of Christian and Muslim fundamentalist students argue for a literal interpretation of the Bible or Qur'an. Prof Jones said that a Gallup poll of teenagers in the US last year indicated that 38% believed that God created humans within the past 10,000 years and President George Bush had said that "on the issue of evolution, the verdict is still out on how God created the Earth." In a BBC poll; 48% opted for evolution and 39% for creationism.
"I like the quotation from Darwin, 'ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge; it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science'," said Prof Jones. "Science has proof without any certainty, creationists - certainty without proof."
He said he believed that creationists were worried that evolution showed humans to be only "chimps in dinner jackets". He added that "evolution is as inevitable as gravity".
I too am troubled by news organizations who believe they are balanced when they present "both sides" as if the two sides in question are always equally valid. The comparison between creationism and the belief that the stork brings babies is a good one. Let's hope someone on this side of the Atlantic pays attention.