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Press release


  • 24 February 2006

Creating controversy in class the big science debate


Creationism, Intelligent Design and other religious theories of how life began are gaining public support because people mistakenly think they are scientific.

That's one of the views of science education expert James Williams, who will take on the creationist debate in a public talk for the Brighton Science Festival this Sunday (February 26).

Mr Williams' comments follow a BBC opinion poll that revealed that 44 per cent of people want to see creationism taught in science classes, while the debate over creationism's role in schools in education continues to rage in the media. Creationism generally offers a religious-based explanation for the creation of the Earth and the Universe, as opposed to scientific evolutionary theory. Intelligent Design tends to accept evolutionary theory, but ascribes it to a supreme intelligence or designer.

Mr Williams, who is a lecturer in Science Education at the University of Sussex, says: "Clearly the public at large is confused about what science actually is and how science works. Creationism, in whatever guise you wish, is not science and has no place in the science class."

The talk, part of the Brighton Science Festival and entitled Creationism and Evolution, takes place at 6pm at Brighton's City College in Pelham Street. It will evaluate different creationist theories and arguments, challenge the creationist idea that evolution is just another viewpoint and ask whether an acceptance of evolutionary science conflicts with belief in God. He will also look at why the classroom has become the latest arena for the creationist community to promote its views.

With a fundamental change to the science curriculum coming into place in September this year, Mr Willams is concerned that creationism could be brought into the science classroom under the guise of 'teaching the controversy' - a tactic used in the United States. He says: "There really is no controversy among scientists about the fact of evolution. How evolution happens is debated and theories are proposed and modified, but that's just good science," says Mr Williams.

Mr Williams developed his interest in evolution as a child growing up in Neath, Wales - home to Alfred Russel Wallace who, less famously than Charles Darwin, helped to develop evolutionary theory. In his work training science teachers, Mr Williams has also encountered some surprising views, including that of one trainee who, he says, believed that the Hubble Telescope was 'science' trying to find the location of Heaven.

Mr Williams says: "Teachers are at liberty to hold creationist beliefs and to have a faith - nobody says they have to reject this. All I ask is that evolution is accepted for the weight of evidence that we have in its favour as the best-fit theory for the development of life on earth. After all, we don't ask people to 'believe' in gravity or atoms, but all of us, religious or not, accept these things."

Notes for editors

For further information about the Brighton Science Festival (Feb 21-26), visit: http://www.brightonscience.com/

For interviews etc, please contact University of Sussex Press officers Maggie Clune or Jacqui Bealing. Tel: 01273 678 888 or email M.T.Clune@sussex.ac.uk or J.A.Bealing@sussex.ac.uk

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