Nobel Laureates Go Ape After Royal Society Creationist Comment

By Andrew Moseman | September 15, 2008 11:33 am

DarwinWith the 200th anniversary of his birthday coming up next year, Charles Darwin has had a good few days in his native Britain.

DISCOVER reported this morning that a senior member of the Church of England has apologized to Darwin for underestimating his idea; the church was one of the first to attack Darwin in the 19th century for daring to suggest that God did not create humans in their present form. Now, Nobel prize winners are coming to the defense of Darwinism after the Royal Society’s education director, a clergyman named Michael Reiss, called for science teachers to tackle creationism in British schools.

Harry Kroto and Richard Roberts—Nobel winners in 1996 and 1993, respectively—balked at a representative of Britain’s most prestigious scientific organization endorsing a non-scientific teaching like creationism. Kroto says he warned the society last year against hiring Reiss, and now he is gathering other Nobel laureates to sign a letter asking for Reiss to get the ax.

In a letter to The Guardian today, Reiss claims he was misrepresented and wasn’t calling for creationism to be taught alongside evolution. Rather, he says, he wants to make sure teachers understand how to explain evolution’s scientific rationale, and more importantly, how to talk to students who grew up with strict creationist beliefs. If teachers can’t get through to these students, he says, the kids could give up on science totally.

That defense probably won’t hold off some of the Royal Society’s more infuriated members, many of whom—including the bombastic Darwin defender Richard Dawkins—have said that it’s inappropriate for a clergyman to run the society’s eduction efforts in the first place. But hopefully Reiss was serious in saying that he wants teachers to discuss creationism, not defend it or justify it. While it’s tempting just to ignore non-science like creationism (or intelligent design, or whatever people want to call it), DISCOVER has noted the pitfalls of trying to reach students who come to science class with their views already dead-set against evolution, and the need for teachers who can reach them.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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