The British Guardian newspaper reports on recent developments in UK governmental policy on teaching evolution in free schools (which, though state funded, are normally not required to follow the national curriculum):
The Department for Education has revised its model funding agreement, allowing the education secretary [Michael Gove] to withdraw cash from schools that fail to meet strict criteria relating to what they teach. Under the new agreement, funding will be withdrawn for any free school that teaches what it claims are “evidence-based views or theories” that run “contrary to established scientific and/or historical evidence and explanations.”
It appears that it is no longer merely religious notions that are being disallowed. It is now all “evidence-based views or theories” that run contrary to the current consensus paradigm. With a touch of irony, the Guardian quotes Richard Dawkins as saying, “It is clear that some faith schools are ignoring the regulations and are continuing to teach myth as though it were science.”
Richard Dawkins and David Attenborough are celebrating this news as a victory over the “creationists” (by which they mean anyone who dissents from evolutionary naturalism). The British Humanist Association similarly trumpet this development as a triumph for their cause. But are such claims of victory really justified?
One of the common misconceptions surrounding situations like this holds that questions pertinent to philosophy and/or the natural sciences are appropriately settled in the courtroom or by governmental fiat. This pervasive error is perhaps most evident when, instead of discussing the scientific merits of an argument for ID, critics appeal to the ruling of Judge Jones at the infamous Dover trial — as if a judge at any level could ever be the final authority on such a matter. When one side of a controversy abuses its power to silence dissenting opinion, students legitimately question why it is considered so dangerous for them to be exposed to alternative viewpoints. In this instance, the public’s confidence in Darwinism is inevitably undermined rather than strengthened.
It has long been Discovery Institute’s education policy that the teaching of ID should not be mandated in school science curricula (though critical examination of the strengths and weaknesses of controversial theories such as evolution should be encouraged). However, teachers who wish to explore these ideas with their students should not be disciplined for doing so. The UK’s Centre for Intelligent Design has similarly stated that it is not aiming its efforts at schools.
When one side of a debate is insecure enough to need to stifle dissenting viewpoints from being expressed, this legitimately raises doubts about the scientific robustness of the view being shielded from criticism. Whether Richard Dawkins and his ilk at the BCSE (British equivalent of the National Center for Science Education) and BHA choose to acknowledge it or not, there is a growing contingent of scientists who recognize a mounting body of evidence that militates against neo-Darwinian evolution. It can’t be ignored forever.