Intelligent Design, Schools and the Scottish Parliament

Insipid responses on Intelligent Design creationism from the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning and  Learning and Teaching Scotland

The excellent 21st Floor launched a campaign (Fake ID) against the potential intrusion of creationism  and its intelligent design variant into Scottish Schools, following the establishment of the Centre for Intelligent Design (C4ID) in Glasgow.  In a recent newspaper article (Would you Adam and Eve it? Top scientists tell Scottish pupils: the Bible is true), the Director of C4ID was quoted as saying a move to push ID into Scottish Schools was inevitable:

“We are definitely not targeting schools, but that doesn’t mean to say we may not produce resources that go to schools,” Dr Noble said, adding that he had already been asked to speak in Scottish schools, and agreed to do so.

The FakeID campaign realised that Scottish Schools weren’t protected from the intrusion of creationism in the same way as schools in England and Wales, and made enquiries as to current policy in respect of this. They received a less than satisfactory response from Learning and Teaching Scotland (Fake ID – Response from Learning & Teaching Scotland), and no response from the the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, Michael Russell.

Learning and Teaching Scotland are the body tasked with ensuring educational standards.  As they proudly proclaim on their website:

Learning and Teaching Scotland is the principal curriculum body for Scotland, supporting the delivery of Curriculum for Excellence, Assessment, Community and Lifelong learning and the innovative use of Glow and other learning technologies.

Their response to 21st Floor’s inquiry is therefore disappointing.  What’s a little more encouraging is that 21st Floor’s activity has been noted in the Scottish Parliament (official report 10th November 2010).  Patrick Harvie (Glasgow) of the Green Party:

The place of a scientific world view is generally agreed by all, yet that fundamental world view is under attack.

I congratulate the bloggers of “The Twenty-first Floor” for drawing attention to the fact that, recently, an organisation called the Centre for Intelligent Design opened in Glasgow. The group’s director is quoted in The Herald as saying that

“it was ‘inevitable’ that the debate would make its way into schools”


“that he had already been asked to speak in Scottish schools, and agreed to do so.”

In the same article, a Scottish Government spokesman is quoted as stating only that

“we do not recognise the teaching of intelligent design in a scientific context”.

In their responses, neither the Government nor Learning and Teaching Scotland give any indication that they have in place measures to prevent that material from entering schools.

It is some 85 years since the Scopes monkey trial in the US. In that country, the politics of wilful stupidity and ignorance have a modern vehicle in the tea party movement. We must not allow those kinds of ideas to gain a foothold in this country. There is a clear need for ministers to go further than they have gone so far and to tell us—I hope that the minister will do so today—how they intend to prevent the use in schools of materials of that sort, which promote the absurd nonsense of intelligent design and creationism, with the intention of undermining the scientific world view and keeping our children stupid. [Applause.]

Michael Russell does make a response:

[…] I say to Patrick Harvie that I can and will distinguish between belief and scientific fact; that is absolutely what I should do. However, I will not be a censor or forbid people from holding opinions or beliefs. I recognise where the lines lie, but I felt that Patrick Harvie moved rather far towards condemning people for their beliefs. I am clear that belief is not to be confused with scientific fact—

Here he’s interrupted briefly by Patrick Harvie who unsuccessfully wishes to speak.  It’s a shame, because Russell’s being rather hopeless here.  Opinions and beliefs have no place in the science class.

Still 21st Floor are to be congratulated in at least getting this into Holyrood.  Perhaps it will run…

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