University students and belief in creationism

The Times Higher has a brief report on a recently published survey on religious beliefs held by university students and staff (Survey of staff and student faith draws criticism).  The report seems to home in on issues of religious discrimination, and found

The survey of staff at UK institutions – which had 3,077 responses and was “not intended to be statistically representative” – found that 46.8 per cent of respondents were Christian, with “no religion” (36.5 per cent) and “spiritual” (4.5 per cent) the next biggest groups.

That’s a result that I found a little surprising, but maybe that reflects my own academic position in a Faculty of Sciences.   Perhaps that’s why religious discrimination is rare (according to the report).

What caught my eye were the closing paragraphs:

Keith Porteous Wood, executive director of the National Secular Society, said that the study sought “to uncover so-called discrimination that respondents hadn’t even thought of as a problem”.

He added: “With the rising tide of students espousing creationism – and academics being increasingly reticent about challenging this – it would be far more constructive in our view if HE institutions, instead of paying greater attention to religion and belief, paid it less attention” and treated “all students as equal regardless of what beliefs they hold”. [my emphasis]

This is something I’d not come across, but maybe reflects a recent survey at Glasgow University, which as I recall suggested surprising numbers of students beginning Biology courses didn’t favour evolutionary theories over creationist ideology.  It’s worrying if University academics are inhibited from challenging irrational beliefs in creationism.

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