Debating Darwin: Should evolution be taught as the only truth? at the 2007 Battle of Ideas conference hosted by the Institute of Ideas.
The debate over creationism has sprung up as the latest flashpoint in the battle between secularism and religion. While the US has seen extended conflict over the theory of evolution - from the 1925 'Scopes Monkey Trial' to the recent Dover, PA court case "new challenges to Darwinism under the guise of intelligent design (ID) have arisen in the UK. Concerns centre on school science education, from Sir Peter Vardy's Emmanuel Schools Foundation to the controversial teaching packs distributed by the anti-evolution group Truth in Science. The rise of 'Islamic creationism', modeling itself on ID, adds to concerns that Islam poses a special threat to secularism in Britain. Although the Royal Society and much of the scientific establishment have denounced the teaching of creationism, a recent MORI poll revealed that over 40% of the public believe that creationism or ID should be taught alongside evolution in school science classes.
While few seriously endorse the literal biblical story of creation, ID on the other hand claims to highlight Darwinism's shortcomings on scientific grounds. Evolution is 'just a theory' after all. Surely in the spirit of encouraging critical thinking we should 'teach the controversy'? Science is about questioning received truths rather than establishing certainties for all time. Does this not permit a more flexible approach to science education, where debate is encouraged? Further, the sheer complexity of evolutionary theory leads ID advocates to claim it is best to cultivate a critical eye in pupils, rather than have them take as truth a misunderstood Darwinian theory.
Is science, or 'scientism', just as fundamentalist as religion, arrogantly claiming to know everything, or are doubts such as these a reflection of scientists' failure to make the case properly for what science does have to offer? Is this merely another case of the 'balance fallacy' the mistaken belief that even falsehoods should be given air time?- IoI
Simon Conway Morris
Simon Conway Morris is Professor of Evolutionary Palaeobiology in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Cambridge. He has worked as a Research Fellow at St John's College, and has lectured at the Open University. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1990, and has received medals from the National Academy of Sciences and the Geological Society of London. He worked for the Natural Environment Research Council between 1998 and 2002. Simon is renowned for his insights into early evolution and his studies of palaeobiology.
Steve Fuller holds the Auguste Comte Chair in Social Epistemology in the Department of Sociology at the University of Warwick, UK.
He is acknowledged with founding social epistemology and has published over 17
books including Kuhn vs Popper and The Intellectual. His latest book is Humanity
2.0: What it Means to be Human Past, Present and Future (Palgrave
Alex Hochuli is a masters student in European studies at King's College London and editor of the Battle of Ideas and Institute of Ideas websites.
He assists in the development of the IoI's communications and new media, and with the Debating Matters Competition. Alex is a Battle of Ideas committee member and is on the editorial team of the 2007 Battles in Print.
He occasionally writes articles for spiked and reviews for Culture Wars. Alex co-edits the Manifesto Club freedom blog, Speaking Our Mind, and is a regular guest on news discussion programme Up Front on internet talk TV channel 18 Doughty Street.
Alex is a recent graduate in International Relations and History from the London School of Economics (LSE) with a special interest in religion and secularism, co-producing the IoI and Bishopsgate Institute series of debates on secularism in early 2008. He also has a keen interest in issues relating to the media and the internet, particularly with regard to censorship and free speech.
David Perks has taught in state schools for over 20 years and is a passionate defender of academic science education. His critique of the new school science curriculum published in What is science education for? provoked the front page headline in The Times - Science elite rejects new GCSE as 'fit for the pub'. David writes more broadly on education and the relationship between science and society. His interests range from environmentalism to intelligent design. David originated the Institute of Ideas and Pfizer Debating Matters sixth form debating competition