The Guardian carries a letter by Professor Michael Reiss, clarifying the furor that followed a recent speech of his:
Your headline (Teach creationism, says top scientist, September 12) misrepresents the views of myself and the Royal Society. The society believes that if a young person raises the issue of creationism in a science class, a teacher should be in a position to examine why it does not stand up to scientific investigation. This does not put it on a par with evolution, which is recognised as the best explanation for the history of life on Earth from its beginnings and for the diversity of species.
Evolution is rightly taught as an essential part of biology and science courses in schools, colleges and universities across the world. Creationism, which has no scientific validity, can be discussed in a science class if it is raised by a pupil, but should in no way be seen as comparable to evolution or any other scientific theory which is backed up with evidence.
Professor Michael Reiss
Director of education, Royal Society
The scientific establishment, in a very unscientific way, sided with the populist uptake of Reiss' words rather than what he actually said and immediately sought to rid itself of Reiss, who is also an Anglican clergyman, has of course now resigned.
What he was suggesting, I think, was merely that science teachers shouldn't take a fundamentalist approach but be willing to engage with "creationist" students. It is estimated that 10% of students in the UK, a large part of the Muslim are creationist. One of the failures in UK science teaching seems to be that like religious fundamentalism it presumes a number of unquestionable "givens", and failure to accept either ignorance of these "givens" or even an opposition to them.
Being a Catholic, I am not of course a Creationist in that sense. The order of creation in the Copernican system is beautiful, the evolutionism of Darwin is compelling, no serious Catholic would question the broad sweep of his theories. What we would question is its frightening political notion of the "survival of the fittest" with its brutalistitic anthropology and world view.
What I have always been fascinated by is that scientist who look through microscopes tend to disbelieve in God, those who look through telescopes tend to believe in God.
What this debate has brought to the surface is the inability of science to deal with the notion of God. I don't simply mean to say that non-believers should prove that God does not exist, but they do have to admit that science does not answer, even our scientific questions.
I suspect that the God who they don't believe in, is also the God I, and most Christians, don't believe in.
People like Dawkins build their own straw God, tell us that this is what we believe in and then proceed to tear it down. For believers God is the "beyond, beyond", "the eternal", "the source", "the prime mover", the creator of something out of nothing. For a Christian we see these attributes made "flesh" and dwelling amongst us in the Natural Law, and ultimately through the womb of the Virgin being given a human face, so human that it takes on man's suffering."God". At least in physics is the "X factor" which means that these ultimates are benign
Science needs faith simply to rescue it from the rationalism that lead Hitler to rid society of the defective, and other totalitarians to dehumanise their societies robbing mankind of anything other than a functionalism allowed him by the ideology of their regime. We have seem in the 20th century the debasement that "scientific method" brings to society, it is essentially compassionless and soulless.
I think not unrelated to all this is Baroness Warnock's comments on dementia patients, it is scientifically (and economically) expedient to euthanize them. Christians recognise an infinite value to every human being, the scientist following his principles is always going to limit the value of the human person.