Throughout history, certain individuals have been resistant to science. This is not too surprising, as new knowledge often challenges (and even disproves) traditional beliefs; however, the fact that individuals are openly resistant to science is exceedingly unfortunate. Every individual should have a healthy dose of skepticism; one should not blindly accept what they are told, but ensure that proper research has been conducted, and the scientific method followed, before accepting any evidence. But time and time again, we see individuals reject evidence, not because of legitimate concerns, but because of personal beliefs.
On the surface, this may not seem problematic. Every individual is, of course, free to think whatever they like. But we do not exist in a vacuum; our ideas and beliefs ultimately impact others. And a rejection of scientific evidence can lead to individuals making poor choices about important issues (things like vaccines, global warming, and evolution, for example). Even more troublesome, individuals may cast their beliefs as valid scientific theories and attempt to insert their unsubstantiated views into science classes.
At times, this blatant rejection of science may be a bit disheartening, especially when it intrudes into science classes; however, there was a recent win for science in the United Kingdom.
Last week, governing bodies in the United Kingdom banned schools and teachers from teaching creationism as a science in all existing and future academies and free schools. This is an important issue, as there has been a long standing scientific consensus regarding evolution, yet, in the United States, a third of Americans (33%) reject the idea of evolution, asserting that “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.” These numbers are troubling, as this is a process that is accepted by 99% of experts in the field. Ultimately, this means that there is a bit of a disparity between what experts assert and the public is willing to believe. Of course, the scientific community does not operate on consensus; it operates on evidence and observation. Nonetheless, the numbers are problematic in that they say something about who the public is willing to trust (hint: it’s not scientists).
And as we are probably all aware, many individuals are attempting to insert creationism (something that is decidedly not science) into science classes. This intrusion is (unfortunately) exceedingly prominent in the United States. In Missouri, for example, a new bill has been proposed that would mandate that schools must “alert” parents when evolution is taught. Sadly, many individuals in the U.S. support such bills.
But the response to this intrusion in the United Kingdom is promising. The new clauses mandate that, as it is a requirement “for every academy and free school to provide a broad and balanced curriculum,” all schools will be prevented from “the teaching of creationism as evidence based theory in any academy or free school.” In short, if an academy or free school teaches creationism as scientifically valid, it’s breaking the funding agreement to provide a “broad and balanced curriculum.” To clarify exactly what this means, George Dvorsky notes the differences between the various kinds of schools in the UK:
“In the UK, state-funded academies are basically equivalent to charter schools in the United States, and are primarily comprised of high schools. Free schools, which were introduced in 2010, are non-profit making, independent, state-funded schools which are not controlled by a local authority, but are subject to the School Admissions Code. Free schools make it possible for parents, teachers, charities, and business to set up their own schools.”
The new clauses also define creationism, stating that it is:
“[A]ny doctrine or theory which holds that natural biological processes cannot account for the history, diversity, and complexity of life on earth and therefore rejects the scientific theory of evolution. The parties acknowledge that creationism, in this sense, is rejected by most mainstream churches and religious traditions, including the major providers of state funded schools such as the [Anglican] [Catholic] Churches, as well as the scientific community. It does not accord with the scientific consensus or the very large body of established scientific evidence; nor does it accurately and consistently employ the scientific method, and as such it should not be presented to pupils at the Academy as a scientific theory.”