4thoughtlessness

What to make of Channel 4’s 4thought.tv run this week: ‘Should creationism be taught in schools?’

This vignette vehicle for (presumably) anybody to get their mug on TV and grind their favourite axe, or pick some particular bone of contention, is all well and good. But whether or not one adopts the position of refusing to debate creationists – because all you do is debate an idiot; or because it plays into the ‘teach the controversy’ trap, thus affording a non-argument undue publicity and attention (as disingenuously exploited by those advocates of un-intelligent design) – a champion of ‘free speech’ immediately corners him/herself when objecting to them being provided a public platform from which to enunciate their anti-enlightenment superabsurdity.

Should creationism be taught in schools? No. Such a stance is not an affront to free expression: those who need to lap it up are at liberty to go to their respective obliging house of worship and have it preached to them (- ideally when they’re old enough to decide for themselves). Neither is it an intrinsically anti-religious one: science is well practised and taught by many religious people. But a science teacher who teaches creationism in flat contradiction of evolution (under the fork-tongued guise of providing all viewpoints for consequently informed minds to decide freely for themselves on the question of the emergence of species and diversity of life) dismisses in a swipe the bounteous evidence from biology, palaeontology, geology, cosmology and more. Such a ‘science teacher’ irresponsibly fails in his duty. Young earth creationism is entirely a faith position – and a completely potty one at that.

Thinking denominations have progressed beyond literal interpretation of scripture (as exemplified by one or two of the contributors, such as Laura Horner, the founder of CrISIS). An embarrassment to their religions, creationists irrelevantly exclude themselves from the (sometimes) more nuanced ‘science vs religion’ debate, as invoked on pragmatically important matters. Teaching creationism in schools is stultification of children’s intellectual and critical faculties necessary to the approaching of arguments worth having. Listen to Monday evening’s contributor venture in all seriousness that humans and dinosaurs must have co-habited on this planet – because the Book of Genesis tells us so. Or another confess, in effect, to using faith as an excuse for refusing to make the effort to understand life’s complexity, and opting for the simple appeal of creationism’s media-age distortion (oxymoronically labelled ‘intelligent design’).

Quite what Channel 4’s programmers, in their radical edginess, consider they are achieving with this weeks’ 4thought.tv theme is questionable. In wanting to ‘educate’ or provoke ‘thought’, they’ve fallen into the trap, and potentially contributed to the undermining of evolutionary theory – and the demonising of scientists – in the public eye. Promoting scriptural literalism as fact fosters a childishly irresponsible mindset. It ought neither to be propagated in schools, nor propagandised on TV.

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