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Posted by on Jan 16, 2009 in creationism, faith schools | 11 comments

How Many British Schools Are Covertly Teaching Young Earth Creationism “As Fact”?

The recent revelation that about 30% of secondary school teachers want “creationism” taught in schools reminded me of the results of a survey reported back in 2006, which is still one of the most disturbing educational surveys I’ve ever seen. If you are not aware of it, it’s worth checking out.

Go here.

The original tables of results of the Opinionpanel survey are here (scroll down to 2006)

Students from British Universities were surveyed on a range of questions, including whether they were Young Earth Creationists, and whether Young Earth Creationism had been taught to them by their parents, school, sunday school, etc.

Amazingly, 12% of these undergrads were Young Earth Creationists. But the real stand-out statistic for me was that 19% of students said that they had been taught Young Earth Creationism “as fact” in school.

19%! One in five students. We are not talking mostly Muslim schools either. The figure for those who were of other non-Christian religion was actually much lower.

If 1 in 5 British students are taught in school that it’s a fact that the entire universe is less than ten thousand years old and that God made all species as literally described in Genesis, that’s a national educational disgrace.

As comparatively few schools (esp. non-Muslim schools) publicly admit to teaching children Young Earth Creationism “as fact”, it would appear that much of this teaching is going on under the public radar.

Shouldn’t checking up on this – and doing something about it – now be a priority for the Government and for OFSTED? For as I said elsewhere, teaching children that Young Earth Creationism is supported by the available empirical evidence involves teaching them to think in way that are, quite literally, close to lunacy.

In some cases, it may be that the schools themselves are unaware of what’s being pushed in their classrooms. I once discovered a YEC science teacher at a top public school – a teacher whose nutty YEC views even the other science teachers were unaware of. Some students then confirmed that this teachers’ YEC views were indeed cropping up in his teaching.

Any other anecdotes?

POSTSCRIPT. Put this another way – we have prima facie evidence that Young Earth Creationists now constitute a fifth column in UK schools, presenting YEC “as fact” to perhaps as many as 1 in 5 pupils.

POSTPOSTSCRIPT. The British Government is now clear YEC cannot be taught as fact, or even as a valid theory, in science classes in State schools. See here for their guidelines for teachers. However, there are no statutory guidelines for RE, even for state-funded schools. That’s right. None.


  1. StephenI’m of course very concerned about kids being taught rubbish like young Earth creationism. But aren’t there other forces in the culture which might be counteracting it too? My kids love playing the computer game “Spore”, which is based around simplified Darwinism. Dinosaur toys are still pretty popular with younger kids. Kids movies like “Ice Age” refer to a pre-Biblical Earth. And you can’t get your head around even one episode of “Doctor Who” without accepting the idea that the universe/multiverse is more than 5,000 years old.I’m not trivializing your question. Maybe I’m just registering amazement that anyone living in an advanced society in 2009 can believe the universe is only 5,000 years old. It affects everything. Imagine trying to discuss Global Warming with someone who thinks we’ve only had 5,000 years of weather.

  2. And yet 12% of undergrads said they actually BELIEVED it! So their exposure to YEC is having a real effect.

  3. Were the 19% taught YEC in science lessons? Or was it slipped in via other subjects?It’s still so bizarre to me. Aside from the Muslim community, my perception was that the UK was becoming less and less religious. Is there any evidence that non-believer pupils taught by “true believer” teachers think the universe is only 5,000 years old?

  4. I had lunch yesterday with a 30 something land use planner and client of mine. This fellow is very bright and living with a form of leukemia that appears to be well controlled by medication. He is a recently converted funadamentalist Christian and looked me straight in the eye while he explained his disbelief about the theory of evolution. Trying to contain my amusement/incredulity, I asked him to explain why he has arrived at this view. His explanation was that there is “so much that we don’t know and which remains unexplained”. I asked him why God gets the default for anything that we can’t currently explain. His response was “good question” and that he continues to ask all these same kinds of questions. However, thus far, he told me that his new Church appears to be able to supply “all the answers”.I asked him if he really believed that someone had to accept Jesus Christ as their personal saviour in order to make it into the pearly gates. After he conceded this was correct, I asked him about the bush pygmy who lived a saintly life but who had never heard of Christianity. His response was “we’ve talked about this” and he expalined that such a person would go to heaven because they never had the opportunity to make the decision. Of course, at this point I resisted the gleeful opportunity to observe that his reasoning meant that I am damned for eternity. I regret not doing so because, earlier in our discussion, he agreed that he and I have similar moral outlooks despite my atheism. I am having a hard time dealing with the gullibility of people who otherwise appear to be normal, productive and intelligent individuals. I don’t know how things are in your part of the world (I’ve never been “across the pond”) but my sense is that North American society is in dire need of a good dose of rational, skeptical thinking. Stephen, you seem to be one of those at the vanguard of this effort and keep up the good work.

  5. “quite literally, close to lunacy”Lunacy is the belief that peoples moods are determined by the phases of the moon, which strikes me as quite sane. After all, how else do you account for the behaviour of were-wolves and vampires?

  6. Georges and Atheist Missionary:I don’t know why you are so surprised that adults teach, and pupils believe, nonsense when our education systems are no longer reality based but for the past 30 years or so have been subverted by academic heresies such as postmodernism and multiculturalism which preach that all creeds and value systems, however contradictory and conflicting, are deserving of equal respect. This mindless relativism makes the formation of values based on scientific observation, probability, and logic much more difficult and haphazard.We are suffering from a modern trahison des clercs which will, unless speedily reversed, undermine our capacity to make sense of and shape the world we live in.

  7. It’s not a treason of the intellectuals – it is the dumbing down of contemporary society. The irony, of course, is that one would think that the complexity of our modern world would promote just the opposite.

  8. Well, damn. I’ve written several times that the U.S. is the only civilized country that’s backwards enough to consider teaching YEC as fact. I’m going to have to make a lot of retractions.This is so disappointing.I’ve said many times that I think the greatest threat from religion is that it teaches “Faith is a Virtue,” which, when translated means “It’s ok to believe some things despite all evidence to the contrary.”Somewhere along the line, we went way, way off course when we decided that public opinion matters when it comes to what is taught in science classes. Science is science. Fact is fact.Ugh. Very disappointing.

  9. Thank the Government for the Academies where some quite bizarre religious fanatics have been given carte blanche to impose their views. You won’t have forgotten the blessed Tony refusing to condemn the fundies whose money he had touted for funding his academies. The power structure in the governing bodies means that the ‘owner’ can overrule teachers. The outcome is what we get now.

  10. “The power structure in the governing bodies means that the ‘owner’ can overrule teachers.”Much less sedate areas of the blogosphere would cry “Vid[eo] or it didn’t happen!”, but given the present company I should ask: Is there any evidence for this? Surely we would have some indignant teachers and press coverage to back up such a claim, but I cannot recall a specific example.

  11. ‘The greatest threat from religion is that it teaches “Faith is a Virtue,” which, when translated means “It’s ok to believe some things despite all evidence to the contrary.”‘I heartily agree! Trouble is, though, that democracies pay at least lip-service to public opinion, and where there are vociferous groups peddling nonsense – some of them wealthy – governments aren’t going to ignore or dismiss them however foolish they are.The only remedy is better education. But here again, teachers employed by these ‘faith’ outfits aren’t going to put their jobs at risk by voicing their doubts, except as a last resort.

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