Archive for the ‘Bible’ Category

Science lessons to include creationism?

September 21, 2008

Science lessons should tackle creationism and intelligent design

Teachers need to accommodate the differing world views of students from Jewish, Christian or Muslim backgrounds – which means openly discussing creationism and intelligent design as alternatives to evolutionary theory

Rev Prof Michael Reiss, director of education at the Royal Society

Photograph: Frank Baron

Link to this audio

What should science teachers do when faced with students who are creationists? Definitions of creationism vary, but about 10% of people in the UK believe that the Earth is only some 10,000 years old, that it came into existence as described in the early parts of the Bible or the Qur’an and that the most evolution has done is to split species into closely related species.

At the same time, the overwhelming majority of biologists consider evolution to be the central concept in biological sciences, providing a conceptual framework that unifies every aspect of the life sciences into a single coherent discipline. Equally, the overwhelming majority of scientists believe that the universe is of the order of about 13 to 14 billion years old.

Evolution and cosmology are understood by many to be a religious issue because they can be seen to contradict the accounts of origins of life and the universe described in the Jewish, Christian and Muslim Scriptures. The issue seems like an ongoing dispute that has science and religion battling to support the credibility of their explanations.

I feel that creationism is best seen by science teachers not as a misconception but as a world view. The implication of this is that the most a science teacher can normally hope to achieve is to ensure that students with creationist beliefs understand the scientific position. In the short term, this scientific world view is unlikely to supplant a creationist one.

So how might one teach evolution in science lessons, say to 14 to 16-year-olds? Many scientists, and some science educators, fear that consideration of creationism or intelligent design in a science classroom legitimises them.

For example, the excellent book Science, Evolution, and Creationism published by the US National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine, asserts: “The ideas offered by intelligent design creationists are not the products of scientific reasoning. Discussing these ideas in science classes would not be appropriate given their lack of scientific support.”

I agree with the first sentence but disagree with the second. Just because something lacks scientific support doesn’t seem to me a sufficient reason to omit it from a science lesson. When I was taught physics at school, and taught it extremely well in my view, what I remember finding so exciting was that we could discuss almost anything providing we were prepared to defend our thinking in a way that admitted objective evidence and logical argument.

So when teaching evolution, there is much to be said for allowing students to raise any doubts they have (hardly a revolutionary idea in science teaching) and doing one’s best to have a genuine discussion. The word ‘genuine’ doesn’t mean that creationism or intelligent design deserve equal time.

However, in certain classes, depending on the comfort of the teacher in dealing with such issues and the make-up of the student body, it can be appropriate to deal with the issue. If questions or issues about creationism and intelligent design arise during science lessons they can be used to illustrate a number of aspects of how science works.

Having said that, I don’t believe that such teaching is easy. Some students get very heated; others remain silent even if they disagree profoundly with what is said.

I do believe in taking seriously and respectfully the concerns of students who do not accept the theory of evolution, while still introducing them to it. While it is unlikely that this will help students who have a conflict between science and their religious beliefs to resolve the conflict, good science teaching can help students to manage it – and to learn more science.

Creationism can profitably be seen not as a simple misconception that careful science teaching can correct. Rather, a student who believes in creationism has a non-scientific way of seeing the world, and one very rarely changes one’s world view as a result of a 50-minute lesson, however well taught.

Michael Reiss is professor of science education at the Institute of Education, University of London, and director of education at the Royal Society

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Michael Reiss Speaks – Steps Down

September 20, 2008

Michael Reiss’ Webpage at the Institute of Eductation

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Royal Society statement regarding Professor Michael Reiss
16 Sep 2008

Some of Professor Michael Reiss’s recent comments, on the issue of creationism in schools, while speaking as the Royal Society’s Director of Education, were open to misinterpretation. While it was not his intention, this has led to damage to the Society’s reputation. As a result, Professor Reiss and the Royal Society have agreed that, in the best interests of the Society, he will step down immediately as Director of Education a part time post he held on secondment. He is to return, full time, to his position as Professor of Science Education at the Institute of Education.

The Royal Society’s position is that creationism has no scientific basis and should not be part of the science curriculum. However, if a young person raises creationism in a science class, teachers should be in a position to explain why evolution is a sound scientific theory and why creationism is not, in any way, scientific.

The Royal Society greatly appreciates Professor Reiss’s efforts in furthering the Society’s work in the important field of science education over the past two years. The Society wishes him well for the future.

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The British Association for the Advancement of Science, A BA Festival of Science, Liverpool, September 6-11, 2008

The Speech

Should creationism be a part of the science curriculum?

Speaker Details:
Name: Professor Michael Reiss
Job title: Director of Education. The Royal Society
Organisation: The Royal Society

Presentation Details:
Event: Should creationism be a part of the science curriculum?
Talk: Should creationism be a part of the science curriculum?
Date of delivery: 11/09/2008

Presentation Brief:
1. Details of your presentation
Definitions of creationism vary but about 40% of adults in the USA and perhaps over 10% in the UK believe that the Earth is only some 10,000 years old, that it came into existence as described in the early parts of the Bible or the Qur’an and that the most that evolution has done is to change species into closely related species. For a creationist it is possible that the various species of zebra had a common ancestor but this is not the case for zebras, bears and antelopes and still less for monkeys and humans, for birds and molluscs or for palm trees and flesh-eating bacteria.

At the same time, of course, the overwhelming majority of biologists consider evolution to be the central concept in biological sciences, providing a conceptual framework that unifies every disparate aspect of the life sciences into a single coherent discipline. Equally, the overwhelming majority of scientists believe that the universe is of the order of about 13-14 billion years old. Even though evolution and cosmology are well established scientific theories, they are at the centre of a prolonged, possibly deepening, religious controversy.

Evolution and cosmology are understood by many to be a religious issue because they can be seen to contradict the accounts of origins (inorganic, organic and human) described in the Jewish, Christian and Muslim Scriptures. The issue seems like an ongoing dispute that has science and religion actively battling to support the credibility of their explanations for origins. The lower visibility of presentations of moderate views creates the impression in many people’s minds that a clear delineation exists between those who support scientific theories and those who adhere to scriptural teachings.

My central argument of this article is that creationism is best seen by a science teacher not as a misconception but as a worldview. The implication of this is that the most a science teacher can normally aspire to is to ensure that students with creationist beliefs understand the scientific position. In the short term, this scientific worldview is unlikely to supplant a creationist one.

So how might one teach evolution in science lessons, say to 14-16 year-olds? The first thing to note is that there is scope for young people to discuss beliefs about the origins of the Earth and living things in other subjects, notably religious education (RE). In England, the DCSF (Department for Children, Schools and Families) and QCA (Qualifications and Curriculum Authority) have published a non-statutory national framework for RE and teaching units which include a unit asking ‘How can we answer questions about creation and origins?’. The unit focuses on creation and the origins of the universe and human life, as well as the relationships between religion and science. It can be downloaded from http://www.qca.org.uk.

(See also How can we answer questions about creation and origins?
Learning from religion and science: Christianity, Hinduism,
Islam and Humanism – Year 9
)

In the summer of 2007, after months of behind-the-scenes meetings and discussions, the DCSF Guidance on Creationism and Intelligent Design received Ministerial approval and was published. As one of those who helped put the Guidance together I am relieved it seems to have been broadly welcomed. Even the discussions on the RichardDawkins.net forum have been pretty positive while The Freethinker, ‘The Voice of Atheism since 1881’, described it as “a welcome breath of fresh air” and “a model of clarity and reason”.

The Guidance points out that the use of the word ‘theory’ in science (as in ‘the theory of evolution’) can mislead those not familiar with science as a subject discipline because it is different from the everyday meaning (i.e. of being little more than an idea). In science, of course, the word indicates that there is a substantial amount of supporting evidence, underpinned by principles and explanations accepted by the international scientific community. The Guidance goes on to point out: “Creationism and intelligent design are sometimes claimed to be scientific theories. This is not the case as they have no underpinning scientific principles, or explanations, and are not accepted by the science community as a whole. Creationism and intelligent design therefore do not form part of the science National Curriculum programmes of study”.

The Guidance points out that the nature of, and evidence for, evolution must be taught at key stage 4 as these are part of the programme of study for science, while key stages 1,2 and 3 include topics such as variation, classification and inheritance which lay the foundations for developing an understanding of evolution at key stage 4 and post-16. It then goes on to say: “Creationism and intelligent design are not part of the science National Curriculum programmes of study and should not be taught as science. However, there is a real difference between teaching ‘x’ and teaching about ‘x’. Any questions about creationism and intelligent design which arise in science lessons, for example as a result of media coverage, could provide the opportunity to explain or explore why they are not considered to be scientific theories and, in the right context, why evolution is considered to be a scientific theory”.

This seems to me a key point. Many scientists, and some science educators, fear that consideration of creationism or intelligent design in a science classroom legitimises them. For example, the excellent book Science, Evolution, and Creationism published by the US National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine asserts “The ideas offered by intelligent design creationists are not the products of scientific reasoning. Discussing these ideas in science classes would not be appropriate given their lack of scientific support”.

I agree with the first sentence but disagree with the second. Just because something lacks scientific support doesn’t seem to me a sufficient reason to omit it from a science lesson. When I was taught physics at school, and taught it extremely well in my view, what I remember finding so exciting was that we could discuss almost anything providing we were prepared to defend our thinking in a way that admitted objective evidence and logical argument.

In an interesting exception that proves the rule, I recall one of our advanced level chemistry teachers scoffing at a fellow student who sat with a spoon in front of her while Uri Geller maintained he could bend viewers’ spoons. I was all for this approach. After all, I reasoned, surely the first thing was to establish if the spoon bent (it didn’t for her) and if it did, then start working out how.

So when teaching evolution, there is much to be said for allowing students to raise any doubts they have (hardly a revolutionary idea in science teaching) and doing one’s best to have a genuine discussion. The word ‘genuine’ doesn’t mean that creationism or intelligent design deserve equal time. However, in certain classes, depending on the comfort of the teacher in dealing with such issues and the make up of the student body, it can be appropriate to deal with the issue. If questions or issues about creationism and intelligent design arise during science lessons they can be used to illustrate a number of aspects of how science works such as ‘how interpretation of data, using creative thought, provides evidence to test ideas and develop theories’; ‘that there are some questions that science cannot currently answer, and some that science cannot address’; ‘how uncertainties in scientific knowledge and scientific ideas change over time and about the role of the scientific community in validating these changes’.

Having said that, I don’t believe that such teaching is easy. Some students get very heated; others remain silent even if they disagree profoundly with what is said. The DCSF Guidance suggests: “Some students do hold creationist beliefs or believe in the arguments of the intelligent design movement and/or have parents/carers who accept such views. If either is brought up in a science lesson it should be handled in a way that is respectful of students’ views, religious and otherwise, whilst clearly giving the message that the theory of evolution and the notion of an old Earth / universe are supported by a mass of evidence and fully accepted by the scientific community”.

I do believe in taking seriously and respectfully the concerns of students who do not accept the theory of evolution while still introducing them to it. While it is unlikely that this will help students who have a conflict between science and their religious beliefs to resolve the conflict, good science teaching can help students to manage it – and to learn more science. Creationism can profitably be seen not as a simple misconception that careful science teaching can correct, as careful science teaching might hope to persuade a student that an object continues at uniform velocity unless acted on by a net force, or that most of the mass of a plant comes from air. Rather, a student who believes in creationism can be seen as inhabiting a non-scientific worldview, that is a very different way of seeing the world. One very rarely changes one’s worldview as a result of a 50 minute lesson, however well taught.

My hope, rather, is simply to enable students to understand the scientific worldview with respect to origins, not necessarily to accept it. We can help students to find their science lessons interesting and intellectually challenging without their being threatening. Effective teaching in this area can not only help students learn about the theory of evolution but better to appreciate the way science is done, the procedures by which scientific knowledge accumulates, the limitations of science and the ways in which scientific knowledge differs from other forms of knowledge.

2. What is the key finding of the work/research described in your presentation?
Creationism and intelligent design are growing in extent and influence, both in the UK and elsewhere. I argue that we should take seriously and respectfully the concerns of students who do not accept the theory of evolution while still introducing them to it. While it is unlikely that this will help students who have a conflict between science and their religious beliefs to resolve the conflict, good science teaching can help students to manage it – and to learn more science. Creationism can profitably be seen not as a simple misconception that careful science teaching can correct. Rather, a student who believes in creationism can be seen as inhabiting a non-scientific worldview, a very different way of seeing the world.

3. What is new and interesting about your work?
Two things. First, most scientists and science educators believe science teachers should not discuss creationism in school science lessons. I disagree. Secondly, I argue that a belief in creationism is better understood not as a scientific misconception that can be straightforward corrected by the presentation of evidence but as an alternative worldview that is much more resistant to change.

4. What is the relevance of your work to a general audience?
I believe that if my work was taken on board we would (i) achieve better teaching of evolution in school science; (ii) students who do not accept the theory of evolution would be treated with more respect.

5. What is the next step for your work/research?
Determine the extent to which UK students believe in creationism and intelligent design and the views of their teachers about this.

6. Others working in this specific area
James Williams, Sussex

7. Details of relevant publications
Jones, L. & Reiss, M.J. (Eds) (2007) Teaching about Scientific Origins: Taking Account of Creationism, Peter Lang, New York.
Reiss, M.J. (2008) Creationism, Darwinism and ID: what are biology teachers supposed to do? Biologist, 55, 28-32.

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Biologically incorrect

SCIENTIFIC ORTHODOXY

Biologically incorrect
September 20, 2008

At least Galileo was afforded the benefit of a trial by the Inquisition. No such process was observed by Britain’s prestigious Royal Society, the world’s oldest scientific body, when it summarily dismissed its director of education for saying that creationism should be treated as a “world view” and not simply a misconception.

The culprit, Professor Michael Reiss, who is also a priest in the Church of England, made some remarks that are sensible enough, except to those who adhere, dare we say, religiously, to scientific dogma. Prof. Reiss was not preaching creationism from his Royal Society pulpit; he strongly defended evolution. Indeed, his main point was that children from religious upbringings should be engaged in science lessons, rather than dismissed out of hand as cranks: “There is much to be said for allowing students to raise any doubts that they have – hardly a revolutionary idea in science teaching – and doing one’s best to have a genuine discussion.” This is a perfectly lucid argument, one to which you would think the Royal Society would gladly adhere. When children raise questions based on what they have learned at home or in church, synagogue or mosque, they should be respectfully engaged. Their minds will not be changed by outright dismissal or ridicule, but possibly by respectful and dispassionate debate.

Some of the eminences who serve as Fellows of the Royal Society, however, mounted their lecterns to enthusiastically condemn Prof. Reiss. His enlightened views were then adamantly rejected by the Royal Society, which claimed they had “damaged its reputation.” Its dismissal of Prof. Reiss makes it clear that, when opinions diverge even slightly from accepted scientific wisdom, they will be met with ruthless suppression. This says something sorry about the state of scientific enquiry as practised by that august body. Prof. Reiss has not been forced to recant or placed under house arrest. He has only been packed off to his old job at the Institute of Education. But the loss of a job over such a minor heresy suggests a new inquisition has been convened, absent a certain due process of the old.

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The Royal Society has treated Michael Reiss badly

He is a victim of a culture where all arguments must be expressible in a sentenceTom Whipple
“On the word of no one” is the Royal Society’s motto. Authority, it contends, is nothing: evidence everything. Scientific papers, even by the most distinguished thinkers, should live or die by the facts alone.

This week senior members of the society forced the resignation of Michael Reiss, its director of education, after a speech in which – parts of the media implied – he advocated teaching creationism in schools. On the word of no one.

His speech is online, so let us assess the evidence. The first thing you notice is that, if this were a scientific paper, it is no Principia Mathematica. Its conclusions seem obvious: almost truistic. Professor Reiss, while strongly defending evolution, says that teachers should be respectful to creationist students and not ridicule their views – because it is counter-productive, and puts them off science. He concludes: “A student who believes in creationism has a non-scientific way of seeing the world, and one very rarely changes one’s world view as a result of a 50-minute lesson.”

But take one sentence out of context, “creationism is best seen by science teachers not as a misconception but as a world view”, prefix it by explaining that Professor Reiss is a clergyman, and suddenly he is a creationist.

The strangest thing is that the Royal Society accepts that he has been badly treated. “Professor Michael Reiss’s recent comments… were open to misinterpretation,” it says. “While it was not his intention, this has led to damage to the society’s reputation. As a result, Professor Reiss and the Royal Society have agreed that, in the best interests of the society, he will step down immediately.”

So he resigned not because he was wrong, nor even because he was particularly controversial. He resigned because others ascribed to him beliefs that were not his own.

He is not the first. When the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, gave a 6,000-word lecture about Sharia in the UK, it was summarised in headlines implying that he advocated public executions and the stoning of women. When Patrick Mercer, the Conservative defence spokesman, talked about the use of the word “nigger” while he was in the Army, he was sacked – not for being racist, but for allowing people to think he might be.

In an odd pact between journalists who want to write sensation, and readers who want to buy it, we choose cartoonish half-truths over complex reality. Professor Reiss is the victim of a culture where all arguments must be expressible in a sentence, and all sentences able to stand on their own. But don’t take my word for it: read the speech.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article4775521.ece

Bible returning to Nova Scotia after 236 years

May 18, 2008

Vinegar Bible’s mistakes make it more valuable

Richard Dooley, Canwest News Service

Published: Sunday, May 18, 2008

A rare 18th century Bible, known as the Vinegar Bible, is coming back to Lunenburg, N.S., after an absence of nearly 240 years.

This edition of the Bible, printed in 1717 by John Baskett, printer to King George III, is thought to be one of only seven of its print run remaining in the world. It’s considered valuable by book dealers and historians because of its conspicuous errors, one of which gives it its name.

It refers to the “parable of the vineyard” in the Gospel of St. Luke as the “parable of the vinegar,” hence its nickname. Baskett’s Bibles are often referred to as “a basketful of errors” because of the mistakes made in the handset type.

The Lunenburg Vinegar Bible once belonged to Rev. Robert Vincent, the town’s original schoolmaster and the second Anglican missionary assigned to the fishing town’s fledgling

St. John’s Church. Vincent died young, leaving a poverty-stricken widow who sold the Bible to the governor of Nova Scotia, Michael Francklin, in 1766. Francklin brought the book back to England in 1772, where it’s presumed to have remained in his family collection.

But little is known about the volume until it turned up at Cambridge University about 20 years ago.

It is known that Francklin kept notes in the back of the Bible, including births and deaths of family members and where they are buried in Halifax. Historians hope that further study could reveal some clues about the early days of the colony.

“It’s tremendously exciting to get this Bible returned to us,” says historian and St. John’s Anglican Church parishioner George Munroe.

Munroe said the Lunenburg Vinegar Bible is as significant to the historic fishing village southwest of Halifax as the Gutenberg Bibles are to the world of publishing.

Marie Elwood, former head curator of the Nova Scotia Museum, negotiated the return of the Bible to Lunenburg after MLA Michael Baker said the province would pay $5,000 for the book. The library at Cambridge University agreed to the bargain-basement price — similar books fetch up to $400,000.

http://www.canada.com/calgaryherald/news/story.html?id=c9d0b578-fe3c-4802-8397-009cf2c50699

 

 

http://www.davidclachman.com/biblelist3/kjv/1717VinegarBibleex1.jpg

 

http://www.davidclachman.com/biblelist3/kjv/1717VinegarBiblein4.jpg

http://www.thelostbooks.com/kjv1717.jpg

 

http://www.lva.lib.va.us/whoweare/exhibits/treasures/rare/j3b.htm

The Holy Bible, Containing the Old Testament and the New: Newly Translated out of the Original Tongues. Oxford: Printed by John Baskett, 1717.

This magnificent 1717 Bible was produced in the printing house of John Baskett, identified on the title page as “printer to the King’s most Excellent Majesty,” and is one of fewer than two dozen copies of this rare and famous edition in the United States. The book’s numerous and exquisite engravings and large, elegant type make it one of the finest examples of early-eighteenth-century English printing. Unfortunately, the book’s typesetters were not so skilled, or as meticulous, as were its engravers and printers. The text includes so many errors that the volume has sometimes been referred to as the “Baskett-full of Errors.” The edition is even more familiarly known as “the Vinegar Bible,” from the most famous of its several typesetting errors. At the top of the page containing the twentieth chapter of the Book of Luke, with its parable of the vineyard, the typesetter inadvertently set the page-head to read “The parable of the vinegar.”

 

 

http://www.smu.edu/bridwell/specialcollections/prothroexhibit/vinegarbible.htm

http://www.smu.edu/bridwell/specialcollections/prothroexhibit/vinegarbible.htm