Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Shameful hypocrisy of Royal Society

Last week at the British Association's science festival Rev Professor Michael Reiss said that creation should not be ignored if it come up in class. Prof Reiss, who is director of education at the Royal Society, said that since a substantial number of pupils have concerns about the issue they are likely to "detach from" science if their concerns are not addressed. Creation should not be taught as such, he said, but if it comes up, teachers should be encouraged to at least make sure that they see that the word "theory" does not simply mean a hypothesis about the way things might work, but a rigorously supported system of ideas that fit with the available evidence.

[Independent article: Steve Connor, Science Editor] 
[Independent article: Archie Bland]

The Times misrepresented him as saying that Creationism should be taught in science classes as a legitimate point of view.

A predictable knee-jerk storm of outrage arose from a group of anti-creationist scientists, who called for him to be sacked.

Yesterday the Royal Society said that some of his comments had been "open to misinterpretation", and that this had damaged 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"
This is crazy! Any comment is "open to misinterpretation", especially if it is completely misrepresented in the press. That's no reason for sacking someone.

And the thing that really damages the Royal Society's reputation is their hypocrisy. After sacking him, they basically reiterated what he had said all along:
"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 chief executive of the British Association for the Advancement of Science said that the Royal Society should have supported him and used this opportunity to further a reasoned debate.
"I was at the actual discussion, and what I heard him say, however it has been reported, was essentially the position advocated by the Royal Society."
The final irony in this craven capitulation to rumour and falsehood is revealed on the Royal Society's own website. The Society's motto is "Nullius in verba". In their own words:
"Take nobody's word for it", dates back to 1663, and is an expression of the determination of the Fellows to withstand the domination of authority... and to verify all statements by an appeal to facts determined by experiment.
A bad day for the Royal Society, and a bad day for science and education.
[Prof Reiss' image - from]
[Coat of arms from wikipedia, licensed under GFDL]

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