Defend Michael Reiss

Britain’s national academy of science parted company with its director of education yesterday after a furore over the teaching of creationism in schools.

Michael Reiss, a professor of education at the Institute of Education in London and an ordained Church of England clergyman, agreed to step down from his position at the Royal Society, which claimed he had unintentionally caused damage to the organisation’s reputation.

Reiss was widely reported to be in favour of teaching creationism in school science lessons after a speech he gave in Liverpool last week, but the following day he issued a clarification arguing his comments had been misinterpreted.

See here for what Reiss actually believes. It seems clear to me that he is suggesting engagement with sutdents who harbour creationist beliefs, rather than writing them off as deluded God-botherers. A perfectly sensible position and hardly akin to proposing the teaching of creationism alongside evolutionary science, or at all. Do we prefer that students who find Shakespeare boring are faced with a teacher who simply tells them to shut up and get back to act II scene iv of Henry V, or would a different approach produce better results, do you think?

Reiss’ only error was to risk making a subtle and nuanced argument about a subject matter where nuance and subtlely are best avoided. Stick to the script, Michael, and forget the scripture.

Still, it’s good to see that this anti-theist zeitgeist is doing its bit for open debate.

Hat tip: Crooked Timber