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This Section documents some of the many attempts that have been made to obtain official guidance on creationism and Intelligent Design from the Scottish Qualifications Authority and from Government Ministers, and how these have been unsuccessful. We apologise for the length, but feel it is important to quote official correspondence in detail.

The [Sunday] Herald (10 Oct 2010) reported at the time of the launch of Glasgow’s Centre for Intelligent Design that the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association and the Educational Institute of Scotland had both requested guidance, but that none was forthcoming.

On 9 October, Prof Paul Braterman had written to a colleague, with copies to various interested parties, as follows:

“Some of my colleagues feel, as I do, that the Curriculum for Excellence and the examinations syllabi should include, as the analogous documents in England do, explicit guidance stating that creationism and Intelligence Design are not scientific theories and should not be taught as such. Who should they write to express this view?

The matter is given additional urgency by the recent establishment in Glasgow of the Centre for Intelligent Design. I enclose a background information piece on them that I put together on behalf of BCSE at the request of a Sunday Herald reporter, as well as a sample of the material sent to schools by Truth in Science, a group whose personnel and supporters strongly overlaps those of C for ID.

The matter has attracted considerable attention; a piece that I wrote about the closely related Discovery Institute for a local webzine attracted over 1000 hits.”

In response, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) advised that in their view this was a matter for teachers’ individual professional judgement and, by implication, that there was no problem that needed addressing.

On 10 November 2010, a parliamentary question from Patrick Harvie to the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning drew the response:

"I say to Patrick Harvie that I can and will distinguish between belief and scientific fact; that is absolutely what I should do. However, I will not be a censor or forbid people from holding opinions or beliefs"

It is precisely because of the difference between individual belief, which must be free, and what should be presented as valid with the authority of the educational system, which must be scientifically and pedagogically defensible, that the guidance we seek is necessary.

More recent correspondence has been equally inconclusive and unhelpful. To take the most recent of many examples, on 1 October 2013, in the wake of the Kirktonholme scandal, Caroline Lynch, then Chair of Scottish Secular Society (SSS) wrote on behalf of SSS to the SQA as follows:

Creationism and Evolution Denial in Scottish Schools

“As you will no doubt be aware, creationism and the denial of evolution has been found in three separate Scottish schools in a very short period of time. This confirms our belief that such views and excesses may be endemic in the system.

The Scottish curriculum does not specifically state that teaching creationism as an alternative to the overwhelming scientific consensus on the origins of the universe or that teaching intelligent design as an alternative to evolution, or in any context as a viable alternative to accepted science, is unacceptable. This is not the case in England and Wales, where the Department for Education has stated that “We do not expect creationism, intelligent design and similar ideas to be taught as valid scientific theories in any state funded school.” The National Secular Society wrote to you in 2010 with similar warnings and we are deeply disappointed that no unequivocal statement has so far been made. The potential for harm and abuse is now very clear.

Our repeated warnings about this, the vociferous parental backlash and the intense media scrutiny on these revelations, make it very clear to us that this issue needs to be addressed immediately.
Creationism and Intelligent Design are anti-scientific views that are not only deeply divisive and confusing in an educational context but are positions that defeat the hard work of teachers in other curricular areas. These topics have no rightful place in Scottish primary and secondary science education, indeed no place in our education system at all outside of discussions in Religious and Moral Education classes.

If this is left unchecked there is a very real potential that such views can continue to affect this nation's most precious resource – our children. The complacency which has underpinned government assurances that this is not and cannot be an issue in Scotland has now been shattered. Now is the time for positive and assertive action to safeguard the education of our children. We ask that you declare immediately that creationism and intelligent design are specifically excluded from the educational setting outside of RME classes, and that appropriate action including formal guidance is issued to all schools to underpin your statement”

The official response to this, as to similar letters, was a simple reaffirmation of the official view, that there is no problem and that the matter can in any case be left to the good judgment of teachers.


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