Evolution in the UK

How come nobody ever asks me these questions?

More than half the British population does not accept the theory of evolution, according to a survey.

Furthermore, more than 40% of those questioned believe that creationism or intelligent design should be taught in school science lessons.

As a Pastafarian, this distresses me. Why should the Teachings of Our Noodly Master be excluded? They’re ignoring the evidence, I tell you!

The survey was done for an episode of BBC2’s Horizon. The editor responded with this:

“This really says something about the role of science education in this country and begs us to question how we are teaching evolutionary theory.”

That is indeed the problem, because, as far as I’m aware, schools aren’t teaching evolutionary theory. In five years of science classes, I were given a rough outline of evolution toward the end of the biology syllabus. It took maybe half an hour and the only point was to provide us with the example of the camel and the polar bear, which was all exam papers ever asked about. It wasn’t until I read popular science books after school that I started to understand what it was really all about.

In hindsight I don’t see the logic behind the way we were taught. As I see it, biology only really makes any sense when based on the foundation of evolutionary theory. Why are animal and plant cells different from each other? The answer wasn’t quite so bad as ‘who cares, just learn the labelled diagrams’, but it’s impossible to answer the question without a fair bit of background, so it never happened. Biology became a fact-learning exercise which, to be honest, I found dull and uninteresting, in complete contrast to my opinions now. The sheer wonder is somehow extracted from the system. It’s really odd.

The sad thing is that I know my science teachers were enthusiastic about science is a topic. On our final days at school one teacher even bought popular science books, including The Selfish Gene, an excellent introduction to evolutionary theory, for some of the top pupils in the class (not including me, sadly.) Is that even officially permitted under school rules?

Is it the fault of the syllabus? The exam system? I don’t know. I can’t find recent figures, but there used to be a scarily high percentage of the population that think the sun orbits the earth.

The findings prompted surprise from the scientific community. Lord Martin Rees, President of the Royal Society, said: “It is surprising that many should still be sceptical of Darwinian evolution. Darwin proposed his theory nearly 150 years ago, and it is now supported by an immense weight of evidence.

“We are, however, fortunate compared to the US in that no major segment of UK religious or cultural life opposes the inclusion of evolution in the school science curriculum.”

For now, maybe. I personally see no reason why US-style evangelist groups shouldn’t gain a foothold over here – Christian Voice already get coverage for their every press release. A savvy PR-operative could probably work wonders, and based on the above figures it might not be too difficult. Hell, the first mention of pedophilia and logic goes out of the window, so why not something else?

Cynical cynical cynical. Sorry. It just worries me.