Intelligent design in year 8

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Intelligent design in year 8

Postby shd01 » Sun Nov 10, 2013 4:58 pm

Hi,

I am new here; my question has probably been discussed many times before but unfortunately the search feature on the forum is not so cooperative (i.e. it tells me that the words "intelligent design" and "schools" are too common and have been dropped from the search). So please excuse me for turning over what must be old ground.

My year 8 son has brought home a piece of homework from his Beliefs and Values lesson that appears to me to have a creationist /ID agenda. Here's what I mean:

http://i30.photobucket.com/albums/c327/ ... n10025.jpg

I am writing to the school, and I intend to ask where this material has come from and what convictions does the teacher hold in this matter. Note this is not a science lesson, but it makes a clear implication that there is scientific evidence for design, and I consider the questions to be highly leading.

My question for the forum is: is this a normal thing for a school to teach? And is there anything you think I should be doing?

Regards,

Steve Duncan
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Re: Intelligent design in year 8

Postby a_haworthroberts » Sun Nov 10, 2013 5:44 pm

Steve

Welcome along (the forum has been fairly quiet recently - apart from me perhaps). I assume you are in the UK. Is it a state school (I assume so)?

Others may comment further but I'm not quite clear from seeing the photo whether the school is teaching 'there is design in the universe' or 'some people believe there is design in the universe'. The former would probably go against DfE guidelines (for England) even if the material used was covered within Religious Studies (you say it was not within science).

Ashley
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Re: Intelligent design in year 8

Postby psiloiordinary » Sun Nov 10, 2013 7:41 pm

Hi Steve,

At first glance you seem to be spot on.

Can you send me a copy of the scan please?

Just use the "reply to" re the membership email I sent you earlier.

In the mail you can let me know the school and any other background and we can discuss some options for you.

Thanks,
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Re: Intelligent design in year 8

Postby Michael » Sun Nov 10, 2013 7:52 pm

The page seems to accept evolution and I feel it could be by a sloppy poorly thought-out Theistic evolutionist. It is not YEC and has no ID code words.

I presume it is RE homework
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Re: Intelligent design in year 8

Postby Brian Jordan » Sun Nov 10, 2013 9:51 pm

Michael wrote:It is not YEC and has no ID code words.
...apart from "design" :twisted:
I presume it is RE homework
In which case, why is it asking about the strands and spiral of DNA? Or the "laws of science"? It looks to me like RE straying too far into science or, less likely but much worse, a really suspect science paper.
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Re: Intelligent design in year 8

Postby Michael » Sun Nov 10, 2013 10:28 pm

To me , an RE teacher dabbling with the little science she/he knows. GSCE course in RE touch on science and religion in a cack-handed way.
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Re: Intelligent design in year 8

Postby a_haworthroberts » Sun Nov 10, 2013 10:53 pm

Looking again, it does look as though the individual teacher/school may have set this homework.

I initially assumed that they were using materials provided from elsewhere (though not the official National Curriculum). Mark will discover whether, as I assume, this is a state rather than a private school.
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Re: Intelligent design in year 8

Postby Brian Jordan » Sun Nov 10, 2013 11:06 pm

Posted for Paul Braterman, who is having access problems.
"And a very sneaky one. Plonks down a creationist or, grudgingly, guided evolutionist viewpoint and then asks for a piece of scientific evidence on the same theme.
"Where do we see evidence of design in the world?",
"DNA seems to be another piece of evidence of design in the world."
"Artists see evidence of design in the beauties of nature [do they?] Give 3 or 3 examples of this."
Interlarded with real science questions, though I'd love to see the official answer to "What is evolution?" "
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Re: Intelligent design in year 8

Postby shd01 » Mon Nov 11, 2013 7:01 am

Hi all,

Thanks for your suggestions. It is a state school (should have said). As suggested, it may just be an RE teacher straying too far into science, or it may be a concerted approach dressed up to look innocent. Either, way I think it is wrong.

psiloiordinary I will email you a copy of the scan direct etc.
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Re: Intelligent design in year 8

Postby cathy » Mon Nov 11, 2013 6:17 pm

Hi Shd01
I don't like it at all! The DNA strands and laws of science are a bit too specific for the sorts of design stuff appropriate to RE. Which I thought didn't really appear till much later in the national curriculum.

The problem with RE is it is more sort of guidelines and I'm guessing this bit is linked to this guideline for KS3
Learing about religion....
Analyse and compare the evidence and arguments used when considering issues of truth in religion and philosophy
Now I wouldn't really consider DNA strands to be evidence unless it were from an IDer.

The sort of thing I'd expect in that design thing is more the Golidilocks enigma type of thing. I would not be expecting scientific specifics - and certainly not something like DNA.

Have a look on the curriculum part of the Truth in Science website and see if anything ties in there. You are right to be suspicious.
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Re: Intelligent design in year 8

Postby shd01 » Mon Nov 11, 2013 11:50 pm

Hi all,

My wife took a phone call from the headmaster this evening in response to my email in which I pointed out that it is not right for an RE teacher to introduce the concepts of evolution and DNA to students before they have learned about them in proper science lessons. The headmaster said that while he can not express a personal opinion, he is taking the matter very seriously, as is the science department. 'Nuff said, I think.

Thanks all for your help.
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Re: Intelligent design in year 8

Postby shd01 » Tue Nov 12, 2013 12:02 am

For completeness, here is the text of the email I sent:

Dear Mr <name>,

I am writing to bring to your attention a piece of set homework from Andrew's beliefs and values lesson. The item in question (see attached scan) deals with intelligent design, and invites the student to supply facts relating to scientific laws in support of a contention that the universe has been designed. I have instructed Andrew not to complete this homework, and I need to explain to you why I have done so.

I have several problems with the material. First and most importantly, it implies that belief in intelligent design is a common view among scientists. In reality, it is an extreme minority position advanced principally by religious non-scientists whose views are opposed by practically the entire scientific community. As a result, the homework sheet (and probably the lesson that preceded it) lends an air of legitimacy to the idea that it simply does not deserve.
In the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial in the USA, the court found that "Professor Behe's claim for irreducible complexity has been refuted in peer-reviewed research papers and has been rejected by the scientific community at large." I see no evidence of this overwhelming majority opinion reflected in the homework material.

My second problem is that the homework sheet invites the student to confirm the reasoning behind Intelligent Design without suggesting that it might be fallacious, when in reality it is a very common view to recognise Intelligent Design as the fallacy of argument from incredulity. Neither is the central paradox of ID mentioned, namely that the argument that a complex organism must have been designed must necessarily also be applied to the designer itself.

My third problem is that the homework sheet sets out the main design hypotheses and asks the student to supply evidence that either confirms the hypotheses or is irrelevant. These are highly leading questions, and I am not convinced that year 8 students will recognise the intellectual path along which they are being directed.

As far as I am aware, the teaching of Intelligent Design as a mainstream viewpoint is not recommended by the Department for Education, either in science or in Religious Education lessons. What I do know is that fundamentalist religious groups can and do lobby and supply material to schools. I would like to find out whether this has been attempted at <school name>, and what safeguards the school might have against clandestine approaches of this nature.

I would be happy to meet with you and the teacher, <name>, personally to discuss this matter further. I will be at the school on Tuesday 12 November for the tutor group meeting; perhaps we can find some time then. Alternatively, I work in <town> so it is easy for me to visit on other weekdays.
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Re: Intelligent design in year 8

Postby Brian Jordan » Tue Nov 12, 2013 10:06 am

Well said!
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Re: Intelligent design in year 8

Postby a_haworthroberts » Tue Nov 12, 2013 7:29 pm

'Truth in Science', a group of Christians with traditional biblical beliefs who "highlight the scientific evidence which is contrary to the Neo-Darwinian paradigm, and expose the ideological bias which hides or ignores such evidence" (there's a separate thread about them) offer their own teaching materials for schools...
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