Intelligent Design Turns Orange

Pro-Intelligent Design blog Uncommon Descent links to news from Northern Ireland, courtesy of SecEd:

Secondary pupils in Northern Ireland are spearheading a campaign to introduce a scientific concept, banned in the United States, into the curriculum.

Later in the article the hapless hack explains that by “banned in the United States” he actually means

the federal courts having ruled as unconstitutional a public school district’s endorsement of the theory as an alternative to evolution in science.

He goes on:

No examinations body offers intelligent design but it is understood to be offered by the small number of the province’s [i.e. Northern Ireland’s] Independent Christian Schools.

That was the case when this report was published (2 March), but since then there’s been a bit of a development. On 10 March The Times reported that

AN EXAMINATIONS board is including references to “creationism” in a new GCSE [General Certificate of Secondary Education] science course for schools.

The OCR board admitted that a biology course due to be introduced in September encourages schools to consider alternative views to Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

…A second exam board, Edexcel, included a reference to creationism in a draft lesson plan for teachers as part of preparations for a new biology GCSE. But a spokeswoman said that it had not been included in the final specifications for the course.

The “Independent Christian Schools” referred to by SecEd are the ten or so Protestant Fundamentalist private schools attached to Ian Paisley’s Free Presbyterian Church denomination (see this article; I blogged Paisley himself here). But the campaign for ID in high-schools is broader-based:

Pupils in mainstream schools are, however, compiling a petition which they will forward to education minister Angela Smith, arguing that intelligent design should be offered.

…The petition reads: “I agree that intelligent design should be taught as science in schools in Northern Ireland as part of the curriculum from key stage 1 to university level alongside the theory of evolution.”

Unfortunately, however, no details are given as to who these students are. However, they enjoy some political support:

“It’s clear that in our schools the faith of many thousands of pupils is being actively denigrated on a daily basis and that the schools system is being used by education authorities to indoctrinate people against their own religious convictions. This must stop,” Upper Bann MP David Simpson says.

Simpson is an MP with the Democratic Unionist Party, which was founded – like the FPC – by Paisley, and its description on Google introduces it as “The most religiously fundamentalist of all The Unionist Parties”. Simpson’s theme of science education as religious persecution also inspired him to pen a question to Angela Smith, in which he asked

what redress is available to parents of a child removed from a class in Northern Ireland for expressing a belief in intelligent design.

Never mind that this has never happened. Smith replied:

I would not expect such a situation to occur, as schools should show respect for the beliefs of every pupil. If it did, as with any issue of concern, parents should discuss the matter with the principal and Board of Governors of the school. If this did not resolve the issue, parents could seek redress from their Education and Library Board’s Curriculum Complaints Tribunal.

Simpson is apparently less worried about the fate of any similarly hypothetical pupil in one of Paisley’s schools who might dare to call ID (or any other form of Creationism) “junk science”.

The spread of Creationism in British schools has been blogged by me before – see here and here.