Field of Science

Evolution of creationism in Europe

Michael Reiss, professor of education at the Institute of Education in London and an Anglican priest, attracted controversy last year when he said that creationism should be discussed in science lessons. As a consequence of that he quit his position as director of education at the Royal Society.

Now he's back suggesting we're all going to be creationists by 2012. Admittedly, that's reading a bit more into what he actually said. Apologies.

Let's see what he actually said:
Reiss told the Guardian that countries with a higher proportion of Muslims or fundamentalist Christians in their population were more likely to reject evolution. He added: "What the Turks believe today is what the Germans and British believe tomorrow. It is because of the mass movement of people between countries.
Oh! then I take back my apology, because he is pretty damn close to saying we'll all be creationists, isn't he?

Also, there are reasons to believe he's dead wrong.

Such a change in beliefs within large populations doesn't have to be the implication of immigration. Emigrants can change their beliefs, too, especially over the generations. In Denmark, Children born of Muslim parents are much more moderate and lax about their beliefs, and it is equally/highly/somewhat plausible/imaginable that the long term effect of immigration is that education, social security, equality, and all the things that lead to a better life, are going to lead to them becoming less religious (i.e. a better life, but that's just my many's opinion). But that immigrants who are religious, and their children born in the new country, can change their beliefs is somehow assumed to be unlikely.
"These things can no longer be thought of as occurring in other countries. In London, where I work, there are increasingly quite large numbers of highly intelligent 16, 17 and 18-year-olds doing Advanced Level biology who do not accept evolution. That's either because they come from a fundamentalist Christian background or from Muslim backgrounds."

This rejection of evolution even extended to young people training for the medical profession. "Around 10% of UK undergraduates in some medical schools are creationists. Some people think this is unacceptable and that such students are not worthy to become doctors."
Biologists and medical professionals who don't believe in evolution (and thus do not understand science) seems like a scary situation, and I agree that it is, in some way of looking at it. However, my prediction is that given enough time, the influence of what these evolution "skeptics" will learn will go the other way, too. It will erode belief in creationism. I have no data to back this up (though I do have a model), but think about it. As (research reported on by) Tom Rees have made clear, wealth, equality, security, etc., are what correlates with (causes?) the erosion of belief. So there.

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