Is Northern Ireland turning into the new Kansas? The DUP seems intent on importing the lunacies of the American creationists into British politics and education.
Last night Lisburn council voted to write to all its grammar and secondary schools encouraging them to teach alternative theories to evolution like 'intelligent design'. The proposal was made by DUP councillors, but opposed by SDLP and Sinn Fein representatives. DUP head office is briefing that these stunts are in keeping with party policy.
As the Belfast Telegraph reports, this is not the only move in Ulster to undermine the science education of local pupils:
"DUP MP David Simpson (Upper Bann), who is a member of the Free Presbyterian Church, questioned Education Minister Caitriona Ruane on the availability of materials and resources for schools wishing to teach alternative scientific theories to evolution as part of the revised curriculum."
"Mr Simpson also asked for an assurance that pupils who answer GCSE examination questions outlining creationist or intelligent design explanations for the development of life on Earth, will not be marked lower than pupils who give answers with an evolutionist explanation."
(Yes, you did read that right, he wants pupils to be able to make up non-scientific answers in science exams and not be "marked lower".)
Of equal concern is the response by the NI education department to the Belfast Telegraph which displays zero concern for the educational welfare of children and maximum accommodation of the anti-science zealots:
"In a statement the Department of Education said the teaching of alternative theories was a matter for schools.
A spokeswoman said: "The revised curriculum offers scope for schools to explore alternative theories to evolution, which could include creationism, if they so wish."
All of which goes against the recent Council of Europe statement that states that Creationism in any of its forms, such as “intelligent design”, is not based on facts, does not use any scientific reasoning and its contents are definitely inappropriate for science classes.
Politicians and the education establishment in Northern Ireland need to do more to defend scientific knowledge or else Ulster will be in danger of becoming known as an educational backwater dominated by religious extremists. The story has already hit the major science blogs in the USA, how long before Louis Theroux will be filming his next show in Lisburn?