1. says


    ID, then called Natural Theology and believed in by people like Lyell, Herschel, Owen, is certainly relevant to the history of science, if for no other reason, as an explanation of why Darwin spent so much time in the Origin arguing against creationism.

  2. mirshafie says

    What the hell. Can they at least wait and see if the Creation museum in the US is successful or not? Just an idea. Before spending millions.

  3. llewelly says

    Perhaps Darwin’s historical refutation of Paleyism should become part of bio 101?

    I think the ‘science for non-scientists’ classes in HS and college say too little about science’s long history of rejecting theories that conflict with evidence.

  4. mndarwinist says

    Since when does something that is so off the mark constitute history of science? What about Ptolemy?

  5. Owlmirror says

    Would it be so bad to teach ID in the history of science, as long as the Kitzmiller decision itself was part of the reading material?

    It could be argued that a history of science course ought to include examples of bad science and pseudoscience, to help explain what is and is not science.

  6. RamblinDude says

    I would really like to give the Rev Jan Ainsworth, the benefit of the doubt on this one. I hope her suggestion that creationism could possibly be discussed as a footnote in a ‘history of science’ class, under ‘anti science’ perhaps, is an honest attempt to edify and not evangelize.

    I really would like to believe that—-but I don’t.

  7. says

    I think the key point here is that she does say “”While it is not something I would subscribe to, it is a recognition that there are different ways of looking at the evidence.” Personally, I see no harm in giving science context with historical aspects of science. It was never taught or discussed when I went to school. I found it interesting during ‘religious education’ that many students who had little or no interest in science were interested in pointing out the flaws in such (creationist/ID) arguments. They were quickly silenced so why not formalise it in this manner and give an opportunity to show bad science?

  8. Christian Burnham says

    Britain is less religious than America, but it has no separation between church and state. I sat through daily prayers in an English school in the 80’s and compulsory religious education.

    The British may have lost their religion, but the next prime-minister is going to be a Christian, just like the current and previous PM’s.

  9. Millimeter Wave says

    As already noted at the other thread (where this was first linked) the context of the story strongly implies that this was an offhand remark and not intended to convey any kind of policy statement.

    I wouldn’t honestly expect anything that radical from the church of cake or death.

  10. Christian Burnham says

    Yes, the harmless and quaint Church of England, which is the official religion of Britain, whose supreme governor is also the head of state.

    For some reason, when the CofE discriminates against homosexuals or encourages creationism, learned people look the other way. The Church seems so much more refined than those extremist American evangelical churches. Look a little closer though, and you’ll see that their goals are the same.

  11. Millimeter Wave says

    Christian Burnham @10,

    I honestly don’t think there’s any comparison. Whilst technically the head of the CofE is head of state, she doesn’t have any real political power. When was the last time laws were passed on stem cell research or abortion in the UK due to influence from the CofE?

  12. uncle bob says

    The dismissal of the notion of intelligent design seems at
    hand; what better way than to pass over it as recent history?
    I’m tired of it; as are we all?

  13. Jen Phillips says

    The article does indeed imply that this was an extemporaneous aside as opposed to a formal edict. They also mention that team CofE seemed to be trying to distance themselves from the remark.
    In principle, it is really quite useful to introduce creationism and other pseudosciences in science classes–especially introductory or survey courses. Explaining the ways in which these theories/practices don’t constitute valid science is a great teaching tool to drive home the value of the scientific method and critical thinking in general. I am sorry to say, however, that in the current climate I do worry mightily about the ways in which including this topic in a nationwide curriculum might be abused and exploited.

  14. Gilles says

    “OK, it’s the whole dang English-speaking world”

    There are other worlds besides the English-speaking world, you know. I think ID is a product of biblical fundamentalism, not as widespread in ex-catholic (France, España, Italia, among others) countries as it is in protestant countries. I don’t know why, though. I remember when I was a kid in school, our Jesuit science teacher used to debunk for us the “seven days” timeframe (we didn’t say “Creation Theory in those times), particularly the fact that light was created on the first “day”, and the Sun on the fourth “day”.

  15. Nonanglo says

    I told you like a year ago this was not about the US but about the puritanical religious origins of anglo culture.
    We can expect other european countries with similar cultural backgrounds to imitate the trend, too.

  16. Pugacov says

    Since when does something that is so off the mark constitute history of science? What about Ptolemy?

    What’s worse theory which is deadly wrong constitues sometimes – in bad times – the science itself. Darwinism is such a wrong theory. Giordano Bruno could have told you what it is when universities are full of ignorants and fanatics. He was target of their denigration when he presented them Copernicus solar system and his own thoughts about infinity of the Universe.

    Anyway Giordano Bruno paid with the same coin and denigrated Oxford doctors as well.
    History repeated. Let me quote Giordano Bruno who faced out Oxford doctors and scientific estabishment of his time (ptolemaists – you know):


    Therefore now that we have been in the dregs of the sciences, which have brought forth the dregs of opinions, which are the cause of the dregs of customs and of works, we may cartainly expect to return to the better condition.

    Eroici furori II dial.


  17. Marc says

    I would think a History of Science course would mention ID as well as the Theory of Humors, the Luminiferous Aether, Lamarckian Evolution, and Alchemy, and what happened to those theories.

    Such a curriculum might give a better idea of what a theory actually is and how one is disproven, as well as what happens when the ‘scientific community’ is proven incorrect.

  18. Ichthyic says

    Giordano Bruno could have told you what it is when universities are full of ignorants and fanatics.

    too bad he didn’t hang around long enough to explain ignorant internet fanatics.

    oh well.

  19. says

    I don’t remember History of Science being taught in the schools I attended here in England 40 years or so ago. I did physics, chemistry and biology to various levels, and my recollection is that it was the actual science that we studied, not its historical context. Maybe it’s different now.

    I’m in favour of children being taught the history of science, and alternative views (such as creationism and ID) but not in science classes.

  20. Ichthyic says


    Is this another morph(s) of VMartin?

    damn, talk about being off yer meds.

  21. says

    If the CofE want to teach ID in their schools in the UK then they can do so in Religious Education lessons, it’s perfectly legal. Also as we don’t have the split of church and state here in the UK, state schools teach comparative religion classes so that’s the correct place for ID lessons if anyone else wants to teach it. I’m fairly sure this foolish reverend will have it pointed out to her that the science curriculum is far too crowded as it is without having to add a “history of science” section.

  22. says

    I think the most appropriate attitude to ID has ‘evolved’ out of the many responses that it initially met – this being the aggressive attitude whereby it is made clear to the ‘neutrals’ that scientists regard ID as something akin to the stork theory alternative to the commonly held childbirth theory.
    When ID does become history we can think of teaching it in history classes.

  23. says

    I think that ID should be at least mentioned (and refuted) in the history of science – together with geocentrism, astrology and other examples of bad science. To define what good is science can be made easier by clarifying what isn’t.

  24. MRA-UK says

    As regards our deeply entangled church and state, I do find the following interesting; Here in the UK where Bishops sit in the House Of Lords and a regular act of worship is a requirement in all state schools, overall church attendance has been falling for a long time. Figures from 2006 put regular weekly attendance at Anglican services at 1.2 million – out of a population of 60.7 million. Although 71.6% of the population describe themselves as Christian, apparently only about half the population believe in god (link). Meanwhile, in the US, with church and state (theoretically) separated, regular church attendance on Sunday appears to be better than 30% of the nation (link). I’m not sure I have a point here, other than something to throw at anyone who thinks that their religion should be the state religion; If it goes the way it has here, what their religion will get will be a slow, undignified slide into almost total irrelevance… And Amen to that. Or “Whoopee!” or somesuch thing, anyway…

  25. Richard Harris, FCD says

    For religious bigotry in Britain, see,,2092905,00.html

    It amazes me that the head of an Oxford College believes that those of us who don’t accept the ‘gospel’ will be tortured, presumably for eternity, by his god.

    What a dork! (Him, & his god.)

  26. says

    PZ often criticises Xtians for not proesting against the loonies loudly enough. To be fair to the delusionists, the Guardian article does quote Ekklesia (a “Christian thinktank”) as describing ID as “creationism masquerading as science” and “appallingly bad theology”.

  27. Don says

    I distinctly remember being taught about phlogiston during chemistry lessons. However, I wasn’t really paying attention and for some time afterwards assumed it was current theory.

  28. says

    Richard Harris,

    Wycliffe Hall is a permanent private hall, not a college. PPHs tend to have strong religious affiliations, and Wycliffe Hall is no exception:

    It’s a Church of England theology college. It’s hardly unexpected that the head of an institute dedicated to training priests may be a bit religious.

    As regards Pugacov’s comments, Oxford has changed a lot of the years. At the time of Copernicus, science (or at least what we would now call science) at Oxford virtually non-existent. A large proportion of the system was aimed at training priests, so Bruno’s comments are hardly unexpected.

    Oxford, however, has changes a lot. The science area covers a large area just North of the city, and many important discoveries in recent years have been made there.

    In this context, your comments about Bruno and Dawkins seem uninformed at best, and at worst deliberately misleading, vindicitive and manipulative.

  29. Ben says

    “I would really like to give the Rev Jan Ainsworth, the benefit of the doubt on this one. I hope her suggestion that creationism could possibly be discussed as a footnote in a ‘history of science’ class, under ‘anti science’ perhaps, is an honest attempt to edify and not evangelize.

    I really would like to believe that—-but I don’t.”

    I think you can. I’ve seen a couple of articles exagerrating the infiltration of ID into state schools in the UK (most of those C of E schools are probably also state-funded, because you know us Brits haven’t actually reached the 20th century, let alone the 21st). When they brought out a new curriculum which said, under teaching evolution, lessons should discuss an alternative theory – but not as a legitimate alternative, rather to show how theories are discarded when they appear to be wrong and are replaced with better ones. Creationism/ID was an option for this, so there was a flurry of activity in the media shouting about the inclusion of religious instruction in science classes, when in fact it was nothing of the sort.

    The comment about “history of science” makes me think this is a similar thing. In which case it wouldn’t be harmful in principle – it depends on the teacher treating the subject appropriately. But that’s nothing new or unique to this situation.

    I think it would be very useful if there was more teaching about how science works. Though I do believe that in this case, Lamarckian theory would be more appropriate, because it was actually a scientific hypothesis (so there’s more scope for useful discussion of how hypotheses and theories succeed and fail) where religious dogma isn’t. ID/creationism would be more appropriate to include in a discussion of what pseudoscience is.

  30. Matt Penfold says

    With regards the religious view of British PMs, Blair is certainly a christian, as is the PM elect, Gordon Brown. However th e last PM, John Major was not. He is on record as declaring him self agnostic.

  31. Donald Wolberg says

    On the face of it, any discussion or course syllabus in the “History of Science” would include such challenging topics as alchemy, astrology or even the more modern phrenology, telepathy, ufo-ology, great and mysterious beasts, etc., so why not include cteationism or intelligent design notions. Hindsight is the grandest teacher–we are so much smarter than all those who struggled before us–did Mark Twain say that–if not, he should have.

    On a second point, I suggest that to dismiss William Paley (D.D.) too lightly as just another ID character is to do him and the debate a disservice. Far better to appreciate the intellectual struggles of Lyell (and yet he did manage to form the cornerstone of modern geology), or Owen, (still next to Huxley perjaps, the best comparative anatomist ever), or the contributions of the Herschels (try grinding a parabolic metal mirror some time), than to dismiss them as not being bright enough to get what Darwin was saying. Certainly Lyell got it, and so did Owen and lots of other folks.

    Paley was a genuine intellectual force. somewhere along the way I found an 1890 or so (its undated) pirated? knock-off copy of “Natural Theology and Horae Paulinae.” It is fascinating reading and does provide a hint of what Lyell, Owen and the others considered “good science.” Of course they were wrong. But the history of science is a not unexpected bag of right, wrong, debate and synthesis.

  32. says

    How to teach the History of Intelligent Design in Science class.

    “Prior to Darwin, some people believed that the human body had to be designed by an intelligent entity. But then they discovered the prostate gland.”

    Test question: How does the prostate gland dis-prove the hypothesis of intelligent design?

  33. Richard Harris, FCD says

    Joe (#31) “It’s a Church of England theology college. It’s hardly unexpected that the head of an institute dedicated to training priests may be a bit religious.”

    You cavil about this!

    This disgraceful man, Dr Turnbull, threatens superstitiously inclined people, through his god, with severe torture, if they don’t follow his beliefs. This surely sullies the reputation of Oxford? I am aware of the religious tradition & influence on Oxford, with the local bishop having a say in choosing deans. But surely there’s no longer any place for medieval magic belief of this sort?

    And, “…a bit religious”? Well, I thought that the C of E had given up on belief in Hell. This man must be a raving religious nut. What will the Bishop of Oxford have to say about this? Nothing, most probably. An organization that deals in superstition, lies, & manipulation will hardly take a stand on a real issue of principle involving its internal affairs, as various child abuse cases testify.

  34. Caledonian says

    The prostate is placed around the urethra, so that when it enlarges with age (itself a considerable flaw) it will sometimes seriously impair urination by constricting. It would have been much more sensible to put it next to but not around this vital conduit, but that’s not how the design works.

    Ergo, no intelligent design.

  35. says

    Richard, it’s a religious institution. What more can I say? It’s a PPH, not a college. It has very few students

    Look at their website (, the very first piece of text is: “Our goal is to equip and train people to take the life-giving good news of Jesus to the world. Our prayer is that students will grow into the likeness of Christ as members of a Christian community who learn, worship and pray together.”

    Now let me repeat this: It is NOT a college! It has 137 or so students. As a PPH it can admit students to the University, but it itself is not the university. Wycliffe Hall is an overtly religious institute. Colleges and PPHs are largely independent of the university. Having a principal of one rather small, overtly religious PPH who holds strong religious beliefs is hardly surprising. I don’t see how this in anyway reflects on either the university or the colleges in anyway. Need I point out that Oxford also has Dawkins?

    As regards the bishop of Oxford deciding who the deans (and by this I assume you mean the college deans) are, that is simply not the case. The fellows of a college form the governing body of the college.

  36. Richard Harris, FCD says

    Joe (38), points taken.

    But I thought that, in an election for dean, if the fellows couldn’t give one candidate a clear majority, then the bishop would be called in to cast the deciding vote.

  37. says

    Each college has it’s own statutes, so I can’t say that this is definitely not the case somewhere, but it seems unlikely. It seems plausible that the situation could arise is if the bishop was the college’s Visitor (, or was in some other way associated with the college.

    In any case, the situation seems incredibly unlikely to arise do to the way in which colleges operate.

  38. Dave Godfrey says

    Lyell was converted to Darwin’s theory. He was, along with Hooker one of the people that Darwin told about his ideas before he published.

    Personally while it would be nice to add History of Science to the curriculum there just isn’t enough time. It would certainly make an interesting subject for A-levels (exams taken after study between 16 and 18).

    When I was at school evolution wasn’t discussed at 16 (Mendelian genetics was crammed in at the end), and the basics were crammed in at the end of my A levels. (We spent significantly more time on mitosis than natural selection). I hope things have changed.

    If I was in charge of the curriculum then the second lesson of secondary school (at 11) would be on evolution, after covering the 3 domains/however-many-kingdoms-it-is-now diversity of life part.

  39. Richard Wein says

    The Rev Jan Ainsworth has just been interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme. Her position sounded awfully similar to this ID one: teach the children both points of view and let them make up their own minds.

    You should be able to hear the interview here, but the page was still showing last week’s episode when I looked.

  40. Richard Harris, FCD says

    Richard, it’s still indicating last week. However, if you go to & click on ‘Sunday’, it’s about 33 minutes into the program.

    She says education isn’t about kids believing whatever they’re told in class. She’s asking for children to be given exposure to different views so that they can make their own choices. This sounds nice & idealistic.

    However, in the thousands of British schools controlled by the Church of England, & all the other schools controlled by other superstitions, the kids’ll be led by a teacher who’s likely to be of a religious bent (to get a job there). So, they’ll likely get indoctrinated with Creationism, despite her fine words.

  41. Richard Wein says

    Also, if her aim is just to expose children to different views, why not mention astrology, alchemy, young-earthism, etc? The fact that she selects just the one pseudoscience that (presumably) accords with her own religious beliefs suggests that this is not just a neutral point about teaching different views generally, but that she actually has some sympathy with ID.