I live in a democracy where there is a high degree of freedom of speech and so long as I obey the law I can pretty much say what I want wherever I want. So if I happened to believe that the earth was flat I could erect a soapbox in Hyde Park, or anywhere else, and tell whoever would listen about my beliefs. However, unless I was totally deranged (which I suppose I might be, come to think of it) I would not expect that anyone would take me terribly seriously. And I certainly wouldn’t expect that anyone would suggest that my flat earth view should be presented in schools as an alternative to the scientific fact that the Earth is a sphere!

This, of course, brings me again to Sarah Palin. She is on record as believing that creationism should be taught in schools alongside evolution.  Let’s be quite clear about what this policy position means. It means that Mrs Plain thinks that there is some sort of intellectual equivalence between on the one hand  the robust science of evolution and on the other the contrary myths of creationism. I don’t know which of the many forms of creationism that Mrs Palin wants taught (and perhaps believes in herself?)  but I do know that the place for the view that God created the Earth is the Church (or the Mosque or the Synagogue) not in the school.

There is nothing incompatible between understanding the science of evolution and the personal choice that any of us can make to believe in God. But there is an obvious conflict between the notion that Genesis Chapter One is literally true and the science of evolution. Like all allegorical writing surely Genesis is not meant to be taken literally but symbolically.  We now know that the Earth was created between 4 and 5 Billion years ago and that it has gradually evolved into the planet we live on today. Like most areas of science there is perhaps as much that we don’t know as there is detail that we do know – which is one of the reasons why the CERN experiments are underway in Switzerland. These experiments are not to prove that the Earth was created by a Big Bang those billion of years ago (that’s a fact) but to find out a bit more about it.

For people of Faith (any Faith) who believe in God and that God created the world we live in then surely it is perfectly sound for them to say that it was God who launched the Big Bang? Why not? And the Bible (or The Koran), written all those years ago when science was in its infancy have stories which establish the belief that God created the Heavens and the Earth and which then recount a charming allegory to illustrate that belief. Science and religious belief can co-exist perfectly happily in this way – there is nothing irreligious about evolution.  And there is certainly no need, as Mrs Palin seems to think, for evolution and her sort of “six day creationism” to be taught together as competing alternative paradigms. That would be terrible science – and terrible education as well.

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