Scientists rally against creationist 'superstition'

To mark a double anniversary celebrating Charles Darwin, the father of evolution, his supporters are taking the fight to their opponents

The rise of creationism in Britain to the point where four out of 10 Britons believe it to be the literal truth – as well as the idea being taught in state-approved schools – has spread alarm throughout the scientific community.

But this week sees the start of a concerted fightback, as an 18-month celebration of evolution and its greatest proponent, Charles Darwin, gets under way, marking the 150th anniversary of the unveiling of his theory and the 200th anniversary of his birth.

People all over Europe will take part in a mass experiment to discover evolutionary changes to a species of snail; a major series of programmes is to be shown by the BBC; several books are to be published; and the Open University plans a new course on the subject.

Entries for a competition to design "Darwin's Canopy" – a piece of art to cover a ceiling in the Natural History Museum – will be unveiled this week, and the museum will hold a major exhibition on Darwin beginning in November.

Dr Bob Bloomfield, head of special projects at the museum and a key figure in the "Darwin200" project, said he was concerned by the prevalence of creationist ideas.

"The statistics in this country are quite frightening. If you add up the percentages that either believe in creationism or intelligent design, it is approaching 40 per cent," he said.

"I don't think society can be complacent when ideas which are unsound are perpetrated. We are trying not to compromise people's faith views, other than where they are absolutely inconsistent with science."

He said the teaching of creationism in schools was "very problematic".

Professor Jonathan Silvertown of the Open University, who is writing a book entitled 99% Ape: How Evolution Adds Up, said the OU would be running a course called Darwin and Evolution. "The idea is to give people a feel for the modern evidence," he said.

He and the geneticist Professor Steve Jones, of University College London, are involved in a mass science project to study changes in banded snails, by recruiting tens of thousands of people across Europe.

Professor Jones said religious students – even those studying medicine – were becoming increasingly vocal in their opposition to evolution, saying he was "telling lies and insulting people's religion" by teaching the subject.

"They want permission not to come to those lectures and sit those exam questions," he said. "I have been teaching genetics and evolutionary biology for 30 years and for the first 20 I think the issue arose once. That's changed."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence