It's best to be careful before criticising the school in Gateshead that insists on teaching creationism. Because these are Geordie creationists. They're likely to lean into your face and say: "What are you looken' at, ya soft evolutionist ponce? Are you callen' me a chimpanzee or what?"
And you've got to admire creationists for being thorough. They make statements such as the one in the Jehova's Witness magazine Awake, that starts "Many of the conclusions by evolutionists are speculative, based on a few old teeth and bones." And maybe they have a point that, on some biological matters, Darwin wasn't entirely accurate.
Yet they don't get round to assessing, with the same fine attention to detail, the theory that goes "Lo, and woman was invented out of a man's rib but ruined paradise after being persuaded to eat an apple by a talking snake, and Methuselah lived to 969, Moses split the sea in two and when Jonah was burped out by a whale he was basically all right although obviously a little bit shaken."
Or that, traditionally, creationists say the world was created in 4004BC, on 23 October, at 9.00am. Which was presumably so that God could watch Kilroy. Or that on the first day, God said "let there be light", but didn't create the sun until the fourth day – the sort of error that should have been picked up on the first draft.
Then there's the flood. According to chapter 6 of Genesis, "the Lord saw how great man's wickedness on Earth had become. So the Lord said 'I will wipe mankind from the face of the Earth – men and animals, and creatures and birds, for I am grieved that I have made them'." Which was a bit rough on the animals, wasn't it? They must have been thinking "Why take it out on us, you vicious sod? We can't help it if man's wicked, we're starfish".
One of the ironies about creationists is they try to find scientific evidence for their theories. At one point, a scholar named Doctor Maculloch argued that if you studied the fossils of extinct animals closely, you could see their noses were elevated, which must have been as a result of trying to keep breathing during the flood. He should have gone further and said that if you looked at the position of the paws, it was clear they were trying to ring the coastguard on their mobile phones.
And yet, the headmaster of this creationist school accuses his opponents of "stifling debate." Surely, he says, it's only fair if both sides are given equal weight. All right then. I'll start a school that teaches that God lives in a land that's full of unicorns in the back of my wardrobe, and he has the body of a terrapin and the face of Des Lynam. If anyone objects I'll point out that I do put the non-terrapin point of view as well, so anyone complaining is trying to stifle debate.
The problem with creationism is not just that it's nonsense. It flourished in a period of rigid hierarchy, when man knew his place and each man knew his place, having been put on Earth, by God, to carry out his allotted role. Which is why every social movement that opposed this order valued science, and why every scientific advance, from the discovery that the Earth went round the Sun to the genius of Darwin was opposed by the mainstream church.
As ever, the church eventually learned to adapt to these changes, so now most Bishops concede the Bible isn't to be taken literally. Which isn't a bad cop-out. Imagine in a law court, if someone's evidence was proved to be complete rubbish, so they said "The thing is, your honour, when I said that I was at the cinema on the night of the murder, obviously I said that only as a metaphor."
So it was typical that Tony Blair defended the school on the grounds that it achieved high pass-rates in exams. Because in his world, success is measured in the statistics of profit margins and exam results, never mind that a group of kids grow up with a set of beliefs that negate the last 150 years of science and philosophy. A devil-worshipping school could turn out decent exam results, if all students had to calculate the angles of their pentacles, and investigate the organs of goats they sacrificed.
But little of this would surprise Darwin, especially as one of the pieces of evidence for his theory of natural selection concerned bees. He discovered that the Mexican bee uses a different type of honeycomb, not so mathematically perfect as other bees. This makes sense, he said, if you accept that species change as a result of their environment. Whereas, if the creationist argument is true, why would God have bothered to make a slightly different bee, just in Mexico? And Tony Blair would say it doesn't matter which theory is true, as long as league tables of honeycombs are published, allowing parents of gifted bees the choice of where to send their lava, and a few rich bees can opt out and send their young to a selective hive in Orpington.Reuse content