Leading article: The closing of the British mind

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The Independent Online

We flatter ourselves that the witch-hunt is something that has long been alien to these shores. We are, we protest, a tolerant nation, where a thousand flowers are permanently in bloom. The trials of Salem were a New World phenomenon, as was McCarthyism, with its "are you now or have you ever been..." a Red under the patriotic US bed. Then we are brought up short, or we should be, by the resignation of Professor Michael Reiss, director of education at the venerable Royal Society.

Prof Reiss had the temerity to suggest that creationism should be discussed in science lessons, if pupils raised the issue. Somehow, it was inevitable that he should be misquoted as recommending that creationism should be taught in schools. All hell predictably broke loose. Prof Reiss, a Church of England minister, was accused of betraying his scientific calling and scandalously hounded out of office. Creationism may have no place in science lessons, but open-mindedness and tolerance surely do. We ask ourselves whose mind is more tightly closed: Prof Reiss's or those of his scientist colleagues.