A worrying number of American teachers appear to be pushing creationism and intelligent design on high school biology students.
“Three different survey questions all suggest that between 12% and 16% of the nation’s biology teachers are creationist in orientation,” write study author Michael Berkman and colleagues in PLOS Biology. “Roughly one sixth of all teachers professed a ‘young earth’ personal belief, and about one in eight reported that they teach creationism or intelligent design in a positive light.”
They conducted what is claimed to be the first ever nationally representative survey of biology teachers’ views on evolution and found 16% of them believe “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so”. This is way down on the general population, which picks this option 48% of the time.
Still these views appear to be filtering through to lessons, with 18% of teachers spending at least an hour on creationism, 5% spending at least three hours and 3% spending over six hours.
Of course, as the authors point out: “these numbers can be misleading because while some teachers may cover creationism to expose students to an alternative to evolutionary theory, others may bring up creationism in order to criticize it or in response to student inquiries”.
Although the survey is small to my mind, involving only 939 participants, it is quite worrying that 13% of teachers thought an excellent biology course “could exist without mentioning Darwin or evolutionary theory at all”.
“It seems a bit high, but I am not shocked by it,” past president of the National Science Teachers Association Linda Froschauer says of the survey numbers (New Scientist). “We do know there’s a problem out there, and this gives more credibility to the issue.”
Over on Wired, Brandon Keim says:
Longtime Wired Science readers know that I’m less bothered than many science writers at the possibility of evolution being under-taught in science and biology courses: so long as a teacher imparts a sense of wonder and curiosity, the details will follow. However, teaching creationism or intelligent design alongside evolution, as if religious explanations had even a fraction of the scientific validity of evolution, is unacceptable: it promotes fatally flawed, uncritical thinking.