How Should Creationism and Intelligent Design be Dealt with in the Classroom?


Correspondence: Michael J. Reiss, Institute of Education, University of London, 20 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AL, UK.


Until recently, little attention has been paid in the school classroom to creationism and almost none to intelligent design. However, creationism and possibly intelligent design appear to be on the increase and there are indications that there are more countries in which schools are becoming battle-grounds over them. I begin by examining whether creationism and intelligent design are controversial issues, drawing on Robert Dearden's epistemic criterion of the controversial and more recent responses to and defences of this. I then examine whether the notion of ‘worldviews’ in the context of creationism is a useful one by considering the film March of the Penguins. I conclude that the ‘worldviews’ perspective on creationism is useful for two reasons: first it indicates the difficulty of using the criterion of reason to decide whether an issue is controversial or not; secondly, it suggests that standard ways of addressing the diversity of student views in a science classroom may be inadequate. I close by examining the implications of this view for teaching in science lessons and elsewhere, for example in religious education lessons and citizenship lessons and at primary level where subject divisions cannot be made in so clear-cut a manner.