Even evolutionary scientists of high degree are in danger of losing their jobs and garnering criticism from their peers over the issue of creationism.
Biologist Michael Reiss resigned as Director of Education of the Royal Society of London after he was misquoted as saying creationism should be taught in science classes. His actual comments at the 2008 British Association Festival of Science, held at the University of Liverpool in September, were that he supported “discussing” creationism if students bring up the issue during class.
The BBC News reported, “He said his experience had led him to believe it was more effective to include discussion about creationism alongside scientific theories such as the Big Bang and evolution—rather than simply giving the impression that such children [from creationist families] were wrong.”1
Yet some of his colleagues misinterpreted his words, and after receiving much criticism and inaccurately being labeled a creationist, Reiss and the Royal Society agreed that he would resign his position.
For some people, the move has tarnished the reputation of the Royal Society, which holds that the theory of evolution is “sound scientific theory” and creationism is “not, in any way, scientific.”2 Lord Robert Winston of Imperial College London and Roland Jackson, chief executive of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, both agreed that Reiss should have been applauded and supported in the matter—for encouraging discussion about “public misconceptions” concerning science—not pressured to resign.
But the damage has already been done, not only to the Royal Society, but to evolution-only adherents around the world. Reiss was the unfortunate victim of his peers’ vehement and trigger-happy attitude toward any threats, and even non-threats, to neo-Darwinism—not based on scientific data, but on their own dogmatic zeal. In the end, they have metaphorically shot themselves in the foot.
The Society has stated that Reiss will return to his full-time position as Professor of Science Education at the Institute of Education. “The Royal Society greatly appreciates Professor Reiss’s efforts in furthering the Society’s work in the important field of science education over the past two years. The Society wishes him well for the future.”2
The Royal Society was founded in 1663 by the “invisible college,” a group of natural philosophers devoted to the advancement of science as we know it today. Among them was Robert Boyle, the father of modern chemistry and a well-known creationist.3
- “Creationism” biologist quits job. BBC News, posted on news.bbc.co.uk on September 16, 2008, accessed September 16, 2008.
- Royal Society statement regarding Professor Michael Reiss. The Royal Society press release, September 16, 2008.
- Dao, C. 2008. Man of Science, Man of God: Robert Boyle. Acts & Facts. 37 (4): 8.
* Ms. Dao is Assistant Editor.
Article posted on September 19, 2008.