Richard Dawkins’s theological/philosophical dilettantism aside, I would gladly hoist a pint in celebration with him over this news:
Leading scientists and naturalists, including Professor Richard Dawkinsand Sir David Attenborough , are claiming a victory over the creationist movement after the government ratified measures that will bar anti-evolution groups from teachingcreationism in science classes.
(Richard Dawkins celebrates a victory over creationists via The Guardian)
To my mind, the biggest question anti-creationists should be exploring is “How do we stop this thing?” Contrary to expectations, creation ‘science’ has spread out of the United States and broken through geographical, political and religious lines. The burgeoning British creationist movement is an example, although things are certainly still worse in the States: some 46% of the American population doesn’t accept evolution, and among clergy the percent is an astounding 70%.
Decades of science education hasn’t affected these percentages significantly, and when you control for religious background and beliefs the effect of education is actually a non-significant predictor of an individual’s acceptance of evolution. The implication here is that education may not be the best way to combat creationist propaganda: the real place where this debate is being affected is through religious authority, which makes the statistic I mentioned earlier about clergy acceptance of evolution all the more troubling. It also implies that the news from Britain, while certainly good news, may make very little practical difference in the growth or decline of creation ‘science’ influence.
Still, we can consider measures that governmental bodies can take to press back against creationist nonsense, and even though education in and of itself doesn’t do anything the levying of social sanctions related to education may very well be the most effective thing a non-religious presence can do. Britain has decided to keep creation ‘science’ nonsense out of government-funded schools, which I applaud. Here in the States the University of California school system doesn’t allow creation-based ‘science’ education in religious high-schools to count as a science credit for potential admittents, another course of action I heartily endorse. The latter measure is closer to a potentially effective move against creationism, as it actually raises the cost of disseminating creation literature in an educational setting.
There are a few other ways to raise social sanctions against creationism. Removing accreditation of Universities that teach it is an example. Spreading the UC policy to other states would be terrific. The point is to make sure that creationist education incurs some kind of social cost, and the loss of potential educational opportunity is the best way I can come up with to do so. It simply isn’t enough to keep it out of public schools; so long as there is no social penalty attached to creationist belief it will continue to thrive.