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Bishops and scientists warn Blair over danger of creationism

Leading clerics and scientists have warned Downing Street about their 'growing anxiety' over the spread of faith schools in Britain.

Led by the Bishop of Oxford, Richard Harries, and biologist Richard Dawkins, the group has called on Tony Blair to ensure that all school curricula be 'strictly monitored' to ensure future scientific and religious teaching in Britain is properly respected.

The warning of the group - an unprecedented amalgamation of the country's top religious and scientific leaders - follows last month's revelation that Gateshead's Emmanuel City Technology College had included creationism, the doctrine that claims human origins are recent and divine, in biology lessons.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, the group - which includes Sir David Attenborough and Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees, as well as six bishops, including those of St Albans and Hereford - expresses concern over the introduction of creationism in British schools, a problem that has in the past been confined to American education.

'Evolution is not, as spokesmen for the college maintain, a "faith position" in the same category as the biblical account of creation which has a different function and purpose,' they state in the letter, which was drafted by Harries. 'It is a scientific theory of great explanatory power, able to account for a wide range of phenomena in a number of disciplines.

'The issue goes wider than what is currently being taught in one college,' the group adds. 'There is a growing anxiety about what will be taught and how it will be taught in the new generation of proposed faith schools.

'We believe that the curricula in such schools, as well as that of Emmanuel City Technical College, need to be strictly monitored in order that the respective disciplines of science and religious studies are properly respected.'

Downing Street officials have told the group that Tony Blair will respond to their concerns in the near future.

[The Observer 7/4/02]

TEXT OF THE LETTER

Dear Prime Minister,

We write as a group of scientists and bishops to express our concern about the teaching of science in the Emmanuel City Technology College in Gateshead. Evolution is a scientific theory of great explanatory power, able to account for a wide range of phenomena in a number of disciplines. It can be refined, confirmed and even radically altered by attention to evidence.

It is not, as spokesmen for the college maintain, a "faith position" in the same category as the biblical account of creation which has a different function and purpose.

The issue goes wider than what is currently being taught in one college. There is a growing anxiety about what will be taught and how it will be taught in the new generation of proposed faith schools.

We believe that the curricula in such schools, as well as that of Emmanuel City Technical College, need to be strictly monitored in order that the respective disciplines of science and religious studies are properly respected.

Yours sincerely . . .

LIST OF SIGNATORIES

The Rt Revd Richard Harries, Bishop of Oxford
Sir David Attenborough FRS
The Rt Revd Christopher Herbert, Bishop of St Albans
Lord May of Oxford, President of the Royal Society
Professor John Enderby FRS, Physical Secretary, Royal Society
The Rt Revd John Oliver, Bishop of Hereford
The Rt Revd Mark Santer, Bishop of Birmingham
Sir Neil Chalmers, Director, Natural History Museum
The Rt Rev Dr Thomas Butler, Bishop of Southwark
Sir Martin Rees FRS, Astronomer Royal
The Rt Revd Kenneth Stevenson, Bishop of Portsmouth
Professor Patrick Bateson FRS, Biological Secretary, Royal Society
The Rt Rev Roger Francis Crispian Hollis, Roman Catholic Bishop of Portsmouth
Sir Richard Southwood FRS, Past Biological Secretary, Royal Society
Sir Francis Graham-Smith FRS, Past Physical Secretary, Royal Society
Professor Richard Dawkins FRS