The Science and Religion Debate in Schools Across the World
The central theme of this issue of Metanexus is the importance of bringing open minded and informed discussion concerning the ‘science and religion debate’ into schools round the world.
Any successful work in this area must involve cooperation and discussion between university experts and experienced school teachers. One of the proposals made here, which was proposed originally at the Metanexus conference in Philadelphia in June 2007, is that ’Metanexus Groups’, involving both university and school representatives, should be set up to discuss and take steps towards this important objective. Details of the new ‘Metanexus Groups’ can be found on the Metanexus Global Network website.
The world’s first project producing materials for teaching about this debate in schools is the John Templeton Foundation funded ‘Science and Religion in Schools’ project based in the UK, published in 2006. The project, which has made a significant impact, is described in the article which follows this introduction. Two articles, The Introduction to ‘Science and Religion in Schools’ and An overview of ‘Science and Religion in Schools’, taken from the published Guides, describe the objectives and content in more detail. The project website contains sample topics and other matters concerning the project and the materials produced. Two reviews of the project, by Michael Reiss, Director of Education at the Royal Society and Professor of Science Education at the London Institute of Education, published in the Science and Religion Forum Reviews and by Knut-Willy Saether in ESSSAT News, are also included in this issue, as is an article by Michael Reiss about science education which appeared in New Scientist and is relevant to this topic.
In the UK we now have experience of teaching this subject in schools which goes back to the beginning of this project in 2002 and beyond. Some of those who have been involved, both in writing and teaching, contribute to this edition. Adrian Brown, Head of Sixth Form and a teacher of Religious Education at a comprehensive school (11 to 18 year olds), who was an editor and writer for the project, contributes ‘A View from the Chalk Face in England’, as does Jim Robinson, also a teacher of Religious Education and writer for the project, ‘Thinking aloud: planning for a new course in Philosophy of Religion for 16 to 17 year olds in the UK’. Jean Bews, a primary school teacher who contributed to the writing and also edited the materials for Primary Schools (7 to 11 year olds), writes from her perspective on ‘The Science and Religion Debate. The view from Primary Schools.’
The importance of IT in this project, whether in the production of materials for use in school or for setting up communications for a global project, is described by Paul Hopkins who is also an expert on websites and has designed our own site. He writes on ‘The Development of the Science and Religion in Schools Project and the Importance of IT’.
Contributions from the university perspective are made by Professor John Hedley Brooke and Dr. Mary Midgley. John Brooke writes on ‘Christianity and Darwinism: Can there be no common ground?’, and Mary Midgley reviews Richard Dawkin’s ‘The God Delusion’ under the title ‘Delusions, Myths and Wars’. Those involved in the production of materials for schools can learn much from these articles.
On the global stage we have articles from Augustine Shutte from the University of Cape Town, South Africa, Peter Schreiner from the Comenius Institute, Muenster, and Astrid Dinter from Wiengarten University, Germany, and Lars Nymark Heilesen from Ministry Training College, Denmark. It is clear that an international movement is underway.
Finally we have an article from Dr. William Grassie, formally Executive Director of the Metanexus Institute, on his view of ‘Teaching the History of Nature’.
We will be pleased to discuss matters arising from these articles which should be addressed to [email protected].