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Thread: Creationist question on GCSE Biology exam

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    Angry Creationist question on GCSE Biology exam

    Creationism question in 'misleading' science GCSE

    You are invited to spot the inaccuracies in the scientifically-illiterate Torygraph's story yourself, but in short pupils sitting a biology GCSE were asked to match four 'theories' (of which only two were theories) to statements describing them.

    Creationist theory (which is not a theory) was supposed to be matched to the statement "fossils of all the different kinds of animals appear suddenly in the rocks, with no evidence of ancestors" (which is not true, and even if it were true would not be evidence in favour of creationism).

    Intelligent design (which is not a theory) was supposed to be identified as based on the “complicated way in which cells work” (which it is not).

    This really is disgusting. Apparently enough teachers complained for similar questions to be removed from future exams but that does not explain how this question ever found its way onto an actual science GCSE that thousands of pupils took. How about some resignations/sackings of those responsible? I'd write to my MP but the expense-fiddling bint has gone AWOL.

    Creationism question in 'misleading' science GCSE

    Thousands of teenagers sitting a test last month were required to outline how the controversial theory is used to explain the origins of life.

    They were asked to place the strict Biblical theory alongside Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

    The move - in a GCSE prepared by the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance - was criticised by experts who said they were “dismayed”.

    Last night, AQA admitted it was “misleading” and insisted similar questions would not be included in future tests.

    James Williams, lecturer in education at Sussex University, has already complained directly to Ofqual, the exams watchdog, and Ed Balls, the Education Secretary, over the exam.

    The disclosure threatens to reignite the row over the teaching of creationism in state schools.

    Last year, Prof Michael Reiss quit as director of education at the Royal Society after scientists attacked his suggestion that it should be tackled in biology lessons. Earlier, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, insisted it had no place in school science.

    Official Government guidance says creationism should be tackled in RE, but should not form part of science syllabuses.

    However, it opens the door to discussion of the subject if it is raised by pupils during debates about evolution.

    The latest row surrounds one higher-tier AQA biology exam sat on June 22 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

    Pupils were presented with four “theories of how new species of plants and animals have developed”. These included creationism, which is commonly known as the belief that the Earth and its species were created suddenly by God within the last 10,000 years, and intelligent design, its more recent off-shoot. Pupils were also presented with Darwinism and Lamarckism, the theory of organic evolution advanced by the French naturalist Lamarck.

    They were then asked to match each theory with a sentence.

    Pupils were supposed to place creationism with the observation that “fossils of all the different kinds of animals appear suddenly in the rocks, with no evidence of ancestors”.

    They should also have identified intelligent design as theory based on the “complicated way in which cells work”.


    A spokesman for AQA said: “Merely asking a question about creationism and intelligent design does not imply support for these ideas. Neither idea is included in our specification and AQA does not support the teaching of these ideas as scientific.

    “In the examination question, information was given to candidates and they were asked to relate evidence to conclusions. The use of the term ’theory’ was intended in its common, everyday sense. However, we accept that in the context of a science examination this could be misleading and we will be addressing this issue for any future questions.”

    But Mr Williams insisted only two of the theories were scientific.

    “This gives an unwarranted high profile to creationism and intelligent design as ideas of equal status with tested scientific theories,” he said.

    “I was alerted to the question by concerned biology teachers in schools who were dismayed that such a question could be set by an examination board.”
    Quote Originally Posted by Bertrand Russell

    The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.

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    Herr Doktor Oetker, ja!!! pollaxe's Avatar
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    Re: Creationist question on GCSE Biology exam

    Oh blimey...

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    lazy student nvening's Avatar
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    Re: Creationist question on GCSE Biology exam

    I dont actually see the problem here, is it just the use of the term theory?

    This is coming from someone whos just sat A2 biology.
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    Re: Creationist question on GCSE Biology exam

    At least it opens the door for questions about Flying Spaghetti Monsterism.

    I actually think FSM should be taught in schools in science class, as it is an amusing way of demonstrating fallacy, like the link between global warming and the decline in numbers of pirates, and there's nothing inherently less valuable in FSM-ism than in Intelligent Design.

    (Thanks Evilmunky)
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    Re: Creationist question on GCSE Biology exam

    Quote Originally Posted by nvening View Post
    I dont actually see the problem here, is it just the use of the term theory?

    This is coming from someone whos just sat A2 biology.
    Essentially, yes. Describing these two asinine forms of head-in-the-sand, fingers in ears and hum avoidance of real thought as theories, is just wrong. You cannot use invalid terminology in a science exam without discrediting it completely.

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    Re: Creationist question on GCSE Biology exam

    Quote Originally Posted by nvening View Post
    I dont actually see the problem here, is it just the use of the term theory?

    This is coming from someone whos just sat A2 biology.
    Considering they're not even science I don't see why they're mentioned at all in the Biology paper. Any more than asking questions in Physics on whether gravity is caused by fairies. Even if they made it clear they're not scientific theories then surely the fact they're not means they shouldn't be covered in a science paper. Maybe they should also ask for Chinese translations in a French paper?

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    Re: Creationist question on GCSE Biology exam

    Quote Originally Posted by superscaper View Post
    Considering they're not even science I don't see why they're mentioned at all in the Biology paper. Any more than asking questions in Physics on whether gravity is caused by fairies. Even if they made it clear they're not scientific theories then surely the fact they're not means they shouldn't be covered in a science paper. Maybe they should also ask for Chinese translations in a French paper?
    I see your logic but the point is that the argument of creationism/evolution is actually relevant and topical, especially at GCSE level where alot of the material is more general awareness than technical.

    For me its obvious the use of theory in the question was meant to be general, it did not say "scientific theory", authough not completely correct to the definition i would not have any problem refering to creationism as a "theory".
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    Re: Creationist question on GCSE Biology exam

    Seems more like my A-level Philosophy Exam.

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    Senior Member JPreston's Avatar
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    Re: Creationist question on GCSE Biology exam

    Quote Originally Posted by superscaper View Post
    Considering they're not even science I don't see why they're mentioned at all in the Biology paper. Any more than asking questions in Physics on whether gravity is caused by fairies. Even if they made it clear they're not scientific theories then surely the fact they're not means they shouldn't be covered in a science paper. Maybe they should also ask for Chinese translations in a French paper?
    Yes - creationism (which = intelligent design) are entirely religious ideas, not even hypotheses let alone theories that have no place in science lessons. If they are to be mentioned in schools at all it should in RE, and made clear that they are not in any way scientific ideas and contain no more insight into biology than a literal reading of Genesis* or anything else that is taught in RE. The physics analogy is a good one, and is similar to teaching kids that the theory of gravity is possibly false and that there exists observable phenomenon which are better explained by the theory of 'intelligent falling' i.e. stuff moves around because it pleases god that it does so.

    That pupils sitting the higher GCSE biology paper are required to have any awareness at all of creationism beggars belief. This is a natural result of Labour's stupid infatuation with faith schools and 'academies', institutions funded almost entirely by the tax-payer but run by drooling imbeciles pushing their religious agenda.

    *the book, not the band. The band Genesis provides significantly more insight than the book, TBH.
    Quote Originally Posted by Bertrand Russell

    The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.

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    Re: Creationist question on GCSE Biology exam

    Quote Originally Posted by nvening View Post
    , especially at GCSE level where alot of the material is more general awareness than technical.
    There's the problem.
    General awarenes /= Science.
    I agree with the other posters that putting such a question is a scientific subject leads to confusion and is poor practice.
    Society's to blame,
    Or possibly Atari.

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    Re: Creationist question on GCSE Biology exam

    Quote Originally Posted by JPreston View Post
    This is a natural result of Labour's stupid infatuation with faith schools and 'academies', institutions funded almost entirely by the tax-payer but run by drooling imbeciles pushing their religious agenda.
    Quote Originally Posted by paper
    Official Government guidance says creationism should be tackled in RE, but should not form part of science syllabuses.
    These two statements are mutually exclusive.

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    Re: Creationist question on GCSE Biology exam

    Quote Originally Posted by kalniel View Post
    These two statements are mutually exclusive.
    Not really; by actively encouraging creotards to flourish in our schools we end up with them permeating the exam boards and wider education system. That this occurred in flagrant disregard for explicit guidance is not at all surprising, why should we expect them to have any degree of competence (or indeed place government guidelines above their 'higher calling' if they even comprehended what they were doing)? The pertinent fact is that this occurred, the fact that guidelines were breached in doing so does not really matter (the question would be just as unacceptable even if the guidelines were not in place), and clearly there needs to be some effective quality controls put in place.
    Quote Originally Posted by Bertrand Russell

    The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.

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    Re: Creationist question on GCSE Biology exam

    Haha, JPreston, don't get yourself all hot and bothered. They admitted it was misleading and they will fix it in the future. Go grab yourself a beer to chill out.

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    Re: Creationist question on GCSE Biology exam

    Well, as someone who pays a lot of tax and expects to live in an educated society as a result I am naturally extremely angry that large sums of public funds get diverted to special religious interests who actively make our children dumber, denying them a proper science education in the process. And I don't drink beer. It's against my religion
    Quote Originally Posted by Bertrand Russell

    The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.

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    Re: Creationist question on GCSE Biology exam

    People have good reason to be hot and bothered.

    Intelligent Design and Creationism are not theories. Theories are subject to the scientific method, and neither I.D. or C. would hold up against it. Now we can argue over what can be classed as a theory, but AQA is being dangerously naive here.

    Take weight and mass for instance. Both are commonly interchanged in everyday language - and fair enough. Generally people don't need to know the difference and only need to know "oh it weighs 10kg" even though that's technically incorrect. However, as soon as you step into the realm of physics, it is grossly inaccurate to label weight and mass as the same thing. 10kg is a mass, 98N is the corresponding weight (in a grav. field of strength g). If you made this kind of gaffe in a physics paper it would cause uproar.

    In the same vein, terms mean very very specific things when written in science papers and it is foolish to fluff around this even though it's *only* GCSE level. AQA have realised this, and to their credit have sworn to retract the comment.

    Then we come to the question itself - their description of ID is woefully ambiguous. I'm sorry, but “complicated way in which cells work” is not correct at all. A theory based on the "complicated way in which cells work" is the foundations of cellular biology. ID is a different beast entirely - in brief it's a belief that cells are too complicated to have evolved naturally and were instead designed. Subtle but important difference.

    So, that side out the way, we move on to what i think is the crux of this. JPreston has, i imagine, hit on the idea that because they are religious ideas (key point) they automatically get waved in without any questions. If i went up to AQA and said "Look here, i've got a theory, it's about evolution. I think that aliens beam us up and mess with our genes, and that's how we evolve" they might say "well that's an intriguing argument, do you have any evidence?". I would then shrug and say "no, but my religion supports it and it's for the cultural betterment of the students" - now of course they'd laugh in my face, but that's effectively what's happened.

    If anyone came up with a crackpot idea, the examining body would simply chuck it unless it had a credible amount of evidence and papers in peer reviewed journals. What's happened is they figured, hey, a lot of people actually believe that evolution never happened and believe in these other ideas - well let's put that in the paper too.

    To be brutally honest, this is far more offensive to religion than it is to science. Scientists will laugh this off and say "well what scientist could possibly accept intelligent design as a credible scientific theory". Relgious folk might well see this as AQA putting a question where students have to sort out the "duff" theories from the scientific ones - as a scientist it's certainly how i see it ("All these are credible theories, pick the odd one out").
    Last edited by Whiternoise; 06-07-2009 at 07:05 PM.

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    Re: Creationist question on GCSE Biology exam

    It is a really Shat question tbh, like i said it seems to have more relation to my Philosophy course than science.

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