Michael Reiss has been forced to resign as Director of Education of the Royal Society . Absolutely shocking, in my view. Several of those calling for his head, such as Sir Richard Roberts, made much of the fact that he is an ordained minister. But since at least two FRSs—John Polkinghorne and Bernard Silverman—are also priests, that’s hardly a reason for the Society not to employ him. The RS statement says:
“Some of Professor Michael Reiss’s recent comments, on the issue of creationism in schools, while speaking as the Royal Society’s director of education, were open to misinterpretation. While it was not his intention, this has led to damage to the society’s reputation. As a result, Professor Reiss and the Royal Society have agreed that, in the best interests of the society, he will step down immediately as director of education.”
Well, no, they weren’t “open to misinterpretation”, they were wilfully misinterpreted by those who were always going to be determined to do so, and it shows real spinelessness on the part of the RS that they didn’t back him. As I blogged a few days ago , Reiss didn’t call for creationism to be part of the science curriculum, he said (absolutely clearly, in his original statement of his view) that teachers should, as a matter of good pedagogical practice, be willing to engage with students they encounter who come to the class with creationist views. That seems to me to be a perfectly legitimate position for someone concerned with science pedagogy to take. Others may disagree with the substance of his view. That’s fair enough. But to push him out for saying it? Dreadful.
(A list of issues where partisans are only willing to tolerate a simple straightforward and unequivocal expression of the party line (on either side) and will seek to punish deviants: anything touching on religion and education (including this issue); Israel/Palestine; abortion/right to life, ….etc. )
Update: see also James Wimberley here .