Saturday, October 06, 2007

Increasing Creationism in England: Are Muslims to blame?

While its quite clear that Creationism in the US grew out of the (Christian) Fundamentalist movement of the early 20th century, its adoption in other countries is taking other forms. Here is a news story about rising Creationism in UK:
The teaching of evolution is becoming increasingly difficult in UK schools because of the rise of creationism, a leading scientist is warning.

Head of science at London's Institute of Education Professor Michael Reiss says some teachers, fearful of entering the debate, avoid the subject totally.

But is it due to the rising population of Muslims in UK?
Prof Reiss says the rise of creationism is partly down to the large increase in Muslim pupils in UK schools.

He said: "The number of Muslim students has grown considerably in the last 10 to 20 years and a higher proportion of Muslim families do not accept evolutionary theory compared with Christian families.

"That's one reason why it's more of an issue in schools."

This is an interesting assertion and possibly true. However, are there any statistics available to support these claims? The number of Muslims has also increased in the US. But this increase is not usually implicated as a reason for the rising popularity of Creationism or ID in the US. Why make such a claim for UK? Perhaps population increase with respect to population is higher in UK - but then again, just that by in itself does not demonstrate a causal connection. I'm sure there are studies out there that are analyzing attitudes of Muslims in Europe and I hope a question about evolution is included in these surveys. If anyone is familiar with such a study, let me know.

Read the full BBC story here.


Don said...

The wikipedia article on "Islam in the United Kingdom", Muslims make up about 3% of the population of England and Wales (1,536,015 Muslims according to the 2001 census). The US census does not collect information on religion, and estimates from the corresponding wikipedia article lists a few surveys as showing a population between 0.5 and 2.2% of the US population. I'm more inclined to put faith in the quoted Pew Survey, putting the US Muslim population at around 2.4 million in 2007 (around 2.6%, I think).

To distill all that down, it seems like the US and UK have a similar Muslim population. This would lead me to be skeptical of claims that Muslim creationists are having that much of an influence on UK schools. As you suggested, a rising population doesn't necessarily correspond to an increase of pressure to teach creationism in schools. The US seems to be have a similar percentage of Muslims in its population, but they're not featured prominently in debates about evolution here. Either the media is turning a blind eye to them because of the larger, louder influence of Christian creationists, or something different is happening in the US than the UK despite similarities in population, or the BBC got its story wrong.

Like you, I can't think of a really good way to check. One thing I would look at is the population densities of Muslims in the US as opposed to Muslims in the UK. If a population of creationist Muslims was particularly dense in a particular district, they might have a disproportionate effect on district policy when compared to the policies of other districts. Then again, isn't school policy directed by a national (rather than district or state) policy in the UK? The issue is much more complex than the BBC presents, but that point is made pretty regularly.

I sure would like to know the BBC sources for their article, though.

Salman Hameed said...

I think there may be a difference in attitude of Muslims in the US and in UK. A lot has to do with colonialism, but some of it may also have to do with the nature of the two societies (US & UK). I think US has done a better job (at least in the past) of assimilating diverse immigrant populations compared to Europe. Furthermore, Muslim immigrants to US may have higher education degrees on average than Muslim immigrants to UK (and Europe). I'm sure statistics are available to check what is happening...but I wish the BBC article had presented it in a more nuanced manner.

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