A primary school principal in England was ridiculed on Twitter recently after sharing her belief that evolution is “a theory” and there is “more evidence that the Bible is true.”
Christina Wilkinson, headteacher of St Andrew’s Church of England school, voiced her comments in a tweet responding to another headteacher in London, Tom Sherrington.
In a previous tweet, Sherrington had urged teachers not to “water down the science to accommodate religious perspectives” and stick to scientific evidence when teaching the origins of life.
Wilkinson’s tweet read: “Evolution is not a fact. That’s why it’s called a theory! There’s more evidence that the Bible is true.”
The Christian school teacher received a storm of criticism on Twitter, with many demanding her resignation, the Guardian reported.
Wilkinson then issued a follow-up statement, saying, “I’d like to make it clear that we teach the full national curriculum in school and that our pupils receive a fully rounded education.”
She pointed out that the tweet was from her personal account and “represents my own views”. But shortly after the dispute, Wilkinson deleted her tweet and her Twitter account, @WilkinsonHead, was closed.
Wilkinson’s comments were met with scorn on Twitter, with one person suggesting she become a vicar instead.
“That’s an unacceptable level of stupidity from a headteacher,” another critic said.
“This is horrifying. I’m still holding out hope her response is some kind of performance art,” Liv Boeree tweeted. “Pls pls pls tell me this lady doesn’t work in education. Please.”
“Sigh. I sincerely hope your students aren’t told that. Take them to a natural history museum,” Sherrington wrote before Wilkinson closed her account.
@WilkinsonHead No, there really isn't. Sigh. I sincerely hope your students aren't told that. Take them to a natural history museum.— Tom Sherrington (@headguruteacher) January 26, 2016
The post that sparked the exchange had read, “For me, it is critical that teachers do not water down the science to accommodate religious perspectives if that means sacrificing the acceptance of evidence.”
“It shouldn’t be remotely controversial to tell students that you are an atheist or that creationism is untenable given our knowledge of science,” Sherrington wrote.
“This applies to science and RE teachers,” he continued. “New Earth creationism and more subtle variants of Intelligent Design are a denial of science and I think all teachers need to be conscious of that.”
Evolutionary biologist and New Atheist Prof Richard Dawkins weighed in, claiming that Wilkinson was misusing the word “theory.”
“Scientists call evolution a theory only in a special scientists’ sense, which is NOT the same as the layman’s ‘tentative hypothesis’,” he said.
“This is so often misunderstood that I now recommend abandoning the confusing word ‘theory’ altogether for the case of evolution. Evoluton is a fact, as securely attested as any fact in science. ‘We are cousins of monkeys and kangaroos’ can be asserted with as much confidence as ‘Our planet orbits the sun’.”
Dawkins offered special praise for Sherrington and his work:
Any school would be fortunate to have a Head like this.— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) January 26, 2016
He deals, sensitively but firmly, with brainwashed students https://t.co/HYUAzztsw8
A year and a half ago, the U.K. government banned the teaching of creationism in science classes in public schools. It said funding would be withdrawn from any public school that taught theories that run “contrary to established scientific and/or historical evidence and explanations.”
But some were quick to point out that Wilkinson’s is an Anglican school.
“It’s a Church of England school and it will, of course, teach the Bible,” Graham Jones, Labour MP for Hyndburn, whose constituency includes Wilkinson’s school, told the Daily Mail. "But it should also teach the children about other religions and beliefs."
“I don’t think we should be promoting any religious text as more scientifically accurate than hundreds of years of detailed study,” Ken Moss, a local education councillor, said.
“There is plenty of room for religious teaching, but I do not think that should be above science fact,” he added. “The role of a school and a headteacher is to inform the pupils of the facts and not to just promote religious texts.”
All of the back-and-forth was apparently more than Sherrington had expected for one little post:
Front-page image via Shuttershock