The growing visibility of creationism in Northern Ireland: are new science teachers equipped to deal with the issues?

Conor McCrory, Colette Murphy

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The growing visibility of various forms of creationism in Northern Ireland raises issues for science education. Attempts have been made at political levels to have such “alternatives” to evolution taught in the science classroom, and the issue has received coverage in local press and media. A sample of 112 pre-service science teachers answered a survey on attitudes toward evolution. Preliminary analysis revealed many of these new teachers held views contrary to scientific consensus—over one fifth doubt the evidence for human evolution, and over one quarter dispute the common ancestry of life. Over two thirds indicated a preference for teaching a “range of theories” regarding these issues in science. In addition, 49 pre-service biology teachers viewed a DVD resource promoting “intelligent design” and completed an evaluation of it. The biology teachers also took part in either focus groups or additional questionnaires. A majority took the resource at face value and made positive comments regarding its utility. Many articulated views contrary to the stated positions of science academies, professional associations, and the UK government teaching directives regarding creationism. Most indicated a perception that intelligent design is legitimate science and that there is a scientific “controversy” regarding the legitimacy of evolution. Concern is raised over the ability of these new teachers to distinguish between scientific and non-scientific theories. The suggestion is made that the issue should be addressed directly with pre-service science teachers to make clear the status of such “alternatives.” The paper raises implications for science education and questions for further research.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)372-385
    Number of pages14
    JournalEvolution Education Outreach
    Volume2 (3)
    Publication statusPublished - 2009


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