Richard Dawkins: 'Growth in creationist beliefs a problem for schools'

THE number of school students in Britain who believe in creationism is becoming a growing concern for science teachers, according to Professor Richard Dawkins.

The eminent Darwinist said the rise of the belief, which states that the Earth did not evolve following the big bang but was instead created by God, raised a serious problem for science teachers. Prof Dawkins was speaking at a debate held as part of this year's 20th anniversary Edinburgh International Science Festival.

In the packed lecture hall of the George Square Theatre the author of the best-seller The God Delusion debated God, Religion and Science with former Bishop of Edinburgh Richard Holloway. During a question and answer session afterwards he was asked if he felt the rise of creationism and fundamentalism were a concern in Britain.

"It is a very worrying trend, and I think a lot of it has come over from America and Australia," he said.

"I have spoken to a lot of science teachers in schools here in Britain who are finding an increasing number of students coming to them and saying they are Young Earth creationists. Now this is a belief that the Earth is only 6000 years old, and it is such a staggering mistake that it is very concerning to hear this. It is no small error – it is equivalent to someone believing, despite the evidence, that the width of North America from one coast to the other is only 7.8 yards."

Earlier both Dawkins and Holloway had kept the crowd of 480 entertained with a fascinating discussion on religion.

&#149 The Edinburgh International Science Festival runs until April 5.