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Archbishop of Canterbury opposes creationism


The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, told the Guardian (March 21, 2006) that creationism should not be taught in science classrooms. "I think creationism is ... a kind of category mistake, as if the Bible were a theory like other theories ... if creationism is presented as a stark alternative theory alongside other theories I think there's just been a jarring of categories ... My worry is creationism can end up reducing the doctrine of creation rather than enhancing it," he was quoted as saying. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the leader of the 70-million-member Anglican Communion, often identified as the third largest Christian religious body in the world.

The question of creationism in the schools of the United Kingdom was in the news earlier in the month, due to a new biology syllabus in which creationism is mentioned but not endorsed. A spokeswoman for the OCR examinations board justified the inclusion of creationism to the Times of London (March 10, 2006) by saying, "Candidates need to understand the social and historical context to scientific ideas both pre and post Darwin." But James Williams of Sussex University's school of education worried, "This opens a legitimate gate for the inclusion of creationism or intelligent design in science classes as if they were legitimate theories on a par with evolution fact and theory."

The followoing is excerpted from the Guardian's transcript of Alan Rusbridge's interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury.

AR: Are you comfortable with teaching creationism?

AC: Ahh, not very. Not very. I think creationism is, in a sense, a kind of category mistake, as if the Bible were a theory like other theories. Whatever the biblical account of creation is, it's not a theory alongside theories. It's not as if the writer of Genesis or whatever sat down and said well, how am I going to explain all this. ... I know ' In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And for most of the history of Christianity, and I think this is fair enough, most of the history of the Christianity there's been an awareness that a belief that everything depends on the creative act of God, is quite compatible with a degree of uncertainty or latitude about how precisely that unfolds in creative time. You find someone like St. Augustine, absolutely clear God created everything, he takes Genesis fairly literally. But he then says well, what is it that provides the potentiality of change in the world? Well, hence, we have to think, he says, of -- as when developing structures in the world, the seeds of potential in the world that drive processes of change. And some Christians responding to Darwin in the 19th Century said well, that sounds a bit like what St. Augustine said of the seeds of processes. So if creationism is presented as a stark alternative theory alongside other theories, I think there's -- there's just been a jar of categories, it's not what it's about. And it -- it reinforces the sense that ...

AR: So it shouldn't be taught?

AC: I don't think it should, actually. No, no. And that's different from saying -- different from discussing, teaching about what creation means. For that matter, it's not even the same as saying that Darwinism is -- is the only thing that ought to be taught. My worry is creationism can end up reducing the doctrine of creation rather than enhancing it.