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Alarmed head axes creation lecture

Article | Published in TES Newspaper on 28 April, 2006 | By: Graeme Paton

Man who claims Noah's flood and Tower of Babel really happened is barred from addressing Lancashire students. Graeme Paton reports

A secondary school has cancelled a visit by a leading creationist who claims to have found evidence proving Noah's flood really happened.

Alan Harvey, head of Millfield high, on Lancashire's Fylde coast, said that John Mackay's views rejecting the theory of evolution were too extreme and his presentation of them too unbalanced.

Mr Mackay, a former science teacher from Australia, had been due to address pupils at the non-denominational school as part of a controversial UK tour.

Secular groups had criticised the lecture, one of a series at schools, church halls and universities, saying it amounted to an attempt to "indoctrinate" youngsters.

But now Mr Harvey has cancelled the visit, which was due to take place in May, saying the creationist's views are incompatible with the theory of natural selection presented elsewhere in the curriculum.

It would have been the second time Mr Mackay had spoken at the school following a talk to religious education pupils during a previous visit to the UK.

Mr Harvey said: "We have decided against proceeding with it. We observed how it went last time and we felt it was not appropriate. We thought he was too strongly focused on creationism and not sufficiently balanced to give the broader view of evolution as well."

Organisers of Mr Mackay's tour declined to identify Millfield as a venue, claiming that the lecture there was in danger of being "hijacked" by secular groups.

Mr Harvey said Millfield, which was only identified following local enquiries by The TES, is a non-denominational school with "strong" links to local churches. A number of governors are local clergymen, it plans to open its own chapel and inspectors noted in its last Ofsted report that pupils are skilled at arguing "for or against an atheistic view of the creation of the universe".

Mr Harvey said: "As a scientist and a Christian myself, I like to see a broad perspective expressed rather than one that's specifically geared towards one view and the rejection of all the others."

For more than 30 years Mr Mackay has conducted archeological digs across the world, looking for evidence to back up the biblical account of creation. He claims to have discovered proof that the flood and Tower of Babel were real events rather than allegories.

Tonight Mr Mackay is due to speak at Penketh high school, Warrington, although Barry Fishwick, the head, said that no pupils or staff will be attending the event, which is being organised by a local church.

In an interview with The TES, Mr Mackay criticised reaction to his tour, one of a series he has made to the UK since 1987, which will also take in universities, including St Andrews, Bangor and Northampton. "The humanists got wind of it and are now putting out their standard propaganda," he said.

"The fact is, they are becoming less central in this country - you only need to look at the rise of faith schools in the country to prove that's the case."

He said: "You need to be in a position to allow a student to evaluate every 'ism', be that creationism or evolutionism. If you have grown up in a secular education system, like I did, you were taught the so-called facts in a narrow framework which made no reference to God or alternative interpretations. To deny children the right to discuss other views is just ignorance."

* graeme.paton@tes.co.uk


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