Responding to complaints from a group of Christian parents, a non-religious primary school in Cheshire, England has canceled a play about Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution.
According to the Independent, several families threatened to withdraw their children from the play because they felt it “mocked” a historic figure in the debate on evolution, Bishop Samuel Wilberforce. As a result, Hartford Manor Primary School decided to cancel the play and replace it with a production that was “less divisive.”
The play is a musical titled Darwin Rocks, composed by Steve Titford.
The decision to cancel the play didn’t come without significant backlash from more secularly-minded parents, who thought the decision denied their children a valuable learning opportunity. One parent told the Independent that the move was a “huge step backwards.”
”It is something that I think children should be learning about and this vehicle that they use is good,” said parent Alan McDonald, who also happens to be a scientist in the civil service.
“It seems ridiculous to whitewash history and replace it with something entirely vacuous,” he added. “I think it is just a thinly veiled attempt to cram religious views over the top of scientific fact which I think is shameful personally.”
Another sticking point about the play for the Christian parents was reportedly a song titled “Bumping and Grinding.” One of the teachers at the school thought that the song might present a problem and said that it contributed to the change, but in hindsight, he thinks it was a “hasty decision.”
“We could have put more effort into looking at whether we could have adapted it to make sure it was inclusive of everybody,” headteacher Simon Kidwell said. “I have [apologized] to the parents and we will consider putting it on in future years if we can make sure those bits are edited so it is inclusive for everybody.”
But according to the BBC’s religion editor Martin Bashir, there should be no conflict between people who hold religious beliefs and science.
“Theistic evolutionists include Francis Collins – the geneticist who led the Human Genome Project and the current director of the National Institutes of Health in the US,” Bashir says.”David Wilkinson, the astrophysicist and principal of St John’s College, Durham, is also a Methodist lay minister.”
Others, such as Stephen Evans of the National Secular Society, see the uproar as part of a growing trend of people who want to insert their “narrow worldview” into matters of science.
“Schools should broaden pupils’ horizons and need to be supported to do that when faced with external pressure demanding that the education their children receive conforms with parents’ religious views.”
Featured image via APS Museum/Flickr