Top scientist who supported teaching about creationism in schools is hounded out of Royal Society

Prof Michael Reiss

Prof Michael Reiss: His comments on creationism have stirred emotions in the scientific community

A leading scientist and clergyman who said teachers should be prepared to discuss creationism in lessons has been hounded out of the Royal Society.

The Reverend Professor Michael Reiss quit as director of education yesterday.

It followed a campaign by high-profile 'militant atheists'.

Last week, Professor Reiss called for creationism - the belief that the world was created in six days - to be debated in the classroom if the subject was raised by pupils.

He insisted he was not calling for creationism to be taught in schools.

He also stressed the belief had no 'scientific validity'.

However, banning all discussion of an 'alternative world view' at a time of growing religious fundamentalism could backfire, he said.

His comments angered an increasingly powerful body of atheist scientists, many of whom opposed his appointment.

Yesterday, the Royal Society said it agreed with Professor Reiss's views.

But the Royal Society said his comments had damaged the body's reputation.

In a statement, it said: 'As a result, Professor Reiss and the Royal Society have agreed that, in the best interests of the Society, he will step down immediately as director of education - a part-time post he held on secondment.'

lord winston

Lord Winston: He supported Prof Reiss over the creationism furore

However, it added: 'If a young person raises creationism in a science class, teachers should be in a position to explain why evolution is a sound scientific theory and why creationism is not.'

His sacking is a victory for atheists such as the chemist Professor Sir Harry Kroto, who called his appointment 'dangerous'.

But Lord Winston, the fertility expert, disagreed with the move.

'This individual was arguing that we should engage with and address public misconceptions about science.

'Something that the Royal Society should applaud,' he said.

The Vatican yesterday said the theory of evolution was compatible with the Bible but does not plan an apology for Charles Darwin.

The Roman Catholic church said it advocates 'theistic evolution,' which sees no reason why God could not have used an evolutionary process to create humans.

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