According to The Times, Reiss agreed to step down after officers in the Royal Society decided that the comments had damaged his reputation. A statement from the society read:
“Some of Professor Michael Reiss’s recent comments, on the issue of creationism in schools, while speaking as the Royal Society’s director of education, were open to misinterpretation. While it was not his intention, this has led to damage to the society’s reputation. 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. He is to return, full-time, to his position as Professor of Science Education at the Institute of Education.”Reiss had always argued that his comments had been misinterpreted. While it was widely reported that he had suggested creationism should be taught in science lessons, Friday's controversial speech to the British Association Festival of Science actually addressed the question of whether science teachers should be prepared to address the issue, were it to be raised by pupils.
Reiss has not commented on his resignation, but reaction from the scientific community has been mixed. Professor Robert Winston, who has himself recently criticised the hard anti-religious line taken by atheists like Richard Dawkins, believes the treatment of Reiss has been harsh:
“I fear that the Royal Society may have only diminished itself. This individual was arguing that we should engage with and address public misconceptions about science — something that the Royal Society should applaud.”However, Phil Willis MP, chairman of the Commons Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee, who will today hear the Royal Society's explanation for his resignation, believes the society has acted correctly:
“It is appropriate for the Royal Society to have dealt with this problem swiftly and effectively, rather than provoking continued debate. I hope the society will now stop burying its head and start taking on creationism.”So, has Michael Reiss been treated fairly? As a report in today's Guardian points out, it's not the first time he's waded into the creationism debate. Last year he edited a book, Teaching about Scientific Origins: Taking Account of Creationism, in which he also suggested teachers should be prepared to discuss creationism, which raises the question of why those who loudly called for his dismissal this week didn't do so some time ago.
On the other hand, it seems Reiss was clearly paying more attention to creationism than many other scientists deem appropriate, and they would argue that made him ill-suited to be director of education at the Royal Society.
Either way, the poll at the top of this page is pretty pointless now.