The Rev Professor Michael Reiss, director of education at the Royal Society, believes banning creationism from the classroom is likely to backfire with children who hold sincere beliefs.
He wants teachers to be open to discussing creationist ideas. Some creationists reject the concept of evolution and suggest that the Earth is only 10,000 years old.
At the same time they should endeavour to explain scientific theories such as natural selection and the Big Bang.
Prof Reiss admitted he used to be "evangelical" about spreading the word of evolution when he taught biology in schools.
But he added: "I realised that simply banging on about evolution and natural selection didn't lead some pupils to change their minds at all. Now I would be more content simply for them to understand it as one way of understanding the universe."
Speaking at the British Association Festival of Science at the University of Liverpool, he said it was better for science teachers not to see creationism as a "misconception" but as a "world view".
Around 10% of British schoolchildren come from families with sincere creationist beliefs, said Prof Reiss, an ordained Church of England minister. In the US, the proportion of creationist schoolchildren was 40%.
Many of these children came from Muslim backgrounds or families with fundamental Christian views. Teachers in science lessons ought to be willing to talk about creationism if students brought the subject up, said Prof Reiss.
At the same time as making clear creationism is not accepted by the scientific community, they should convey a message of respect that does not "denigrate or ridicule" the children's beliefs