Creation and evolution in public education
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The status of creation and evolution in public education has been the subject of substantial debate and conflict in legal, political, and religious circles. Globally there is a wide variety of views on the topic; in some countries legislation forbids teachers to discuss either the evidence for evolution or the modern evolutionary synthesis, the explanatory scientific theory of evolution. In other countries legislation mandates that only evolutionary biology is to be taught in the appropriate scientific syllabuses.
While many doctrines do not raise theological objections to the modern evolutionary synthesis as an explanation for the present form of life on Earth, various fundamentalist sects, including many churches within Christianity, have objected militantly. Some adherents are passionately opposed to the consensus view of the scientific community. Rigidly arbitrary interpretations, represented as being the literal meaning of religious texts, is the greatest cause of conflict with evolutionary and cosmological investigations and conclusions.
Globally, evolution is taught in science courses with limited controversy, with the exception of a few areas of the United States and several Islamic fundamentalist countries. In the United States, the Supreme Court has ruled the teaching of creationism as science in public schools to be unconstitutional, irrespective of how it may be purveyed in theological or religious instruction. In the United States, intelligent design has been represented as an alternative explanation to evolution in recent decades, but its "demonstrably religious, cultural, and legal missions" have been ruled unconstitutional by a lower court.
Although creationist views are popular among religious education teachers and creationist teaching materials have been distributed by volunteers in some schools, many Australian scientists take an aggressive stance supporting the right of teachers to teach the theory of evolution, unhindered by religious restrictions.
|“||An essential element in the teaching of science is the encouragement of students and teachers to critically appraise the evidence for notions being taught as science. The Society states unequivocally that the dogmatic teaching of notions such as Creationism within a science curriculum stifles the development of critical thinking patterns in the developing mind and seriously compromises the best interests of objective public education. This could eventually hamper the advancement of science and technology as students take their places as leaders of future generations.||”|
—Geological Society of Australia
In Brazil, teaching of creationism in scientific education classes is forbidden by Ministerio da Educação e Cultura - MEC - (Ministry of Education and Culture). Religious education is not forbidden as such, but the federal constitution states that the union can neither impose, nor promote, nor finance any religion, because by law Brazil is a secular state. In 2004 however, teachers of religious education classes in schools of the education department of Rio de Janeiro began to present creationism in their classes as scientific fact. The practice was directly initiated by politicians in power who were promoting their personal religious views, and their action moved Brazilian scientists to protest the abuse. Subsequently in congress a "religious bench", or faction, has become increasingly influential. For example, when he was in the senate, the present Brazilian minister of fishing and aquiculture Marcelo Crivella, publicly declared his religiously founded antagonism to evolution   Such prominent influences have drawn the attention of the defenders of the secular state.
Council of Europe
- Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe resolution 1580
On October 4, 2007, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted its resolution 1580 titled The dangers of creationism in education. The resolution observed that "the war on the theory of evolution and on its proponents most often originates in forms of religious extremism which are closely allied to extreme right-wing political movements", and urged member states "to firmly oppose the teaching of creationism as a scientific discipline on an equal footing with the theory of evolution and in general resist presentation of creationist ideas in any discipline other than religion".
- Drafting and adoption
The Assembly's work leading to adopting the resolution began in 2006, when several delegates of the assembly, led by British Labour politician Andrew McIntosh, suggested to adopt a recommendation on this theme. During drafting, the report and draft resolution were prepared by the delegate from the French Socialist Party Guy Lengagne (fr)
The report was returned by PACE to its Committee on Culture, Science and Education for revision in June 2007 with 63 votes against 46, at the request by the leader of the Christian Democratic group in the Assembly Luc Van den Brande. Reuters noted that calling off the debate and vote "also won support from east European deputies, who recalled that Darwinian evolution was a favorite theory of their former communist rulers". The procedure used for the referral was criticized by the Assembly's Committee on Culture, Science and Education. After the revision by a new rapporteur, Anne Brasseur, a delegate from Luxembourg representing the Liberal group in the Assembly and several amendments made by the Assembly, the resolution was adopted, by 48 votes against 25.
The resolution's aim is "to warn against certain tendencies to pass off a belief as science … the Parliamentary Assembly is worried about the possible ill-effect of the spread of creationist ideas within our education systems and about the consequences for our democracies. If we are not careful, creationism could become a threat to human rights". It rejects that creationism in any form, including "intelligent design", can be considered scientific (Para. 4), but considers possible its inclusion in religion and cultural classes (Para. 16). The resolution concludes that teaching creationism in school as a scientific theory may threaten civil rights (Paras. 13 and 18). The resolution summarizes itself in Para. 19:
The Parliamentary Assembly therefore urges the member states, and especially their education authorities to:
- defend and promote scientific knowledge;
- strengthen the teaching of the foundations of science, its history, its epistemology and its methods alongside the teaching of objective scientific knowledge;
- make science more comprehensible, more attractive and closer to the realities of the contemporary world;
- firmly oppose the teaching of creationism as a scientific discipline on an equal footing with the theory of evolution and in general the presentation of creationist ideas in any discipline other than religion;
- promote the teaching of evolution as a fundamental scientific theory in the school curricula.
- Coverage and reaction
After the rejection of Lengagne's report, the former rapporteur was interviewed on the subject by the French newspaper 20 Minutes, where he evaluated the events as follows: "We're assisting a return to the Middle Ages".
The resolution was criticised by deputy head of the Department of External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church Vsevolod Chaplin stating that "those few fossils presented by the anthropologists as examples of ape-human transitional forms could be explained by casual mutations. We don't claim to found a new species upon finding a fish with two heads, after all". and by the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Albert Mohler considering that "this can only mean that Europe (at least as represented by the Council of Europe) has forgotten even its Christian memory".
In February 2009, the resolution was a starting point of a conference held in Dortmund and led by D. Graf from the Dortmund University of Technology. The conference, including participation of Anne Brasseur, among others, was held in cooperation with the Max Planck Institute, University of Vienna and Hacettepe University and with support from German Ministry of Education and Research.
The resolution was also covered, among other sources, by Radio Vaticana reiterating the characterization of evolution as more than a hypothesis by the pope Benedict XVI. Deutsche Welle, covering the disagreement among members of the Assembly on whether the resolution constituted an attack on religious beliefs, and Die Welt, pointing to journalists-expressed suspicions of wishing to limit freedom of conscience and Brasseur's response that the aim was to draw a line between the spheres of faith and science.
On April 25, 2007, Member of Parliament Martin Henriksen (Danish People's Party) asked Minister of Education Bertel Haarder (The Liberal Party) for information about how many educational institutions had received The Atlas of Creation by Harun Yahya. The minister responded that the Ministry of Education was not in possession of information about the number of educational institutions that had received the book, that choice of educational material was not up to the ministry, and that it is an objective of the discipline biology in primary school that the education must enable the pupils to relate to values and conflicts of interest connected with issues with a biological content.
In interview sessions during 2002, less than 10% of the interviewed Danes declared the theory of evolution false.
In the Netherlands some factions teach creationism in their own schools. In May 2005, a discussion on Intelligent Design erupted when education minister Maria van der Hoeven suggested that debate about Intelligent Design might encourage discourse between the country's various religious parties. She sought to "stimulate an academic debate" on the subject. Following strong objection from the nation's scientists, she dropped plans of holding a conference on the matter. After the 2007 elections, she was succeeded by Ronald Plasterk, described as a "molecular geneticist, staunch atheist and opponent of intelligent design".
In 1986, the then minister of education Kjell Magne Bondevik proposed new education plans for the elementary and middle school levels which included skepticism to the theory of evolution and would hold that a final answer to the origin of mankind was unknown. The proposal was withdrawn after it had generated controversy.
Poland saw a controversy over creationism in 2006 when the deputy education minister, Mirosław Orzechowski, denounced evolution as "one of many lies" taught in Polish schools. His superior, Minister of Education Roman Giertych, has stated that the theory of evolution would continue to be taught in Polish schools, "as long as most scientists in our country say that it is the right theory." Giertych's father, Member of the European Parliament Maciej Giertych, has however opposed the teaching of evolution and has claimed that "dinosaurs and humans co-existed because Poles remember the Wawel Dragon and Scots knows about the Loch Ness monster".
In Serbia the teaching of evolution was suspended for one week in 2004, under education minister Ljiljana Čolić, only allowing schools to reintroduce evolution into the curriculum if they also taught creationism. "After a deluge of protest from scientists, teachers and opposition parties" says the BBC report, Čolić's deputy made the statement, "I have come here to confirm Charles Darwin is still alive" and announced that the decision was reversed. Čolić resigned after the government said that she had caused "problems that had started to reflect on the work of the entire government."
Although it has been claimed that evolution is not taught in Pakistani universities;, the Higher Education Commission which is the Federal body which sets standards of course content has knowledge and understanding of evolution as being compulsory for several courses such as microbiology, bioinformatics, zoology, botany as well as others. In 2006, the Pakistan Academy of Sciences became a signatory of the InterAcademy Panel Statement on "The teaching of evolution". Many of the contemporary titles on the creation-evolution controversy, such as those by Richard Dawkins are available for general sale.
In 1998, Ioan Moisin, a Christian Democratic senator and a Greek Catholic priest, called upon Romania's Ministry of Education to establish a commission of Catholics who would revise biology textbooks and philosophical textbooks to not contradict Biblical creationism. Moisin disapproved of students learning from their religious teachers that God created human beings and then learning to the contrary from biology and philosophy teachers that humans descend from apes as a product of evolution by Darwinian natural selection. Moisin's proposal to establish the commission also sought to form a Council of Public Morality that would feature representatives composed of teachers and clergy, to oversee public education, and to be subordinated only to the direct authority of the President of Romania. Romania's Parliamanet and Ministry of Education never seriously considered the proposals.
In December 2006, a schoolgirl in St. Petersburg, Russia and her father decided to take the teaching of evolution in Russian schools to court. The position of the Russian Ministry of Education supports the theory of evolution. The suit has been backed by representatives of Russian Orthodox Church. In February, 2007, the first instance court, and in July, the second instance court have ruled in favour of the ministry.
In Turkey, a mostly Islamic country, evolution is often a controversial subject. Evolution was added to the school curriculum shortly after the Turkish Revolution of the 1920s and 30s. There was some resistance to this, such as that of Said Nursî and his followers, but opposition was not particularly powerful. In fact, some prominent Turkish scholars during the first decades of the new-born Turkish republic, such as Ahmed Hamdi Akseki (d. 1951), who once held the official position of the "Head of the Religious Affairs", and Izmirli Ismail Hakki (d. 1946) thought that the theory of evolution cannot be seen as contrary to Islam because it was already to be found in the classical works of Muslim theology  In the 1980s, conservatives came into power, and used the ideas of scientific creationists in the US as a method of discrediting evolution (notwithstanding material on the age of the earth, which Islamic creationism is less specific about).
One anti-evolutionist group in Turkey is the Istanbul based Bilim Arastirma Vakfi (BAV), or "Science Research Foundation", which was founded by Adnan Oktar. Its activities include campaigns against the teaching of evolution. It has been described as one of the world's strongest anti-evolution movements outside of North America. US based creationist organizations such as the Institute for Creation Research have worked alongside them. Some scientists have protested that anti-evolution books published by this group (such as The Evolution Deceit) have become more influential than real biology textbooks. The teaching of evolution in high schools has been fought by Ali Gören, a member of parliament and professor of medicine, who believes such education has negative effects.
The situation is very fragile, and the status of evolution in education varies from one government to the next. For example, in 1985 Education Minister Vehbi Dincerier had scientific creationism added to high school texts, and also had the discredited Lamarckism presented alongside Darwinism. Only in 1998 was this changed somewhat, with texts presenting a more balanced view, though still mentioning creationism and Lamarckism. At present the moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party, which is sympathetic to creationist views, holds power. It was elected in 2002 and again with a greater majority in 2007.
In general, material that conflicts with religious beliefs is highly controversial in Turkey. For example, in November 2007 a prosecutor launched a probe into whether biologist Richard Dawkins' book The God Delusion is "an attack on religious values". Its publisher could face trial and up to one year in prison if the prosecutor concludes that the book "incites religious hatred" and insults religious values.
Turkish academics who have defended evolutionary theory have received death threats, for instance biologist Aykut Kence received an email telling him to enjoy his "final days". Kence helped establish the Evolution Group, whose aim is to improve public understanding of evolution. However, opposition to creationism is not very powerful; Umit Sayin, a neurologist, describes academics and universities as "slow and sluggish" in their response. Kence maintains that "if knowledgeable people keep quiet, it only helps those who spread nonsense."
In each of the countries of the United Kingdom, there is an agreed syllabus for religious education with the right of parents to withdraw their children from these lessons. The religious education syllabus does not involve teaching creationism, but rather teaching the central tenets of major world faiths. At the same time, the teaching of evolution is compulsory in publicly funded schools. For instance, the National Curriculum for England requires that students at Key Stage 4 (14-16) be taught:
- that the fossil record is evidence for evolution
- how variation and selection may lead to evolution or to extinction.
In 2003 the Emmanuel Schools Foundation (previously the Vardy Foundation after its founder, Sir Peter Vardy) sponsored a number of "faith-based" academies where evolution and creationist ideas would be taught side-by-side in science classes. This caused a considerable amount of controversy.
An organisation called Truth in Science has distributed teaching packs of creationist information to schools, and claims that fifty-nine schools are using the packs as "a useful classroom resource". The government has stated that "Neither intelligent design nor creationism are recognised scientific theories and they are not included in the science curriculum. The Truth in Science information pack is therefore not an appropriate resource to support the science curriculum." It is arranging to communicate this message directly to schools.
The efforts to introduce creationism and intelligent design into schools in the UK is being opposed by an organisation calling itself the British Centre for Science Education. The BCSE has been involved in government lobbying and has a website which presents information on the relevant issues.
There are states that teach the criticisms of evolution, such as Ohio. And others who teach Creationism along with evolution, including Kentucky. Colorado and New York are two states that do teach evolution, but it is up to the schools, teachers, and counties on how this subject is taught and portrayed to the students. (Boyle 2005). There are several factors that decide what is taught in public schools. Texas tends to set the standards for textbooks throughout the country.
- Creation-evolution controversy
- Flying Spaghetti Monster
- Intelligent design in politics
- Level of support for evolution
- "Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution"
- Religion and children
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- Dinosaurs helped build the pyramids, school director says, Raphael Vassallo, Malta Today, 14 October 2007
- The dangers of creationism in education, motion for a recommendation, working Doc. 11065, 4 October 2006
- Report "The dangers of creationism in education", PACE working documents no. 11297 8 June 2007
- Council of Europe rejects report calling creationism “dangerous” and a “threat to human rights” IHEU
- Verbatim record of the PACE sitting on June 25, 2007 - see para. 7
- Reilhac G. European rights body calls off creationism vote Reuters June 25, 2007
- Statement by PACE's Committee on Culture, Science and Education, 26 June 2007
- Report "The dangers of creationism in education", PACE working document no. 11375 17 September 2007
- Minutes of the PACE sitting on October 4, 2007 and voting results on the resolution and amendment
- Council of Europe: Keep Creationism Out of Science Classes Deutsche Welle 5 October 2007
- Resolution 1580, October 4 2007, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
- Le Conseil de l’Europe cède à des religieux intégristes», 20 Minutes, 28 June 2007(French)
- В Русской Православной Церкви критикуют резолюцию ПАСЕ, направленную против креационизма(Russian) Pravoslavie.ru (ru) 12 October 2007
- Jones L. Evangelical Theologian Disputes Creationism's Alleged 'Threat' to Human Rights The Christian Post 10 October 2007
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- Poole M. Creationism, intelligent design and science education SSR September 2008 pp. 123-129
- EU: Europarat verurteilt Kreationismus-Unterricht Radio Vaticana(German) 5 October 2007
- Europäisches Gremium verurteilt Kreationismus Die Welt(German) 5 October 2007
- Question from Member of Parliament Martin Henriksen (Danish)
- Response from Minister of Education Bertel Haarder (Danish)
- J. D. Miller, E. C. Scott, S. Okamoto Support online material for public acceptance of evolution 18 August 2006 Science 313, 765 (2006)
- Martin Enserink (2005-06-03). "Evolution Politics: Is Holland Becoming the Kansas of Europe?". Science 308 (5727): 1394. doi:10.1126/science.308.5727.1394b. PMID 15933170.
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- "And finally...", Warsaw Business Journal, 18 December 2006.
- Darwin is off the curriculum for Serbian schools
- Serbia reverses Darwin suspension BBC
- 'Anti-Darwin' Serb minister quits BBC
- "IAP Statement on the teaching of evolution" (PDF). 21 June 2006. Retrieved 17 February 2008.
- Titles such as The Blind Watchmaker are also available for general readership.
- Stan, Lavinia; Turcescu, Lucian (2005). "Religious education in Romania". Communist and Post-Communist Studies 38 (6): 381–401. Retrieved 2012-08-07.
- In Russia, a test of God vs. Darwin, Erika Niedowski, The Baltimore Sun, January 3, 2007
- St. Petersburg schoolgirl sues authorities over Darwinism RIA Novosti
- Суд Санкт-Петербурга отклонил иск о преподавании теории Дарвина RIA Novosti 4 July 2007(Russian)
- Edis, Taner (January 2008). "Islamic Creationism: A Short History". History of Science Society. Retrieved 2008-02-24. "Islam has been the world religion that has proved most resistant to Darwinian evolution."
- Kaya, Veysel (April 2012). "Can the Quran Support Darwin? An Evolutionist Approach by Two Turkish Scholars after the Foundation of the Turkish Republic". The Muslim World 102 (2): 357. doi:10.1111/j.1478-1913.2011.01362.x. Retrieved 8 March 2013.
- Koenig, Robert (May 2001). "Creationism Takes Root Where Europe, Asia Meet". Science 292 (5520): 1286–1287. doi:10.1126/science.292.5520.1286. PMID 11360976. "Harassed but hard-headed, some gutsy Turkish scientists are stepping up their efforts to promote the teaching of evolution"
- "Turkey probes atheist's 'God' book". reposted at RichardDawkins.net (AP, CNN). 2007-11-28. Retrieved 2009-02-14.
- International Religious Freedom Report 2002: United Kingdom
- "Interview: Rowan Williams". The Guardian (London). March 21, 2006. Retrieved April 30, 2010.
- "Fears over teaching creationism". BBC News. March 21, 2006. Retrieved April 30, 2010.
- Revealed: rise of creationism in UK schools
- Ministers to ban creationist teaching aids in science lessons
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- The dangers of creationism in education, Report, Committee on Culture, Science and Education, Rapporteur: Mr Guy LENGAGNE, France, Socialist Group, Parliamentary Assembly, Council of Europe, Doc. 11297, 8 June 2007.
- SCIENCE EDUCATION, Graham Stringer, Member of Parliament, Early Day Motion 2708, 11.10.2006
- Battle on Teaching Evolution Sharpens
- One hundred years without Darwin are enough, Simpson, George Gaylord (1961), Teachers College Record, 60: 617-626; Reprinted in Evolution: Oxford Readers, New York: Oxford University Press, 1997, pp. 368–378,
- List of articles (mostly from Answers in Genesis) on creation education, including many on recent American and other attempts at legislation
- Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science by the National Academy of Sciences.
- Islamic Creationism in Turkey