Creation in Europe

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Creation in Europe summarised from a Nature Special Report 23 Nov 2006: "The teaching of alternative theories to evolution in schools is not just an issue in the United States. Almut Graebsch and Quirin Schiermeier assess whether creationism is threatening science in Europe."

POLAND: Being a trained biologist who has a PhD in tree physiology, doesn’t stop Maciej Giertych from insisting evolution is a falsified hypothesis. The 70-year-old Polish member of the European parliament, also wants to spread the word. In October, he organized a workshop for parliamentarians entitled "Teaching evolution theory in Europe: is your child being indoctrinated in the classroom?" ... a number of similar incidents over the past couple of years, in various countries, are raising fears among the scientific community that creationism may be on the rise in Europe.

GERMANY: Last month it emerged creationism is being taught at two schools in the German state of Hesse.

UK: In September, the creationist group Truth in Science sent information packs to every UK secondary school. The material suggests intelligent design should be taught as an alternative to evolution ... In response, a group called the British Centre for Science Education has been formed to campaign against the teaching of creationism in schools.

British school leavers’ knowledge about evolution is considered so poor, and creationist ideas so widespread, that the universities of Leeds and Leicester are planning to introduce remedial courses next year for first-year science students. Dr Steve Jones, a geneticist at University College London who has lectured widely about evolution, is concerned by the growing influence of creationist groups. "I have talked about evolution in front of more than 100,000 British schoolchildren in the past 20 years - during most of that time I was never asked questions about creationism," he says. "But in the past couple of years, wherever I go I am asked about it."

ITALY: A blatant attempt to ban evolution from the classrooms occurred in Italy in 2004. Letizia Moratti, then education minister, caused a public outcry when she removed evolution from the curricula of Italy’s middle schools on the grounds that teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution can instil a materialist view of life in young minds. Following widespread protest, the education ministry partially reintroduced darwinism into school courses.

"Italy is no longer a completely secular country," says Telmo Pievani, a philosopher of science at the University of Milan II in Italy. "We are facing a dramatic and worrying cultural and political regression."

RUSSIA: Creationist societies are receiving strong support from the Protestant minority. Besides translating the writings of European and US creationists, Russian groups conduct their own ‘creation research’. In Moscow, for example, the ARCTUR Research Geological Lab is looking for geological and geochemical proof of creationism. The society collaborates with creationists in the West and promotes its findings in several Russian and English-language creationist journals.

ROOTS: There is an aggressive antidarwinism inspired by radical Islamic minorities in immigrant communities in Britain and France; there is a Catholic creationism growing in Poland; there is Protestant creationism in some schools in England," says Pievani.

TURKEY: The Koran is less clear than the Bible on divine creation. But that does not mean Islam accepts evolution, and the influence of Islamic creationist groups in countries such as Britain and France is increasing. The movement is by far the strongest in Turkey, however, which is in negotiations to join the European Union. The main Muslim creationist organization, the Turkish Bilim ve Aras¸tirma Vakfi, distributes creationist literature in Turkey and elsewhere that often consists of material translated from USA Christian fundamentalist groups, particularly www.icr.org

Steve Jones has just returned from the Istanbul book fair, where he says many creationist publications were on sale, and proving extremely popular. "Creationism is a major issue in Turkish politics; the debate is much more tense than in the United States," he says. "All biology textbooks now used in schools are creationist in tone." There is debate over the size of the threat posed to science in Europe by the various creationist movements. The creationists’ main goal is to have their views included in school curricula. Others warn that scientists can’t afford to be complacent. "The anti-evolution movement does undermine public understanding of science," argues Ulrich Kutschera, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Kassel in Germany and vice-president of the Association of German Biologists. "In Germany and other European countries, anti- evolutionists with different religious backgrounds promote their ideology via colourful web pages that are appealing to students and people without a scientific background. Perception of evolutionary biology, in particular, is seriously undermined by these activities." He suggests that biologists should devote more time to counteracting its spread by explaining their theories to the public. Steve Jones says that, despite his dislike of creationism - "it annoys and depresses me that intelligent students persist in holding irrational views" - he doesn’t think that such arguments are set to undermine science in countries such as Britain. "But I am not so optimistic about Turkey."

 1. Giertych, M. Nature 444, 265 (2006).

2. Nature 428, 595 (2004).

3. Miller, J. D. et al. Science 313, 765-766 (2006).

4. Special Eurobarometer Europeans, Science and Technology

http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/

Evidence News 5th December 2006

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