2.1 Council of Europe’s resolution 1580
In June 2007 the Council of Europe’s “Committee on Culture, Science and Education” issued a report, “The dangers of creationism in education”, which states “Creationism in any of its forms, such as ‘Intelligent Design’, is not based on facts, does not use any scientific reasoning and its contents are pathetically inadequate for science classes.” In describing the dangers posed to education by teaching creationism, it described Intelligent Design as “anti-science” and involving “blatant scientific fraud” and “intellectual deception” that “blurs the nature, objectives and limits of science” and links it and other forms of creationism to denialism.
On October 4 2007, The Council of Europe released the ‘Provisional edition’ of resolution 1580: “The dangers of creationism in education”. The resolution rejects that creationism in any form, including “Intelligent Design”, can be considered scientific (Article 4), though recommends its inclusion in religion and cultural classes (Article 16). The resolution concludes that teaching creationism in school as a scientific theory may threaten civil rights (Articles 13 and 18).
The resolution summarizes itself in Article 19:
“The Parliamentary Assembly therefore urges the member states, and especially their education authorities to:
1. defend and promote scientific knowledge;
2. strengthen the teaching of the foundations of science, its history, its epistemology and its methods alongside the teaching of objective scientific knowledge;
3. make science more comprehensible, more attractive and closer to the realities of the contemporary world;
4. 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;
5. Promote the teaching of evolution as a fundamental scientific theory in the school curriculula”.
2.2 United Kingdom
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:
1. that the fossil record is evidence for evolution
2. How variation and selection may lead to evolution or to extinction.
Similar requirements exist in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
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.
The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, leader of the Church of England, has expressed his view that creationism should not be taught in schools.
An organisation calling itself “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 organization called 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.
In the Netherlands some factions teach creationism in their own schools. In May 2005, Delft University of Technology physicist and author of a book on Intelligent Design, Cees Dekker, convinced education minister Maria van der Hoeven that debate about Intelligent Design may encourage discourse between the country’s various religious parties. She then 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”.
During 2007, Turkish creationist Harun Yahya sent his book “The Atlas of Creation” to a large number of European, including Danish, schools.
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”. 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.
On November 11 2007, following the October 4 release of the Council of Europe’s resolution 1580, Danish member of ISKCON and leading ID-proponent Leif Asmark Jensen published a letter on his website. The letter is addressed to “Danish politicians” and is a clarification why Asmark and other ID-proponents consider the resolution “so problematic that the Danish Parliament ought to ignore the resolution and maintain the Danish tradition for openness in school education.” In interview sessions during 2002, less than 10% of the interviewed Danes declared the theory of evolution false.
Poland saw a major 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”. However the theory of evolution is taught in Polish schools but students who feel that their religious believes are offended by the teaching can leave the class during the subject time. Religion lessons (Roman Catholic) are available in Polish schools together with the Biology class where the evolution is taught. According to a 2007 survey, 72% of respondents agreed with the religious instruction in public schools as a balance to scientific teachings.
In Eastern Europe, Serbia suspended the teaching of evolution 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.”
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 the 1980s, conservatives came into power, and used the ideas of scientific creationists 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 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 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 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.
As of 2005, evolution was not taught in Pakistani universities. 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, have been translated into Urdu.
In 2004, teaching of creationism in religious education classes by Rio de Janeiro’s education department sparked protest from Brazilian scientists.