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Annex 6: Political Aspects

1-    Politics of creationism
The politics of creationism concerns efforts to change public policy in favour of creationism, currently primarily focusing on what should be taught as science in schools. In the United States, the teaching of biological evolution in the public schools is one significant area of contention, while the teaching of alternatives such as creation science and Intelligent Design are other aspects of the dispute.

Creationists argue that evolution should not be taught because it is bad science, or because it is an anti-theist ideology dressed up as science.  Pressure on local school boards and individual teachers has led to de-emphasizing evolution in some public schools, but the teaching of evolution continues to be predominant. Concerned parents, educators, scientists, and other interested parties argue that creation science and Intelligent Design are pseudosciences, as well as thinly disguised schemes to introduce religion to the classroom. In the United States, recent court decisions have affirmed this position, consistently barring the introduction of creation science and Intelligent Design into public science curricula.

2- Creationism in education
Evolution and creationism in public education in the United States have been the subjects of often acrimonious contention since the Scopes Trial. Locally controlled school boards in regions of the country dominated by creationists have made numerous and varied attempts over the years to undermine evolution and/or promote creationism in public school science classrooms.

Those who do not consider creationism to be legitimate science oppose having children taught these beliefs as science, though most do not object to objective discussions about these beliefs in humanities classes, e.g., in a comparative religions course. On the other hand, religious fundamentalists often consider the teaching of evolution as a threat to their beliefs and prerogatives as parents and clergy. Scientists opposed to the teaching of faith-based origins argue that science and religion are wholly separate realms, and that teaching creationism as science confuses students about the proper nature of science.

Controversy also surfaces frequently in school textbook/curriculum reviews. Creationists lobby for equal time, Teach the Controversy, or replacement of science curriculum with creation “science”, or Intelligent Design. They allege science textbooks are biased, out of date and contain factual errors.

Some creationists seek to redefine Constitutional limitations on religious advocacy in public school by lending their support to school voucher programs. They endorse those voucher programs that allow parents to send their children to private religiously-affiliated schools that teach creationism or Intelligent Design in science classes. Opponents say this violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, but the Supreme Court had not yet ruled decisively on the matter as of 2006.

3- Education world-wide

3.1 United Kingdom
Education in the United Kingdom comes under different systems in its four countries, all of which provide state schools with a particular religious programme. Most if not all schools teach evolution by natural selection in their biology curricula, not creationism. An exception has arisen with the introduction in 2,000in England of private sponsorship of State Schools, known as city academies. This has allowed, for example, millionaire car dealer Peter Vardy to introduce the teaching of creationism alongside evolution in city academies accepting sponsorship from his fund.

This resulted in public controversy which drew attention to one private Seventh-day Adventist school, and a few private Muslim schools, teaching creationism. Despite protests by scientists, bishops and politicians, the government has so far not prohibited the teaching of creationism or Intelligent Design as long as National Curriculum guidelines on teaching evolution are met. Independent schools, which teach around 10 per cent of the population, are free to choose what they teach. Further clarification was given after it was found that a group called “Truth in Science” had distributed DVDs produced in America featuring figures linked to the Discovery Institute to promote Intelligent Design, and claimed that they were being used by 59 schools. The Department for Education and Skills (DfES) stated that “Neither creationism nor Intelligent Design are taught as a subject in schools, and are not specified in the science curriculum. The national curriculum for science clearly sets down that pupils should be taught that the fossil record is evidence for evolution, and how variation and selection may lead to evolution or extinction.” Teaching about Intelligent Design Creationism can be included in Religious Education.

3.2 Serbia
In September 2004, the teaching of evolution in primary schools was briefly banned in Serbia, but the ban was lifted days later after an outcry from scientists and even Serbian Orthodox bishops. The incident led to the resignation of education minister Ljiljana Čolić.

3.3 Netherlands
In May 2005, the Netherlands education minister Maria van der Hoeven suggested that discussion of Intelligent design in schools might promote dialogue between religious groups. Widespread opposition from scientists led to proposals for a conference on the plan being dropped.

3.4 Australia
In Australia objective study of religions occurs in both private and public schools. In 2005, when the Federal Education Minister, Brendan Nelson, raised the notion of Intelligent Design being taught in science classes, the public outcry caused the minister to quickly concede that the correct forum for Intelligent Design, if it were to be taught, is in religious or philosophy classes. “Intelligent design not science: experts”.

3.5 Turkey, a secular state, has a small creationist movement, initiated after contact with creationists from the USA. However, members of the Turkish scientific community strongly oppose creationism, and only evolution is taught in universities. There is an ongoing debate on including Intelligent Design in high school text books.

3.6 In Pakistan, evolution is no longer taught in universities. However, Pakistan Academy of Sciences is a signatory of IAP Statement on the teaching of evolution dated 21 June 2006, and Urdu translations of various titles on evolutionary theory are widely available for general reading.

3.7 Brazilian scientists protested in 2004 when the education department of Rio de Janeiro started teaching creationism in religious education classes. Since then, most Christian colleges have taught evolution as science, while teaching creationism as religion only in special, non-curricular classes. Public schools teach only evolution.

3.8 In Japan, evolution is taught at all senior high schools (15-18 years of age). The regulation (“Gakushuu shidou youryou”) states: “Explain (to the pupils) that the various forms of life on the earth have come to their present forms through evolution. Mention too the examples of evolution and explain the debates and processes that led to the theory of evolution.” This means that no educational institutions can be officially run as senior high schools without teaching evolution. However, private schools are free to teach alternative views along with evolution. Creationism can be used as a supporting material in the non-science modules, such as National Language (“Kokugo”).

3.9 Russia
In December 2006, a schoolgirl in St.Petersburg, Russia and her father decided to take the teaching of Darwinism 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.

3.10 Kenya
In early 2007, it was reported that the National Museums of Kenya is the target of an anti-evolution campaign mounted by Bishop Boniface Adoyo of Christ is the Answer Ministries who is Chairman of the Evangelical Association of Kenya, representing 35 denominations with a total of 10 million members. Adoyo is advocating removal of all hominoid fossils from the museum because he believes “When museums claim that man evolved from apes, they are actually hurting many Christians who believe that God created us”. He is also advocating a boycott of museums that display material about man’s origin.

4- Religious politics
Almost all churches teach that God created the cosmos. Most contemporary Christian leaders and scholars from many mainstream churches -Roman Catholics, Anglican and some Lutheran denominations- reject reading the Bible as if it could shed light on the physics of creation instead of its spiritual meaning. According to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, “for most of the history of Christianity there’s been an awareness that a belief that everything depends on the creative act of God, is quite compatible with a degree of uncertainty or latitude about how precisely that unfolds in creative time.”

The Roman Catholic Church now explicitly accepts the theory of Evolution (albeit with most conservatives and traditionalists within the Church in dissent), as do Anglican scholars. Rev Dr John Polkinghorne FRS is arguing that evolution is one of the principles through which God created living beings. Earlier examples of this attitude include Frederick Temple, Asa Gray and Charles Kingsley who were enthusiastic supporters of Darwin’s theories. The French Jesuit priest and geologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, saw evolution as confirmation of his Christian beliefs. Another example is that of Liberal theology, which assumes that Genesis is a poetic work, and that just as human understanding of God increases gradually over time, so does the understanding of His creation. In fact, both Jews and Christians have been considering the idea of the creation history as an allegory instead of an historical description long before the development of Darwin’s theory of evolution. Two notable examples are Saint Augustine (4th century) that, on theological grounds, argued that everything in the universe was created by God in the same instant, and the 1st century Jewish scholar Philo of Alesandria, who wrote that it would be a mistake to think that creation happened in six days, or in any set amount of time.

Some Time Magazine’s polls indicate that about 45% of Americans believe that “God created the world along with all creatures big and small in just six days.” This does not mean that Americans believe that evolution should not be taught in the public schools. For example, Molleen Matsumura of the National Centre for Science Education calculates that “Of Americans in the twelve largest Christian denominations, between 77% and 89.6% belong to churches that support evolution education.”

In the U.S. many Protestant denominations promote creationism, preach against evolution from the pulpits, and sponsor lectures and debates on the subject. A list of denominations that officially advocate creation include:

•    Assemblies of God
•    Free Methodist Church
•    Jehovah’s Witnesses
•    Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod
•    Pentecostal Churches
•    Seventh-day Adventist Churches
•    Southern Baptist Convention Churches
•    Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod
•    Christian Reformed Church
•    Pentecostal Oneness churches.

5- Intelligent design in politics
The Intelligent Design movement has conducted a far-reaching organized campaign in the United States that promotes a Neo-Creationist religious agenda calling for broad social, academic and political changes centring on Intelligent Design.

A number of specific political strategies and tactics have been employed by Intelligent Design proponents. These range from attempts at the state level to undermine or remove the therory of evolution from the public school classroom, to having the federal government mandate the teaching of Intelligent Design, to ‘stacking’ municipal, county and state school boards with Intelligent Design proponents. A notable feature of the Discovery Institute Intelligent Design campaigns has been extensive lobbying and public relations campaigns conducted on behalf of Intelligent Design proponents in order to overcome professional setbacks.

These efforts are focused on the “Teach the Controversy” and “Critical Analysis of Evolution” campaigns. These campaigns gained prominence after the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial where Judge John E. Jones III ruled that teaching Intelligent Design, or presenting it as an alternative to evolution, was a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because Intelligent Design is not legitimate science, but essentially religious in nature.

The resources for these campaigns come mainly from the “Discovery Institute” and its “Centre for Science and Culture. These strategies are seen as another initiative to “defeat the materialist world view” represented by the theory of evolution in favour of “a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions”. According to the “Centre for Science and Culture’s weblog, at least 10 state legislatures are now considering legislation reconsidering how evolution is taught.

5- Specific cases

5.1 1999 and 2005 Kansas Board of Education
See § above.

5.2 2000 Congressional briefing
See § 15.8 above.

5.3 2001 Santorum Amendment
See § 15.8 above.

5.4 2001 Louisiana, House Bill 1286
This bill directs that the state shall not print or distribute any material containing claims known to be false or fraudulent. It also specifically provides for any citizen to be able to sue the state using the provisions of this bill.

5.5 2001 Michigan, House Bill 4382
A bill proposed by Rep. Gosselin (House Bill 4382) which sought to amend 1976 PA 451, “The revised school code”. The bill directed that in the science standards, all references to “evolution” and “how species change through time” would be modified to indicate that this is an unproven theory. It proposed to add the phrase “all students will be explained that the competing theories of evolution and natural selection are based on random mutation and on the fact that life is the result of the purposeful, Intelligent Design of a creator.” The bill also would have required that the recommended model core academic curriculum content standards comply with these provisions. Also under the bill the State Board would have been required to make these revisions as soon as practicable after the effective date of the bill, if it had been enacted. It was not.

5.6 2001 Georgia, House Bill 391
This bill directed teachers to distinguish between “philosophical materialism” and “authentic science”, and extended to teachers the “right” to present and critique any scientific theory of the origins or life or species. Failed in committee.

5.7 2001 West Virginia, House Bill 2554
An “equal-time” bill, described in its title as “Providing for the teaching of creation science and evolution science on an equal basis in the public schools.” HB2554 was introduced in the state legislature in February 2001, and died in committee.

5.8 2001 Kanawha County, West Virginia
In February 2001 a parent filed a complaint with the Kanawha County Board of Education claiming that science textbooks used there contain “false and fraudulent” information about evolution. The parent and 30 co-signers opposed to evolution asserted that the textbooks are in violation of state law because they are outdated or inaccurate. As evidence that textbooks which include evolution are flawed, they cited Jonathan Well’s of the Discovery Institute book Icons of Evolution. The board rejected the claim.

5.9 2001 Arkansas, House Bill 2548
In 2001 Representative Jim Holt proposed a bill in the Arkansas legislature that would make it illegal for the state, or any of its agencies, to use state funds to purchase materials that contained false or fraudulent claims. A list of such claims was provided in the text of House Bill 2548 (HB2548). Critics of the bill alleged that many of the “examples” selected were themselves either false or misleading. In April 2001 a motion was passed to postpone HB 2548 indefinitely for study during the interim by the Joint Interim Committee on Education.

5.10 2001 Montana, House Bill 588
House Bill 588 by Rep. Joe Balyeat, R-Bozeman, was presented as an “objectivity in science education” measure, and would have directed the approval of evolution and creationism materials by an appointed six-member committee. The bill failed in committee.

5.11 2001 Pennsylvania Board of Education
In July 2001 the Pennsylvania Board of Education gave final approval to revised science standards. Language in early versions of the standards sought to raise questions about the status of evolution as science and a theory. Science educators and other Pennsylvania citizens expressed concern that the proposed standards might open the way to teaching creationism in science classes because of ambiguous or unclear wording. However, the final standards do not contain the contested language and the standards were approved by the legislature.

5.12 2002 Ohio Board of Education
See § 15.8 above.

5.13 2002 Cobb County, Georgia
See § above

5.14 2003 Texas State Board of Education, textbook controversy
In 2003 The Texas State Board of Education was considering 11 different textbooks for inclusion in the 2004-2005 school year. Fellows of the Discovery Institute testified to the Board that whatever textbooks are adopted should introduce statements on the “weaknesses of the theory of evolution”, and include “competing theories, such as Intelligent Design.”

5.15 2004/2005 Richard Sternberg
The Sternberg peer review controversy arose over whether an article published in a scientific journal that supported the controversial concept of Intelligent Design was properly peer reviewed. The journal’s editor, Richard Sternberg, was an active proponent of Intelligent Design with ties to the Discovery Institute, and the article’s author, Stephen C. Meyer, is an official of the Discovery Institute. The journal’s publisher ultimately withdrew Meyer’s article saying Sternberg published it outside of the normal review process, a statement Sternberg disputes.

5.16 2005 Pennsylvania, House Bill 1007
On March 16, 2005, a bill (HB 1007) promoting “Intelligent Design” creationism was introduced in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and referred to the Education Committee. If enacted it would add a section “Teaching Theories on the Origin of Man and Earth” to the Public School Code of 1949 and would allow school boards to add “Intelligent Design” to any curriculum containing evolution. To prevent a challenge to its constitutionality, HB 1007 explicitly states, “When providing supporting evidence on the theory of Intelligent Design, no teacher in a public school may stress any particular denominational, sectarian or religious belief.”

5.17 2005 Kansas evolution hearings
See §7.1.3