Europe circles the wagons against creationism and intelligent design
Europeans are circling the wagons to keep creationism and intelligent design out of their schools. The latest development came on Monday when Sweden announced it wanted to tighten rules governing private religious schools to ensure they do not teach creationism. This is a new twist. Private schools across Europe usually have to follow some kind of national curriculum but can add other elements such as religious views. Creationism is certainly a religious view and a very large majority in Europe says ID is too.
“This is naturally brought about by the fact that different viewpoints are being discussed, for instance about the creation of the world – one based on science and one on religious views,” Swedish Education Minister Jan Bjorklund said while announcing the new policy. “Teaching in school must have a scientific basis.”
The Council of Europe made the headlines two weeks ago with a resolution firmly opposing these views and urging member countries to keep them out of their science classes. It defined ID as a form of creationism. That resolution entitled “The Dangers of Creationism in Education” was based on a long report with an interesting country-by-country list of cases where creationism has become an issue in Europe (see report pages 9-14). This was a non-binding resolution but it expressed the widespread mood of lawmakers who until recently thought creationism and ID were such simplistic U.S. religious views that they would never cross the Atlantic.
The issue has been around in Britain for a while now. Two weeks ago, a professor of science education in Britain made waves by suggesting that creationism should be discussed in science classes to better equip pupils with arguments to confront it.
“There are lots of pupils who come to science lessons from families where they very seriously believe the world was created in a few days 6,000 or 10,000 years ago,” said Michael Reiss, who is a professor at London’s Institute of Education, an Anglican priest and an evolutionary biologist. “I want to try and not ridicule those students but to help them understand the scientific way in which we can also understand the universe.”
Britain’s Qualifications and Curriculum Authority issued new guidelines in January of this year saying that creationism and ID belonged in religion classes alongside evolution, not in science class. French education authorities and scientists have been warning against creationism and ID since a lavishly produced Muslim creationist book, Atlas of Creation by the secretive Turkish writer Harun Yahya , mysteriously began appearing in the mail free-of-charge at schools around the country.
Several large churches have also spoken out against putting a religious spin on science. In Germany, the Lutheran Church issued background material in July to confront “this Americanisation of European religious culture.” Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, head of the Church of England and spiritual leaders of the world’s Anglicans, said last year that creationism was “a kind of category mistake, as if the Bible were a theory like other theories” and said it should not be taught in British schools.
In several statements and a book over the past year or so, Pope Benedict has clearly been more sympathetic to critics who say scientists go beyond their limits when they say Darwinism proves God does not exist. But he has also made clear the Roman Catholic Church does not support creationism and does not reject the scientific theory of evolution.
It’s fascinating to see this trans-Atlantic divide between Europe and the United States (where, it should be noted, the courts and many scientists also reject these views). Could this mean that creationism and ID are mostly American views that won’t catch on elsewhere?