The Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) has just published a booklet for school teachers urging them not to advocate creationism or intelligent design (ID). That’s “evangelical” as in the German evangelisch (meaning Protestant, mostly Lutheran), and not “evangelical” as it’s more commonly used in the United States. Still, it’s interesting to see that the EKD in Germany, where there are few U.S.-style evangelicals and almost no dispute about the theory of evolution, felt it necessary to issue a 22-page booklet about teaching evolution. It’s called “The Origin of the World, the Theory of Evolution and the Belief in Creation in School” (here in German).
EKD Chairman Bishop Wolfgang Huber (pictured below) writes in the introduction that there is “an intense debate” about these issues but that “it is being conducted in Germany in a different way from, for example, the United States of America. Still, a fundamental clarification is of considerable practical importance.” He doesn’t elaborate.
The daily Die Welt gave a bit more background. “This dispute is increasingly spilling over from the USA to us and has already led to political debates. The Hesse state culture minister (and Protestant synod member) Karin Wolff spoke last year of a “surprising agreement” between evolution and the Bible. With that she sparked a dispute within the Church in which the reasonable faction of the EKD found itself confronted with the growing strength of evangelicals loyal to the Bible. This “orientation aid” should now calm the dispute by setting limits towards both sides.”The “orientation aid,” as the booklet is called, criticises Richard Dawkins and other atheists for thinking science can disprove the existence of God. It compares the books of the “new atheists” to the communist textbooks in East Germany: “The new atheism propagated by Dawkins and others today fits seamlessly into this ideological scheme.”
The booklet has several pages on the relationship between science and religion. Sorry, I can’t translate them all but they boil down to saying that biblically literal creationism is unseriös (“unserious” is a serious put-down in German). ID turns God into a god-of-the-gaps, it adds. So how does the EKD want German schools to deal with creation? Unlike in the U.S., even state schools in Germany have religion classes, separated according to religions and denominations. The EKD says it believes the Biblical story of creation explains the overall purpose of life while science explains the physical details. “God the creator is part of this belief, but not creationism,” the booklet writes. “So Protestant religion class can discuss creationism, but not advocate it.”
The booklet talks positively about “cooperation that connects subjects” (fächerverbindende Kooperation) and says “in principle all classes can deal with both the belief in creation and the theory of evolution.” Religion class is special in that it can advocate a religious view such as God as creator. “But teachers, because of their pedological responsibility and the duty to be evenhanded that goes with their occupation, cannot claim a comparable right for themselves, neither about creationism nor other views, for example atheist ones,” it adds.