FaithWorld

Evangelical Church in Germany knocks creationism, ID in school

EKD logoThe 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.

Bishop Wolfgang Huber, 5 Nov 2003//Vincent KesslerThe 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.

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.

An exhibit on evolution at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, February 2007“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.