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Creationism news from around the world

Although the United States remains the bastion of creationism, the rest of the world is not invulnerable. Creationism is a worldwide phenomenon, in which antievolutionary materials produced by the centers of creationism in the United States are exported overseas, either wholesale or with modifications to suit the local milieu; often there is reimportation, as creationists overseas become major players in their own right and are then welcomed by the legions of creationists in the United States. (The young-earth creationist ministry Answers in Genesis is a case in point: based in Florence, Kentucky, its chief executive officer is the Australian Ken Ham.) Perhaps owing to the spate of media coverage of recent defeats for creationism in the United States -- the decision in Kitzmiller v. Dover in December 2005, the Ohio state board of education's removal of the "critical analysis of education" lesson plan in February 2006, and the primary election results for the Kansas state board of education in August 2006 -- stories about evolution education and attempts to compromise it have been in the news around the world.

In Canada, the Quebec Ministry of Education is launching a crackdown on unlicensed evangelical schools, following a complaint from Pierre Daoust, director-general of the Commission Scolaire au Coeur-des-Vallees in Thurso, Quebec, about the failure of such schools to follow the provincial curriculum. Daoust told the National Post (October 24, 2006), "these evangelical schools teach their own courses on creationism and sexuality that don't follow the Quebec curriculum." There are at least thirty unlicensed religious schools in the province; according to the National Post, "[t]he Quebec government has known about unaccredited religion-based schools for years, but has tolerated them for fear of offending the denominations sponsoring them." Education minister Jean-Marc Fournier told the Toronto Globe and Mail (October 26, 2006), "Schools that have a permit must of course follow the curriculum, which includes the teaching of Darwin's theory of evolution." In neighboring Ontario, the National Post reported, independent schools are not required to teach either evolution or sex education.

In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Tony Blair downplayed the threat of creationism in British public education, telling New Scientist (November 1, 2006), "I've visited one of the schools in question and as far as I'm aware they are teaching the curriculum in a normal way. If I notice creationism become the mainstream of the education system in this country then that's the time to start worrying." Blair was referring to schools such as those run by the Emmanuel Schools Foundation in a public/private partnership program, which have been in the headlines since 2002 for teaching creationism alongside evolution. Unmentioned were a recent propaganda blitz by a new creationist organization styling itself Truth in Science (see the story in The Times Education Supplement [September 29, 2006]), the chilly response from the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, and the activities of anticreationist organizations such as the British Centre for Science Education. Not to be missed is a recent detailed discussion in the Financial Times (October 14, 2006) of the prospects of creationism in the United Kingdom.

In Germany, the vice president of the Association of German Biologists, Ulrich Kutschera of the University of Kassel, is expressing concern about creationism after recent comments from the education minister of the state of Hesse, Karin Wolff. In October, Deutsche Welle (November 2, 2006) reports, "Wolff said she believed biblical creation theory should be taught in biology class as a theory, like the theory of evolution." Kutschera, a leading German evolutionary biologist, retorted, "Ms. Wolff should catch up on things and read a science book," adding, "On the one hand there are creationist myths, and on the other hand, there is evolutionary biology." A previous report in Deutsche Welle (December 21, 2005) discussed the attempted inroads of the "intelligent design" movement in Germany; although a German educational spokesperson insisted, "Evolution is taught in biology class in all German schools ... There are no endeavors to change this, nor will there be in the foreseeable future," Kutschera warned, "More emphasis is necessary on biology in German schools in order to counteract the lack of knowledge about evolution."

In Poland, the journal Nature (October 25, 2006) reports (subscription required), Mirosaw Orzechowski, Poland's deputy education minister, told a newspaper, "The theory of evolution is a lie ... It is an error we have legalized as a common truth." Orzechowski belongs to the League of Polish Families (LPR), which Nature describes as "the ultra-right-wing coalition partner in the conservative Polish government." Although the minister for education, Roman Giertych, also a member of the LPR, is reportedly sympathetic to creationism, the Associated Press reported (October 26, 2006) him as saying, "As long as most scientists in our country say that evolution is the right theory, it will be taught in Poland's schools," and as describing Orzechowski's outburst as his private opinion. In the meantime, the minister of science, Micha Seweryski, stated, "the opinion of a minority will not change teaching in schools." The Polish scientific community expressed its support of evolution education in open letters condemning Orzechowski; Maciej Zylicz, a signatory, told Nature, "However, the point that really requires further discussion is not evolution, but how a minister can say such stupid things."

In Kenya, the National Museums are under pressure by fundamentalist churches to de-emphasize their famous collection of hominid fossils, which include the most complete skeleton yet found of Homo erectus ("Turkana Boy"), unearthed by Richard Leakey's team in 1984. Bishop Bonifes Adoyo, chairman of the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya, which claims to represents churches of 35 denominations with 9 million members, told the Telegraph (August 12, 2006), "Our doctrine is not that we evolved from apes, and we have grave concerns that the museum wants to enhance the prominence of something presented as fact which is just one theory." Leakey responded, "The National Museums of Kenya should be extremely strong in presenting a very forceful case for the evolutionary theory of the origins of mankind," adding, "it must be forthright in defending its right to be at the forefront of this branch of science." The Nairobi Museum Galleries are presently closed for renovation; Wired News (September 18, 2006) reports that the museums plan "to prominently house the [hominid] collection as 'scientific evidence' of evolution when it re-opens in 2007, a representative said."

Finally, in his contribution to a special issue of Nature (November 1, 2006) focusing on science in the Islamic world, Ehsan Masood writes, "In the late nineteenth century, Darwin's On the Origin of Species had a favourable reception in Muslim countries. But that is history, as books, pamphlets and films on creationism are now more popular in Muslim countries, and pro-evolution scientists are afraid to speak out." Because much of the creationist material circulating in the Islamic world is adapted from fundamentalist Christian sources in the United States, NCSE's Nick Matzke observed, "I find it peculiar that Muslims are adopting a doctrine from US groups that regularly bash Islam in a fairly vicious way." Nature's website links to a debate between Matzke and Islamic "intelligent design" proponent Mustafa Aykol on a Muslim on-line forum -- "a first for all concerned," Masood quipped. (Also of possible interest are two 1999 articles on creationism in Turkey published in Reports of the NCSE: Umit Sayin and Aykut Kence's "Islamic Scientific Creationism: A New Challenge in Turkey" and Taner Edis's "Cloning Creationism in Turkey".)