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Creationism going global


A special report in the April 19, 2007, edition of The Economist -- exotically datelined "Istanbul, Moscow, and Rome" -- discusses the continued global spread of creationism. The incidents discussed are the dissemination of a book preaching Islamic creationism in France, the controversy over the display of hominid fossils in Kenya, the unsuccessful lawsuit over teaching evolution in Russia, and, at length, the current discussion within the Catholic Church. Creationism, the article suggests, is likely to continue to spread, especially in the developing world where fundamentalist versions of Christianity and Islam are expanding.

The report notes, "As these examples from around the world show, the debate over creation, evolution and religion is rapidly going global. Until recently, all the hottest public arguments had taken place in the United States, where school boards in many districts and states tried to restrict the teaching of Darwin's idea that life in its myriad forms evolved through a natural process of adaptation to changing conditions." Kitzmiller v. Dover is cited as delivering "a body-blow" to "Darwin-bashers": "the verdict made it much harder for school boards in other parts of America to mandate curbs on the teaching of evolution, as many have tried to do ­-- to the horror of most professional scientists."

Addendum (April 22, 2007): The Economist's emphasis on "curbs on the teaching of evolution" is somewhat misleading. Informal pressures to curtail the teaching of evolution are unfortunately common, as the National Science Teachers Association noted in 2005. But in the recent past, most formal antievolution policies, proposed or implemented, have instead either required or allowed a form of creationism to be taught alongside evolution or attempted to instill scientifically unwarranted doubts about evolution by, for example, describing it as "just a theory." In the Kitzmiller disclaimer, both strategies were visible.