in public

Creation and evolution in public education

The status of creation and evolution in public education can be the subject of substantial debate in legal, political, and religious circles. The situation ranges from countries not allowing teachers to discuss the evidence for evolution or the modern evolutionary synthesis, which is the scientific theory that explains evolution, to allowing evolutionary biology to be taught like any other scientific discipline.

While some religions do not have theological objections to the modern evolutionary synthesis as an explanation for the present form of life on Earth, there has been much conflict over this matter within the Abrahamic religions, some adherents of which are vigorously opposed to the consensus view of the scientific community. Conflict with evolutionary explanations is greatest in literal interpretations of religious documents, and resistance to teaching evolution is thus related to the popularity of these more literalist views.

In Western countries, the inclusion of evolution in science courses has been mostly uncontroversial, with the exception of parts of the United States. There, the Supreme Court has ruled the teaching of creationism as science in public schools to be unconstitutional. Intelligent design has been presented as an alternative explanation to evolution in recent decades, but it has also been ruled unconstitutional by a lower court.

Muslims have been particularly resistant to teaching biological evolution. To give one such case, the matter is highly controversial in Turkey, and evolution's place in biology education can change with each government.

United States

In the United States, creationists and proponents of evolution are engaged in a long-standing battle over the legal status of creation and evolution in the public school science classroom.

Early law

Until the late 19th century, creation was taught in nearly all schools in the United States, often from the position that the literal interpretation of the Bible is inerrant. With the widespread acceptance of the theory of evolution in the 1860s after being first introduced in 1859, and developments in other fields such as geology and astronomy, public schools began to teach science that was reconciled with Christianity by most people, but considered by a number of early fundamentalists to be directly at odds with the Bible.

In the aftermath of World War I, the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy brought a surge of opposition to the idea of evolution, and following the campaigning of William Jennings Bryan several states introduced legislation prohibiting the teaching of evolution. By 1925, such legislation was being considered in 15 states, and passed in some states, such as Tennessee. The American Civil Liberties Union offered to defend anyone who wanted to bring a test case against one of these laws. John T. Scopes accepted, and he taught his Tennessee class evolution in defiance of the Butler Act. The textbook in question was Hunter's Civic Biology (1914).

The trial was widely publicized by H. L. Mencken among others, and is commonly referred to as the Scopes Monkey Trial.

Scopes was convicted; however, the widespread publicity galvanized proponents of evolution.

When the case was appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court, the Court overturned the decision on a technicality (the judge had assessed the fine when the jury had been required to). Although it overturned the conviction, the Court decided that the law was not in violation of the First Amendment. The Court held,

"We are not able to see how the prohibition of teaching the theory that man has descended from a lower order of animals gives preference to any religious establishment or mode of worship. So far as we know, there is no religious establishment or organized body that has in its creed or confession of faith any article denying or affirming such a theory." Scopes v. State 289 S.W. 363, 367 (Tenn. 1927).

The interpretation of the Establishment clause up to that time was that Congress could not establish a particular religion as the State religion. Consequently, the Court held that the ban on the teaching of evolution did not violate the Establishment clause, because it did not establish one religion as the "State religion." As a result of the holding, the teaching of evolution remained illegal in Tennessee, and continued campaigning succeeded in removing evolution from school textbooks throughout the United States.

Modern legal cases

In 1967, the Tennessee public schools were threatened with another lawsuit over the Butler Act's constitutionality, and, fearing public reprisal, Tennessee's legislature repealed the Butler Act. In the following year, 1968, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in Epperson v. Arkansas that Arkansas's law prohibiting the teaching of evolution was in violation of the First Amendment. The Supreme Court held that the Establishment Clause prohibits the state from advancing any religion, and determined that the Arkansas law which allowed the teaching of creation while disallowing the teaching of evolution advanced a religion, and was therefore in violation of the 1st amendment Establishment clause. This holding reflected a broader understanding of the Establishment Clause: instead of just prohibiting laws that established a state religion, the Clause was interpreted to prohibit laws that furthered religion. Opponents, pointing to the previous decision, argued that this amounted to judicial activism.

In reaction to the Epperson case, creationists in Louisiana passed a law requiring that public schools should give "equal time" to "alternative theories" of origin. The Supreme Court ruled in Edwards v. Aguillard that the Louisiana statute, which required creation to be taught alongside evolution every time evolution was taught, was unconstitutional.

The Court laid out its rule as follows:

"The Establishment Clause forbids the enactment of any law 'respecting an establishment of religion.' The Court has applied a three-pronged test to determine whether legislation comports with the Establishment Clause. First, the legislature must have adopted the law with a secular purpose. Second, the statute's principal or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion. Third, the statute must not result in an excessive entanglement of government with religion. Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602, 612-613, 91 S.Ct. 2105, 2111, 29 L.Ed.2d 745 (1971). State action violates the Establishment Clause if it fails to satisfy any of these prongs." Edwards v. Aguillard 482 U.S. 578, *582-583, 107 S.Ct. 2573, 2577 (U.S.La.,1987).

The Court held that the law was not adopted with a secular purpose, because its purported purpose of "protecting academic freedom" was not furthered by limiting the freedom of teachers to teach what they thought appropriate; ruled that the act was discriminatory because it provided certain resources and guarantees to "creation scientists" which were not provided to those who taught evolution; and ruled that the law was intended to advance a particular religion because several state senators that had supported the bill stated that their support for the bill stemmed from their religious beliefs.

While the Court held that creationism is an inherently religious belief, it did not hold that every mention of creationism in a public school is unconstitutional:

"We do not imply that a legislature could never require that scientific critiques of prevailing scientific theories be taught. Indeed, the Court acknowledged in Stone that its decision forbidding the posting of the Ten Commandments did not mean that no use could ever be made of the Ten Commandments, or that the Ten Commandments played an exclusively religious role in the history of Western Civilization. 449 U.S., at 42, 101 S.Ct., at 194. In a similar way, teaching a variety of scientific theories about the origins of humankind to schoolchildren might be validly done with the clear secular intent of enhancing the effectiveness of science instruction. But because the primary purpose of the Creationism Act is to endorse a particular religious doctrine, the Act furthers religion in violation of the Establishment Clause." Edwards v. Aguillard 482 U.S. 578, 593-594, 107 S.Ct. 2573, 2583 (U.S.La.,1987)

Just as it is permissible to discuss the crucial role of religion in medieval European history, creationism may be discussed in a civics, current affairs, philosophy, or comparative religions class where the intent is to factually educate students about the diverse range of human political and religious beliefs. The line is crossed only when creationism is taught as science, just as it would be if a teacher were to proselytize a particular religious belief.

Movements to teach creationism in schools

There continue to be numerous efforts to introduce creationism in US classrooms. One strategy is to declare that evolution is a religion, and therefore it should not be taught in the classroom either, or that if evolution is a religion, then surely creationism as well can be taught in the classroom.

In the 1980s Phillip E. Johnson began reading the scientific literature on evolution. This led to the writing of Darwin on Trial, which examined the evidence for evolution from religious point of view and challenged the assumption that the only reasonable explanation for the origin of species must be a naturalistic one, though science is defined by searching for natural explanations for phenomena. This book, and his subsequent efforts to encourage and coordinate creationists with more credentials was the start of the "Intelligent design" movement. Intelligent design asserts that there is evidence that life was created by an "intelligent designer" (mainly that the physical properties of an object are so complex that they must have been "designed"). Proponents claim that ID takes "all available facts" into account rather than just those available through naturalism. Opponents assert that ID is a pseudoscience because its claims cannot be tested by experiment (see falsifiability) and do not propose any new hypotheses.

Many proponents of the ID movement support requiring that it be taught in the public schools. For example, conservative think-tank, The Discovery Institute and Phillip E. Johnson, support the policy of "Teach the Controversy", which entails presenting to students evidence for and against evolution, and then encouraging students to evaluate that evidence themselves.

While many proponents of ID believe that it should be taught in schools, other creationists believe that legislation is not appropriate. Answers in Genesis has said:

"AiG is not a lobby group, and we oppose legislation for compulsion of creation teaching ... why would we want an atheist forced to teach creation and give a distorted view? But we would like legal protection for teachers who present scientific arguments against the sacred cow of evolution such as staged pictures of peppered moths and forged embryo diagrams ...

Opponents point out that there is no scientific controversy, but only a political and religious one, therefore "teaching the controversy" would only be appropriate in a social studies, religion, or philosophy class. Many, such as Richard Dawkins, compare teaching intelligent design in schools to teaching flat earthism, since the scientific consensus regarding these issues is identical. Dawkins has stated that teaching creationism to children is akin to child abuse.

In June 2007 the Council of Europe's "Committee on Culture, Science and Education" issued a report, The dangers of creationism in education, which states "Creationism in any of its forms, such as 'intelligent design', is not based on facts, does not use any scientific reasoning and its contents are pathetically inadequate for science classes." In describing the dangers posed to education by teaching creationism, it described intelligent design as "anti-science" and involving "blatant scientific fraud" and "intellectual deception" that "blurs the nature, objectives and limits of science" and links it and other forms of creationism to denialism.

Recent developments in state education programs


In 1996, the Alabama State Board of Education adopted a textbook sticker that was a disclaimer about evolution. It has since been revised and moderated.


In August 2008 Judge Otero ruled in favor of University of California in Association of Christian Schools International v. Roman Stearns agreeing with the university's position that various religious books on U.S. history and science, from A Beka Books and Bob Jones University Press, shouldn't be used for a college-preparatory classes. The case was filed in spring 2006 by Association of Christian Schools International against the University of California claiming religious discrimination over the rejection of five courses as college preparatory instruction. On August 8, 2008, Judge Otero entered summary judgment against plaintiff ACSI, upholding the University of California's standards. The university found the book s "didn't encourage critical thinking skills and failed to cover 'major topics, themes and components'" and were thus, ill-suited to prepared students for college.


On August 11, 1999, by a 6–4 vote the Kansas State Board of Education changed their science education standards to remove any mention of "biological macroevolution, the age of the Earth, or the origin and early development of the Universe", so that evolutionary theory no longer appeared in state-wide standardized tests and "it was left to the 305 local school districts in Kansas whether or not to teach it." This decision was hailed by creationists, and sparked a statewide and nationwide controversy with scientists condemning the change. Challengers in the state's Republican primary who made opposition to the anti-evolution standards their focus were voted in on August 1, 2000, so on February 14, 2001, the Board voted 7–3 to reinstate the teaching of biological evolution and the origin of the earth into the state's science education standards.

In 2004 Kansas Board of Education elections gave religious conservatives a majority and, influenced by the Discovery Institute, they arranged the Kansas evolution hearings. On August 9, 2005, the Kansas State Board of Education drafted new "science standards that require critical analysis of evolution – including scientific evidence refuting the theory, which opponents analyzed as effectively stating that intelligent design should be taught. The new standards also provide a definition of science that does not preclude supernatural explanations, and were approved by a 6-4 vote on November 8, 2005 – the same day, interestingly, on which the Dover school board members were voted out (see above).

In Kansas' state Republican primary elections on August 1, 2006, moderate Republicans took control away from the anti-evolution conservatives, leading to an expectation that science standards which effectively embraced intelligent design and cast doubt on Darwinian evolution would now be changed.

On February 13, 2007, the Kansas State Board of Education approved a new curriculum which removed any reference to Intelligent Design as part of science. In the words of Dr Bill Wagnon, the board chairman, "Today the Kansas Board of Education returned its curriculum standards to mainstream science". The new curriculum, as well as a document outlining the differences with the previous curriculum, has been posted on the Kansas State Department of Education's website.


In October 1999, the Kentucky Department of Education replaced the word "evolution" with "change over time" in state school standards.


In 2002, proponents of intelligent design asked the Ohio Board of Education to adopt intelligent design as part of its standard biology curriculum, in line with the guidelines of the Edwards v. Aguillard holding. In December 2002, the Board adopted a proposal that permitted, but did not require, the teaching of intelligent design.


In 2002, six parents in Cobb County, Georgia in the case Selman v. Cobb County School District sued to have the following sticker removed from public school textbooks: "This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered." Selman v. Cobb County School District, No. 1:02CV2325 (N.D. Ga. filed August 21, 2002). Defense attorney Gunn said, "The only thing the school board did is acknowledge there is a potential conflict [between evolution and creationism] and there is a potential infringement on people's beliefs if you present it in a dogmatic way. We're going to do it in a respectful way." Gerald R. Weber, legal director of the ACLU of Georgia, said "The progress of church-state cases has been that the [U.S.] Supreme Court sets a line, then government entities do what they can to skirt that line. ... Here the Supreme Court has said you can't teach creationism in the public schools. You can't have an equal-time provision for evolution and creationism. These disclaimers are a new effort to skirt the line." Jefferey Selman, who brought the lawsuit, claims "It singles out evolution from all the scientific theories out there. Why single out evolution? It has to be coming from a religious basis, and that violates the separation of church and state." The School Board said it adopted the sticker "to foster critical thinking among students, to allow academic freedom consistent with legal requirements, to promote tolerance and acceptance of diversity of opinion and to ensure a posture of neutrality toward religion."

On January 14, 2005, a federal judge in Atlanta ruled that the stickers should be removed as they violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The school board subsequently decided to appeal the decision. In comments on December 15, 2005 in advance of releasing its decision, the appeal court panel appeared critical of the lower court ruling and a judge indicated that he did not understand the difference between evolution and abiogenesis.

On December 20, 2006, the Cobb County Board of Education abandoned all of its legal activities and will no longer mandate that biology texts contain a sticker stating "evolution is a theory, not a fact." Their decision was a result of compromise negotiated with a group of parents, represented by the ACLU, that were opposed to the sticker. The parents agreed, as their part of the compromise, to withdraw their legal actions against the board.


In 2004 the Dover, Pennsylvania School Board voted that a statement must be read to students of 9th grade biology mentioning Intelligent Design. This resulted in a firestorm of criticism from scientists and science teachers and caused a group of parents to begin legal proceedings (sometimes referred to as the Dover panda trial) to challenge the decision, based on their interpretation of the Aguillard precedent. Supporters of the school board's position noted that the Aguillard holding explicitly allowed for a variety of what they consider "scientific theories" of origins for the secular purpose of improving scientific education. Others have argued that Intelligent Design should not be allowed to use this "loophole. On November 8 2005, the members of the school board in Dover were voted out and replaced by evolutionary theory supporters. This had no bearing on the case. On December 20, 2005 federal judge John E. Jones III Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District 6: curriculum, conclusion#H. Conclusion the Dover School Board had violated the Constitution when they set their policy on teaching intelligent design, and stated that "In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents."


Despite proponents urging that intelligent design should be included in the school system's science curriculum the school board of Chesterfield County Public Schools in Virginia decided on May 23, 2007, to approve science textbooks for middle and high schools which do not include the idea of intelligent design. However, during the board meeting a statement was made that their aim was self-directed learning which "occurs only when alternative views are explored and discussed", and directed that professionals supporting curriculum development and implementation are to be required "to investigate and develop processes that encompass a comprehensive approach to the teaching and learning" of the theory of evolution, "along with all other topics that raise differences of thought and opinion." During the week before the meeting, one of the intelligent design proponents claimed that "Students are being excluded from scientific debate. It's time to bring this debate into the classroom", and presented "A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism".


On November 7, 2007 the Texas Education Agency director of science curriculum Christine Comer was forced to resign over an e-mail she had sent announcing a talk given by an anti-Intelligent Design author. In a memo obtained under the Texas Freedom of Information act, TEA officials wrote "Ms. Comer's e-mail implies endorsement of the speaker and implies that TEA endorses the speaker's position on a subject on which the agency must remain neutral.". In response over 100 biology professors from Texas universities signed a letter to the state education commissioner denouncing the requirement to be neutral on the subject of Intelligent Design.


On February 19, 2008, the Florida State Board of Education adopted new science standards in a 4-3 vote. The new science curriculum standards explicitly require the teaching of the "scientific theory of evolution", whereas the previous standards only referenced evolution using the words "change over time.

Recent polls

In 2000, a People for the American Way poll among Americans found that:

  • 29% believe public schools should teach evolution in science class but can discuss creationism there as a belief;
  • 20% believe public schools should teach evolution only;
  • 17% believe public schools should teach evolution in science class and religious theories elsewhere;
  • 16% believe public schools should teach creation only;
  • 13% believe public schools should teach both evolution and creationism in science class;
  • 4% believe public schools should teach both but are not sure how.

(1% had no opinion)

In 2006, a poll taken over the telephone by Zogby International commissioned by the Discovery Institute found that more than three to one of voters surveyed chose the option that biology teachers should teach Darwin's theory of evolution, but also "the scientific evidence against it". Approximately seven in ten (69%) sided with this view. In contrast, one in five (21%) chose the other option given, that biology teachers should teach only Darwin's theory of evolution and the scientific evidence that supports it. One in ten was not sure. The poll's results are often regarded as worthless however, because the wording of the poll question implies that significant "scientific evidence" against evolution actually exists to be taught (see push polling) - a proposition with which less than 0.15% of scientists with relevant expertise would agree.


Over the past few years, there have been several attempts to undermine the teaching of evolution in public schools. Tactics include claims that evolution is "merely a theory", which exploits the difference between the general use of the word theory and the scientific usage, and thus insinuates that evolution does not have widespread acceptance amongst scientists; promoting the teaching of alternative pseudosciences such as intelligent design; and completely ignoring evolution in biology classes. In general, these controversies, at the local school district level, have resulted in Federal and State court actions (usually by parents who are opposed to teaching of religion in school). There has been a number of consequences of these activities:

  • The teaching of religious doctrines, such as Creation Science and Intelligent Design, relies upon an understanding of and belief in the supernatural. This is in direct opposition to the principle that science can only use natural, reproducible, testable forces to explain phenomena. This could lead to the disabling of students' abilities to develop the critical thinking skills necessary for all scientists.
  • The costs to school districts to defend their actions in imposing religious teaching over the science of evolution are high, diverting funds that the districts could use for the education of their students.
  • The lack of proper science education will have a long-term effect of eroding the technological leadership of the US.
  • Most biology and medical research institutions assume a well-grounded undergraduate education in biology, which includes the study of evolution. Since modern medical research has focused on the cellular and biochemical levels, the knowledge that all of these processes have evolved from a common ancestor and the processes are remarkably similar between diverse species will be critical in designing experiments to test novel treatments for disease.
  • Christine Comer, the Director of Science Curriculum for Texas, resigned after being placed on admistrative leave for a breach of Texas Education Agency policy, which requires a neutral stance regarding ID and evolution. Ms. Comer had forwarded an email containing details of an upcoming talk by Barbara Forrest, an expert on the history of the ID movement who had been an expert witness on that subject in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, and a prominent critic of ID. Lizzette Reynolds, formerly of the U.S. Department of Education and also deputy legislative director for to former Governor, now United States President George W. Bush, emailed Comer's supervisor: "This is highly inappropriate," Reynolds said. "I believe this is an offense that calls for termination or, at the very least, reassignment of responsibilities.

U.S. legal quotations

The Supreme Court, Epperson v. Arkansas (1968):

“...the First Amendment does not permit the state to require that teaching and learning must be tailored to the principles or prohibitions of any religious sect or dogma...the state has no legitimate interest in protecting any or all religions from views distasteful to them.”

McLean v. Arkansas case (1982), the judge wrote that creation scientists:

“...cannot properly describe the methodology used as scientific, if they start with a conclusion and refuse to change it regardless of the evidence developed during the course of the investigation.”

The Supreme Court, Edwards v. Aguillard (1987):

“...Because the primary purpose of the Creationism Act is to advance a particular religious belief, the Act endorses religion in violation of the First Amendment.”

In Webster v. New Lenox School District (1990), the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals stated:

“If a teacher in a public school uses religion and teaches religious beliefs or espouses theories clearly based on religious underpinnings, the principles of the separation of church and state are violated as clearly as if a statute ordered the teacher to teach religious theories such as the statutes in Edwards did.”

The 9th Circuit Federal Appeals Court wrote in a California case (Peloza v. Capistrano School District, 1994):

“The Supreme Court has held unequivocally that while belief in a Divine Creator of the universe is a religious belief, the scientific theory that higher forms of life evolved from lower ones is not.”

United States District Court Judge John E. Jones III stated thus in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, 2005:

"We have concluded that Intelligent Design is not science, and moreover that I.D. cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious antecedents."



Council of Europe's resolution 1580

October 4 2007, The Council of Europe released the 'Provisional edition' of resolution 1580: The dangers of creationism in education. The resolution rejects that creationism in any form, including "intelligent design", can be considered scientific (Article 4), though recommends its inclusion in religion and cultural classes (Article 16). The resolution concludes that teaching creationism in school as a scientific theory may threaten civil rights (Articles 13 and 18). The resolution summarizes itself in Article 19:

United Kingdom

In each of the countries of the United Kingdom, there is an agreed syllabus for religious education with the right of parents to withdraw their children from these lessons. The religious education syllabus does not involve teaching creationism, but rather teaching the central tenets of major world faiths. At the same time, the teaching of evolution is compulsory in publicly funded schools. For instance, the National Curriculum for England requires that students at Key Stage 4 (14-16) be taught:

  1. that the fossil record is evidence for evolution
  2. how variation and selection may lead to evolution or to extinction.

Similar requirements exist in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

In 2003 the Emmanuel Schools Foundation (previously the Vardy Foundation after its founder, Sir Peter Vardy) sponsored a number of "faith-based" academies where evolution and creationist ideas would be taught side-by-side in science classes. This caused a considerable amount of controversy.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, leader of the Church of England, has expressed his view that creationism should not be taught in schools.

An organisation calling itself Truth in Science has distributed teaching packs of creationist information to schools, and claims that fifty-nine schools are using the packs as "a useful classroom resource". The government has stated that "Neither intelligent design nor creationism are recognised scientific theories and they are not included in the science curriculum. The Truth in Science information pack is therefore not an appropriate resource to support the science curriculum." It is arranging to communicate this message directly to schools.

The efforts to introduce creationism and intelligent design into schools in the UK is being opposed by an organization called the British Center for Science Education. The BCSE has been involved in government lobbying and has a website which presents information on the relevant issues.


In the Netherlands some factions teach creationism in their own schools. In May 2005, Delft University of Technology physicist and author of a book on Intelligent Design Cees Dekker convinced education minister Maria van der Hoeven that debate about Intelligent Design may encourage discourse between the country's various religious parties. She then sought to "stimulate an academic debate" on the subject. Following strong objection from the nation's scientists, she dropped plans of holding a conference on the matter. After the 2007 elections, she was succeeded by Ronald Plasterk, described as a "molecular geneticist, staunch atheist and opponent of intelligent design".


During 2007, Turkish creationist Harun Yahya sent his book The Atlas of Creation to a large number of European, including Danish, schools.

On April 25 2007, Member of Parliament Martin Henriksen (Danish People's Party) asked Minister of Education Bertel Haarder (The Liberal Party) for information about how many educational institutions had received The Atlas of Creation. The minister responded that the Ministry of Education was not in possession of information about the number of educational institutions that had received the book, that choice of educational material was not up to the ministry, and that it is an objective of the discipline biology in primary school that the education must enable the pupils to relate to values and conflicts of interest connected with issues with a biological content.

On November 11 2007, following the October 4 release of the Council of Europe's resolution 1580, Danish member of ISKCON and leading ID-proponent Leif Asmark Jensen published a letter on his website. The letter is addressed to "Danish politicians" and is a clarification why Asmark and other ID-proponents consider the resolution "so problematic that the Danish Parliament ought to ignore the resolution and maintain the Danish tradition for openness in school education.

In interview sessions during 2002, less than 10% of the interviewed Danes declared the theory of evolution false.


Poland saw a major controversy over creationism in 2006 when the deputy education minister, Mirosław Orzechowski, denounced evolution as "one of many lies" taught in Polish schools. His superior, Minister of Education Roman Giertych, has stated that the theory of evolution would continue to be taught in Polish schools, "as long as most scientists in our country say that it is the right theory." Giertych's father, Member of the European Parliament Maciej Giertych, has however opposed the teaching of evolution and has claimed that dinosaurs and humans co-existed.


In Eastern Europe, Serbia suspended the teaching of evolution for one week in 2004, under education minister Ljiljana Čolić, only allowing schools to reintroduce evolution into the curriculum if they also taught creationism. "After a deluge of protest from scientists, teachers and opposition parties" says the BBC report, Čolić's deputy made the statement, "I have come here to confirm Charles Darwin is still alive" and announced that the decision was reversed. Čolić resigned after the government said that she had caused "problems that had started to reflect on the work of the entire government.


In Turkey, a mostly Islamic country, evolution is often a controversial subject. Evolution was added to the school curriculum shortly after the Turkish Revolution of the 1920s and 30s. There was some resistance to this, such as that of Said Nursî and his followers, but opposition was not particularly powerful. In the 1980s, conservatives came into power, and used the ideas of scientific creationists in the US as a method of discrediting evolution (notwithstanding material on the age of the earth, which Islamic creationism is less specific about).

One anti-evolutionist group in Turkey is the Istanbul based Bilim Arastirma Vakfi (BAV), or "Science Research Foundation", which was founded by Adnan Oktar. Its activities include campaigns against the teaching of evolution. It has been described as one of the world's strongest anti-evolution movements outside of North America. US based creationist organizations such as the Institute for Creation Research have worked alongside them. Some scientists have protested that anti-evolution books published by this group (such as The Evolution Deceit) have become more influential than real biology textbooks. The teaching of evolution in high schools has been fought by Ali Gören, a member of parliament and professor of medicine, who believes such education has negative effects.

The situation is very fragile, and the status of evolution in education varies from one government to the next. For example, in 1985 Education Minister Vehbi Dincerier had scientific creationism added to high school texts, and also had the discredited Lamarckism presented alongside Darwinism. Only in 1998 was this changed somewhat, with texts presenting a more balanced view, though still mentioning creationism and Lamarckism. At present the moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party, which is sympathetic to creationist views, holds power. It was elected in 2002 and again with a greater majority in 2007.

In general, material that conflicts with religious beliefs is highly controversial in Turkey. For example, in November 2007 a prosecutor launched a probe into whether biologist Richard Dawkins' book The God Delusion is "an attack on religious values". Its publisher could face trial and up to one year in prison if the prosecutor concludes that the book "incites religious hatred" and insults religious values.

Turkish academics who have defended evolutionary theory have received death threats, for instance biologist Aykut Kence received an email telling him to enjoy his "final days". Kence helped establish the Evolution Group, whose aim is to improve public understanding of evolution. However, opposition to creationism is not very powerful; Umit Sayin, a neurologist, describes academics and universities as "slow and sluggish" in their response. Kence maintains that "if knowledgeable people keep quiet, it only helps those who spread nonsense."


In December 2006, a schoolgirl in St. Petersburg, Russia and her father decided to take the teaching of evolution in Russian schools to court. The position of the Russian Ministry of Education supports the theory of evolution. The suit has been backed by representatives of Russian Orthodox Church.


As of 2005, evolution was not taught in Pakistani universities. In 2006, the Pakistan Academy of Sciences became a signatory of the InterAcademy Panel Statement on "The teaching of evolution". Many of the contemporary titles on the creation-evolution controversy, such as those by Richard Dawkins, have been translated into Urdu.


In 2004, teaching of creationism in religious education classes by Rio de Janeiro's education department sparked protest from Brazilian scientists.

See also


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