Creationism is technically religious freedom

Creationism and the Dispute Evolution

Paradigm shift through the "education market"?

"Creationism" is causing a sensation. This anti-enlightenment and in the worst sense anti-scientific position against the theory of evolution now occupies fields in the education system in the Federal Republic of Germany, especially in schools. A congress at the University of Trier, which took place in June, dealt with him. Christoph Lammers and Nicole Thies describe the questions that are involved.

To many, making the phenomenon of creationism the subject of a congress with a scientific claim requires justification. One of the speakers we asked for, a renowned biologist who teaches at a traditional English university, wrote back to us, saying "whether every form of attention for creationists ... creates publicity" for them. So is it the right strategy to ignore those who claim that evolution did not take place or are following a divine plan? By dealing with their positions, including them in the scientific discourse, do we upgrade the followers of the doctrine of creation and its scientifically clad revenant "Intelligent Design" (ID)?

Such objections would be justified if the preoccupation with the phenomenon of creationism were limited to presenting and refuting its claims about the development of life. Indeed, in view of countless studies, it makes sense to assume that the theory of evolution provides a coherent explanatory model for the origin of species.1 The convergence of the available findings on the one hand and the (theoretical and empirical) weaknesses of intelligent design on the other make it seem like a waste of time to check the creationist theses with a set of instruments from biology. After all, no geographer to be taken seriously deals with the idea that the earth is a disk or a hollow sphere; no congress of historians would, in view of the sources, seriously discuss whether the extermination of European Jews took place or not.

When Congress "¡The Exhausted Theory?" deals with the phenomenon of creationism, neither its assertions attributable to the field of biology nor the aspect - interesting for a sociology of scientists - that even poorly supported theses repeatedly find advocates from the scientific community will not be in the foreground. Rather, the aim is to examine a political strategy and its social and scientific framework. It turns out that the criticism of the interpretive sovereignty of the theory of evolution is specifically used by evangelical groups in order to change the state school system in accordance with their Christian fundamentalist worldview. It plays into their hand that the GATS (General Agreement on Trade in Services) of the World Trade Organization will bring about a far-reaching liberalization of public services - also in the school sector.

Intelligent design and Europe

Many people in Europe still see the topic of creationism or intelligent design (ID) as a problem in US society and the US school system.2 There, the representatives of the Christian fundamentalist faith are trying in a variety of ways to find their way into the state schools by presenting ID as an alternative scientific theory. Supported by representatives of federal politics (especially by the Bush administration) and through successful lobbying work3 Over the past twenty years, creationists have repeatedly achieved partial success at school level. In some states, state schools teach ID to children in addition to the theory of evolution. Although the case law of the federal courts, which is based on a strict separation of state and churches, has so far prevented the Christian fundamentalists from having any further influence on the school system, their propaganda campaigns are having an effect on the acceptance of the scientific theory of evolution: a good half of the American population doubts that that life developed in a process of self-organization.4

An American Dilemma? Not even close. The intelligent design approach, which is untenable in many respects, is also gaining popularity in Europe.5 A representative survey on the origin of life on earth carried out on behalf of the research group Weltanschauungen in Germany (fowid) at the end of 2005 showed that around 13 percent of those questioned believe in the Christian-Biblical doctrine of the origin of the world. 25 percent were of the opinion that a higher being had created life and that it developed under its control. Less than two-thirds of respondents agreed with the scientific theory of evolution.6 It is not easy to answer where the belief in a "first mover" comes from. However, it has been observed over the last few years that evangelical circles have intensified their agitation for intelligent design. Again and again they create publicity and challenge scientific discourse. In 2002, for example, a school book that deals critically with evolution was awarded a prize by the Kuratorium Deutscher Schulbuchpreis (which is organized in the evangelical association Learning for the German and European Future). When the prominent American philosopher William L. Craig was invited to Europe by Christian university groups in 2005 and held some public debates, his claim that life in the world was created by an intelligent creator was one of the central themes.7

The greatest public attention, however, is always given to this controversy over the theory of evolution when spectacular cases of school refusal occur. Most of them are Christian fundamentalist parents who reject biology classes on the grounds that it contributes to the sexual brutality of children and that the doctrine of creation is not represented. The community of faith of the Twelve Tribes, which sees itself as being true to the Bible, recently caused a stir. After the members had repeatedly kept their children away from classes at the state school and had even taken them into custody for it, the Bavarian state granted them a "supplementary school" operated by themselves.8 Overall, the number of children in Germany who do not attend school for religious reasons is estimated to be over 500 - and the trend is rising. These are by no means isolated cases; rather, a network has meanwhile been formed that supports parents who want to isolate their children from the world "out there" for religious reasons and teach them at home. The Christian home school association Philadelphia School, which looks after well over 30 families, plays a central role in this. Despite this networking, the cases of refusal to attend school are ultimately an individual revolt against secular society, its ways of life and world views. Given that schooling is compulsory in Europe (unlike the US, where homeschooling is legal and widespread), it seems questionable whether the home schooling movement will grow larger. Because both the Federal Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights have rejected the question of whether parents have a “fundamental right” to “independent” teaching.9 Since a relaxation of compulsory schooling does not seem in sight, refusal to attend school remains associated with high levels of commitment and risk for the parents concerned.

Privatization and education

The tendency with which the education sector, which has been declared a "market", is developing, however, suits the fundamentalist religious movements. The state education system has been under pressure for some time, and the deregulation of the education market opens up extensive opportunities for private ideological institutions to determine the content of the courses. For decades, the state was seen as a guarantor for the communication of the public good of education. This status is to come to an end in the future, if one follows, for example, the latest proposals from the Education Action Council.10 At the beginning of March 2007, researchers close to the Bertelsmann Stiftung formulated proposals for a school system that aims to release schools into the hands of independent organizations (with the greatest possible public funding). With reference to the PISA study, the Action Council calls for general education schools to be fundamentally "reformed". In addition to the organizational changes, an essential element of the plans is that educational success in the future should be measured by quality control of the "customers", the schoolchildren. But this is questionable in two respects. On the one hand, there are fundamental objections to the fact that a public good such as education should be traded under market conditions. On the other hand, the introduction of such a quality control - especially in conjunction with the transfer of school operations to independent institutions - changes the teaching content. It can be assumed that schools in particular, whose sponsors are religious or esoteric, will increasingly serve the subjective interests of their regular clientele. It is still mainly the Christian denomination schools and the Waldorf schools11 who expand their position, but the proponents of the home schooling movement and the fundamentalist movements behind it are about to catch up.

Running schools on their own not only gives them the opportunity to keep unpleasant teaching content out of the classroom, but also gives them the opportunity to undertake a covert mission. Those who send their children to a private school do not necessarily have to be open to the ideology of the sponsor. Often the parents' considerations tend to be that the lessons are of better quality simply because the schools can choose their students (contrary to the constitutional requirement that the support of the students must not be dependent on the ownership of the parents The composition of the classes at private schools differs significantly from the mainstream school in terms of the proportion of children with poor knowledge of German and "problem children", especially in the primary level). Obviously, this "advantage" is taken into account that ideologically colored teaching content is also conveyed.

Creationism in Schools

The example of the Liebig School in Giessen12 shows, however, that the doctrine of creation is now also taught in state schools in biology classes. It is still possible to speak here of individual cases or even of individuals who lecture pre-formed worldviews with their personal truths. However, the social acceptance suggested by the above survey results and the current relevance are becoming increasingly clear. Not least because of the support from politics, it is evident that this is no longer an occasional, unpleasant fringe phenomenon. The Hessian minister of education saw the incidents at the Giessen school as unproblematic (tenor: It must be possible to talk about it impartially in class) and the Thuringian Prime Minister Dieter Althaus even tried, Siegfried Scherer, one of the authors of the above against the Evolution-oriented textbook to offer a podium.13 As a result, it is by no means just "backbenchers" who are open to creationist ideas. While the home schooling movement tries to make the theory of evolution a question of religious freedom in biology classes and to functionalize it in order to undermine compulsory schooling, it is on the other hand a question of what the curricula of tomorrow will look like. The conditions and conditionalities why one of the best supported scientific theories is put up for discussion in a society, while the sciences largely react with disinterest, must be addressed and discussed solely because of their societal and political explosiveness. A look at the USA shows that being a leader in the life sciences does not seem to be an insoluble contradiction, while the majority of the population regards one of the central theories of biology as nonsense.

In the debate about the phenomenon of creationism, a clear positioning must first be made as to whether religious approaches should be given more influence again or whether the school should generally orient itself towards a materialistic or naturalistic paradigm with a high appreciation of empirical research. With the concern of the congress "¡The exhausted theory?" this question is clearly answered. Nevertheless, a discussion about the supposed paradigm shift, favored by the development in the education sector, should be initiated. Not least, so that a scientifically controversial discussion about possible room for maneuver can be opposed to the superficial but media-effective arguments of the creationists.


Footnotes

1 In terms of hypothetical realism, we even consider the statement to be justifiable that life on earth takes place in an evolutionary process (even if this may provoke the contradiction of one post-structuralist or the other discourse-analytically oriented theorist).

2 In the German-language print media, the debate about the creationist movement is seen primarily as a political confrontation between the American right and the advocates of a strict separation of religion and state. Articles published in recent years cannot be listed here. One example is the online portal of SPIEGEL, which reports on it again and again.

3 See Victor, Barbara: Praying in the Oval Office. Christian Fundamentalism in the US and International Politics. Munich 2005.

4 See http://www.fowid.de/fileadmin/datenarchiv/ Evolution_vs_Kreationismus_USA__2005.pdf [Access: 1.3.2007].

5 Here an important distinction must be made between Western and Eastern Europe. Above all in Eastern Europe (e.g. Poland, Slovakia and also Russia) the belief in creation is taught in biology classes. The popularity is due, among other things, to the suppression of religious cults in the socialist states. While Darwin's theory of evolution was taught under state socialism, with the system change after 1989 there was reactionary recourse to religious ideologies.

6 See http://www.fowid.de/fileadmin/datenarchiv/ Evolution_Kreationismus_Deutschland__2005.pdf [Access: 1.3.2007]. Numbers from other countries are also thought-provoking. SPIEGEL-Online reported that around 40 percent of the British population want creationism in biology classes (see http://www.spiegel.de/wissenschaft/mensch/0,1518,397456,00.html [Access: 26.1. 2007]).

7 See http://www.giordano-bruno-stiftung.de/Archiv/existgott.html - there are also the statements W.L. Craigs and his opponent in the debate at the University of Düsseldorf, Michael Schmidt-Salomon.

8 The "Twelve Tribes" are a religious denomination that has its roots in the Californian Jesus Movement of the 1970s. See http://www.spiegel.de/schulspiegel/0,1518,324298,00.html [accessed: 1.3.2007].

9 See http://www.bundesverfassungsgericht.de/entscheidungen/ rk20060531_2bvr169304.html [accessed: 1.3.2007]; http://www.kath.net/detail.php?id=14886 [Access: 1.3.2007].
10 The report has been available in bookshops since March 15, or it can be accessed at: http://www.aktionsrat-bildung.de/ fileadmin / Documents / Bildungsrechte_jahresgutachten_2007 _-_ Aktionrat_Bildung.pdf

11 In the latter, evolution is not systematically denied; the ideas of biology, however, are hardly less idiosyncratic; See Sybille-Christin Jacob / Detlef Drewes: Chatting from the Waldorf School. Why the Steiner pedagogy is not an alternative. Aschaffenburg 2004, p. 52f. and pp. 127-130.

12 Compare the themed evening on the Franco-German cultural channel ARTE on Christian fundamentalism (see http://www.giessener-anzeiger.de/sixcms/detail.php? Id = 2269698 & template = d_artikel_import & _adtag = localnews & _zeitungitel = 1133842 & _dpa = [Access: 1.3 .2007]).

13http://www.evolutionsbiologen.de/news_2005.html [Access: April 11, 2007].

Christoph Lammers, political scientist, was a member of the board of the International Association of Non-Denominational and Atheists (IBKA) for several years and in 2004 was in charge of the congress "The Eternal Return of the Religious". Nicole Thies, cultural scientist, has organized numerous events for the "Forum Democratic Atheists" (fda). - Together they have the project management of the congress "¡The exhausted theory?" accepted. He was from 15th to 17thRealized in June 2007 at the University of Trier by the "Critical Theory Working Group" and the Professorship for Ethnology (see http://www.evolutionversuskreationismus.de). Cooperation partners: AStA of the University of Trier, BdWi, GEW Trier, Giordano Bruno Foundation (gbs), Heinrich Böll Foundation Rhineland-Palatinate, International Association of Non-Denominational and Atheists (IBKA eV), Jenny Marx Society for Civic Education eV, Max- Trager Foundation, Rosa Luxemburg Foundation and www.denkladen.de; Supporters: Brights Germany, Duisburg Institute for Linguistic and Social Research (DISS) and Society for the Scientific Investigation of Parasciences (GWUP).