German Politician Sparks Creationism Education Row

A German minister for culture has provoked outrage among politicians and some religious figures for suggesting theological questions about the origin of the world should be included in school biology lessons.

The remarks by Karin Wolff, culture minister in the affluent western state of Hesse, have fuelled fears that creationist views could creep into science classes in Europe.

Creationists believe God made the world in six days, as the Bible says, and oppose teaching of evolution. Mainly held by conservative Protestant Christians, creationism also has a Muslim version being promoted in Europe by Turkish Islamists.

Critics, who see creationist views as anti-science, are worried the ideas that have increasing support in the United States are getting a toehold in Europe.

Earlier this year Britain published school guidelines saying the issue should be discussed in religious education classes, rather than in science classes where U.S. creationists want it.

Wolff, a Protestant who rejects charges she is promoting creationist ideas, sparked the debate in Germany by telling a newspaper she wanted "modern" biology lessons and that she saw common ground between natural sciences and religion.

"I see no contradiction between biological evolution and the biblical explanation for the world's origin," she told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily. "In fact there is an amazing overlap between the Bible's explanation of the seven days of creation and scientific theory."


ALARM

Wolff has won support from some conservative religious figures, including Augsburg's Catholic Bishop Walter Mixa.

But Social Democrats and Greens have called her a "Christian fundamentalist" who is not qualified to be Hesse's culture minister. Her own conservative and mainly Catholic Christian Democrats have also sent mixed signals.

Wolff's comments have caused alarm because Germany's federal states are largely responsible for education policy. She also seems to have raised questions about the traditional separation of questions of faith from scientific theory in German schools.

Both Protestants and Catholics, about equally represented in Germany, have criticised Wolff.

"Frau Wolff is ignoring the differences between natural sciences, religion and philosophy. That does not correspond to the Protestant view," said Michael Beintker, a member of the EKD Protestant Church in Germany's theology committee.

A spokesman for the local branch of the Catholic Bishops' Conference said biology lessons were not the right place to discuss creationist theory.

The debate is also creating waves among Germany's 3.2 million Muslims, most of whom are Turkish.

"I do not find this a very sensible debate, said Safter Cinar of Berlin's Turkish Alliance.

"The constitution says our lessons should be based on science and that religion and science should be separated. A conservative minority of Muslims might like the idea but most Turkish Muslims in Germany don't support (creationist) ideas."

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