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Theory Under Fire

DW staff (jen)November 2, 2006

After recent comments by a state education minister, some German biologists have expressed concern over an increase in the influence of creationists in the country.

Evolution is "a modern theory that explains a fact," one scientist saidImage: dpa - Bildarchiv

The vice-president of the Association of German Biologists said he was concerned that the numbers of so-called creationists -- people who deny evolutionary theory in favor of a biblical one -- are on the rise in Germany.

Ulrich Kutschera, who also teaches evolutionary biology at the University of Kassel, expressed his concerns on the heels of comments by Hesse's education minister Karin Wolff.

Creation vs. evolution

In October, Wolff said she believed biblical creation theory should be taught in biology class as a theory, like the theory of evolution.

Karin Wolff
Hesse Education Minister Karin Wolff made the disputed commentImage: AP

"I think it makes sense to bring up multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary problems for discussion," she said, adding that this would solve the problem of students being confronted with completely different points of view in religion and biology classes.

Wolff made her comments after the television channel Arte showed a documentary on two Hesse schools in the town of Giessen that were teaching creationism in biology class. Wolff, previously a school teacher who taught Lutheran religion, and also active in the Lutheran church, looked into the case.

Clear contradiction?

Her disputed comment was made in the aftermath of the investigation, which uncovered no wrongdoing. At the time, a spokesman for the minister said, "Ms. Woff is quite distanced from the creationists." But he added that she saw no contradiction between creationism and evolutionary theory.

Others, however, beg to differ.

"Ms. Woff should catch up on things and read a science book," Kutschera told dpa news service on Monday. He faulted the minister for using "the language of the creationists, and (for) falling into their traps."

Die Gutenberg Bibel
Scientists worry that Germans increasingly take the bible as a literal truthImage: AP

To speak of creation theory is a mistake, he said.

"Their choice of words is merely sleight of hand on the part of creationists," Kutschera said. "On the one hand there are creationist myths, and on the other hand, there is evolutionary biology."

Reading the Bible literally

Evolution is "a fact that has been explained with a modern theory," he said. "Otherwise all the thousands of scientists who, like us, pursue evolution research -- including those at Stanford and Harvard -- would be lunatics."

Evolutionary biology has been a recognized area of study since 1942, Kutschera noted, adding: "On the one hand we have scientific fact, on the other, 2,000-year-old Christian myths. It is unacceptable to question the reality of evolution."