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NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2010/06/11

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(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

A call for creationism to be taught in Russia is in the news, and a
batch of new videos is available at NCSE's YouTube channel.


A senior official of the Russian Orthodox Church called for the end to
the "monopoly of Darwinism" in Russian schools during a recent talk in
Moscow, according to Reuters (June 9, 2010). "Darwin's theory remains
a theory," Hilarion Alfeyev, the Metropolitan of Volokolamsk and a
permanent member of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Moscow, was
quoted as saying. "This means it should be taught to children as one
of several theories, but children should know of other theories too."

Alfeyev was addressing a group of officials from Russia's Ministry of
Foreign Affairs, however, not education policymakers; Alfeyev is
involved in a variety of ecumenical projects internationally and
represents the Russian Orthodox Church in Brussels. According to
Reuters, his talk was "dedicated to fighting 'fanatical secularism' of
liberals hostile to religion, and called for dialogue with moderate
secularists and cooperation with Catholics against common foes."

The veteran dissident Lyudmila Alexeyeva, a recipient of the European
Parliament's 2009 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought for her work
with the civil rights group Memorial, described Alfeyev's call for the
teaching of "other theories" as "a dangerous idea," vowing, "we will
do all we can to stop it." According to Reuters, "She said it was
unlikely religious teaching would replace Darwin in the national
curriculum, but it could find its way into some schools with enough
pressure from the Church."

Poll data about the acceptance of evolution in Russia is mixed: a 2005
poll reportedly found 26% of Russians accepting evolution and 49%
accepting creationism, but a 2003 poll reported that 44% agreed with
"Human beings are developed from earlier species of animals"), and a
2009 poll reported that 48% of Russians who "know something about
Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution" agreed that there was
sufficient evidence for the theory. (In comparison, only 41% of
Americans agreed.)

As for what ought to be taught in the schools, it seems that Alfeyev's
proposal might be popular. The same 2009 poll indicated that 53% of
Russians agreed with "Evolutionary theories should be taught in
science lessons in schools together with other possible perspectives,
such as intelligent design and creationism," with 13% preferring that
such perspectives be taught instead of evolution; only 10% agreed with
"Evolutionary theories alone should be taught in science lessons in

Yet despite the lead sentence in the Reuters story, it is unclear
whether the Church is endorsing Alfeyev's call. According to Inga
Levit, Uwe Hossfeld, and Lennart Olsson, discussing "Creationism in
the Russian Educational Landscape" in Reports of the NCSE in 2007, the
Russian Orthodox Church "has no officially declared position toward
'scientific creationism' ... [which] plays no significant role in
official theological discourse, but unofficially remains a significant
part of the Orthodox theological landscape."

Levit, Hossfeld, and Olsson also report that creationism in Russia is
frequently visible as part of a sectarian project to impose Orthodox
views in the public school system. Although Russian Orthodoxy is the
dominant religion in Russia (with 63% of the population, according to
a 2007 report), there is a significant Muslim minority (6%), as well
as a sizable population of non-believers (16%), which might make it
unfeasible for the Russian government to capitulate to sectarian
proposals to change how evolution is taught.

For the report from Reuters, visit: 

For the various polls mentioned, visit: 


NCSE is pleased to announce that a further batch of videos featuring
NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott is now available at NCSE's
YouTube channel. There's a nine-part interview with's
Sam Ogden, recorded in September 2009; "Why Darwin Matters," from the
Evolutionpalooza celebration sponsored by San Francisco Atheists,
recorded in February 2009; and "What's the Fuss About Intelligent
Design?" recorded at the University of Washington in May 2006. Tune in
and enjoy!

For NCSE's YouTube channel, visit: 

Thanks for reading! And don't forget to visit NCSE's website -- -- where you can always find the latest news on 
evolution education and threats to it.


Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x310
fax: 510-601-7204

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