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Scots church leader joins row over teaching of creationism in schools

THE leader of the Scottish Episcopal Church said yesterday that creationism should not be taught in schools and that a "false battleground" was pitting science against faith.

The Most Rev Bruce Cameron was speaking out in support of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who said creationism - the belief that the world was created in seven days, according to a literal interpretation of the Bible - should not be taught in British schools.

Mr Cameron told The Scotsman: "We should be working towards a partnership between faith and science, rather than presenting a false battleground between them. To contrast the first chapters in the Book of Genesis with scientific theory fails to recognise that both are seeking different questions and answers, and there is a danger that we confuse scientific theories with the purpose of Creation."

Creationism is already being taught in two city academies founded by Sir Peter Vardy, an evangelical Christian businessman, as well as in several other schools in England. It is not, as yet, taught in any schools in Scotland.

In a newspaper interview, Dr Williams leader of the Anglican Church, said: "I think creationism is a kind of category mistake. Whatever the biblical account of creation is, it's not a theory alongside other theories. It's not as if the writer of Genesis or whatever sat down and said: 'Well, how am I going to explain all this ... I know: In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth'.

"So if creationism is presented as a stark alternative theory alongside other theories, I think there's been a jarring of categories. It's not what it is about."

Dr Williams added: "It's not the same as saying Darwinism is the only thing that ought to be taught. My worry is creationism can end up reducing the doctrine of creation, rather than enhancing it."

Creationism has become a subject of heated debate in the United States, where supporters are trying to have the subject taught in science classes as a rival hypothesis to the theory of evolution as developed by Charles Darwin.

The debate was highlighted when president George Bush said that "intelligent design" should be taught alongside Darwin's theory. Intelligent design (ID) is a more progressive idea which accepts that the Earth is billions of years old - creationists say it is less than 10,000 years old.

But supporters of ID argue that random natural selection is not enough to explain the universe and all its living things. Instead, they believe there is a supreme designer masterminding the plan.

Some states in the US, under pressure from the religious Right, are giving ID equal prominence to Darwinism - the scientifically accepted account of the evolution of the species.

However, creationist theories are to be debated in GCSE science lessons in mainstream secondary schools in England. The subject has been included in a new biology syllabus. Critics say it should be discussed only in religious education lessons because there is a danger of elevating religious theories to the status of scientific ones.

Last night, Mr Cameron, the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, said: "The Book of Genesis is primarily about the Who and Why of creation, not simply the How. Regarding whether creationism should be taught in schools, I share the Archbishop of Canterbury's sentiments. It is important to debate the different views, but not polarise the modern theory of evolution with the Creation story."

The position was supported by both the Church of Scotland and the Catholic Church in Scotland. A spokesman for the Church of Scotland said: "The situation in England with creationism being taught in schools has not arisen in Scotland. Creationism would be a minority position in the Church of Scotland."

Meanwhile, Father Michael McMahon, a scholar with the Catholic Church in Scotland, said: "The Hebrews, the people who composed the Book of Genesis, didn't believe it was first-hand reportage, that there was someone peering behind the trees writing it all down. The book is a literary thesis about the creativeness of the world, not a description of the scientific process by which the world was created.

"You don't read Genesis as you do a science book. To do that is to reduce what it is trying to do, which is explain the relationship between human beings, one to another and those to God."

 
 
 

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