Swiss Evangelicals Heat Up Creationism Debate

Evangelicals in Switzerland recently sparked controversy when they successfully moved school authorities to include creationism alongside evolution in a science textbook.

Creationism was presented with evolution in the book as two ways of "explaining" the origin of the universe and life on earth, according to swissinfo, the e-zine by Swiss Radio International. But angry scientists and education experts soon forced the revision of the divisive passage, arguing that teaching creationism in science classes implies a controversy when there isn't since evolution has been "proven beyond all reasonable doubt."

Evolution teaches that all living organisms evolved through random genetic mutations and by the non-random process of natural selection from a single self-replicating molecule that existed by chemical chance some 3.5 billion years ago.

Meanwhile, creationism teaches the biblical idea that the universe and all living things, including man, were created by God.

The publication of the controversial textbook came just before the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe urged its members – including Switzerland – to "oppose firmly any attempts at teaching creationism as a scientific discipline."

The assembly warned that creationist ideas in the form of science – once almost exclusively restricted to the United States – has spread throughout Europe and could threaten human rights and democracy.

But proponents of creationism contend that most Swiss want creationism taught alongside evolution in biology class.

A survey commissioned by the Christian organization Pro Genesis earlier this year found 80 percent of Swiss want creationism taught in schools, according to swissinfo. Meanwhile, an international survey last year found 30 percent of Swiss reject evolution – one of the highest rates in Europe.

In America, the controversy takes on several different forms including a growing movement called intelligent design. Proponent of intelligent design contend that evidence from nature and the natural world suggests an "intelligent designer" is behind the creation of the universe, but resist from naming the designer or linking it directly to a religion.

However, Christians, especially evangelicals, have played a dominant role in promoting intelligent design and pressing school boards to teach it alongside evolution in science classes. As a whole, intelligent design has had some successes including growing numbers of supporters, but has also met setbacks with several defeats in courts.

Although America is a country that values freedom of expression and thought, professors who dare to challenge Darwin with intelligent design risk their jobs and network of scientific colleagues. A new film due out early next year, "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed," exposes the conspiracy among educators to "expel" professors who question Darwinism.

But not all Christians feel the need to defend creation against the attack of Darwin's evolution. Christian scientists such as Francis Collins, one of America's leading geneticists, crusades around the country teaching students and young scientists that evolution and creationism are not mutually exclusive but are compatible and together should actually help a person's faith instead of destroy it.

Collins, the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institute of Health, criticized those who teach a literal interpretation of the Bible's creation story for putting people in a "terrible, terrible dilemma" where people must choose between their faith and science.

The renowned geneticist believes evolution is part of God's creation process. He pointed out that the Bible's creation process is the same as science's evolution process in terms of formation chronology.

"Is evolution really the enemy of faith?" Collins posed at the famed Washington National Cathedral earlier this year. "I don't think so at all! .... Who are we to say that we wouldn't have done it in quite that way?"

The Christian geneticist argues that God gave man the ability to discover Him through science and that Christians should not feel in any way that God needs to be defended against findings of science.

"Faith helps answers different questions. 'Why am I here?' Science isn't going to help you with that one," said Collins. "'What is the meaning of life?' No help from science there, either.

"But aren't those some of the most important questions? 'Why' questions? Science is great at 'how' but science is not good at 'why.'"

Martin Scheidegger, a Swiss Protestant pastor and expert on evangelical movements, while commenting on the creationism-evolution debate in his country, also noted that mainstream Swiss churches accept the idea that scientific research is responsible for discovering how life evolved while religion asks why.

"In that sense the Bible does not contradict scientific knowledge based on Darwin's theory of evolution," said Scheidegger to swissinfo.

According to the CIA World Factbook, 41.8 percent of Switzerland's population ascribes to Roman Catholicism, 35.3 percent to Protestantism, and 2.2 percent to other Christian traditions, including Orthodox,. In the United States, meanwhile, 52 percent of the population ascribe to Protestantism and 24 percent to Roman Catholicism.