The Archbishop of Canterbury has condemned the teaching of creationism in schools. In an interview with Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, Dr Rowan Williams said the Biblical creation stories do not belong in the same category as evolutionary theory.
He explained: "My worry is creationism can end up reducing the doctrine of creation rather than enhancing it." Creationists and proponents of intelligent design (ID) - the "alternative theory" to evolution by natural selection - assert that the natural world must have had a designer.
Moves in the United States to teach ID alongside evolution have had some success. Last August, at the height of the controversy, President Bush said: "Both sides ought to be properly taught...so people can understand what the debate is about."
Dr Williams's comments indicate he believes that creationism and evolution are not two sides of the same coin, however. He said: "I think creationism is...a kind of category mistake, as if the Bible were a theory like other theories. If creationism is presented as a stark alternative theory alongside other theories I think there's just been a jarring of categories."
As leader of the Church of England, the Bishop's intervention also puts the heads of the two most popular flavours of Christianity, Catholicism and Anglicanism, at odds with creationists. Both Pope John Paul II and current Pontiff Benedict XVI have spoken out in favour of evolution being incorporated into religious people's view of the world.
Tony Blair goes along with Bush on this one, though. At PMQs, in reponse to a question from Lib Dem Jenny Tonge about whether he was happy for ID to be taught in used car magnate and evangelist Peter Vardy's new city academies, he said: "I am very happy...If she looks at the school's results, I think she will find that they are very good."
Given the PM's well publicised plan to become a Catholic, perhaps a lesson in the principle of papal infallibility is required...®
Darwin himself attended a Church of England school and, until his famous voyage aboard the Beagle, believed in a great designer. What he saw convinced him otherwise, but didn't stop him being buried in Westminster Abbey alongside other great scientists.
We'll let the great man have the last word on this one: "A dog might as well speculate on the mind of Newton. Let each man hope and believe what he can."