Creationists make timid Spain foray

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Doubts whether conferences aimed at debunking Darwin's theories will go ahead.

11 January 2008

MADRID - The debate over intelligent design, a creationist theory that seeks to debunk Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, has raged for years in the United States, fanned by evangelicals and the religious right. Now that same prickly discussion over the origins of life on Earth is being brought to Spain.

Under the heading "What Darwin didn't know," US and Spanish proponents of intelligent design plan to hold a series of conferences across the country later this month. The controversy, however, is not so much about them questioning Darwin, whose theories are widely accepted in Spain and are taught in schools and universities, but about the methods they are using to go about it.

"We are not creationists," argues Antonio Martínez, an ophthalmologist and the main representative in Spain of Physicians and Surgeons for Scientific Integrity (PSSI), a US-based group of doctors that supports intelligent design theory. "We simply believe that, in the light of current scientific advances, it is a joke for the theory of evolution to still be held up as the answer to the origin and development of life on our planet."

PSSI, which is organising the conferences between 17 and 25 January, denies any links to religious organisations, and instead poses as a body with its roots grounded in science. However, when asked about other proponents of intelligent design in Spain, Martínez points to the Evangelical Documentation and Information Service (Sedin), whose website links directly to the Coordinadora Creacionista, a creationist science group.

It is this perceived interweaving of religion and dubious science that has sparked controversy within academic circles over the planned conferences.

Manuel Soler, a professor of zoology at Granada University, argues that proponents of intelligent design are trying to make inroads into Spanish academia through an "apparently scientific association of doctors which, though it doesn't talk about creationism, nonetheless tries to spread its ideas in order to dynamite the theory of evolution."

The Spanish Society of Evolutionary Biology, which Soler chairs, has criticised the PSSI's plans to hold conferences in universities, noting that even in the United States, the home of intelligent design theory, courts have ruled that its subject matter should not taught because it cannot be tested and therefore cannot be considered science.

Since it has emerged who is behind the conferences, Vigo University, which was to host one on 25 January has cancelled, while the University of León has said it is reconsidering the conference it had planned for 23 January.

[Copyright EL PAÍS / JAVIER RICO 2008]

Subject: Spanish news

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