Furor over creationism in Poland

Image by Halibutt via Wikimedia Commons

A controversy is smoldering over the distribution of a creationist book to schools in Poland. According to Gazeta Wyborcza (March 2, 2016), unsolicited copies of Maciej Giertych's Ewolucja, Dewolucja, Nauka (Evolution, Devolution, Science) were sent to the biology teachers in public and private secondary schools across the country in early 2016.

A dendrologist and socially conservative politician, Giertych is also a persistent critic of evolution. For example, in 2006, as Ulrich Kutschera reported in Reports of the NCSE, Giertych moderated a seminar at the European Parliament (in which he was then representing Poland) in which evolution was criticized by a number of creationists.

Giertych also appeared in the 2008 creationist propaganda film Expelled, in which he asserted that evolution is incapable of producing new genetic information. Ironically, while Expelled blamed the acceptance of evolution for the Holocaust, Giertych wrote a booklet that the European Jewish Congress condemned as anti-Semitic, as Reuters (February 19, 2007) reported.

Giertych told Gazeta Wyborcza, "The book accessibly shows the inconsistencies in the theory of evolution and the lack of evidence for it, as well as a growing number of evidences against it." But Jacek Graff, a biology teacher in Krakow who received the book, was not so enthusiastic, describing it as "hair-raising" and "a frightening fantasy."

Szymon Drobniak, an evolutionary biologist at the Jagiellonian University, outlined and rebutted the major claims of Giertych's book in a column for Gazeta Wyborcza (March 2, 2016). "Giertych conducts his whole discussion in a very biased view," he summarized, "avoiding hard evidence and not presenting a single truly scientific source."

Drobniak also organized a petition asking the ministry of education to inform schools that the book is not endorsed by the ministry and to refer teachers to authoritative sources on evolution, which will enable them to rebut the misconceptions and misrepresentations of Giertych's book. The ministry has yet to respond.