Serbia Bans, Unbans, Evolution

by Nick Matzke

In the space of a few days, evolution in Serbian biology classes was removed and reinstated.

The controversy began early this week, when, according to a Reuters report, Ljiljana Colic, the Serbian education minister, ordered that evolution no longer be taught in the biology course for 14-15 year-old students, and said that evolution will not be taught in future years unless given equal time with creationism. Colic, an Orthodox Christian, reportedly said that "[Darwinism] is a theory as dogmatic as the one which says God created the first man."

A Serbian evolutionary biologist, Nikola Tucic, called the ruling a "disaster," and asked, "Where did the minister get the idea that Darwin’s theory was dogmatic? There were attempts like this in several U.S. states, but they were rejected. It turns out that our fundamentalists are much more successful." According to the article, Tucic expressed suspicion that the move was an attempt to garner political support for Serbia's conservative party from the church.

Nothing in Eastern Orthodox Christianity seems to require an antievolutionary position: one of the founders of the evolutionary Modern Synthesis, Theodosius Dobzhansky, was a lifelong Russian Orthodox Christian and wrote the famous essay, "Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution."

According to an Associated Press story, Bishop Ignjatije of the Serbian Orthodox Church said, "Darwin only spoke about ways that humans and the rest of the nature are connected. The connection must not be ignored by anybody, not even by us, theologists."

After expressions of outrage in the Serbian press and among Serbian academics, the decision was reversed after Colic met with Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica. According to the BBC, the reversal was announced by the deputy education minister Milan Brdar, who quipped, "I have come here to confirm Charles Darwin is still alive."

Serbia reverses ban on Darwinism.


Dobzhansky, Theodosius. "Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution." URL:

Reuters. "Serbia strikes blow against evolution: Creationism put on equal footing with Darwinism." September 7, 2004. URL:

Savic, Misha. "Serbs in Dispute Over Darwin Vs. Divine." Associated Press. September 9, 2004. URL: [Broken Link]

BBC News. "Serb schools told to drop Darwin." September 7, 2004. URL:

BBC News. "Serbia reverses ban on Darwinism." September 9, 2004. URL: