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Church Wants End to Darwin School 'Monopoly'

The Russian Orthodox Church has called for an end to the "monopoly of Darwinism" in schools, saying religious explanations of creation should be taught alongside evolution.

"The time has come for the monopoly of Darwinism and the deceptive idea that science in general contradicts religion. These ideas should be left in the past," Archbishop Hilarion said at a lecture to Foreign Ministry officials.

"Darwin's theory remains a theory. This means it should be taught to children as one of several theories, but children should know of other theories, too," he said Wednesday.

The atheist Soviet state used Charles Darwin's theory of evolution to disprove the biblical teaching that God created the world. The theory, which biologists say gives a verifiable explanation for how life forms develop through natural selection, now dominates in Russian schools as it does in science teaching in most countries.

Hilarion said the theory that one species could evolve into another had never been proven. Children "should know about the religious picture, the creation of the world, which is common to all the monotheistic religions," he said.

Lyudmila Alexeyeva, a veteran dissident, said Russian liberals would fight any attempt to introduce religious teaching into the classroom, particularly in science.

"It's a dangerous idea, and we will do all we can to stop it," she said. "We overcame communism as the state ideology, and certain forces want to replace it with Orthodox Christianity."

She said it was unlikely that religious teaching would replace Darwin in the national curriculum, but it could find its way into some schools with enough pressure from the church.

Hilarion heads the church's external relations department. His lecture was dedicated to fighting "fanatical secularism" of liberals hostile to religion and called for dialogue with moderate secularists and cooperation with Catholics against common foes.

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