Dutch education minister encourages debate on evolution

The Dutch education minister says it’s time to reopen the debate on the Theory of Evolution. Currently in the Netherlands, there is debate on Islam and evolution and on the curriculum in Christian schools.

Recently, Mininster Marie Van der Hoeven commented favorably in her blog on the theory of Intelligent Design, which posits that the origins of the universe can be attributed to an intelligent design. This resulted in her having to answer questions on the subject in Parliament.

The Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant published an interview with the minister May 21, in which she advocated dialogue and openness in high schools and universities to explore different people’s beliefs about the origins of the universe.

"We prefer for young people to become acquainted with different views. That is laid down in our education standards. It is part of your development to adulthood that you get to hear ideas from different vantage points,” she said.

Universities, in particular, should engage in the debate on evolution that is emerging, especially due to the convictions of Muslim students who reject the Theory of Evolution, said the minister.

“Religious feelings are very deep-seated. You need to make allowance for that, everyone's entitled to that," she said.

"Life is billions of years old, and it is clear to see that evolution has occurred. But we also have to acknowledge the fact that the Theory of Evolution is not yet complete, and that new discoveries are still being made,” she said.

Van der Hoeven conceded that as a member of government she should not take “an official position” in the debate, but she argued that she should be tuned into different points of view.

The theory of evolution “is rearing its head again now,” she said. “As a member of the government you shouldn't close your eyes to that. You shouldn't take a specific position, but you should know what the issues are, bring people together.” She intends to host a hearing on this topic in her department soon.

Van der Hoeven told the newspaper that it is unknown whether science will come around to accept Intelligent Design.

She said she regrets that “science is compartmentalized. But the forte of science is acknowledging other people's science as such, even if it's not your field of expertise. If there are different views on evolution, we should place them side by side.”

While attempts are being made in the United States to establish Intelligent Design as an integral part of the curriculum, the Dutch minister said she is not proposing the same thing.

"You won't hear me say that I want my views to be established as part of the educational system, and that I should want the theory of evolution removed - absolutely not,” she stated. “But I do feel that you can, and should, trigger young people's curiosity".

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