01: Evolutionary theory is met with disfavor by the registered voters in the state of Kansas, the epicenter of a national controversy on the teaching of science and religion in the public schools.
The poll, conducted in the mid June by The Kansas City Star and The Wichita Eagle, asked 625 registered voters what they think about the teachings of evolution in public schools. One-fourth of them believe that evolution is the sole theory that should be taught in public schools, while 31 percent think that “theories other than evolution should be offered;” and 24 percent say that evolutionary theory should be allowed to be criticized.
The Kansas Board of Education has draw attention by its controversial decision in 1999 to restrict teaching evolutionary theory in the public schools, and to eliminating evolution and the Big Bang theory from the standard tests offered by the state.
The board literally mandated the teaching of evolutionary theory in 2001, after having received wide criticism from outside of the state. The aforementioned poll reveals that 39 percent of Kansas residents think that creationism best describes the origin of life, and 19 percent support “Intelligent design” (evolution which allows the interventions of a designer to best explain the complexity of the universe), while 26 percent chose evolutionary theory.
The State Board of Education is again reviewing the science curriculum of public schools, and will probably vote on the issue in August.
— By Ayako Sairenji, a New Jersey-based writer and researcher.
02: There has been a sharp increase in spirituality and belief among young Seventh Day Adventists over the past 10 years, although their identification with their denomination has weakened, according to a recent survey.
The independent Adventist magazine Spectrum (Spring) cites a study of young people in Adventists schools, grade six through twelve, known as ValueGenesis, conducted in 2000, which replicated a 1990 survey. Respondents claiming a faith based on a relationship to Christ that has played a major role in their lives increased markedly; ten years ago, about half of the youth responded positively to this view, while 10 years later more than half (58 percent) gave the same answer.
Personal spirituality increased even more: 73 percent reported praying once a day, while 10 years ago, only 53 percent prayed at least once a day. There was also an overall decrease in the importance assigned to being Adventist. The percentage claiming an Adventist identity is not important has grown from nine percent to 26 percent.
(Spectrum, P.O. Box 619047, Roseville, CA 95661-9047)
03: There are strong variations in belief in God across European countries, while a new type of religiosity associated with a vaguer concept of God is developing in several countries, according to a report based on a survey conducted in January-February 2005 and released in June by the European Commission’s Eurobarometer.
This research on European attitudes relates to social values, science and technology of the 25 European Union member states, the candidate countries (Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia and Turkey) as well as Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. Fifty-two percent of EU citizens believe in God, 27 percent in “some sort of spirit life or force”, while 18 percent have no such beliefs. However, there are strong variations across countries–95 percent of the citizens of Malta and Turkey, and 90 percent of the citizens of Cyprus and Romania, believe in God. Percentages are also very high in Greece (81 percent), Portugal (81 percent), Poland (80 percent), Italy (74 percent) and Ireland (73 percent).
At the other end, only 18 percent of the Estonians, 19 percent of the Czechs, and 23 percent of the Swedes believe in God. On average, females are more likely to believe in God, as well as the older age groups and less-educated people. However, people with a higher level of education have also more philosophical concerns. People whose upbringing was strict (54 percent) are more likely to believe in God than those brought up in a household without rules (39 percent).
Beside marked differences across Europe, one should note the strength of religious beliefs in some of the post-Communist countries and the development of a new kind of religiosity characterized by the belief that “there is some sort of spirit or life force”: in all countries except Germany and France; this intermediate group is more numerous than the percentage of self-described atheists.
(The Eurobarometer reports are available as PDF files from:http://europa.eu.int/comm/public_opinion/index_en.htm)
— By Jean-François Mayer
04: The number of Catholics have been growing in Korea, where they now make 9.3 percent of the population.
Korea is the third-largest Asian country regarding its percentage of Catholics, after East Timor and the Philippines. However, reports the French bimonthly Eglises d’Asie (July 1), Catholic leaders in Korea are paying close attention to the number of non-practicing Catholics. While their percentage has only slightly grown in comparison to 2003, they now make up 36 percent of the Korean Catholic population.
(Eglises d’Asie, MEP, 128 rue du Bac, 75007 Paris, France – http://www.mepasie.org)
— By Jean-François Mayer