The Evokids teaching materials, which vividly convey the theory of evolution to school children in grades 3-6, are being used more and more frequently in Germany and are even being distributed throughout Europe via the EU Commission's "Scientix" programme. It comes as no surprise, then, that evolution is a thorn in the side of biblical Christians.
The "Studiengemeinschaft Wort und Wissen" (Study Community Word and Knowledge), which is well connected in Evangelical circles and in a way the "headquarters of Creationists in Germany", had strongly criticized the Evokids project in January 2014 already, shortly after the first public conference in Giessen. A few weeks ago, in early May 2020, the managing director of "Wort und Wissen", Reinhard Junker, who had taught the creation myth at the (state-recognized!) "Freie Theologische Hochschule Gießen", among others, added a further 14-page critique of the Evokids teaching materials.
The chemist and creationism expert Martin Neukamm (TU Munich, editor e.g. of the works "Darwin heute" and "Evolution im Fadenkreuz des Kreationismus") has meanwhile subjected Junker's criticism to a critical examination. In his analysis, first published on the German website of the Richard Dawkins Foundation, Neukamm came to the conclusion that Junker's criticism of the "Evokids" project was "improper" and that and that "his creationist construct was in conflict with numerous scientific findings".
The problem of fixed worldviews
gbs spokesman Michael Schmidt-Salomon, who initiated the Evokids project together with the evolutionary biologists Dittmar Graf and Eckart Voland, thanked Neukamm for his "clear, readable analysis that clarifies the scientific standpoint without showering the opposing side with polemics": "In this context, it should be noted that Junker and his colleagues do not have any 'sinister intentions', but are making a sincere effort within their religious convictions to reach consistent positions. The problem is that they cannot think about the origin of the species without prejudging the outcome, since they categorically presuppose the truth of the biblical account of creation. Consequently, in their eyes it is absolutely unacceptable that evolutionary processes have taken place in nature that from a biblical point of view should not have taken place at all."
For this reason, Schmidt-Salomon does not regard "Junker's questioning of the Evokids teaching materials as a threat to the project, but rather as a criticism that strengthens our case": "The behavior of the members of 'Wort und Wissen' proves once again that fixed, 'inviolable' worldviews lead to distortions of perception from which it is difficult to detach. This is why it is so important that we give children early access to scientifically secured knowledge before we introduce questionable religious dogmas to them.
Evokids and academic theology
The gbs spokesman was amused by Junker's judgement on the Evokids' teaching unit on "Evolution and Religion", which states for example: "Belief in God and knowledge of evolution need not be mutually exclusive. However, our knowledge about evolution contradicts many old forms of belief that are based on factually incorrect ideas (such as the belief in Adam and Eve in Paradise)". Since Junker himself believes in the actual existence of "Adam and Eve in Paradise", this statement must of course displease him. Interestingly, however, he connects the corresponding criticism of the Evokids teaching unit with a criticism of academic theology, of which he obviously thinks even less than many a seasoned critic of religion. Accordingly, it says at the end of Junker's text (p. 13, own translation): "What the Evokids teaching unit 'teaches' about faith essentially corresponds to what and how is thought and taught in academic theology and religious education studies in general.
This is an interesting point, according to which Bible-loyal Bible-loyal Reinhard Junker rejects the Evokids' teaching unit not because it would contradict academic theology, but because in his eyes it agrees far too much with the views of academic theologians! "We have even considered whether we should print this beautiful Junker quotation on posters and send it to all those dioceses and theological faculties that have so far opposed the distribution of the Evokids teaching material," says Schmidt-Salomon and adds with a wink: "The thought that we could secretly be colluding with these theological faculties has not yet occurred to us! For this insight alone, we are deeply indebted to Reinhard Junker."