The government of Cyprus is putting Noah’s Ark in school biology textbooks (granted, it’s not explicitly presented as a fact), and they’re also completely leaving out evolution. This information was sent to me by Marc Srour, a research associate at the Enalia Physis Environmental Research Center, who has posted a piece on Cyprus Freethinkers: “Open letter concerning Noah’s Ark in biology textbooks”
Srour also posted a description of this duplicitous and offensive practice on the website Teaching Biology,
The Ministry of Education of Cyprus has issued new biology textbooks for schoolchildren [JAC: Marc says these are for 12- and 13-year olds], and one of the pages there is devoted to retelling the story of Noah’s Ark, placing him as the saviour of Earth’s biodiversity. The offending page and my letter to the Ministry are below. Please, if you care at all about this issue, share the letter (or this whole post), sign the petition linked at the end, and spread the word around. A clean copy of the letter without my lengthy introduction can be found at Cyprus Freethinkers.
You can sign the petition here; it’s in Greek but I think Google translator or the Chrome translate will enable you to verify its content. And anyone can sign it. Strike a blow for good biology everywhere. And here’s the relevant page of the textbook:
Marc’s translation of the above:
According to the Book of Genesis from the Old Testament (2: 15, 19-20), God:
a) asked Adam to cultivate and protect the Garden of Eden, and
b) brought to him every living entity, so he can name them.
Think of why Adam’s action in naming all the organisms was an important prerequisite allowing him to cultivate and protect the garden.
Noah continued Adam’s work, preserving all the living organisms that would be endangered by the waters of the cataclysm.
Therefore, in modern terms, Noah protected the biodiversity of our planet.
Think of what you can do today to protect the living organisms of our planet.
I asked Marc if he could find any mention of evolution in the textbook, and he said this:
Not at all. I didn’t spot any mention of evolution in any section, not in the introduction and not in the most relevant section about classification and taxonomy (where Noah’s Ark is). The other sections are organismal biology (no mention of evolution, just information on organs, tissues, cells), human reproduction, photosynthesis, and trophic relationships. It’s simply not in the curriculum for this age.
Why is this happening? As you might guess, Cyprus is one of the Western world’s most religious nations. In a list of European countries ranked by religiosity, Cyrus is second highest (after Malta), with 90% of the inhabitants agreeing with the statement “I believe there is a God,” 7% asserting “I believe there is some sort of spirit or life force,” and only 2% saying that “I don’t believe there is any sort of spirit, God, or life force” (data from a 2005 Eurobarometer poll). 78% of Cypriots are member of the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus. And as I’ve stressed here repeatedly, the more religious a country is, the less likely it is to accept evolution. Only faitheists, liberal religious folks, and present or former members of the National Center for Science Education would deny that there’s a real connection between the two factors.
Here’s how Cyprus ranks in accepting evolution (statistics published by Miller et al. in 2006):
They’re third from the bottom: only the U.S. (shame on us!) and Turkey are lower. (Turkish citizens answer the three religion questions given above at 95%, 2%, and 1%. Many Cypriots are of Turkish origin, of course.)
51 thoughts on “People of Cyprus: rise up against Noah’s Ark in your biology textbooks!”
If Noah is the savior of diversity on planet earth, I guess that makes god a really evil bastard for imperiling it in the first place.
Seriously, if the story of Noah’s ark is not enough to convince you that the Bible is a set of fairy tales I have no idea what would.
Somebody should make a book of compilation of fairy tales to include:
Jack & the beanstalk
Jonah & the whale
Three little pigs & the big bad wolf
Daniel in the lion’s den
Little Red Riding Hood
Adam & Even & the talking snake
Moses & the parting of the Red Sea
Snow White and the seven dwarves
Noah’s ark and the great flood
Cinderella, her fairy godmother, and the little glass slipper
Jesus and the multitude and 5 loaves and 2 fish
Cypriots? There’s really no need for invective… /joke
I guess the dragon didn’t make it to the ark.
Or the unicorns. Just your humpty-backed camels and some chimpanzees. 🙂
and the chimpanzees waz — us! sorry, i just couldn’t help a snicker here. it is a relief to learn, though, that we’re not quite the most god-raddled country around.
I suppose all the soil bacteria & worms etc all got saved from drowning as well somehow… it is mind bogglingly stupid to believe this nonsense!
The dragons and unicorns were on the expensive delicate ship…
The expensive, delicate ship that was attacked by plesiosaurs….
From the rankings, it looks like not much good is to be expected from the people of Cyprus in this issue.
As a Cypriot I have to say this is sad and i feel bad of my people. I dont care about the rankings. Its sad that religious content is forced in a biology book!!!! Most probably church has its hand in this matter in order to do more brainwashing to people from such a young age.
Two interesting links on Orthodox creationism:
Sometimes I can’t help thinking that as a species we are a rung behind the monkeys on the ladder of evolution and we’ve lost our footing.
Hi all, this is Marc. A huge thanks to Jerry for posting this! I just want to put some more context, to clarify why this only popped up now and why there is very little resistance to the change. Unfortunately, any news articles are in Greek, but I can link to them if you want.
First things first, all the texts can be downloaded here: http://www.schools.ac.cy/eyliko/mesi/themata/viologia/a-gymnasiou.html – the Noah’s Ark section is in 2a.
This story only came up now because of a recent change in biology curricula necessitating a new breed of textbook. As can be read in the letter, the person in charge of overseeing biology curricula is a biologist and a priest. We don’t know (yet) whether he wrote the texts, but he must have surely seen them and approved of them.
There are two reasons for the lack of resistance to the Noah’s Ark issue. First is that, as Jerry points out, Cyprus is extremely religious and the wrongness of this will just go by unnoticed. The second reason is that the new textbooks already went through a large controversy: the human reproduction part had an inappropriate section on morality, where of course hetero married sex was viewed as the best. This led to a huge outcry from LGBT and human rights groups here and the section was taken down. That probably fulfilled the “controversy quota” and everyone’s sick of the story.
In any case, we’re hoping that enough complaints will force a similar change through. It’s a difficult road though – I conducted an unofficial poll and outside of biologists and people involved in freethinking/secularism, nobody saw anything wrong with Noah’s Ark in the textbook. Not promising.
A small update from a contact within the Ministry of Education: the biologist-priest was one of the two people supervising the creation of the texts. What a surprise.
Cypriots can take pride in beating the United States.
The United States of American: The penultimate nation. In penultimation we trust.
How anyone could look at that chart, and still think there’s no relationship between religiosity and evolution denial, or that religion is not the problem, is well beyond my limited intellect.
Why it is that so-called “freethinkers” have an obsession with the factuality of religious stories? That the story has to be factual, documented by strands of evidence, otherwise it does not have any function in human imagination. Evolution is almost entirely unseen. A “scientifically accurate depiction of the evolution of biodiversity” not only is boring but also untenable in the mind of a school child.
The story of Noah Arc keeps memory of a cataclysmic flood that really happened thousands of years ago. There is much good in passing through stories generation after generation for the sake of creating a consciousness about modern topics, such as the environment. The message is the Noah story is that Man must take care of the environment, as Noah has taken care of the world in his time, preserving every species from devastation and extinction. It is not a “blatant lie” as you said, and it doesn’t contradict the “real history” of biodiversity.
Sorry, but I am not going to sign the petition.
Are you really ignorant of the answer to your question? The first reason is because most religious people see the existence of God and his so-called “laws” as FACT, and they do uncountable harms to the world by acting on these illusions. Second, they don’t teach evolution in that school; they teach creationism. Do you have no objection to children being taught lies about the diversity and development of life?
You’re also misguided when you say “evolution is almost entirely unseen.” We can see it in the rocks, in biogeography, in the very organs of our body. And we can even see evolution occurring in the present day.
The message of Noah is also that God can destroy innocent creatures should he so decide, as he did. Who are you to say what the “real” message of Noah’s Ark is?
And yes, it’s a blatant lie. Never happened. No worldwide flood, no Noah, no Ark. All fiction.
Go ahead, don’t sign the petition. By not doing so, you’re sanctioning the teaching of lies to children.
“Evolution is almost entirely unseen.” Trolololo. This blog is not called “why fairy tales are true and evidence is nonsense”.
Ariana381, you wrote:
“Why it is that so-called “freethinkers” have an obsession with the factuality of religious stories?”
We freethinkers think truth is important and don’t believe religion should get a free ride when its proponents present stories as factually true which are not as in the case of the mythical flood of Noah. It is presented as factual history by fundamentalist Christians known as young Earth Creationists who have been trying to force a 6,000 year old earth and a single worldwide flood circa 2348 BCE to be taught in PUBLIC SCHOOLS in the United States. These people deny evolution and tried first to prohibit it from being taught in the schools. That failed because the courts saw what it really is: Fundamentalist Christian religion being palmed off on the public as science. As for the claim by the YECs that there was a single worldwide flood as described in the bible, that’s pure bunk. There never was such a flood—only local ones. Many of us freethinkers realize that religious stories can convey important messages—Aesop’s Fables are an example—but those are not claimed to be factual. My question for Noah apologists is this: Do you call it moral when religious stories are presented as truth when they are not? Admit the fiction is fiction, stop trying to force everyone else’s children to be taught it in public schools and we freethinkers will have no problem with Noah’s mythical flood
I will try to explain it in terms that an evolutionist can understand. Evolution in itself in general, and the paths of evolution in themselves in particular are the sources of all that is right and good. It is they which stand behind and guarantee all that is morally worthwhile.
As an evolutionary ethicist myself, I consider that our moral obligations extend not only to seeing that evolution occurs without impediment, but we have an obligation, positively, to enforce the process of evolution. We should seek out the way in which evolution is proceeding, and use all means in our power to see that its ends are achieved.
We might conclude that the causal laws of Evolution set the standards of right action that inspired Noah to build a boat when the signs of a catastrophic flood were made evident somehow, put his family there along with domestic animals. The legend then evolved into the saving of all species in the planet.
In all likelihood, our ancestors in the time of Noah had an inductive knowledge of man’s origin, evolving from other species in the planet but becoming something altogether different. In other words, Evolution is engraved into the memory of humankind.
There is therefore no stumbling block in the path of harmonization between the Bible and Evolution. It is not that they cannot coexist. There are people in both sides of this ridiculous war (that only exist in the mind) between so-called “atheists” and so-called “religious fundamentalists” who refuse to even consider it.
The important and abiding considerations are: what did convince modern “free-thinkers” that analyzing data is the only way of knowing? When the concept of a Creator God, as an ultimate intelligence that dwarfs its own became completely intolerable? Could this refusal be the ego’s favorite strategy for protecting itself?
That is an indication that a psychological mechanism is at work. Perhaps what is needed for such an irrational position may not be more intellectual investigation, but psychoanalysis.
@ariana381, you refer to:
“so-called “atheists” and so-called “religious fundamentalists” and put freethinkers in quotation marks. In a previous comment you referred to “so-called freethinkers”. For the record, I AM an atheist and a freethinker, not a so-called atheist and freethinker. I am quite capable of defining my beliefs and the implication that I am only a so-called atheist and a so-called freethinker neither intimidates nor impresses me. Whether or not you intend it, your references to “so-called” gives me the impression that you are implying that the only ones who are not so-called are people who agree with you. That may not be your intention but that is how it comes across.
As for Noah, he never existed and the story about him and the flood is a myth. Neither is mentioned anywhere except in the bible and books based on the mythological account in the bible. As for the flood mentioned in the bible, it NEVER happened. It comes, as others have pointed out in this thread, from previous myths—the first in ancient Sumeria, then it was adopted and adapted by the Babylonians when they succeeded the Sumerians, until finally the Hebrews adopted and adapted it and passed it off as history in the bible. The bible flood myth is contradicted by history, geology, and archaeology. The problem I and others have with the Genesis flood myth is that there are Christian and other religious fundamentalists who claim the story is true
and are trying to force the PUBLIC schools to teach their Young Earth Creationism as scientific fact. Do you not care that fiction would be taught as fact in science classes? If we’re going to go that route, why not teach astrology as astronomy and bring in witch doctors to medical schools?
You also wrote:
“The legend then evolved into the saving of all species in the planet. In all likelihood, our ancestors in the time of Noah had an inductive knowledge of man’s origin, evolving from other species in the planet but becoming something altogether different. In other words, Evolution is engraved into the memory of humankind.”
Wrong. Evolution is NOT engraved on the memory of humankind. Anyone who reads real history and comparative mythology (by which I mean to include bible based religions.) If one reads ancient history and comparative mythology one thing should become clear: While some of the ancient Greek philosophers believed in evolution, even most ancient Greeks (and other Greek philosophers) rejected the theory. The oldest writings we have are from ancient Sumeria and ancient Egypt, going back to circa 3000 B.C.E. and in ALL OF THEM the origins of the universe, the earth and life on earth is explained by CREATION MYTHS. Their creation myths often contradicted each other but the point is that it was creation myths, not a belief in evolution, that was “engraved into the memory of humankind.” IF it were true, then it should be the default belief of humankind today but it is not.
Referring back to the original article: What is being opposed is Young Earth Creationism, not religion which is admitted by its adherents as fiction, and the attempts to substitute religious fiction for science. The YECs believe, based on biblical literalism, that the universe, the earth and all life on it is only about 6,000 years old; that all life except 8 humans and and some animals were destroyed by a supposedly all-merciful god circa 2348 B.C.E. If you BELIEVE that then please tell us why and tell us why it should be accepted as fact and science
@ ariana381, you wrote:
“The important and abiding considerations are: what did convince modern “free-thinkers” that analyzing data is the only way of knowing?” When the concept of a Creator God, as an ultimate intelligence that dwarfs its own became completely intolerable? Could this refusal be the ego’s favorite strategy for protecting itself? That is an indication that a psychological mechanism is at work. Perhaps what is needed for such an irrational position may not be more intellectual investigation, but psychoanalysis.”
You are confusing knowing with believing. Would you please tell us how anyone can KNOW anything except by analyzing data? How do you KNOW, for example, that the money you BELIEVE you have in your bank account is really there without analyzing data that the bank has on record? (Due to an error by you or the bank, it might not be there.)
“When the concept of a Creator God, as an ultimate intelligence that dwarfs its own became completely intolerable?”
Apparently you have bought the typical fundamentalist argument that atheists, agnostics and freethinkers don’t like the idea of god or gods and find the idea intolerable. That is totally false. Just about every atheist or agnostic I’ve met or heard discuss the subject would like for there to be a god or gods who cared for us and would give us an afterlife. We don’t believe because we see no reason to believe.
You also wrote:
“Could this refusal be the ego’s favorite strategy for protecting itself? That is an indication that a psychological mechanism is at work. Perhaps what is needed for such an
irrational position may not be more intellectual investigation, but psychoanalysis.”
No. To the contrary, it is a frightening thing at first to contemplate that the comforting things most of us were taught from childhood of a protecting god or gods and that we are on our own, that one day we will die and be gone forever. It is religion that allows people to refuse to abandon the comforting idea of god/gods.
Your insinuation in the last sentence that those who don’t agree with you is totally absurd, nothing but an ad hominem attack. Do you have any scientific evidence to back that up?
“Evolution in itself in general, and the paths of evolution in themselves in particular are the sources of all that is right and good.” — And of all that is wrong and bad.
“We should … use all means in our power to see that its ends are achieved” — Evolution has no ends.
“We might conclude … inspired Noah to build a boat” — We might, if we were delusional.
“It is not that [the Bible and evolution] cannot coexist.” — Well, of course they can coexist! But that doesn’t mean that the Bible isn’t contradicted on multiple points by evolution, forcing literalists to deny evolution and liberals to treat the stories as metaphors… for something or other.
“what did convince modern ‘free-thinkers’ that analyzing data is the only way of knowing?” — Well, I’m not sure about “free thinkers”, but free thinkers are convinced, on the balance of probabilities, that empiricism (which is far more than simply analysing data – see Popper, Deutsch, &c.) is the only way of knowing because it is the only way that has yielded reliable fact-truths about the world (as has been and is being discussed on other posts on this website).
“the concept of a Creator God, as an ultimate intelligence” — Can you define this concept precisely and coherently? Absent such a definition, rejecting (not not tolerating) an incoherent concept seems entirely rational.
“Freethought is a philosophical viewpoint that holds opinions should be formed on the basis of science, logic, and reason, and should not be influenced by authority, tradition, or other dogmas.” — So, why are we “so-called ‘freethinkers’”? And given that definition of freethought, why wouldn’t we be passionate about the facts of religious stories that are claimed as true (not just metaphors for environmentalism or whatever) by so many religionists? Especially when these stories appear in a science text!
>>The story of Noah Arc keeps memory of a cataclysmic flood that really happened thousands of years ago.
Hmmm. Was that before or after the martians invaded Atlantis?
FWIW, I got this translation of the petition from Google (with blinding speed!). But there are a few quirks in case any fluent in Greek would care to comment:
The Free Thought Cyprus Group, which aims at monitoring and constructive discussion of scientific developments and generally to promote critical thinking in the Cypriot society as a very important issue that has arisen over the disputed parts of the material for the teaching of biology in A high school:
Topic 2: Classification of Living Organisms
A. Diversity and Classification of Living Organisms
Second Worksheets: Diversity and Classification of Living Organisms (p. 3)
Topic 4: Reproduction in Humans
4d Worksheets: Reproduction in man (4th Two hour)
Reproduction (4th Two hour) – Guidelines for Educators
Reproduction (4th Two hour) – Specifications for Teachers & Parents (page 1)
We estimate that, in an effort generally moves in the right direction, a small area of the anartithentos material for the teaching of Biology of the First School are multiple problematic.
It is epistemological mistake to confuse the scientific with theological narrative, and subject to different criteria and control methods. Using biblical persons as Adam and Noah to consolidate scientific terms (eg biodiversity) is pedagogically inappropriate. It creates conditions for confusion between myth – history, religion – science, revealed truth and experimental evidence.
The modern Western world, with all its strengths and weaknesses, based on the philosophical project of the European Enlightenment. Demands for rationality, democracy and autonomy of the subject of every kind pundits. In critical thinking, which is – was claimed by those responsible, the “touchstone” of attempted educational reform. This evidence suggests an ambivalence toward scientific thinking. Fits theocracy, not a Member State of the European family. It exudes a medieval fear of cutting in modernity, in a world that is constantly changing. The new challenges and questions will not be solved with the old answers.
Special instructions to teachers and parents about the course of reproduction and consistent with the objectives of the new curricula aimed at shaping society to think freely, critically and independently. Already, the Commissioner for the Protection of the Rights of the Child but also organizations such as the Cyprus Family Planning Association, the accept-LGBT Cyprus, the Mediterranean Institute of Gender Studies and the Cyprus Youth Council asked the Ministry to withdraw and to review the material. The majority of teachers do struggle to convince students that their presence and their efforts in the educational process meaningful, that relate to the reality that exists outside the walls of the school. We argue that this effort torpedoed when the teaching material contains anachronisms and is clearly detached from contemporary reality.
We demand the immediate withdrawal of the disputed pages of material and review all the material from independent team of Biologists, Educators (Battlegroups educators, academics) and, on the issues of sex education topics, experts from organizations such as the above.
Those who agree with the views expressed in the following text, you can add your name. The text and the signatures will be published in the press.
I’m one of those involved with the petition. The part about sex education refer to a now omitted part in the human reproduction section of the book, where a paragraph was added explaining how heterosexual married sex is more moral than every other type of sex. This battle is now won because of the complaints form the groups listed (“Commissioner for the Protection of the Rights of the Child but also organizations such as the Cyprus Family Planning Association, the accept-LGBT Cyprus, the Mediterranean Institute of Gender Studies and the Cyprus Youth Council”).
Now all that’s left is Noah’s Ark.
“Noah continued Adam’s work, preserving all the living organisms…” Untrue according to Genesis. Only 2, sometimes 7, representatives were saved from drowning. In Gods excitement to drown one of his creations–Man–he also drowned nearly evey kitten, panda bear, zebra and so on. They cannot even be trusted to get the details of their own story straight.
So where are those dinosaurs?
We miss them a lot!!!
Not to mention all the cambrian fauna and such groups as the mammal like reptiles.
Job saw dinosaurs–huge ones–so they had to have been on the Ark. Baby dinosaurs of course, because it would have been too crowded with adult dinosaurs _and_ the hundreds of thousands of other animals.
Why is this happening? As you might guess, Cyprus is one of the Western world’s most religious nations.
Religion, religion, religion. Do you hear that, Matzke, Miller et al.? Noah’s Ark is in a biology textbook instead of evolution BECAUSE OF RELIGION. Religion is THE problem.
I have signed it but I don;t have much hope. I see people, around their 20-25 yrs old believing in witches, and in the evil eye and in crying images. Makes me wanna bang my head on the wall an dfeel like the only sane person in this island!
Reblogged this on urbanperegrines.
Reblogged this on emmageraln.
“Why it is that so-called “freethinkers” have an obsession with the factuality of religious stories?”
Damn right! Who cares about reality and stuff?
It’s not like we live in the real world or anything like that!
“Evolution is almost entirely unseen. A “scientifically accurate depiction of the evolution of biodiversity” not only is boring but also untenable in the mind of a school child.”
The idea that only direct witness can prove things would completely destroy History and the judicial system because it would be impossible to convict criminals with evidence and affirm anything that happened more than a 100 yrs ago. Evolution is based on EVIDENCE.
Three words: anthropology, genetics and paleontology. If you don’t exercise your head, it’s gonna atrophy.
“The story of Noah Arc keeps memory of a cataclysmic flood that really happened […]”
No. The geological community has declared that there is no evidence of the Deluge in 1837 and never found any evidence since then. and that was 22 yrs before “The Origin of the Species”.
Turkey: A modern and highly secular (officially) country whose muslim strains have been mellow and historically tolerant of jews and minorities. And yet it ranks last amongst surveyed countries. Just imagine how the rest of the muslim world fares. I had muslim friends in high school, many of whom made their way to higher education in British universities. Some of these chaps even excelled in the sciences. But talk to them about evolution, women, secularism, atheism, or any other faith and you’d open the spouts on a lifetime’s worth of vile and angry propaganda. There is just something peculiar about Islam’s ability to lay a mind to foetid waste.
I know many (Levantine) Muslims in the U.S. and by my count about half are atheists. I’ve wondered if this apparent difference between the U.S. and G.B. is the difference between immigrants from the Levant and the subcontinent.
As for Turkey, there’s always this:
The impression I had of Ataturk was of bringing modernity to the remains of the Ottoman empire. But I had no idea he was so enlightened. One must not forget that expressing sentiments such as these, especially with such eloquence, required much more courage a century ago. In 21st century USA it’s still political harakiri. This puts Ataturk in same league as India’s Jawaharlal Nehru, proudly godless and an open admirer of Betrand Russell.
Jerry, or anyone. I’ve seen this graph lots and forwarded it and posted it on my FaceBook. Is there another one which gives more of the countries, including eg Australia, Lebanon. Its one of the most depressing graphs I know, especially when a potentially great country like the USofA can be so blind-sighted.
“Cyprus is one of the Western world’s”
Western? It looks Middle Eastern to me (in the US sense of the word).
Of course, we should stop using “Western” in anything but a geographical sense, since doing so exposes a lot of prejudice. In another blog today, I saw Japan referred to as being part of the West. It is in the Far East.
Imagine if someone were to refer to well educated non-criminal Black people as “White”. I am not making this up; it has happened and is on a par with using “Western” in anything but a geographical sense.
Western? It looks Middle Eastern to me (in the US sense of the word).
This comment possibly exceeds the ignorance of the Orthodox creationists. Take it away, bard:
Being so close to the Levant and the holy land, Cyprus was part of the Cradle of Civilization and indeed it was the Cypriot Apostle Varnavas who introduced Christianity to Greeks and other Europeans at Antioch at around 60AD.
You can lookup “Cyprus” in the Old Testament to find many references to the islands’ involvement in scripture for more info.
The point I’m trying to make is that campaigning to alienate an ancient biblical country like Cyprus from Christian scripture is almost as futile as asking Jews in Israel to abandon their religious beliefs and go for evolution!
Cyprus schools drum lots of other misinformation into their pupils and the best answer some have to counter this is – the kids can find out themselves later on. Is anyone really surprised at this? Would be nice if they taught more CYPRIOT history and not so much GREEK.