A weekend in Romania

The IHEU General Assembly is taking place in Bucharest the weekend of 26th May, and I’ll be going. I have to think about what I’m going to talk about…

Hmmm…here’s some inspiration.

In Romania the theory of evolution was taken out from the biology classes for several years, and it was reintroduced only as a result of strong pressure from the civil society and the international organizations. But the situation is not much better in the present. The creationism is taught at school from the very beginning of school, in each year, through the religion class; in the same time, the evolution of species is first mentioned in the biology class only in the eighth grade. As a result, 74% of the Romanian pupils consider that creationism is right and only 14% have this opinion about evolution.

Given that the theme is “Education, Science and Human Rights”, I might be able to come up with something to say.


  1. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    I don’t mind creationism taught in a religion class.

    I do think it’s wrong for the public schools to teach only one version of creationism in a religion class – otherwise it’s indoctrination in the state’s religion rather than general education *about* religion. I wonder what those numbers would be like if they taught Greco-Roman creationism, Babylonian creationism, Egyptian Creationism, Assyrian Creationism, Germanic Creationism, Slavic creationism, Zoroastrian creationism, and Canaanite creationism alongside their Christian creationism during religion class.

  2. zytigon says

    Maybe ” Evolving out of Eden, christian responses to evolution ” should be the new school text book for religious education in Romania? It politely gives a concise summary of most of the points of view toward the FACT of evolution by non supernatural selection. [ And as the advert says, ” Game over theology ” ]

    Surely parents would wish their children to have a healthy balanced point of view.

    The book is by Robert M. Price and Ed Suominen so as you would expect has a lot of funny ideas in it like
    ” Biologian “, my favourite is ” Jesus Christ superchimp “

  3. FluffyTheTerrible says

    I am Romanian and I am working as a teacher right now in one of the best high schools in Bucharest. I have no idea where they got those numbers, because kids learn a lot of science – not just Biology – in school. I guess the theory of evolution is first mentioned in 8th grade because of the way Biology textbooks cover stuff – for instance, in one year, kids might study stuff about plants, and the next things about animals, gradually making their way to human anatomy and so on.

    If anything, science textbooks – Biology included – are sometimes too complicated for kids and teenagers. For instance, students who want to go to medical school can pretty much learn what they need for the exam from the 11th grade textbook – which is basically an abridged version of a corresponding college textbook, complicated terminology and all.

    Also, you can opt out of Religion classes if you want – all you need is a note written by a parent and submitted to the principal – but most kids don’t because pretty much all Religion teachers give very good marks, so that improves a student’s general results.

    I am not saying the situation isn’t bad, I am saying it isn’t so bad. Unfortunately, there is no law banning the presence of religious symbols in schools, and right now, because of the religion teachers in my high school, every single classroom in the high school has a stupid religious icon in it.

    The article is right on the money regarding the younger generations becoming skeptical and non-believing. I think one reason religion endured for as long as it did in my country was because during the communism years it was associated with resistance against the regime. Nowadays, I think it’s slowly becoming irrelevant.

  4. Trebuchet says

    Interesting how little influence 50 years of godless communism seems to have had. Russia, of course, is much the same.

  5. says

    Russia, of course, is much the same.

    Russia looks worse to me. Open collaboration and collusion between the state and the church, see the Pussy Riot business, or Putin’s handing over of land to the orthodox church.

    Interesting how little influence 50 years of godless communism seems to have had.

    That is indeed interesting. Almost as if religion was there and established first, and the advent of communism didn’t really change religious traditions, just drove them underground for as long as it lasted.

  6. moarscienceplz says

    Do you feel comfortable identifying yourself as an atheist (assuming you are one) to strangers in Romania?

  7. says

    It’s probably a lot like the US. There are exemplary schools that do a great job of teaching science, and do so without meddling religious interference…and then there are the small, poor schools that don’t have the resources to do their job properly, and even a few rich schools in Republican districts that are constantly policed by shrill Christians who have the clout to dictate the curriculum. We don’t have uniform populations.

  8. spencer says

    I was lucky enough to spend nearly a month stomping around the Romanian countryside as part of my Ph.D. research seven years ago. It’s a fascinating place, PZ, and I hope you get a chance to see some of it outside the conference.

  9. 33lp says

    1) There is a Howard Johnson’s in Romania?

    2) Is there more than one Howard Johnson’s in Romania?

  10. jnorris says

    As a result, 74% of the Romanian pupils consider that creationism is right and only 14% have this opinion about evolution.

    Easily explained: vampires do not evolve.

  11. FluffyTheTerrible says

    @ moarscienceplz, at number 8

    I don’t make a secret of the fact that I don’t believe – to other teachers and students as well. There are – obviously – laws against discrimination of any kind, so legally I couldn’t be harmed for my atheism. Practically, I am sure some parents, unhappy with the marks I gave their lazy spawns, would try to use this as ammo. There is still a long way to go towards acceptance of atheism. Romania still has a massive problem regarding the treatment of other minorities, such as ethnic ones – gypsies – or sexual – LGBT community….so atheists are not exactly a priority when it comes to prejudice and hatred.

    @ PZ, at number 9

    It’s true that in poor, rural schools, the quality of education the kids receive in school is low. However, all textbooks used in schools have to be approved by the Ministry of Education – there are several possibilities to choose from for every subject (like 4 possible Biology textbooks for 6th grade, 4 for 7th grade, etc). There are no science textbooks that mention creationism or God or whatever.

    I still doubt the figures quoted by that survey, and I am too lazy to track down the source and the methodology of the survey.

    @jnorris, at 12

    You do realize it was Bram Stoker that started the whole nonsense with vampires and Transylvania, right? I mean, Romanian folklore has many legends, and some connected to vampires, but most are a lot more awesome than Stoker’s concoction. The dude simply needed a remote, apparently uncivilised country as a setting for his story, and unfortunately, he picked Romania….and now that’s the only thing people know of Romania.

  12. laurentweppe says

    now that’s the only thing people know of Romania.

    That’s not true: people also know about romanian horse meat being sold in France and Great Britain as beef steacks.

  13. slatham says

    I’ve been to Romania twice. The first time, in the mid-80s was a short and unpleasant visit with a sports group. The second time, with my Romanian partner in the mid-00s, was amazing. I spent time in Bucharest and I spent time in a rural village called Slivna. The religion there is something that many Romanians identify with — they have their own form of orthodox christianity — but do not necessarily believe in. It’s worth pointing out that identifying with something may not correlate strongly with believing in it.
    The iconography is all over the place, often just as decoration it seems. Many churches (and other architecture) were destroyed during communism, but the church stayed in peoples’ lives since most of the occassions of enjoyment were related to churchy things: parties for weddings, baptisms, funerals, name days, xmas feasts, easter feasts…. We have some Romanian friends and acquaintances in Canada and the US, mostly excellent computer scientists and engineers (perhaps not a random sample), most of whom don’t subscribe to religious beliefs, but who still participate in even the religious aspects of these traditions.
    I’m looking forward to hearing about the conference. I’m also looking forward to carrying on this discussion with my Romanian friends. They celebrate their easter this weekend.

  14. vaiyt says

    Sincerely, many reimaginations of the Dracula story are better than Bram Stoker’s original.

    I would like to see a historically accurate one, though. The real guy was interesting enough already, so I think a story about the actual Count Dracula with a side of vampirism could be extremely awesome.

  15. says

    Entirely by coincidence, I sat down and put on my new Ilie Udila accordion CD before I came across this post … just to let you know, Fluffy, that at least one person here knows Romania for its splendid, if sometimes rather frantic folk music and not its mythological terrors :-)

  16. Olav says

    Romania is high on my list of places I would like to visit one day. I have read all sort of fascinating things about it. I am not even living as far away from the country as PZ does. Unfortunately it is not going to happen in the foreseeable future though…