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NEWS 19 May 17

Serbian Scientist Risks Sack For Defending Evolution

The director of Serbia's Centre for the Promotion of Science risks dismissal because of his defence of the theory of evolution - which has come under fire from conservatives in Serbia.

Filip Rudic
BIRN
Belgrade
Nemanja Djordjevic. Photo: Media Centre

The director of Serbia’s Centre for the Promotion of Science, Nemanja Djordjevic, risks being fired after he called on the Minister of Education to respond to a petition seeking the exclusion of Darwin’s theory of evolution from schools.

The centre’s board voted 3-2 on Thursday to dismiss Djordjevic because he "presented a personal view as the view of the Centre", on the issue of the re-examination of Darwin’s theory.

"There was no talk of my qualifications or my work so far," Djordjevic told BIRN, adding that promoting science is part of his job, especially when it is under attack from "pseudo-science".

Another reason listed in the proposition for his dismissal is that the Centre under his leadership did not adopt the necessary rule books, which Djordjevic denies.

Darwin’s theory has again become a focus of debate in Serbia after more than 160 self-styled anti-atheistical intellectuals - including doctors, biologists, chemists, and a former minister of education - recently signed a petition asking the Ministry of Education to “revise” its postulates and their use in the school curriculum.

In response to the petition, Djordjevic issued an open letter in the daily newspaper Politika, urging the minister, Mladen Sarcevic, to react in defence of mainstream science.

"Citizens prone to pseudo-scientific trends refuse to have their children vaccinated while pharmacies sell homeopathic medicine and quacks advertise in the media,” he complained in the letter.

The anti-Darwinian petition has been rejected by Serbia’s main educational and scientific authorities. Sarcevic meanwhile said the Ministry would not address the claims made in the petition and that the theory would continue to be taught at schools.

Djordjevic’s fate now lies in the hands of the minister, who needs to sign the proposition adopted by the board of managers in order for him to be dismissed.

"I have strong faith that there are enough people with integrity at the Ministry of Education, and I doubt the document will be signed," he said.

The Ministry of Education did not answer a question from BIRN about when will the decision be made by time of publication.

"If you’re asking me if I understand what the problem is, I really can’t,“ Djordjevic noted, adding that standing up for science is a statutory obligation of the Centre he still heads.

"I see this as somewhat of a compliment for the Centre. If someone wants to dismiss the director, and this is the case they make for it, then the institution I work in is functioning better than I could have imagined," he concluded.

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