A Christian group promoting intelligent design theory over evolution has sent teaching material to schools that critics say is religious propaganda and sloppy pseudoscience.
The Education Ministry says the unsanctioned material does not breach the Education Act and there are no plans to ban its distribution.
But officials stress the theory of evolution underpins the science curriculum and schools have a responsibility to teach theories that are subject to accepted scientific scrutiny.
Focus on the Family has sent The Privileged Planet CD and booklet to 400 high schools, asking that they be made available to science teachers and school libraries.
Waikato University biological sciences senior lecturer Alison Campbell says the material champions creationism - the belief that God created the world as described in the Book of Genesis - claiming the universe is too perfect to have been produced by chance so must be the work of an intelligent designer.
It represented a religious viewpoint, she said, not a scientific one, and had no place in science classrooms.
"It's an underhand way of getting creationist material into schools."
Similar debate in the United States led the Supreme Court to ban public schools from teaching creationism. In 2005 a court banned the teaching of intelligent design at a Pennsylvanian high school.
Focus on the Family's executive director Tim Sisarich said the material was intended to expose pupils to an alterative theory of cosmology.
"We're a Christian organisation so we believe that God made the planet and God made the cosmos ... Science takes a theory and tries to establish it as the truth, and that's all this is."
Education Ministry senior manager Mary Chamberlain said parents had a right to withdraw children from religious instruction.
- The Dominion Post
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