Intelligent design, a controversial alternative theory to evolution, could become part of the science curriculum in Scottish schools.

The Sunday Herald has learned that the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) is considering provision for the theory as part of a review of the science course curriculum.

Intelligent design (ID) is one of a wide range of theories of origin currently taught as part of the Religious, Moral and Philosophy Studies (RMPS) SQA course, but could be moved elsewhere as part of the review. A spokesman for the SQA said: "It happens to sit in RMPS just now. If and when it does becomes part of the curriculum for science, which it may well do as part of this review, then that's where it could sit."

Scientists have already expressed fears that ID theory is entering science classrooms. An organisation called Truth in Science (TiS) sent teaching resource packs to every head of science in Scottish schools in September 2006. The material critiques the Darwinian theory of natural selection and promotes the idea that biological mechanisms are best explained by the idea of an intelligent designer.

Professor Andrew McIntosh, a director of Truth in Science, said: "We've had a lot of positive feedback about the DVDs, which included Scottish schools. There are quite a number of people who are indicating they are happy to use the resources."

Dr Simon Gage, director of the Edinburgh Science Festival, believes the influence of Truth in Science and ID theory is "worrying and dangerous". He said: "This is creationism with a wrapper on it, dressed up as pseudo-science. These people prey on ignorance and should be forbidden at the school door."

Alastair Noble is an educational consultant who has been invited by both denominational and non- denominational secondary schools to present ID on a scientific basis. He said: "I gauge a growing level of interest from pupils and teachers. My guess is that the (TiS) DVDs are being used by a small but significant number of teachers."

"It deserves formal consideration. It presents a scientific challenge to the construct that the world is the result of blind and purposeless forces."

Ian Fraser, director of education for Inverclyde, is not in favour of prohibiting Truth in Science material and accepts teachers are free to present ID informally. He said: "I have no objection to intelligent design being advanced as one theory, but most teachers don't have time. I trust head teachers to make their own decisions about what is appropriate."

Simon Barrow, director of the faith think-tank Ekklesia, urged Scottish education authorities to prevent private organisations gaining undue influence. He said: "The UK education secretary and the English curriculum authority say clearly that ID is not to be taught in science. Scotland should follow suit."

Without clear guidelines, many scientists fear the ID controversy will create the appearance of significant debate among scientists over the validity of Darwinian evolution. Roger Downie, professor of zoological education at Glasgow University, said: "It's certainly worrying. ID hasn't got any testable hypotheses so it cannot be considered science. It is purely an acceptance, in a literal way, of a particular set of religious texts. Teachers may be being misled into regarding Truth in Science material, which sounds respectable, as bona fide. They should be sent some kind of guidance that this is not science."

An education spokeswoman for the Scottish Executive said: "We're not prescriptive as to books or materials. We provide guidelines, and within those guidelines it's up to schools to decide."

Michael McGrath, director of the Scottish Catholic Education Service, made it clear intelligent design was not part of science teaching in Catholic schools. He said: "There is a distinction between what is appropriate for religious education and what is appropriate for science. We wouldn't confuse one with the other."

A 2006 UK-wide Mori poll suggested 41% believed intelligent design should be taught as part of science education.