A SCOTTISH neo-creationist group has been accused of seeking to spread "disinformation" among children by calling for theories that deny evolution to be taught in science lessons.

The Centre for Intelligent Design (C4ID), based in Glasgow, claims evolution should be taught "objectively" in schools.

But critics say creationist views should only be discussed in the context of religious education and are demanding guidance for teachers to ensure it does not happen in science classes.

The C4ID, which opened around four years ago, expressed its views in response to a petition submitted to the Scottish Parliament by the Scottish Secular Society.

The petition, to be heard on November 11, calls for official guidance to be issued in schools barring the presentation of creationist and Young Earth doctrines as viable alternatives to the science of evolution. It has been backed by three Nobel-winning British scientists - Sir Harold Kroto, Sir Richard Roberts and Sir John Sulston.

There was an outcry last year after it emerged members of US creationist religious sect the West Mains Church of Christ had worked as classroom assistants for eight years at Kirktonholme Primary in East Kilbride. Children were given books intended to debunk evolution.

Last week, Pope Francis stepped into the evolution debate, saying he believes in the Big Bang theory and God was not a "magician with a magic wand able to do everything".

Alastair Noble, director of C4ID, said his organisation believed the petition was based on imposing a "particular world view" and would inhibit legitimate discussion in science lessons. He ­acknowledged the idea of teaching "for and against" evolution would be controversial, but claimed it was consistent with scientific method.

"Scientific theories are always an approximation to the ultimate truth, some of which is beyond our capacity to understand," he said. "So no scientific theory should ever be accorded a privileged position.

"To give to evolution a status that no other scientific theory has is unscientific - so therefore the objections to evolution should be explored in universities and schools … I don't see why debating whether a scientific theory is valid or not is a problem. That is the nature of science."

Noble said the work of C4ID was not specifically targeted at the classroom, but he "occasionally" spoke in schools in both science classes and religious education classes.

The basis of intelligent design, which has been dubbed neo-creationism, is that life on Earth has come through the actions of an intelligent designer - which most proponents believe to be God.

Noble says intelligent design is "hugely misunderstood" and claims it is not creationism as it is not fundamentally a religious position.

He said while there was evidence for adaptation within species, the same could not be argued for "macro-evolution" - major evolutionary changes over time.

Noble added: "The evidence for adaptation is largely solid and uncontroversial, but the … theory of evolution, that random mutations can produce complex life, is highly speculative and has never been demonstrated."

Paul Braterman is an honorary senior research fellow in chemistry at Glasgow University and committee member of the British Centre for Science Education (BCSE), a campaign to keep religion out of science classes. He said C4ID is using "tired" arguments for intelligent design which "is merely a stalking horse for creationism".

"By calling into question the evidence for what they describe as macro-evolution - which most of us would simply include under the term evolution - C4ID have raised the stakes," he said. "Either the [petition] committee must accept their contention that the evidence for macro-evolution and common descent is inconclusive and reject our petition, or they must agree with the overwhelming scientific evidence in favour of common descent and reject what is in reality a plea by C4ID for a licence to spread disinformation among schoolchildren."

The Rev Michael Roberts, a spokesman for BCSE, said creationists commonly made direct factual claims based on spurious science.

He added: "The creationist tactic is to present their point of view as having an equal claim to be heard, thus appealing to reasonableness and fair play … We would not accept such an argument in the case of Flat Earthism, and should not accept it in the case of evolution denial or old Earth denial either."

Spencer Fildes, chairman of the Scottish Secular Society, said its concerns were about protecting science. "If you are in religious and moral education or outwith the science classroom, then by all means you can philosophise about this," he said. "Students and children are welcome to discuss it, as long as it is contextual.

"Unfortunately, the problem we have is that this does not happen, hence the reason why we have raised the petition."

In England and Wales, teaching creationism and intelligent design as scientific theories in schools is banned.