MSPs will today consider a call for official guidance to ban the teaching of creationism in schools amid ongoing reluctance by the Scottish Government and teachers to intervene.

The Scottish Secular Society wants official guidance to bar the presentation of "creation and of young Earth doctrines as viable alternatives to the established science of evolution, common descent and deep time".

Its petition, which has 651 signatories included three Nobel Prize winners and numerous parents, teachers, educators and scientists, has been escalated to Holyrood's Education and Culture Committee.

Teaching union the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) says restricting discussion of "particular theories or belief systems" to religious education classes only would be contrary to "cross-curricular approach" of the school curriculum.

The Scottish Government says such guidance is unnecessary but the Scottish Secular Society claims "creationist influence in schools is institutionalised" and must be checked.

The EIS said: "The EIS does not believe that the teaching of creationism or intelligent design is prevalent in Scottish schools.

"They are not part of the science curriculum and their discussion in RME or social studies classes would be part of a broader discussion on belief systems.

"The banning of discussion of particular theories or belief systems is inconsistent with the principles of Curriculum for Excellence and the restricting of Christian (or other) views to discussion only within RME classes is contrary to the cross-curricular approach that is at the core of CfE."

A Scottish Government statement said: "There is no intention, either stated or implied, for schools to limit classroom discussion and debate about complex, challenging or controversial topics such as those posed by creationism.

"There are no plans to issue guidance to schools or education authorities to prevent the presentation of creationism, intelligent design or similar doctrines by teachers or school visitors.

"The evidence available suggests that guidance on these matters is unnecessary.

"However, Education Scotland will continue to monitor, through the school inspection process and by other means, any instances where schools are not ensuring the teaching of science is based on well-established science and scientific principles."

The Scottish Secular Society said: "The Scottish Government's initial response, like that of EIS, assumes that adequate safeguards are already in place.

"We demonstrated to the Public Petitions Committee that they are not and that creationist influence in schools is institutionalised.

"The remaining opposition, including the pseudoscience of 'intelligent design' against which the Society of Biology warns explicitly, is from a small, well-organised group of committed creationists who we believe enjoy disproportionate influence within our education system."