Council of Europe firmly opposes creationism in school
By Gilbert Reilhac
STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) - Europe's main human rights body voted on Thursday to urge schools across the continent to firmly oppose the teaching of creationist and "intelligent design" views in their science classes.
The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly approved a resolution saying attacks on the theory of evolution were rooted "in forms of religious extremism" and amounted to a dangerous assault on science and human rights.
The text said European schools should "resist presentation of creationist ideas in any discipline other than religion." It said the "intelligent design" view defended by some United States conservatives was an updated version of creationism.
Creationism says God made the world in six days as depicted in the Bible. Intelligent design argues some life forms are too complex to have evolved according to Charles Darwin's theory and needed an unnamed higher intelligence to develop as they have.
Anne Brasseur, an Assembly member from Luxembourg who updated an earlier draft resolution, said the report showed how creationists -- most recently a shadowy Turkish Muslim writer Harun Yahya -- were trying to infiltrate European schools.
"The purpose of this report is to warn against the attempt to pass off a belief -- creationism -- as a science and to teach the theses of this belief in science classes," she said. "Its purpose is not to fight any belief."
The vote was due in June but was postponed because some members felt the original text amounted to an attack on religious belief. A few changes were made to spell out that it was not directed against religion.
The Council, based in the eastern French city of Strasbourg, oversees human rights standards in member states and enforces decisions of the European Court of Human Rights.
The resolution, which passed 48 votes to 25 with 3 abstentions, is not binding on the Council's 47 member states but reflects widespread opposition among politicians to teaching creationism in science class.
Some conservatives in the United States, both religious and secular, have long opposed the teaching of evolution in public schools but U.S. courts have regularly barred them from teaching what they describe as religious views of creation.
Pressure to teach creationism is weaker in Europe, but has been mounting. An Assembly committee took up the issue because Harun Yahya has been sending his lavish Islamic creationist book "Atlas of Creation" to schools in several countries.
Supporters of intelligent design want it taught in science class alongside evolution. A U.S. court ruled this out in a landmark decision in 2005, dismissing it as "neo-creationism."
From the NCSE
Council of Europe approves resolution against creationismPress Conference Video
On October 4, 2007, the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly approved a resolution urging its member governments to oppose the teaching of creationism as science. The resolution, entitled "The dangers of creationism in education," states, "Today creationist ideas are tending to find their way into Europe and their spread is affecting quite a few Council of Europe member states," observing, "The prime target of present-day creationists, most of whom are Christian or Muslim, is education. Creationists are bent on ensuring that their ideas are included in the school science syllabus. Creationism cannot, however, lay claim to being a scientific discipline." Included is "intelligent design," which is described as "the latest, more refined version of creationism" and "presented in a more subtle way."
The resolution recognizes the importance of evolutionary theory in the modern world -- "Denying it could have serious consequences for the development of our societies. Advances in medical research with the aim of effectively combating infectious diseases such as AIDS are impossible if every principle of evolution is denied. One cannot be fully aware of the risks involved in the significant decline in biodiversity and climate change if the mechanisms of evolution are not understood" -- and accordingly concludes, "The teaching of all phenomena concerning evolution as a fundamental scientific thttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifheory is therefore crucial to the future of our societies and our democracies. For that reason it must occupy a central position in the curriculum, and especially in the science syllabus, as long as, like any other theory, it is able to stand up to thorough scientific scrutiny."
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