Friday, October 05, 2007

Europeans resist an American disease

This is good news:
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe condemned efforts to teach creationism in schools Thursday in a vote that underlined concern about the rise of a new socially conservative agenda in several countries.

Members of the assembly, which monitors human rights, approved 48 to 25 a report that attacked advocates of creationism for seeking "to impose religious dogma" and to promote "a radical return to the past" at the expense of children's education.


The report said that creationism, which denies or qualifies the theory of evolution, was "an almost exclusively American phenomenon" but that such ideas were "tending to find their way into Europe" and affect several of the 47 Council of Europe countries.

It added that denying pupils knowledge of theories like evolution was "totally against children's educational interests" and that creationists supported "a radical return to the past which could prove particularly harmful in the long term for all our societies."

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is not the same as the Parliament of the European Union. PACE is a human rights watchdog with members from all 47 European countries. It's resolutions are non-binding, but influential.

Creationism has been becoming more and more visible in Europe over the last few years. American-style Protestant creationism and its spin-off, Intelligent Design, has established itself firmly in Britain and is working its way in to the Netherlands. Earlier this year, the Turkish Muslim writer Harun Yahya (pen name for Adnan Oktar) bombarded schools in France and Spain with his book The Atlas of Creation. In Eastern Europe, social conservatives, backed by the newly militant churches have adopted creationism as an article of faith (thus imitating Ameican fundamentalists). Russia, Poland, and Serbia have all seen increasing attacks on evolution by the official churches and their political supporters. The reactionary head of Northern Ireland's Unionists, Ian Paisley, last month pushed for creationism to be taught in the province's science classes.

This resolution will not reverse those trends, but it is good that an influential body has taken a stand. What's interesting about the PACE resolution is that it explicitly ties accurate science education to human rights: "[T]he Parliamentary Assembly is worried about the possible ill-effect of the spread of creationist ideas within our education systems and about the consequences for our democracies. If we are not careful, creationism could become a threat to human rights." They are clearly making a connection between the push to force creationism into science classes and a broader assault on broader secular society and Enlightenment values. It's an interpretation that I agree with, so I hope the resolution is heard and heeded.

It's a shame we don't have more political leaders in this country willing to speak the truth on this issue.

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