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Council of Europe Anti-Creationist Resolution Vote Cancelled

Reuters reports:

Europe’s main human rights body on Monday cancelled a scheduled vote on banning creationist and intelligent design views from school science classes, saying the proposed resolution was one-sided.

…Guy Lengagne, the French Socialist member of the Assembly who drew up the report, protested after the Parliamentary Assembly voted to call off the debate and vote, and to send the report back to committee for further study.

…Deputies said the motion by the Christian Democratic group of parliamentarians also won support from east European deputies, who recalled that Darwinian evolution was a favorite theory of their former communist rulers.

The proposed resolution is available on-line. It begins:

The theory of evolution is being attacked by religious fundamentalists who call for creationist theories to be taught in European schools alongside or even in place of it. From a scientific view point there is absolutely no doubt that evolution is a central theory for our understanding of the Universe and of life on Earth.

Creationism in any of its forms, such as “intelligent design”, is not based on facts, does not use any scientific reasoning and its contents are pathetically inadequate for science classes.

The Assembly calls on education authorities in member States to promote scientific knowledge and the teaching of evolution and to oppose firmly any attempts at teaching creationism as a scientific discipline.

That seems reasonable enough, although it seems to me that it would have been better to have had a general resolution making the obvious point that theories which have not found acceptance among the scientific community should not be infiltrated into science education by lobbies. Instead, the report objects to the political preferences of the Creationists:

The war on the theory of evolution and on its proponents most often originates in forms of religious extremism which are closely allied to extreme right-wing political movements. The creationist movements possess real political power. The fact of the matter, and this has been exposed on several occasions, is that the advocates of strict creationism are out to replace democracy by theocracy.

That may be so (especially in Europe), but it’s just the flipside of the argument that Communists favour Darwin. And the idea that a particular scientific theory can be established as legitimate or bogus through a political vote seems to me to be a very ill-conceived way to proceed, even if the vote goes the right way. Predictably, the pro-ID crowd have been crying “persecution”! Over to William Dembski:

The Council of Europe may justly be renamed as “The European Council for the Advancement of Atheism.” To believe in a God who acts in the world (aka theism) henceforward constitutes “religious extremism.” It will be interesting to see at what point advocacy of ID is regarded in Europe as a “hate crime” against … science? … society? … humanity?

However, Dembski, perhaps more than anyone else, has been encourging the political corruption of science, which the proposed resolution, although flawed, is a reaction against. In 2003, he boasted to Richard Dawkins that he enjoyed the support of Rick Santorum, and that this would allow him to meet President Bush, with whom he would have a “have a frank discussion with him about the future of science in the United States”.

Also opposing the resolution is Paul Belien, a right-libertarian who runs the Brussels Journal (links in original):

The European governments are asked to fight the expression of creationist opinions, such as young earth and intelligent design theories. According to the Council of Europe these theories are “undemocratic” and “a threat to human rights.”

…Though one may disagree with people who take the Book of Genesis literally…surely secularist political organizations telling people what they may or may not believe, constitute a far greater threat to human rights than religious institutions telling their faithful how to vote. In the voting booth people are free to do what they like, whilst in contemporary Europe people are no longer free to publicly voice their own, deeply felt opinions in public.

Belien attempts to link the resolution to the case of Pastor Johannes Lerle, currently in jail for Holocaust denial:

Pastor Johannes Lerle compared the killing of the unborn to the killing of the Jews in Auschwitz during the Second World War. On 14 June, a court in Erlangen ruled that, in doing so, the pastor had “incited the people” because his statement was a denial of the holocaust of the Jews in Nazi-Germany. Hence, Herr Lerle was sentenced to one year in jail. Earlier, he had already spent eight months in jail for calling abortionists “professional killers” – an allegation which the court ruled to be slanderous because, according to the court, the unborn are not humans.

Other German courts convicted pro-lifers for saying that “in abortion clinics, life unworthy of living is being killed,” because this terminology evoked Hitler’s euthanasia program, which used the same language. In 2005, a German pro-lifer, Günter Annen, was sentenced to 50 days in jail for saying “Stop unjust [rechtswidrige] abortions in [medical] practice,” because, according to the court, the expression “unjust” is understood by laymen as meaning illegal, which abortions are not.

Volksverhetzung is a crime which the Nazis often invoked against their enemies and which contemporary Germany also uses to intimidate homeschoolers. Soon, the German authorities will be able to use the same charge against people who question Darwin’s evolution theory.

Lerle’s case has been taken up by the Freepers (and by Dembski), although The Right Wing Professor’s Blog has surveyed the few German-language sources and suggests that there is more to Lerle’s case than Belien has found fit to publicise; in particular, Lerle’s website, parts of which he helpfully translates:

The confession of the camp commander Höss is considered to be proof for the gas chambers. This [confession] was produced, however, by British torturers… an American villain stole a sample of rock [that would be Fred Leuchter – RB], which did not show elevated values of Iron cyanide, and it because known the gas chambers were reconstructions.

Unfortunately, I don’t read German, but with Babelfish I can get the gist of this bit:

Warum griff Amerika in den Zweiten Weltkrieg ein? Die “jüdisch” beherrschten Propagandamedien wiesen auf die Hitlerverbrechen hin und hetzten für einen Kreuzzug an der Seite Stalins für Demokratie und für Glaubensfreiheit. Warum kämpfte Amerika nicht zusammen mit Hitler gegen Stalin?

Why did the USA decide to join Stalin against Hitler, rather than the other way around? Because “Jews” (appearing in quotation marks throughout) controlled the media.

****

Lengagne’s report also includes a very helpful round-up of Creationist activities in Europe, in particular noting the distribution of Harun Yahya’s Atlas of Creation (which I blogged here) into various countries. Some highlights:

In France:

The Interdisciplinary University of Paris (UIP): The UIP, an association set up under the Law of 1901, was established in 1995 to replace the European University of Paris, which was founded in 1989 to succeed the Popular University of Paris. Supported at the beginning by a number of prestigious companies, it has gradually been abandoned by its sponsors owing to the suspicions of neocreationism raised against it.

In Switzerland:

The European Biblical Centre: The creationists are also represented in Switzerland by the European Biblical Centre and its facilitator Daniel Mathez. The Centre is a creationist publisher that has already published around fifteen works.

…The ProGenesis group: The small Swiss creationist group ProGenesis is working for the rehabilitation of the Book of Genesis. Its aim is to assert creationism over evolutionism and to do so by means of media or play. In this connection, it has set up a project called Genesis-Land, which is a leisure park that might be constructed in northern Switzerland and would aim “to disseminate the Christian message as a counterweight to the Darwin’s omnipresent theory of evolution”.

In the UK:

In the United Kingdom, creationists hold lectures at state schools and the universities. In the summer of 2006, England hosted the largest international creationist symposium over a period of three days.

In Sweden:

…the first creationist museum was opened in Umeå in 1996.

In Germany:

In a university town in the Land of Hesse, Germany, creationist ideas seem to have already been disseminated at a number of schools. Teachers of life and earth sciences at a state-approved private upper secondary school teach their pupils that a creator is the origin of the various “main types” of animals. After being alerted about this, some of the pupils’ parents approached the Hesse Ministry of Education, which thought there had been no direct infringement of the school curricula and said it was not competent to deal with such issues. Some parents then removed their children from this school.

The report also notes political support for Creationism in Poland (Deputy Minister of Education Mirosùaw Orzechowski and Maciej Giertych, whom I blogged here), Italy (Letizia Moratti, then Italian Minister of Education), Serbia (Minister of Education, Liliana Coliã, who was forced to resign), and the Netherlands (Minister of Education Maria Van der Hoeven).

(Hat-tips: Pharyngula and this thread at Darwin Central)

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