Thursday, September 27, 2007

Council of Europe votes on creationism in schools

From Reuters, Cranmer learns that there is further substance to his previous observations that the EU is seeking a takeover of British education, and that there is an emerging EU dimension to the training of the nation’s teachers. It is even more ominous because the Council of Europe is far broader than the EU: it consists of 47 member states, and, unlike the EU, is truly pan-European. One might argue that it is therefore more representative, bit it remains completely unaccountable to the peoples of Europe, and utterly unfettered by the inconveniences of democracy.

The Council is based in Strasbourg, and oversees human rights standards in member states and enforces decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. Its primary task, according to its own website, is ‘to develop throughout Europe common and democratic principles based on the European Convention on Human Rights and other reference texts on the protection of individuals’. Its wider aims are:

- to protect human rights, pluralist democracy and the rule of law;
- to promote awareness and encourage the development of Europe's cultural identity and diversity;
- to find common solutions to the challenges facing European society: such as discrimination against minorities, xenophobia, intolerance, bioethics and cloning, terrorism, trafficking in human beings, organised crime and corruption, cybercrime, violence against children;
- to consolidate democratic stability in Europe by backing political, legislative and constitutional reform.


So if its raison d’être is to sustain plurality and to promote diversity, why is it voting soviet-like to ban the teaching of creationism and ‘intelligent design’ in Europe’s schools?

Whether or not one has a faith, one believes in evolution, one perceives ‘intelligent design’ to be a valid theory for scientific examination, or one believes that the subject belongs solely in the religious studies class, any decision on its teaching should be a matter solely for the Secretary of State for Children, Schools, Families, Breast Feeding and Nappy Changing, or the heads and governors of schools. While Cranmer does not support the notion of a National Curriculum, he is at least a believer that education should remain the preserve of the nation state.

Yet the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly faces a motion that creationism ‘attacks the theory of evolution’, and that such a challenge has its origins in ‘in forms of religious extremism’. This, apparently, constitutes ‘a dangerous assault on science and human rights’.
The resolution therefore urges Europe’s schools to ‘resist presentation of creationist ideas in any discipline other than religion’, and dismisses ‘intelligent design’ as a pseudo-scientific ‘updated version of creationism’. The Council sees it as its function ‘to prevent belief from opposing science’.

This amounts quite simply to an attack upon religion and the teaching of religion, which, it may be counter asserted, has its origins in forms of secular extremism. Both the EU and the European Council are seeking to relegate the role of religion to the realms of the private, and assert an increasingly aggressive secular agenda in the public realm.

Yet there is an interesting dimension to this story which Cranmer would like his communicants and readers to consider. Many of Europe’s schools have been teaching that God made the world in six days for centuries. It is the literal teaching of orthodox Judaism and Christianity. And true to its Enlightenment foundations, the modern education system encourages children to question, analyse, seek knowledge, and to make up their own minds on the matter. Intelligent design is simply another theory which posits that some life forms are too complex to have evolved according to the theory of evolution, and that they would have required a higher intelligence or force to develop as they have. And this theory is as scientifically supportable as the theory of evolution, which, Cranmer would like to point out, remains a theory.

So why, after centuries of harmonious coexistence, is ‘Europe’ seeking to expunge creationism from the continent’s schools?

Well… Reuters notes that the issue has been taken up by the Council ‘because a shadowy Turkish Muslim publishing group has been sending an Islamic creationist book to schools in several countries’.
It is purely a mechanism to limit the influence of Islam.

Cranmer would like to suggest that this is an area where all of the Continent’s faiths should unite to challenge the increasingly God-less and pathologically anally-retentive European institutions, and tell them, politely but firmly, how pluralism and diversity are wholly in accord with nature, what they can therefore do with their soviet secular religion, and where they can put their myopic man-made god.

23 Comments:

Anonymous Letters From A Tory said...

To be honest, I think it's appalling that our government allows exam boards to sneak creationism and intelligent design into our curriculum. Teach it in an RE lesson, not in the science classroom.

27 September 2007 at 08:43  
Blogger botogol said...

hmmm... let me get this straight you are calling upon the continent's religous movements to establish pluralism and diversity in schools?

(cough, splutter)

Like they are in Ireland?

27 September 2007 at 08:47  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Darwinism is now a obsolete idea widely even regarded in the scientific community as "creationism".

27 September 2007 at 09:37  
Anonymous nedsherry said...

Atheists (of whom I am one) often find it difficult to understand that religion is natural to man and readily sneaks back into the brain under other guises. Marxism is a crypto-religion and so are its whelps: political correctness, anti-racism, Eurocracy.

27 September 2007 at 11:33  
Blogger AethelBald, King of Wessex said...

It is purely a mechanism to limit the influence of Islam

Not purely. U.S. creationists form a significant minority (about 30%, yes that's 1 in 3) of the U.S. population. These guys invented Intelligent Design and they want it taught as science.

As a friend who is a lifelong Methodist said recently, "these people are not my kind of Christian".

In my view "these people" are a significantly greater threat to the world than Muslims. They are rich and they evangelise like the clappers. Watch South America.

27 September 2007 at 11:57  
Blogger Greg said...

AethelBald, King of Wessex said...In my view "these people" are a significantly greater threat to the world than Muslims.

I would rather be threatened by a fundamentalist Christian who believed in Jesus' fundamentals of 1) Love the Lord your God and 2) Love your neighbour as yourself, than by some other fundamentalists.

27 September 2007 at 15:19  
Blogger JohnM said...

It's an intriguing idea. Darwin's theory emerged in a time when Creationism was the dominant view. It then slowly become the accepted view by most thinking people.

Yet, now that it is the dominant opinion, it somehow needs protecting. This is bizarre and frankly speaks volumes about insecurity. How fragile do they think our reason is anyway?

27 September 2007 at 15:29  
Anonymous Graham Tasker said...

The thing to remember is that evolution is a THEORY and remains unproven using the standard scientific tests. Even through most of Einstein’s theories have been proven they are still referred to as theories, as the complete proofs in some cases do not exist and there are problems tying his work up with quantum physics. Evolution is the only theory that has been excepted as fact with out the full proof science requires, in it’s way is has become a religion in its own right as it requires faith to except it. Except evolution and remove God allows you to treat mankind as animals or biological machines with all the consequences that will flow from this.

27 September 2007 at 17:08  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...excepted as fact with out...

...or even accepted as fact without...

In any case this is a poor explanation of the scientific method. Few scientific theories can ultimately be proved. Each theory is merely the best available explanation, until a better theory comes along to supplant it. Thus Copernicus was better than geocentrism and Kepler better than Copernicus.

Here's an example. From Newton we would say that all apples fall down. This fits all the observations. The existence of a solitary upward floating apple would disprove Newton. However, we can never inductively prove that all apples will fall down nor observe every apple falling in the past, present and future. Consequently it remains unproven.

27 September 2007 at 17:32  
Anonymous nedsherry said...

Evolution and creationism, in its various forms, are both "only" theories. But evolution is the one with the overwhelming weight of observation and successful prediction on its side. That it may have bad moral effects to believe we are descended from lower forms of life says nothing of evolution's truth. It may be bad for you to learn that your parents adopted you or that you were unwanted. It may also be bad for you to think that you have God on your side.

27 September 2007 at 17:55  
Anonymous 4micah said...

What a joke! Promoting identity and diversity by making everyone live under the same system? Come on. If they really want to promote these things, they should leave the European nations alone.

The only reform that can reverse the suicidal trends of the West is to give parents educational options for their children. State schooling is unjust and dangerous.

27 September 2007 at 18:10  
Anonymous Dr. Irene Lancaster FRSA said...

It is not quite correct that Orthodox Judaism believes literally in the idea of the 6 days of creation, as does the theory of creationism.

If the sun and moon were created 'on the fourth day', as stated in Genesis, then before that there was no concept of 'time', since the length of the day as we know it, depends on the sun.

Some of the greatest rabbinic scholars were aware of this dilemma and did not take Genesis I literally.

27 September 2007 at 18:14  
Blogger Lord Higham- Murray said...

The reason they are applying this ban is as part of the ongoing policy to secularize Europe and to further their stated agenda.

27 September 2007 at 19:12  
Blogger Snuffleupagus said...

I am not sure it is as easy as all that. Parents have such strong feelings about religion being taught in schools, especially if it is outside of RE. We have been having the Gideons visit my school for years, to give an assembly once a year, where they hand out Bibles. Recently, one set of parents complained, furiously claiming how we were influencing their child. I should point out that they are liberal secularists. I couldn't understand why they were so upset. And now the school has banned the Gideons. Give parents what they want. Isn't that what all of you say...?

27 September 2007 at 22:32  
Blogger Lord Higham- Murray said...

Both the EU and the European Council are seeking to relegate the role of religion to the realms of the private, and assert an increasingly aggressive secular agenda in the public realm.

No - they are attempting to wipe Christianity off the face of the earth, starting with Europe and in particular, France. The old old story.

28 September 2007 at 06:08  
Anonymous Alexandrian said...

Nedsherry:

"Evolution and creationism, in its various forms, are both "only" theories."

They can both be religious dogmas as well!


"But evolution is the one with the overwhelming weight of observation and successful prediction on its side."

I have studied evolutionary biology at university level, and I am far from certain that this is true. One of the basic problems is that the semantic range of the word "evolution" is pretty wide.

That micro-evolution has been established as true by a huge weight of observation and successful prediction is indisputable, and has been been accepted by creationists of all shades for decades.

The neo-Darwinian macro-evolutionary hypothesis, on the other hand, has remarkably little.

On the whole, I think that JohnM has summed up the situation exactly.

28 September 2007 at 11:06  
Anonymous nedsherry said...

But evolution is the one with the overwhelming weight of observation and successful prediction on its side."

I have studied evolutionary biology at university level, and I am far from certain that this is true. One of the basic problems is that the semantic range of the word "evolution" is pretty wide.


Call it the process by which, for example, mice and men descended from a common ancestor. And what do you mean by "studied"?

The neo-Darwinian macro-evolutionary hypothesis, on the other hand, has remarkably little.

Remarkably little what? Serious opposition? Are you saying there is no particularly good reason to believe that mice and men have a common ancestor?

28 September 2007 at 15:13  
Anonymous Alexandrian said...

"Studied" = "Did a B.Sc. in which I took honours in biological sciences, specialising in genetics, in which my main interest was in evolutionary genetics."

"Remarkably little"
Sorry for failing to express myself properly.

I meant to say that there is remarkably little observational or predictive evidence for macro-evolution.

So, yes, I would say that there is no particularly good reason, to believe that mice and men have a common ancestor.

28 September 2007 at 16:53  
Anonymous nedsherry said...

I meant to say that there is remarkably little observational or predictive evidence for macro-evolution.

Do you mean we haven't seen it happening? It takes a long time. How old do you believe the universe is, by the way?

So, yes, I would say that there is no particularly good reason, to believe that mice and men have a common ancestor.

I can't believe you're not a fundamentalist of some kind when I read that. There are numerous good reasons to believe mice and men have a common ancestor: anatomical, physiological, genetic and palaeontological.

28 September 2007 at 17:20  
Anonymous Alexandrian said...

"Do you mean we haven't seen it happening? It takes a long time."

Precisely.

"How old do you believe the universe is, by the way?"

I studied biology, not astronomy - so have no idea really. I'm prepared to believe what the astronomers tell me. I suppose I could check on Wikipedia, but I couldn't be bothered.

You can't believe I'm not a fundamentalist of some kind? Why not? And what kind?

Actually, I was once an orthodox neo-Darwinian. OK, not quite orthodox - I was highly sympathetic to the neutralist ideas of Kimura. I was certainly strongly hostile to "creation science."

I am now more of a sceptic - in fact, I'm really a bit of an agnostic.

I'm fairly familiar with the anatomical, physiological, genetic, and palaeontological arguments. I'm just not convinced by them, and nor are a lot of other people.

The book that caused me to rethink and move in a sceptical direction was Darwin on Trial, by the way.

But then I was open to changing my mind. Not everyone is. That, I take it, is what separates fundamentalists from the rest of us.

28 September 2007 at 18:07  
Anonymous nedsherry said...

You can't believe I'm not a fundamentalist of some kind? Why not? And what kind?

Christian, I'd've guessed. I couldn't believe you aren't a fundamentalist because I haven't come across people who reject evolution without being fundamentalist. But my experience isn't very wide.

I'm fairly familiar with the anatomical, physiological, genetic, and palaeontological arguments. I'm just not convinced by them, and nor are a lot of other people.

The vast majority of whom seem to be fundamentalists: Christian, Muslim, Jewish. They're biased for supernaturalism in the way they claim scientists are biased for naturalism. But the scientists seem to have the overwhelming weight of evidence etc on their side.

The book that caused me to rethink and move in a sceptical direction was Darwin on Trial, by the way.

It sounds interesting, but it's not just not by a scientist, but by a l*wy*r. Not promising. And I don't regard myself as a "Darwinian" for my belief in evolution, any more than I regard myself as a Newtonian for my belief in calculus. Darwin happened to be the one to observe well what that was there to be observed.

29 September 2007 at 12:06  
Anonymous Alexandrian said...

The vast majority of those who are not convinced by the various arguments for macro-evolution may well be fundamentalists. (Depending how do you define that word "fundamentalist") What of it?

"But the scientists seem to have the overwhelming weight of evidence etc on their side."

I think that you mean that the NeoDarwinians / evolutionists have the overwhelming weight of evidence on their side. To use the word "scientists" implies that all scientists are on the same side.

It sounds interesting, but it's not just not by a scientist, but by a l*wy*r. Not promising.

There are plenty of books out there by scientists who are sceptical.

But as someone who is scientifically trained myself, I have no problems with lawyers. This one happens to have been a professor of law at an institution which has consistently been listed in the top 10 universities in the World in the THES rankings. As a specialist in the use of evidence, I think he has something useful to offer on the subject.

Anyway, if you are interested, you could always read it.

29 September 2007 at 14:23  
Anonymous nedsherry said...

I've read Behe's Darwin's Black Box and it was initially impressive, but then I looked at critiques of it by the other side and changed my mind. They could spot big flaws in his arguments that I couldn't.
And he's a biochemist, not an evolutionary biologist.

I think that you mean that the NeoDarwinians / evolutionists have the overwhelming weight of evidence on their side. To use the word "scientists" implies that all scientists are on the same side.

They're not, but the overwhelming majority are, particularly in the fields that count: they believe in the orthodox version of evolution.

1 October 2007 at 16:05  

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