European rights body calls off creationism vote

STRASBOURG, France Mon Jun 25, 2007 3:57pm BST

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STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) - 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.

The resolution, which the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly was due to vote on Tuesday, said attacks on the theory of evolution were rooted "in forms of religious extremism" and amounted to a dangerous attack on scientific knowledge.

Believers in creationism or intelligent design argue that some life forms are too complex to have evolved in accordance with Charles Darwin's theory.

Some conservative groups in the United States, both religious and secular, have long opposed the teaching of Darwinian evolution in public schools but U.S. courts have regularly barred them from teaching religious views of creation.

Pressure to teach creationism is weaker in Europe, but an Assembly committee got active because a Muslim creationist book has appeared in several countries.

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.

"I have enough experience of parliamentary procedure to know that this is a first-class burial (for the report)," he said.

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.

While Darwin said mankind evolved through natural selection, creationism says God made the world and all life in six days, as depicted in the Bible. Polls show about half of all Americans agree with this while most Europeans support evolution.

Supporters of the intelligent design view want it taught in science class along with evolution. A U.S. court ruled this out in a landmark decision in 2005, dismissing this more recent argument as "neo-creationism."

The proposed resolution said the Council of Europe's 47 member states should "firmly oppose the teaching of creationism as a scientific discipline on an equal footing with the theory of evolution by natural selection."

"The teaching of all phenomena concerning evolution as a fundamental scientific theory is therefore crucial to the future of our societies and our democracies," it said.

The resolution would not have been binding on member states.

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