Council of Europe firmly opposes creationism in school

STRASBOURG, France Thu Oct 4, 2007 7:06pm BST

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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."

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