Council of Europe’s anti-creationism recommendation

The Council of Europe has put up a wonderful motion for a recommendation. Can anyone imagine this being discussed in the American senate or house of representatives? The Republicans would howl in fury against it, and the Democrats would rush to bury it, lest they offend the Republicans and annoy the ignorant members of their electorate. (The Council of Europe, by the way, is not the same thing as the Council of the European Union or the European Parliament, so it’s not really comparable to our congress. Europe says some very sensible things, but Europe is also very confusing.)

1.  The Assembly asserts the standard setting role of the Council of Europe and is aware of its own responsibility in re-assessing the basis on which our societies are to be built. It recognises science as part of this basis.

2.  The advance of scientific knowledge through the process of rational enquiry is thousands of years old. Ancient civilisations around the World made valuable contributions. Modern science started in Europe with the scientific revolution of the 15th and 16th centuries. This was followed by the Age of Enlightenment in the 18th and has continued to the present. New theories were seldom easily accepted by the establishment, as was the case for instance with Lamarck and Darwin’s work on evolution in the 19th century.

3.  However, in recent years we have witnessed attempts to reconcile the biblical account of creation with modern science and outlaw the theory of evolution. “Creationists” pretend that “intelligent design” by a supreme entity is the scientific explanation for the universe.

4.  Such an approach has no credibility among the scientific community but has succeeded in raising doubts in less informed minds, including persons with high political responsibilities, mainly in the USA but also in Europe. Some schools are now forced to teach creationism. The middle path of providing equal time for both merely offers a middle way between truth and falsehood.

5.  Support for the scientific theory of evolution is almost universal among those with religious beliefs in Europe and nothing in this motion is intended as disrespect for any religion.

6.  However, the Assembly is concerned at the possible negative consequences of the promotion of creationism through education and recommends that the Committee of Ministers assess the situation in the Council of Europe member countries and propose adequate counter-measures.

Item #5 could be dispensed with, but otherwise, it’s a fine, strong statement.

Europeans can be proud of their representatives. Here’s a list of national delegations — write yours and thank them. I just sent a copy to my American representatives and suggested that maybe they could try to catch up with Europe and propose a similar declaration on the floor of congress. Does anyone think they’ll take me up on that?

Whoa…I was just sent a link to the latest version of this document. It’s growed some. It’s much stronger, and contains lots of details on creationism in Europe, and is less conciliatory towards religion, but it’s also a little less pithy. Still, wow, these guys are scathing.


  1. Ian H Spedding FCD says

    Europe is a much misunderstood entity – especially by Europeans.

  2. says

    Thanks RickD, I just wondered if it was the creationist, trying to prove that ID wasn’t the same as creationism!
    Things like this make me proud to be a European!

  3. Richard Harris, FCD says

    RickD, thanks for clearing that up. The other Andy McIntosh, Professor of Thermodynamics at Leeds U, looks quite different to this guy. In fact, he looks like a Christian – you know – the males tend to have a particular look about them.

    A while back, while driving, I pulled out from a side road behind a car & started laughing. I explained to my wife that when I’d seen the other driver go past I thought ‘he looks like a Christian’. And when I caught up with him I saw the fish symbol on the back of his car.

  4. says

    Europe says some very sensible things, but Europe is also very confusing.

    Like Polish homophobe ministers in favor of Creationism (and banning any mention of that ugliest word ever, “gay”, from the curriculum so all children will be proud heterosexual, right-winged, conservative Catholics); Dutch parliament members refuting the Armenian genocide and a Dutch minister promoting ID in schools; drunken French presidents; a certain Christian British PM loosing it while a certain British prince is embracing Islam; freedom of speech does not count when criticizing certain minority religions; the condemnation of Rushdie by EU intellectuals, and idem for the Danish cartoonists; regulations on curvature of bananas (and no, this is not and urban legend); throwing privacy out the door with the new Data Retention Directive; et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

    Europe is as much lost as the US, as the Arab world, as huge parts of the African and Asian continent… as the rest of the world.
    And no, I’m not pessimistic: I would call it realistic optimism.

  5. says

    doesn’t this still have to be voted on?

    it says:
    This motion has not been discussed in the Assembly and commits only the members who have signed it.

  6. Heleen says

    “certain British prince is embracing Islam”? That’s gossip I hadn’t heard.
    But, major difference between US and Europe: Segolene Royal.

  7. badchemist says

    Like Behe, Andrew McIntosh’s beliefs are denounced by his university.

    “Press statement: Professor Andrew McIntosh

    Professor Andrew McIntosh’s directorship of Truth in Science, and his promotion of that organisation’s views, are unconnected to his teaching or research at the University of Leeds in his role as a professor of thermodynamics. As an academic institution, the University wishes to distance itself publicly from theories of creationism and so-called intelligent design which cannot be verified by evidence.”

  8. Steffen says

    RIENK wrote: “regulations on curvature of bananas (and no, this is not and urban legend);”

    TRUE, but the industry had actually requested this particular law: It simplifies the calculation of packaging and transportation costs for 1st class bananas.

    A standard banana is much easier to pack, saving costs. Therefore a producer can demand a higher price for a standard banana. If the curvature is off, it can_still_be_sold, but gets a lesser price (=lower class) to compensate the increased handling cost for the vendor. Similar laws are in place for other fruits and vegetables – on request of the vendors.

  9. DCP says

    Rienk, it’s easier to say “face it, we’re all dead in the long run” than what you just said. It also saves space. And time.

    And no, that’s no pessimistic sentiment. ;)

  10. Mrs Tilton, FCD says

    PZ, you are always welcome to move over here. In addition to the vastly smaller number of creationists, the food is better. And even the religious people are, for the most part, not religious.

  11. csrster says

    I can imagine a few historian choking on their cornflakes over #2 – a very contentious one-paragraph summary of the history of science, I would have thought. What’s Lamarck doing in there for example? Why not Wallace? Or half a hundred other evolutionists of various shades before, contemporary with, and after Darwin?

    (Btw, I studies science at Cambridge with an Andy McIntosh – not the creationist.)

  12. says

    @Heleen: Royal is nowhere to be seen these days, after her loss. The prince Charles thing is an oft heard British criticism after he visited some Mosques known for extremist speech. I must admit that I personally don’t know every little detail, but after him peddling alternative medicine, he could be in the Church of Scientology for all I care.

    DCP: face it, we’re all dead in the long run. There, I said it!

    By the way, notice how many countries are not represented? I hope I can add the word “yet” to that, but I am afraid that the CoE is going to play this very PC again.

  13. Heleen says

    The socialists did better than expected in the run-off in France: they actually won seats.
    And Segolene Royal: I wonder whether in the USA a 53 year old women could have herself photographed in a bikini, have 4 children without ever been formally married to someone she was living with for 25 years or so, be a serious candidate for the presidency and get 47 or so % of the vote. (For the US uninformed ones: Segolene Royal just split up with Francois Hollande, todays news, and Nicholas Sarkozy is in his second marriage and gossip says that might split up; no problem in France).

  14. says

    Wow, this IS timely. I’ve been discussing the documentary Church Camp and current politics with my youngest daughters in recent days, and suggested to them that they MIGHT want to go to college, and perhaps take up permanent residence, in Europe. The US is getting just too nutty.

  15. Nix says

    The Council of Europe is mostly a harmless talking-shop anyway (how could any institution with nearly fifty members and no assets to speak of be anything else?)

    If they were more than a harmless talking-shop they’d have uncontentious things to discuss, but as it is passing this sort of thing gets everyone feeling like they’re accomplishing something.

  16. jc. says

    Please do not make the mistake that europe or europeans are more rational, cultural or humane than americans.
    As an expat of very long standing and varied experience I assure you the europe in particular and the world in general is pretty much as discouraging and maleovelant as the united states, plus they´ve had a few thousand more years of practicing stupidity.

  17. Paul A says

    I’m glad at least someone is speaking up about this. I nearly had a heart attack when I opened the (Scottish) Sunday Herald at the weekend and read a story about plans from the Scottish Qualifications Course to move Intelligent Design from RMPS (essentially Religious Ed) to Science.

    I wrote a fairly blistering letter to my MSP straight away and thankfully he replied almost instantly that he had the same rezction on reading it and was going to discuss it with the Education Secretary ASAP. There was me thinking this sort of thing only happened elsewhere…

  18. Rienk says

    @Heleen: as you put it like that, yes, I fully agree with you. Besides, religion never is a political issue in France, which is already a huge improvement over the US (in France, too much religion would be a problem).
    I am myself not an American, either, but living here in the USA is just start to realize how deeply corrupted politics is wherever you go. Europe, the States, it doesn’t matter; it’s just that the corruption comes from different sources (money and religion in the US, elitist leaders in Europe: where in the US you can fail in business many times, even be a B-actor, and become a president, in Europe you need to just talk like all the other elitist politicians).

  19. David Evans says

    The second law of thermodynamics suggests that entropy increases and will continue to increase in our universe. This is as close to a scientific axiom that we can get. How, in the light of the second law of thermodynamics, is it possible for anything to evolve beneficially? This has taxed me for a while – has anyone any suggestions as to how I deal with this apparent anomaly? Man (and woman) all appear to be the subject to entropy – how else do we explain the increasing incidences of genetic deformities. I am an avid reader of Richard Dawkins, but his writings do not address this point? The nature of my question is scientific but has clear philosophical connections – if we can’t answer this question, does this mean that we can’t postulate a long term future for man? And, if so, when is the end – 3, 30, 300 generations time?

  20. says

    Hey, how come you’ve been able to maintain a constant body temperature of 37° C for your entire life? Why didn’t you immediately start cooling to the temperature of your local environment right after birth? That constant temperature is creepy — a clear violation of your understanding of the second law of thermodynamics — I’m going to have to ask you to stop it, and quit violating your scientific law.

    If only there were some huge source of energy somewhere in the solar system that would provide us with the ability to locally counter entropy (at the expense of a great increase in entropy over the whole system), we wouldn’t have your problem.

  21. says

    I would like to thank the Council of Europe for putting forward the draft resolution for approval.

    Some of the posters here may be aware of the British Centre for Science Education. We are mentioned under point 69 as the British Council for Science Education.

  22. says

    One of the most basic laws in the universe is the Second Law of Thermodynamics. This states that as time goes by, entropy in an environment will increase. Evolution argues differently against a law that is accepted EVERYWHERE BY EVERYONE. Evolution says that we started out simple, and over time became more complex. That just isn’t possible: UNLESS there is a giant outside source of energy supplying the Earth with huge amounts of energy. If there were such a source, scientists would certainly know about it.

    This source was recently detected, using our sophisticated neutrino telescopes!

  23. Ian Lowe says

    The Scottish Qualifications Authority has now responded to a formal letter from the Humanist Society of Scotland – confirming that ID will NOT be introduced into the Science Curriculum in any form.

    Add to that, the pretty clear statement on the Downing Street Website:

    “The Government is clear that creationism and intelligent design are not part of the science National Curriculum programmes of study and should not be taught as science.”

    We can never be complacent, but it looks like the Scientific Community’s fight back is starting to bear fruit!

  24. David Evans says

    PZM – I am replying to your comment 29 – sadly you missed my point in Comment 28. Just to confirm that I am alive thanks to digestion allowing the breaking down of large complex food molecules into simpler products with the accompanying release of energy to maintain my body temperature – this is a further example of the second law of thermodynamics with its attendant increase in entropy.

    My original point was wider; the entropy within human beings is increasing – this is the ‘chaos’, the greater disorder, the greater propensity for genetic disorders (evident from all scientific understanding) and, if this continues (as it appears it will inevitably) – as far as I can see, this will spell the end of the human race.

    Perhaps this is the wrong forum for discussing this matter? Please tell me if it is.

    Incidentally, the comment about an energy source in space (Comment 31) has no bearing on the point that I have raised.

  25. says


    The “energy source in space” comment was entirely relevant — you don’t quite seem to understand entropy. Of course everything exhibits increasing entropy, but it’s not a matter of immediate concern — we have a nice source of energy, and that tendency of chemical reactions to increase entropy is what we rely on for our existence. There is no greater propensity for genetic disorders; our polymerases do not now have a greater error rate than they did 10 years ago, or a million years ago. The end of the human race is not imminent. Even this concept of yours of “the entropy within human beings” is nonsensical.

  26. MartinM says

    My original point was wider; the entropy within human beings is increasing – this is the ‘chaos’, the greater disorder, the greater propensity for genetic disorders…

    OK. Please provide a calculation showing that the thermodynamic entropy of a DNA molecule which contains ‘genetic disorders’ is greater than one which does not.