Free Speech Icon Free Speech

Council of Europe Makes Its Dogmatism Official: Intelligent Design poses “a threat to human rights” (Part 2)

Casey Luskin

censorshiplogo.jpgIn Part 1, I discussed the fact that the Council of Europe (CoE) has recently adopted a resolution alleging that intelligent design (ID) is “a threat to human rights.” The CoE resolutions carry no force of law, but regardless, it’s difficult to keep a straight face that these European politicians would let their dogmatism shine so brilliantly that they would label the questioning of Darwinism as a threat to human rights. As mathematician and Parisian David Berlinski stated, “if this is what a threat to human rights amounts to, count me among its supporters; I’m threatening away with the best of them.” It’s also worth noting that only about 7% of the total members of the CoE’s Parliamentary Assembly voted in favor of this resolution, making one wonder if the CoE’s own members took the resolution seriously. This second installment will assess some of the most dogmatic, intolerant, and undemocratic features of the resolution.

Dogmatic and Unscientific Treatment of Evolution
The resolution treats the debate over evolution in an unscientific fashion, stating: “From a scientific view point, there is absolutely no doubt that evolution is a central theory for our understanding of life on Earth.” Any sentence which begins with the words “From a scientific view point,” should never then go on to say, in contradiction, “there is absolutely no doubt…” The CoE’s resolution does not treat evolution as a tentative matter, but rather as a dogmatic faith.

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences’ “Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science” contains an essay by Ernst Mayr emphasizing the tentativeness of scientific knowledge:

One of the most characteristic features of science is this openness to challenge. The willingness to abandon a currently accepted believe when a new, better one is proposed is an important demarcation between science and religious dogma. (“Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science,” pg. 43)

Perhaps the CoE is correct that “evolution is a central theory for our understanding of life on Earth.” But many scientists, such as U.S. National Academy of Sciences member Phil Skell, would disagree with that statement, and the 700+ signers of the dissent from Darwinism-list, would stridently disagree. To say that “there is absolutely no doubt” as to the truth of that statement is unscientific and contradicts the scientific mindset described by Ernst Mayr.

The resolution later states that “creationism” is “born of the denial of the evolution of species through natural selection.” Ignoring the “denial” rhetoric, it’s worth repeating that many scientists who are not necessarily creationists have doubted the sufficiency of natural selection to produce new biological complexity. Over 700 doctoral scientists have signed a statement agreeing, “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.” In fact, there are signers of this list who would eschew the label “creationist.”

This skepticism and encouraging of “Careful examination of the evidence” seems to be the type of mindset that belongs in science, not the “there is absolutely no doubt” mindset of the CoE.

Finally, the resolution even complains that “creationists seek to … sow doubt” in people’s minds regarding evolution. Here the CoE makes its intent clear: It simply wants prevent “doubt” and stop the public from doubting evolution at all costs. By labeling such doubts as a “threat to human rights,” this resolution is part of their strategy to make such thoughts unpopular by equating Darwin-skepticism with the highest thought-crime possible. But isn’t science supposed to permit — and even embrace — skepticism and doubt? By equating Darwin-doubting with a thought-crime against humanity, the resolution exposes the CoE as being the very types of dogmatists they claim to eschew.

Elevating Science As Superior To Religion
Finally, the resolution states that creationism aims to “impose religious dogma” and asserts we must avoid “the advent of an ‘all things are equal’ attitude, which may seem appealing and tolerant but is actually disastrous.” In other words, “religious dogma” is not “equal” to Darwinian evolution. This reminds of the Orwellian propaganda in the book Animal Farm which famously said: “All things are equal but some things are more equal than others.” Whatever you or I may think of that position, there can be no mistaking that they are claiming that religion is less “equal” than science. The CoE has explicitly adopted the position that religion is inferior to science.

Much more could be said about problems with the CoE’s resolution, “The dangers of creationism in education.” In the end, it appears to nothing more than a recapitulation of Darwinist misinformation about ID that managed to get the endorsement of 48 European politicians, amounting to 7% of Europe’s largest human rights body. Since less than 12% of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly apparently showed up to vote on the resolution, this was enough support to pass the resolution. But the resolution carries no force of law, and when closely scrutinized, even less force of persuasion.

It’s worth ending this analysis by reiterating the words of the European Center for Law and Justice in its memorandum in opposition to the resolution:

The result of passing the Resolution would be the prevention of academic and educative discussion between the theory of intelligent design and the theory of evolution. This approach can only hamper the educational progress of students by restricting their examination of competing scientific ideas and will necessarily violate the right to freedom of expression, including academic freedom, and the right to free exercise of religion in education. Therefore, the Parliamentary Assembly should reject the Resolution as incompatible with the goals and ideals of the Council of Europe.

Perhaps the passage of this resolution tells us who truly represents a threat to freedom in education and human rights in Europe after all. Don’t forget to listen to David Berlinkski’s analysis here.


Casey Luskin

Associate Director, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.



Council of EuropeDavid Berlinski