The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is the latest body to condemn attempts to propagate the teaching of creationism in school science lessons, following guidelines on the subject issued recently by the British government.
On Thursday 4 October 2007, members of the assembly, which monitors human rights, approved by 48 votes to 25 a report that attacked advocates of creationism for seeking "to impose religious dogma" and to promote "a radical return to the past" at the expense of children's education.
Creationism is a fundamentalist religious doctrine, based on a reading of Genesis rejected by biblical scholars. It claims the world was specially made by divine fiat and rejects huge chunks of the natural sciences, including evolutionary biology.
But theologians point out that seeing the world as God's creation means seeing the whole process as a gift, not positing an alternative theory of scientific origins. And mainstream scientists says that creationism and its cousin 'intelligent design' offer no meaningful explanations about how the world came into being.
The vote in Strasbourg highlighted the growth of creationist ideology, a well-funded movement of the religious right promoted by socially conservative parties in Eastern Europe, and of some Muslim groups. It has had a notable impact in the US and has spread to western Europe.
However, the activities of creationist groups like 'Truth in Science' seem only to have galvanized opposition among both religious believers and non-believers.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe also recognized the challenge of a growing polarization in Europe over moral and religious issues such as abortion, single-sex marriage and genetic engineering.
The report said that creationism, which denies or tries to displace the science of evolution, was "an almost exclusively American phenomenon" but that such ideas were "tending to find their way into Europe" and affect several of the 47 Council of Europe countries.
After a number of requests from teaching unions and civic bodies, including the Christian think-tank Ekklesia and the British Humanist Association, the UK Department of Children, Schools, and Families has recently issued guidance for teachers uncertain whether and how to discuss creationism.
A statement on Teachernet, a government website, states that "Creationism and intelligent design are not part of the National Curriculum for science" and describes "intelligent design" as "a creationist belief" that "is sometimes erroneously advanced as scientific theory but has no underpinning scientific principles or explanations supporting it and it is not accepted by the international scientific community."
It adds that "there is scope for schools to discuss creationism as part of Religious Education - a component of the basic school curriculum - in developing pupils' knowledge and understanding of Christianity and other religions."