Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Dangers of Listening to the Council of Europe

I read through The dangers of creationism in education, also known as Doc. 11375 (17-SEP-2007) from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (HT: James White). There are many flaws in this document, which makes it difficult for me to know where to begin.

First: some general impressions. This document was extremely frustrating for me to read. I am currently at work on a project examining Darwinism myself. My philosophy is simple: if Darwinism is false, there is no need for me to refute the weakest arguments of Darwinism. I can fully handle the strongest claims Darwinists make. As a result, my goal has been to familiarize myself as much as possible with the current ideas of Darwinian evolution. In fact, my desire would be that any die-hard Darwinist would be able to take the first half of my project (the part that defines Darwinism) and say, “Yes, this is what modern Darwinism teaches.” The goal would be for Richard Dawkins himself to be able to admit everything in the first part is accurately portrayed. Only then would I critique Darwinism.

As a result, I hold myself to the standard of actually reading and interacting with the best arguments that the opposing side has to offer in the debate over Creationism and Darwinism. The Council of Europe, on the other hand, doesn’t even try to interact with the worst arguments ever brought forth by Creationists. Instead, we are treated to outlandish claims that Creationism will lead toward human rights abuses, and similar propaganda. And make no mistake, that is all that this document is: propaganda for religious naturalism.

Because of this, I actually have some reservations about responding to this document. It’s not the best argument for Darwinism, and as a result any effort that I would spend refuting some of the nonsense put forth could be countered by Darwinists who say, “You’ve got a point with this document, but you really need to look at what Mayr said about this issue instead…” etc. As a result, I will leave the critique of evolution itself alone (unless anyone who reads it and responds in the comments has anything specific they’d like for me to address), and instead focus on the misrepresentation of science and Creationism found in this document.

The first claim of the document is found in the summary:

Creationism in any of its forms, such as “intelligent design”, is not based on facts, does not use any scientific reasoning and its contents are definitely inappropriate for science classes.
Creationism “is not based on facts” seems particularly ironic since later on in this document (paragraph 84), the writers complain:

By only presenting facts without any theory or proof, Harun Yahya abuses the credulity of individuals who listen to him or read his works.
So the Creationism that begins with being “not based on facts” suddenly becomes only “facts without any theory or proof” later on. When the goalposts are shifting this much, it’s obvious the document is biased.

But the first quote also says that Creationism “does not use any scientific reasoning” and lumps in intelligent design (ID) with this claim. This is so absurd it can only be outright dishonesty or sheer stupidity. To take just one example, Darwin’s Black Box by Michael Behe is filled with lots of scientific facts, theories, and proofs. Even if one were to disagree with Behe’s conclusions, one has to admit that he is a scientist and is looking at biochemistry, a scientific discipline. Further, the concept of design itself is scientific: this is why we have forensic science, after all. If you find a dead body, the first thing you have to establish was whether the death was natural or by design. With forensics, we can also determine to a great extent who the designer was. The science of design is scientific; and there are many Creationists who are scientists. To say Creationism “does not use any scientific reasoning” is simply flat out false.

The next problem we see is that this document seems to think that Creationism came about as a response to Darwinism, for they write in paragraph 2 of the Draft resolution:

Creationism, born of the denial of the evolution of species through natural selection, was for a long time an almost exclusively American phenomenon (emphasis added).
And in paragraphs 2 and 8 of the Report of Mr Guy Lengagne (revised) we read:

As creationism is first of all a reaction to the theory of evolution, it appeared important to describe this theory.

Creationism thus came about in opposition to Darwin’s theory of evolution.
One cannot help but laugh at such absurd reasoning. One is tempted to conclude the Council of Europe thinks that Genesis was written in 1860 because someone had to counter the devastating claims of Darwin. In fact, this is a complete misuse of the term “Creationism.” What Lengagne means by “Creationism” is simply “anti-evolutionism.” This is seen in his paragraph 6, when speaking of Darwin, he writes:

His works mark the end of the agreement between natural history and the Christian tradition, as well as the birth of anti-evolutionist movements (emphasis in original).
What is meant by “Creationism” has nothing to do with what “Creationism” actually means. If you ask the average person if he is a Creationist, he will answer the question by understanding “Creationism” to mean simply that at some point the universe was created by someone. This, however, is hardly the same thing as asking, “Are you anti-evolution?” since you can be a creationist who believes in evolution too (Behe once again serves as an example of this). The ambiguity of the term here is most unfortunate (it’s also present in the term evolution, but that can be delved into in a separate post).

With this as the “foundation” for what Creationism is, we read the following definition in paragraph 30:

The most intransigent of the supporters of creationism claim that the world was created by God in six days and maintain that the transformist or evolutionist theories that conflict with the Bible, according to which God created each plant or animal species individually, can only be lies. They say that science is wrong because, in the strictest possible sense, the Bible says something else – which reminds us, incidentally, of the trial of a man called Galileo.
First, you gotta love the poisoning of the well with the Galileo comment. But even that aside, it’s completely inaccurate to claim that the Bible teaches “God created each plant or animal species individually (emphasis added)” as the Bible does not speak of species. In fact, the term “species” is such a meaningless term even in biology that it’s worthless to bring it up here. (Any Darwinists who would disagree would be hard pressed to actually present the definition of “species.”) The Bible merely speaks of various “kinds” that have been created; it’s the Naturalist who anachronistically reads into that term the concept of “species” that causes the problem here.

Finally, let us look at how this document defines science and knowledge, and this is where the document damns itself beyond all hope of recovery. We hear that there are three pillars to science (paragraph 24):

As Guillaume Lecointre, a professor of zoology at the National Natural History Museum in Paris, points out, science is the totality of operations that produce objective knowledge. A statement on the world can only be described as objective if it has been verified by an independent observer. This verification depends on three factors: scepticism, rationality and logic and, finally, methodological materialism. These three pillars ensure the objectivity of a scientific result.
The problem with this is that they consulted a professor of zoology to answer a philosophy of science question. Here we have the first claim: “Science is the totality of operations that produce objective knowledge (emphasis added).” If that is true, it is impossible to objectively know this statement. Further, “A statement on the world can only be described as objective if it has been verified by an independent observer.” This falls instant prey to the brain-in-a-vat argument. After all, all knowledge that we have is subjective knowledge. We do not know what anyone else knows. We can hear what we think they say, but we have no objective way of knowing whether they really exist or whether we imagined them, let alone a way of knowing whether they are lying to us if they really do exist. Further, even if they do exist and aren’t lying there’s still no way we can claim they are “independent” observers. Each observer has his own presuppositional baggage that he brings to the plate. There is no such thing as a neutral, independent observer of anything.

Finally, we see that the three pillars are “scepticism” (which is obviously not applied to this definition of science), “rationality and logic” (which also refute this definition, because either it is a contradiction that science is the “totality of operations” that can produce objective knowledge since this statement is supposedly objectively true, or this statement is circularly reasoned) and “methodological materialism” (which likewise fails the logic test by engaging in circular reasoning: assuming materialism to prove there is only materialism; and is itself an immaterial concept that is being held as truth, hence a contradiction).

But this is all lost on the author, for we read in paragraph 46:

However, let us repeat: it is not possible to establish knowledge without scientific evidence and without verifying its objectivity and scientific character by the reproduction of experiments and/or observations.
One must simply ask: What scientific evidence do we have for this claim? How can we verify that this is the way to determine objectivity? What experiments can we reproduce to prove that reproducing experiments is what will give us knowledge?

It is blatantly obvious that no philosopher was interviewed during the course of the Council’s work. The Council, in essence, is claiming that knowledge can only be established by means which are impotent to establish knowledge. Thus, there is no scientific knowledge under these rules…yet the Council pretends that there are!

So we see that this document mis-defines Creationism and science both; it is based on presuppositions that are self-refuting; it doesn’t bother to actually address specific arguments against evolution (and it really doesn’t put forth any for evolution either); and it commits basic Philosophy 101 errors. On the whole, a very pathetic piece of propaganda.


  1. A similar anti-indoctrination law is being used to restrict/label Gore's film in the UK - not sure of any relevant headlines. "It's not scientific" is the new European "it's heresy."

    The document in question conflates creationism (which has been held since the sixth day) with "creation science," which includes specific explanations of relatively recently discovered phenomena, such as the fossil layers.

    And yes - aside from Ken Ham - the Creation Science movement was largely lead by American Christians.


  2. I must admit ignorance of the fundamental documents constituting the countries of the rest of the world, for others may recognize a Creator as that of our beloved United States of America. However, I must note that the recognition of creation is the foundation for the rights of self-governance in the United States as found in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain ‘unalienable’ Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”. Could it be that anti-creation is propagated as a tool for dismantling the great American experiment?

  3. Jim,

    I don't think it's necessarily directly linked, but that's an interesting thought none the less. What I mean by the direct link is that I don't think these people are sitting there thinking, "You know, the Declaration uses the word 'created' so we need to figure out how to thwart this in order to defuse America. Let's start by attacking Creationism." It might be there on a more subconscious level, but I doubt it would be a concious attack (especially given that 99% of Americans--and yes, I made this statistic up, so it's probably too low--don't know what the Declaration of Independence says in the first place).

  4. Turretinfan said:
    "It's not scientific" is the new European "it's heresy."

    Indeed. I may have to post on the scientific method later, since the idea that science is truth and anything that is non-scientific isn't needs to be confronted.