The battle over the teaching of intelligent design and creationism crossed the Atlantic this week. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe voted to condemn the teaching of creationism in the schools of its 47 member states. Given the recent public relations campaign by the Discovery Institute and other U.S.-based intelligent design front groups in Turkey and elsewhere on the Continent, the Council's actions couldn't come a moment too soon.
The assembly, which monitors human rights, voted 48 to 25 on a non-binding measure to recommend against the instruction of creationism and its 21st-century make-over, intelligent design (ID). The Council claimed that intelligent design, which the report deemed "an almost exclusively American phenomenon," was "totally against children's educational interests" and risked "a radical return to the past which could prove particularly harmful in the long term for all our societies."
Supported by conservative Christian groups in the United States and their pseudo-scientific frontmen, the ID advocates pose the risk of great harm not only to host nations in Europe and the Middle East, but to the American project worldwide.
As PRI's global news program The World detailed last month, the Seattle-based creationist Discovery Institute has taken its war against evolution to Turkey. At the very time Ankara is fighting to maintain its secular Islamic ethos as the nation battles for EU membership, the intelligent design (ID) charlatans have linked arms with fundamentalist Muslims to eject Darwin's theory from Turkish schools.
Fresh off defeats in Pennsylvania, Kansas and Georgia to entrench creationism alongside evolution, the Discovery Institute has sought allies in the Islamic world. In February, Darwin critic David Berlinski was among the Discovery Institute's contingent at an Intelligent Design conference in Istanbul. (The event was sponsored by the city's Cultural Affairs Bureau, which is controlled by the Islamist AK Party.) In the war against evolution and the scientific method, Berlinski believes Christians and Muslims can find common ground:
"This is a hot issue. We're n the midst of a worldwide religious revival. Historians 500 years from now will talk about the religious revival of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. There are a billion Muslims taking Islamic doctrine very seriously. Christians, too."
As the New York Times reported in July, the American-Turkish creationist alliance works both ways. Harun Yahya, who has produced videos, DVDs and books on issues of faith and science, mailed copies of his massive creationist tome Atlas of Creation to hundreds of scientists, physicians and researchers at universities and medical schools around the United States.
The budding creationist movement in Turkey is already having a chilling effect on the nation's science education. One public school teacher, who spoke anonymously for fear of retribution, described the tremendous pressure to teach creationism alongside the theory evolution. Some colleagues won't teach evolution at all.
How ironic that the radical Christian right, the most fervent acolytes of an expansive view of the struggle against Islamic terrorism, take sides with Muslim fundamentalists against the scientific method, among the core enlightenment values of Western civilization. Then again, as CNN's Christiane Amanpour suggested in her series about fundamentalist Christian, Muslim and Jewish movements called "God's Warriors", it is not ironic at all. The shared life and death battle against modernity can make strange bedfellows among even the bitterest foes. The likes of the Discovery Institute may hate Osama Bin Laden and his jihad against the West, but seemingly share his critique of Western culture.
Thanks to the good people at groups like the Discovery Institute, Americans don't need to travel to Kandahar - or even a few schools in Turkey - to see theocracy at work. Apparently, the American Taliban and their creationist allies are only too happy to offer it here at home.