Letter to Romanian Minister of Education about removal of evolution from school syllabus
When we heard that the Romanian government had removed evolution from the school syllabus and similarly had dropped teaching about non-religious lifestances from the high school philosophy curriculum, we consulted the Romanian Humanist Association and then wrote to the Romanian Minister of Education.
This brought an intervention by a conservative group called the Alliance of Romania’s Families, to which we responded so as to put our reaction on record with the Ministry.
To Mr Cristian Mihai Adomnitei
Ministrul Educatei, Cercetarii si Tineretului
9 March 2008
Dear Mr Adomnitei
I write on behalf of the European Humanist Federation, which represents thirty-eight organisations in seventeen countries.
We wish to urge you most strongly to reinstate in your school curriculum a specific requirement to teach the theory of evolution. This theory – as close to established fact as science ever allows itself to claim to come – is absolutely fundamental to a correct understanding of human life and the nature of life in the world. It is of immense practical significance, since it is the means by which we can understand the threaten of mutations in disease organisms and the promise of breeding more productive food varieties.
It is opposed by only fringe religious groups but they enjoy huge financial resources derived from fundamentalist religious sects in the USA.
Romania is a party to the Council of Europe, and I would therefore draw your attention to the resolution adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe last October – after (of course) the date Romania made its changes to the curriculum. Resolution no. 1580/2007 on “The dangers of creationism in education” reads in part:
15. The teaching of all phenomena concerning evolution as a fundamental scientific theory is therefore crucial to the future of our societies and our democracies. For that reason it must occupy a central position in the curriculums, and especially in the science syllabuses, as long as, like any other theory, it is able to stand up to thorough scientific scrutiny. . . .
19. The Parliamentary Assembly therefore urges the member states, and especially their education authorities to:
19.5. promote the teaching of evolution as a fundamental scientific theory in the school curriculums.
The removal of evolution from your curriculum is doubly damaging because we understand that in religious education children learn the biblical account of creation and this is sometimes presented as literal fact, so that evolution is implicitly or explicitly labelled an error. It is shocking to learn that, according to a recent study commissioned by your own government, only 14 percent of Romanian students accept evolution as a correct theory.
We wish also to urge you to reinstate in the high school philosophy curriculum a study of religion and of viewpoints critical of it and alternatives to it – something on the lines (as we understand it) of the old unit on God. Such balanced teaching on this contentious subject is supported by the “Toledo” guidelines on teaching about religion and belief in public schools recently published by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
These are set out in a book (“Toledo Guiding Principles on Teaching About Religions and Beliefs in Public Schools”) that is available on-line at http://www.osce.org/odihr/29154 . (Hard copies can be ordered free of charge at http://www.osce.org/odihr/75338). We would also commend a Council of Europe publication, “Religious diversity and intercultural education: a reference book for schools” (2007), that can be ordered in English at http://book.coe.int/EN/ficheouvrage.php?PAGEID=36〈=EN&produit_aliasid=2191 or in French at http://book.coe.int/FR/ficheouvrage.php?PAGEID=36〈=FR&produit_aliasid=2191.
The OSCE’s Toledo guidelines are based on considerations of human rights and were drawn up after consultation by a group of experts on human rights and on education. They were warmly received at a meeting (which I attended) during the OSCE’s annual Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw last September.
What they suggest (and I append to this email letter their conclusions, recommendations and – most important – ten basic principles) is that teaching should respect the autonomy of the individual child and take account of his/her relative immaturity, therefore not seeking to impose any particular belief but opening young people’s minds to the range of world-views that mankind has discovered – including not only religious ones but also non-religious ethical beliefs such as Humanism.
I do hope that you find these suggestions useful.
President, European Humanist Federation
[The Toledo conclusions, recommendations and ten basic principles, as attached to this letter, are to be found here.]
Reaction from Alianta Familiilor Din Romania (Alliance of Romania’s Families)
Our letter was copied widely and brought this reaction by email from a lawyer’s office in Texas, USA:
ALIANTA FAMILIILOR DIN ROMANIAALLIANCE OF ROMANIA’S FAMILIES
Str. Zmeica Nr. 12
Sector 4, Bucuresti
Tel.: (40) 0745.783.125 Fax: (40) 318.153.082
March 12, 2008
Mr. David Pollock, President
European Humanist Federation
Campus de la Plaine ULB – CP 237
Avenue Arnaud Fraiteur
via electronic delivery
Re.: The Teaching of Evolution in Romanian Schools
Dear Mr. Pollock,
Greetings! The Alliance of Romania’s Families (“AFR”) responds to your March 9, 2008 correspondence to the Romanian Ministry of Education, Research and Youth (“Ministry”). We respectfully disagree with your assertions and, by copy of this letter, urge the Ministry to reject them as well. Your assertions and advice are bad for Romania, for Europe, and for the World.
The Alliance is a civic organization which represents a constituency of over 650,000 adult Romanians. In their overwhelming majority they are parents who have also experienced Romania’s totalitarian rule which, as you must know, rested, ideologically, on evolutionism, Darwinism, and atheism. Thus, we find it not only ironic, but also distasteful, for the European Humanist Federation (“EHF”) and its affiliates, to recommend that we teach our children the very ideology which deprived us of freedom and human rights and wreaked havoc in our country.
Of course, we understand why your organization would promote an ideology which to us has proved destructive and is abhorred. Your followers have never felt the brunt of communism or totalitarianism and, therefore, can easily afford to engage in intellectual sophistry. The sophists of the Western world, England in particular, have always enjoyed academic freedom, generated in large part, ironically, by the religious pluralism triggered in Europe by the Protestant Reformation. They now take it for granted and fall into the temptation of espousing one ideology to the exclusion of others. The people of Romania have not been so lucky, however. The ideology of evolutionism which EHF espouses has been responsible for untold atrocities in their homeland. A thorough study recently undertaken in Romania has revealed that during the communist years between 700,000 and 900,000 innocent Romanians have been killed by the communist and atheist totalitarian regime. In contrast, we are aware of no Romanians having been killed, in recent memory, in the name of the Christian faith. We are, therefore, left speechless, by your exhortations in favor of evolutionism.
But it is not only the lack of respect toward the Romanian people, in light of their recent horrifying experiences, that disturbs us with respect to your letter. You are also undermining our parental rights. We in Romania still believe that certain things are right and wrong and that as parents we have an obligation, based both upon this belief and our past experiences, to promote and teach our children what is right and edifying and to reject what is wrong and destructive. We also believe that certain doctrines are inappropriate for children and adolescents, such as evolutionism, and have chosen to say NO. We have the right to say so and the EHF does not have the right to tell us otherwise. Romania is still a sovereign state. Romanians, too, could easily point to and ridicule rather strange developments in other countries, such as the United Kingdom, where regulations are apparently underway to prevent children from referring in schools to their parents as “mom and dad.” Out of our respect for the rest of the world community, however, we are not doing so. It would be rather odd for the ARF, for instance, to remit a note of protest to the UK Ministry of Education urging it not to promulgate regulations prohibiting children from referring to their parents in schools as “mom” and “dad.”
We hope you are not assuming, though, that Romanians must simply be backward in rejecting the teaching of evolutionism in elementary schools and high schools. Our action is based on our collective right to protect fragile minds. As adults, students can read and study anything they wish. Freud, Nietzsche, and Voltaire are theirs to read. But we are unwilling to allow our children to be indoctrinated in destructive theories while their intellect is not fully developed. For how could children and adolescents understand the theory of evolution when 99.99% of all adults do not understand it? Of course, there is an ultimate objective lurking beneath the push for the teaching of evolutionism to fragile minds – indoctrination. We experienced it for ourselves for 45 years under communism and do not want our children to share our unfortunate experiences. Atheism and the forced atheization of society was the grundnorm of communism. And so, it might be fitting to recall that EHF is not the first sophistry to forcefully push for indoctrination in godlessness. The Godless International (“The League of the Militant Godless”), which Stalin’s Russia sponsored internationally, did precisely that, and apparently still inspires similar extant organizations.
We are also aware that the radicalism of Stalin’s atheism is aggressively being replicated today all over the world by those who fervently promote evolutionism. The case of Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez of the USA, recently denied university tenure because he promotes an alternative to evolution, is well known around the world. The just released movie “EXPELLED, No Intelligence Allowed,”, too, testifies to the exclusivist and noninclusive temperament of evolutionists. Though religion has by and large learned from its admittedly checkered past, evolutionists have not. They are the new inquisitors and henchmen. In the Twentieth Century the evolutionists have been responsible for the murder of over 100 million innocent human beings, from the extreme left to the extreme right, and from Soviet Russia to The Khmer Rouge of Cambodia. But then what else could have been expected from those who teach and embrace social Darwinism and the class struggle and have developed, as an unavoidable consequence, disrespect for human life and the value of life? And so, we are speechless again, knowing that there still are intellectual movements around that want humanity to repeat its recent past.
Nor are we convinced that evolutionism is an objectively verifiable fact, or nearly so. Nor do we see how it can assist in a correct understanding of human life, as you allege in your letter. It is enough to read the fundamental works of evolutionary biologists and evolutionary psychology to make one cringe. The strong overpowers and annihilates the weak. The door is wide open for abortion, eugenics, euthanasia, the survival of the fittest, and outright racism. Comments by James Wilson late last year revealed, inadvertently and yet fortuitously, Darwinism’s dark secret: evolutionary ethics and scientific racism. In contrast, the Scriptures reveal an immutable moral and ethical system in which all human life is equally valuable regardless of our differences, frailties, or physical worth.
As for your assertion that evolutionism assists in the understanding of “the promise of breeding more productive food varieties” we understand what this means, in Orwellian terms. For how could any fair-minded person reject such a wonderfully packaged doctrine? Evolutionism indeed is in the business of “breeding,” including the “breeding” of a new human specie, the so-called “cyborgs” – a frightening prospect indeed.
We also do not find flattering your commentary that evolutionism is only opposed by “fringe religious groups [which] enjoy huge financial resources derived from fundamentalist religious sects in the USA.” Sarcasm will not carry the day. Respectfully, you are not being candid with the Romania people or the rest of the world. We have yet to find any contemporary civilization that embraces evolutionism en masse. On the contrary, more than 90% of Romania’s population professes a belief in God, and the largest Evangelical group in Eastern Europe is in Romania. Needless to add that, in labeling us as “fringe religious groups,” you have offended us.
What shall we now say about the October 2007 Resolution of the Council of Europe on creationism on which you pivot much of your note? It was labeled by many editorials, in prestigious international publications, as “a nightmare,” a “joke,” and “unreal.” On October 23, 2007 the Alliance filed a note of protest in the Council of Europe requesting that the Resolution be withdrawn. It is one of the most undemocratic and offensive documents scripted by the Council. It is inappropriate and unhealthy for the Council to force the views of an atheistic minority on nations that frankly do not care for evolutionism. Moreover, the Resolution is not binding on member states and has no legal consequences. It is then intellectually dishonest to even reference it. We hope the EHF did not gratuitously reference the Resolution in its letter believing that after all Romanians find themselves so low on the intellectual ladder to not even notice that the Resolution has feet of clay.
Finally, you allude to the Toledo Guidelines on the teaching of religion, a non sequitur. Since when is secular authority permitted to dictate in matters of religious teachings? If evolutionists believe in separation of church and state, how religion is taught should not be their concern. Nor are we consoled by the assertion that a growing number of lawyers and educators congregate to dictate the parameters for the teaching of religion. Parental rights trump their abstract theorization. Perhaps parents, too, should congregate and dictate guidelines for the teaching of evolution.
In closing, I trust Mr. Pollock that in spite of the spirited tenor of this note I have maintained a respectful tone to which you are most certainly entitled. However, we must say NO to the teaching of evolution to fragile minds.
Very truly yours,
Peter Costea, Esq.
President of the Alliance of Romania’s Families
Mr. Cristian Mihai Admonitei
Ministerul Educatiei, Cercetarii si Tineretului
Str. General Berthelot Nr. 28-30
Sector 1, 70738 Bucharest
EHF response to Alianta Familiilor Din Romania
Our response was agreed in advance with the Romanian Humanist Association.
Peter Costea, Esq.
Alliance of Romania’s Families
One RiverwaySuite 1700
15 March 2008
Dear Mr Costea
Thank you for your letter of March 12.
I will answer a few points briefly, making the reservation that my failure to deny others of your many ludicrous allegations against the European Humanist Federation in no way implies that I accept them.
You condemn evolution on the grounds that it was endorsed by the Ceausescu regime. Evolution did not cause the evils of his rule, any more than it caused the evils of Nero, Attila or Genghis Khan. Evil dictators need no motive other than power. Ceausescu, as you say, deprived Romanians of human rights: you should know that humanists are among the foremost defenders of human rights, including those of religious believers everywhere. Evolution has nothing to do with the Romanian or any other dictatorial regime: it is a free-standing and convincing scientific theory, dating from decades before any communist regime anywhere.
Nor is evolution a difficult concept to understand, despite what you say: indeed, it is so simple and obvious when straightforwardly explained as to be instantly convincing unless some other motive – such as a contrary religious conviction – gets in the way. You also seek to suggest that religious belief is incompatible with acceptance of evolution. This is patently untrue: the Vatican itself, let alone the vast majority of the Protestant churches, has no difficulty nowadays in accepting evolution.
You ask, à propos the OSCE Toledo Guidelines, “since when is secular authority permitted to dictate in matters of religious teachings?” No secular authority can dictate what anyone should believe, what any religion should teach or how parents bring up their children. But secular authority can and should decide how children should be taught in publicly funded schools, not least about religion and other beliefs. Using public schools, for example, to teach lies about minority ethnic or religious groups is liable to foster hatred and worse and should be condemned and outlawed. I understand that the Romanian Orthodox textbooks on religion (approved by the Ministry of Education) make intolerant and defamatory allegations about other Romanian denominations – Catholics, Unitarians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Baha’is, Seventh Day Adventists and so on – not to mention, of course, atheists. The Toledo guidelines are about avoiding this sort of misrepresentation and encouraging mutual respect. Beyond that can come a generosity of spirit that seems, from your letter, to elude you.
Finally, as with much in your letter, the laughable allegation that the “UK Ministry of Education [plans] to promulgate regulations prohibiting children from referring to their parents in schools as “mom” and “dad” has absolutely no basis in fact: it sounds as if you have been taken in by some satirical invention.
Mr. Cristian Mihai Admonitei
Ministerul Educatiei, Cercetarii si Tineretului
Str. General Berthelot Nr. 28-30
Sector 1, 70738 Bucharest
This content last updated 4 September 2011 @ 4:55 pm