"If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin."
- Charles Darwin

Mar 20, 2009

Turkey Censors Darwin

As reported in the latest edition of Nature, government officials in Turkey have just censored the leading science periodical, Bilim ve Teknik (Science and Technology) for placing Charles Darwin on the cover. The editor was subsequently fired by the government agency that supports the magazine and many Turkish scientists are justifiably outraged.

In Turkey, as in many countries, the civil service is expected to mirror the ruling party's ideology. So, although they are keen funders of research, most senior government officials, in common with most of the population, do not believe in evolution by natural selection. The education minister Hüseyin Çelik, for example, has proclaimed his belief in intelligent design.

This is unfortunate considering that Muslim scholars and scientists were at the forefront of the scientific revolution long before Europeans got their act together. It's only been in the last twenty or thirty years that there has even been a crackdown on evolutionary ideas in Turkey. According to the History of Science Society:
In the 1970s, political Islam started to gain strength in Turkey as well as the rest of the Muslim world. Evolution became a minor culture war item, as a way for Islamists to demonstrate opposition to secular life without taking the risk of naming official secularism as a target. But creationism came into its own only in the mid 1980s, when in the aftermath of a short period of military dictatorship, religious conservatives gained control of the Turkish Ministry of Education. These conservative Muslims thought evolutionary ideas were morally corrosive, yet they found themselves in an environment where science commanded significant cognitive authority. So they needed a way to suggest that evolution was a fraudulent, scientifically dubious idea. They found the resources they needed in American “scientific creationism,” and invoked Christian creationists in a curious mirror image of the way Turkish secularists regularly relied on Western scientific authorities.
So there you have it. In an effort to reject Western secular ideas, fundamentalist Turks have embraced the Western fundamentalist rejection of science and reason. You wouldn't think that the very people that are most vocal about promoting war in the Middle East (isn't it curious how those most apt to honor the "prince of peace" are so ready to go to war) would also be the ones that conservative Muslims would be listening to for their approach on science and education. I guess that just shows that there is common ground between seemingly incompatible societies (though it doesn't offer us much hope at present).

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1 comment:

The Maze Monster said...

i don't get this... turkey used to be so very secular and now it's so different. what the fuck happened!