Start A Petition
Group Discussions
Creationism in Turkey.
13 years ago
Turkey is a nation with both an Islamic culture and a secular goverment much like that of the United States. And since Senem Tug, one of the co-hosts here, is from Turkey and is a loyal evolutionist, I was curious as to what impact, if any, Creationists claims and thinking may have had on Turkish science education. The results of my research shocked me!

Science Research Foundation

The Science Research Foundation is a translation of Bilim Arastirma Vakfi (BAV). (Note that s in "Arastirma" should have a cedilla accent.) It is an Islamic creationist group from Turkey that has much influence in Turkey. Many of the books and articles it promotes are translations of the author that goes by the pen name of Harun Yahya who has a web site in English, Turkish, and many other languages. Possibly the most well-known book of his is Evolution Deceit. Other BAV web sites on creation/evolution include the Creation of the Universe and The Collapse of Darwinism. Harun Yahya has also had at least one article posted on a U.S. creationist site and is the author of a Holocaust-denying book. A past BAV page listed a book called The Holocaust Hoax as being written by Harun Yahya. The last two sentences have been disputed so they are now documented in Harun Yahya and Holocaust Revisionism.

I just hope Senem can come and tell us about what she is having to deal with over there!
about Turkey
13 years ago

Thank you Dale, for making me write about this because this issue have been on my mind for quite a long time...

First of all, I should remind everyone that the majority of our current parliament comprises of politicians that have strong Islamic views (I know people who are familiar with politics in Turkey will find this statement too general but it is out of the scope here)...

Anyway, before the general elections in 2002, evolution was taught in schools in biology classes and all of these schools also have religion classes, in which, teachers generally talk about creationism as in Islamic belief. So mostly, the judgement was left to the students, however, it must be doubted that students can openly say/admit which explanation , they think, is better. According to my experiences, most of the students think that evolution is the best explanation, but there is also the creating power that manages everything. I should also note that almost all of the people around me are open-minded and my observations are restricted to this part of the population.

After the 2002 general election, Turkish government had a big change of view and unfortunately but unsurprisingly, evolution teaching is being scarred. In the first 2 years, most of the media was blindly supporting the government so we were unable to follow many processes but in 2005 many newspapers stated that some primary school or high school teachers were in trouble because they were teaching evolution. I really can't remember how many but a few lost their jobs or deported. So news are not good from Turkey.

During my B.S. in biology, I took evolution classes from the most outstanding Turkish evolutionist, Aykut Kence, whose views are published in Science (I will post the links when I can find them). I am proud of it but what we can do is little because we are outnumbered by creationism-supporters and also the funding is with them. Harun yahya, as most of you would guess, is not the writer of those books... One person cannot write that many books in that little time, anyway. I haven't seen him on TV, never heard of him on the radio or read any interview with him on a newspaper. I really doubt if there is a person named Harun yahya. I personally thin that it is a group of people (and a big group!) writing using one ID. They even distribute the books in public places for free (I now saw that you download it all for free). What they claim is not much different from any other creationist, well, they often translate from works published in English.

This is a big big issue and I really cannot put what I know and think in order. So please, let's go on in a question&answer format if you want to know more about this topic. I will do my best to regularly check and answer as good as I can...


Questions and comment for Senem
13 years ago
Q1: Do you think Turkey could become an actual "Islamic" republic like that of Iran in the 1980s?

Q2: If the writer of all those Creationist books is not a real person that can be identified, and if the Turkish Creationists are borrowing ideas from their American counterparts, and we can establish this as true, wouldn't that be an argument for dismissing the case for Creationism as presented in Turkey as FRAUD?

Q3: Since the Turkish Creationists are MUSLIM and the American Creationists are CHRISTIAN, given both the history of antagonism and the competing theological claims of the two religions, how is it that they are working together?

Comment: If this is happening in a SECULAR society that professes Islam, what must people in other Muslim countries think of evolution? Knowing that evolutionary thought dominates both Europe and North America, it has occured to me that this may go a long way to explain why devout Muslims tend to think of the Western peoples as decadent and Godless, justifying the terrorism promoted by the likes of Osama Bin Ladin!
13 years ago

A1: I really don't think that Turkey and Turkish people could live as an "Islamic" republic, thanks to Ataturk, who has placed the secularism on top of everything and though it might not seem so, a considerably big part of our population sticking to secularism with all their heart (but they usually prefer to remain silent unless there is an urgent need). But you are right that we are concerned that at least some people in the parliament want to rule the country according to their Islamic truths. Again I don't think they can accomplish that against the silent population I mentioned.

A2: Not really because they don't like debates on television or at some other media. Only their supporters, some Islamic writers, attend such discussion programs, and they usually quote from Kuran. You know Kuran is originally written in Arabic language and many Islamic writers cannot agree on the real meaning of numerous words in Arabic lang. How can you discuss with them when you are not speaking the same language and when there's dispute even within the group you are aiming at. It might seem more reasonable to "win" this game when there is no unity in your opponents but we are talking about religion, here. We have a saying in turkish meaning, everyone is free to believe in his own religion. Therefore, -mostly uneducated- muslims think that at least one of them says the truth and what you try to explain about evolution is lost between the arguements. The most powerful way of teaching the public evolution is talking about it on TV or on newspapers without getting into religious matters. Well, religion is not placed within the scope of science, anyway. When people learn more about evolution (not the way creationists explain it!!!) they tend to agreee with it without criticizing their whole religion.

A3: Well, first of all, real muslims that make up the majority of the population believe that jews, christians and muslims believe in the same one god and these 3 religions are considered as "holy" in Kuran. Therefore, quoting what christians say is no problem. Actually, they think that christians are more hostile to muslims than muslims are to christians; Muslims' hostile actions are defensive. Muslims believe that the last holy religion sent by god is Islam and quotations from the bible could be thought as referring to the monotheistic history.

My comment: first of all, as I said before, many words -if not all- have multiple meanings, which result in several interpretations of each sentence. Keeping in mind that the Turkish history of beliefs are quite different from other currently muslim cultures, understanding of Islam in Turkey is also different. So it would be too simplifying to say that secularism is the sole factor. In other words, evolution has much much less credit in other Islmic countries because even discussion of it is banned. We discuss it in Turkey, which is very good. But also, I believe that the religions also evolve and since Islam originated more than 600 years after  Christianity, muslims need more time to respect science more and place the religion to where it belongs. People need to be educated about Islam by educated people. It is not easy to wipe away the wrong information -provided by those who want to USE religious sensitivity of people- from the minds of the people but it is not impossible too. Let me give an example, the Kuran orders to "inquire" or "research", so it praises science. If only, the people who are using Islam would not be this rich!...

Lastly, I think no healthy Muslim in Turkey thinks that terrorism, for any means, can be justified. Turkey is one of the most sensitive countries to terrorism because we have been suffering from it a lot. But again, muslims' history is full of attacks of the crusaders and that is probably the reason why they regard westerners as godless people as you stated. Also, looking from outer space  I see that most of the battles and wars were not for religion and there have been "invisible" people out there, who try to rule the whole world, probably fantasizing that they are playing chess.

By the way, I liked this Q&A format... To all members, please feel free to ask questions on this subject. Although, I am not much familiar with politics and I know little about Islam, at least you can get the idea of one Turkish person.

13 years ago

In responce to your third answer which is:

A3: Well, first of all, real muslims that make up the majority of the population believe that jews, christians and muslims believe in the same one god and these 3 religions are considered as "holy" in Kuran. Therefore, quoting what christians say is no problem. Actually, they think that christians are more hostile to muslims than muslims are to christians; Muslims' hostile actions are defensive. Muslims believe that the last holy religion sent by god is Islam and quotations from the bible could be thought as referring to the monotheistic history.

First as a Muslim myself, I am completly in agreement with your answer. I am just bringing this up because I believe it is important for people to know and understand that Islam is very peaceful and tolerant of all beliefs. Many Muslims go into medical/scientific careers and have no conflict with valid teachings of the sciences as long as they are verifiable.

As strict as Islam is, I do not believe any true Muslim would accept any teaching simply on the basis of faith. I feel most Muslims are open to opinions of others and do evaluate based on logic.

Just for starters We are commanded to read and believe the books that make up the Christian Bible:

Tauret (Old Testament)

Zaboor (Book of Psalms)

Injeel(New Testaments)

I believe that in any Muslim country in which the majority of the people are educated, there will be tolerance in the schools and people will grow up with the ability to make choices. I do believe that Turkey is such a country and that the freedoms will return, especialy in the academic areas.

13 years ago
Thanks to both Senem and Woodrow for your answers. It has long been a fear of mine that a full scale culture war would eventually break out between the peoples of the Middle East and the peoples of the Western world. Compared to THAT, the conflicts that have raged between Evolutionists and Creationists seem to be trivial. I am deeply thankful that people like you two can help to bridge the gap that still divides us.
More questions for Senem
13 years ago
It is very difficult to get up-to-date and detailed information regarding the status of the Creationism-evolution controversy in Turkey, since most international news sources, quite understandably, are focused far more on the war in Iraq than an internal matter of Turkey. But if we beleive that it is wrong for evolution to be banned from American science classrooms, or for Creationism in any form to be forced in, then we must be just as concerned about such things happening in other countries around the world. My biggest fear is that if Turkey falls completely to radical Islamic influence, then the resulting domino effect would make all the efforts of the Bush Administration to promote democracy and secularism in the Middle East end in failure!

Q1: Have there been laws passed in the Turkish legislature to either ban the teaching of evolution or force Creationism into science classrooms?

Q2: Have the courts in Turkey ruled on the matters of Creationism vs. evolution in recent years?

Q3: Have prominent evolutionists in Turkey been subjected to violence by their opponents? Do you fear becoming a victim of such violence yourself?

Q4: Was Ataturk a champion of modern science education? Did he accept evolution as a scientific fact?

Q5: If the teaching of evolution were banned in Turkey, would you leave Turkey? I know already that if you came to the United States, I'd welcome you with open arms!

13 years ago

Dale, I now feel like being in an exam... an exam that I did not study well. Because I have dealt with evolution scientifically, not historically or sociologically. But I am doing a research on the questions that you asked, and I will only give short answers now, saving the detailed versions to a future post...

A1: According to my current knowledge, there are no laws that ban teaching of evolution but I suspect that our legislature has some articles about teaching of religion. In practice, religion education is limited to religion classes, however, recently, most of the information on evolution is taken out of high school science books.

A2: After a short web search, I found a trial which is stated to resemble the "Monkey Trial": A teacher has been subjected to investigation because of talking about Darwin in the classroom and as a result, destroying young brains. I think this happened in 2004. Ok, I need to study more...

A3: I’ve not heard of a violence against an evolutionist but there are such cases of attacks of radical Islamists to many journalists, researchers, writers… etc. So it is not completely improbable that an evolutionist would be attacked, however, I have no such fear, firstly because I do not affect numerous people, secondly, I use the language very carefully not to offend people (“creationists”) that I would not argue with, since they are talking of pears and I am talking of apples.

A4:Yes, Ataturk was a champion of modern science education. He even wrote a geometry book in Turkish to be taught in the schools. However, I don’t know if he has said/wrote anything about evolution. Knowing that he always fought dogma and praised science, he might have commented on evolution if he found time to read on it besides all the boring works of building his ideal republic.

A5: If evolution were not taught in Turkey, I would definitely NOT leave Turkey and it is this “not-accepting defeat” thing of Turkish people that enabled us to stand up during and after our independence war. (Do I sound too nationalist? actually I’m not - these issues make me nervous) I don’t think I will ever give up trying to explain what science, biology or evolution is.

However, thank you for your nice invitation, Dale. I may one day come to the U.S. … for vacation which is a better cause, isn’t it?

from Mevlana
13 years ago

The following poem is written by a very respected muslim, Mevlana (who has died in Konya, Turkey) and it well reflects the prevailing rural point of view of a common Turkish citizen:

I died mineral and became plant,

I died plant and was born animal,

I died animal and became human.

Why is the fear? When am I less immortal?

for more on Mevlana:

Who is Mevlana?
Mevlana who is also known as Rumi, was a philosopher and mystic of Islam, but not a Muslim of the orthodox type. His doctrine advocates unlimited tolerance, positive reasoning, goodness, charity and awareness through love. To him and to his disciples all religions are more or less truth. Looking with the same eye on Muslim, Jew and Christian alike, his peaceful and tolerant teaching has appealed to men of all sects and creeds.

Muslim creationism makes inroads in Turkey
12 years ago
Lavishly illustrated books cast Darwinism as the root of terrorism
By Tom Heneghan
Updated: 9:45 p.m. CT Nov 22, 2006

ISTANBUL, Turkey - A lavishly illustrated “Atlas of Creation” is mysteriously turning up at schools and libraries in Turkey, proclaiming that Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is the real root of terrorism.

Arriving unsolicited by post, the large-format tome offers 768 glossy pages of photographs and easy-to-read text to prove that God created the world with all its species.

At first sight, it looks like it could be the work of U.S. creationists, the Christian fundamentalists who believe the world was created in six days as told in the Bible. But the author’s name, Harun Yahya, reveals the surprise inside. This is Islamic creationism, a richly funded movement based in predominantly Muslim Turkey, which has an influence U.S. creationists could only dream of.

Creationism is so widely accepted here that Turkey placed last in a recent survey of public acceptance of evolution in 34 countries — just behind the United States.

“Darwinism is dead,” said Kerim Balci of the Fethullah Gulen network, a moderate Islamic movement with many publications and schools but no link to the creationists who produced the atlas.

Scientists say pious Muslims in the government, which has its roots in political Islam, are trying to push Turkish education away from its traditionally secular approach.

Aykut Kence, biology professor at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, said time for discussing evolution had been cut out of class schedules for the eighth grade this year.

“The students will just learn there is a theory called evolution defended by Darwin back in the 19th century,” he said. “However, views of Islamic thinkers from the Middle Ages about evolution and creation have been included.”

A big dose of religion
Like the Bible, the Koran says God made the world in six days and fashioned the first man, Adam, from dust. Other details vary, but the idea is roughly the same.

Unlike in the West, evolution theory has not undermined the traditional creation story for many Muslims. “Science is hardly an issue in Turkey, therefore evolution could hardly have been an issue,” said Celal Sengor, a geology professor at Istanbul Technical University.

Darwinism did become an issue during the left-vs.-right political turmoil before a 1980 military coup because Communist bookshops touted Darwin’s works as a complement to Karl Marx.

Turkey's survival of the fittest
11 years ago

The Islamic anti-Darwinism movement in Turkey is being helped by an unlikely source - US Christian conservatives, Dorian Jones writes for ISN Security Watch.

By Dorian L Jones in Istanbul for ISN Security Watch (12/03/08)

War makes strange bed fellows, especially in Turkey, where a dispute over creationism vs Darwinism has created an unusual alliance between the country's Islamists and conservative Christians in the US.

Darwin's Theory of Evolution, in layman's terms, proposes that life descended from organisms through "survival of the fittest." Creationism holds that life was created by an all-knowing being, that is, God.

Creationism advocates from the US traveled to Istanbul May 2007 to meet with their counterparts, seeking to galvanize their link in the fight to bring creationism to schools and universities in their respective countries. The meeting was endorsed by Istanbul mayor Kadir Topbas, a member of the Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP).

"There are outstanding figures within Islamic theology who have participated in this discussion [of creationism]. There is no reason to be surprised, there is a very rich tradition," David Berlinski, keynote speaker for the meeting and an analyst for the US-based Discovery Institute, a Christian creationist organization, told ISN Security Watch.

"This is a hot issue. We are in the midst of a worldwide religious revival. Historians 500 years from now will talk about the religious revival of the late 20th century and early 21st century."

The meeting appeared to be well received by the audience of college and high school students, drawn from the city's elite education institutions.

"Darwinism is, of course, against Muslim belief system as well," Ayse Sayman, a 20-year-old student at Istanbul's Bosphorus University told ISN Security Watch. "That is why it makes sense that it is debated here as well. And counter-arguments should be developed to the theory. That is why I am interested in this."

Planting the seed in fertile minds

The May meeting is part of a growing battle for the hearts and minds of Turkey's youth. In fact, conference organizer Mustafa Akyol told ISN Security Watch, in Turkey the creationism-evolution debate is more extensive than it is anywhere in the world.

Akyol is also a member of the Journalists and Writers Foundation, established by Fethullah Gulen, leader of a wealthy Islamic sect that bears his name, the Gulen Movement. Gulen lives in self-imposed exile after fleeing charges of subverting the state, or more specifically, of attempting to "undermine secularism" in Turkey. After long trial, he was acquitted in 2006 but the case has since been reopened, despite the fact that he is said to actually be in the good graces of the current government.

Gulen has an influential network of TV and newspaper interests in Turkey along with close ties to the government. It is rumored he even has the ear of Turkish President Abdullah Gul.

The Gulen Movement, along with other creationist advocates, has been lobbying with increasing success for school textbooks to put creationism on equal footing with Darwinism.

Their efforts are causing increasing concern among Turkey's academic community. Last year, 600 academics presented a petition to the Education Ministry citing alarm over the growing presence of creationist ideas in biology text books.

"Here it explains how life evolved, this part is quite scientific, but then right after that, it starts with the creationist ideas. This should really not be in a scientific book, because this is a religious view," Molecular biology professor Asla Tolon told ISN Security Watch as she perused a state biology textbook.

Tolon, a professor at Bosphorus University, has been monitoring what she says is the encroachment of creationist ideas in school textbooks, which she says is leading her students to increasingly challenge the basic tenets of biology.

"Students sometimes get the idea that I am trying to teach them my own personal views, but this is not [true], because evolution is one of the basic theories," she said.

Teachers caught in between

Education Minister Huseyin Celik, an AKP member, said he has an open mind over the debate about evolution, but in 2005, the Ministry reportedly suspended five teachers for advocating evolution too strongly.

As the battle for ideas deepens they are finding themselves increasingly caught in the middle.

"In my school three out of five science teachers only teach creationism and I face pressure from them everyday. They also try to turn the children against us in their classes, saying we are atheists," a teacher told ISN Security Watch on the condition of anonymity.

"There are also religious groups who are always giving out creationist material both outside and inside school premises. These people also send petitions to the authorities complaining about teachers who support evolution. The pro-Islamic-controlled local authorities send faxes telling headmasters to send children to creationism meetings," she said.

The Turkish-based Knowledge Research Foundation, part of the Harun Yahya Islamic sect, is also at the forefront of the fight to promote creationism in schools.

"Evolution is a theory that has collapsed in scientific terms. Countless branches of science, such as genetics, microbiology and paleontology, have revealed that the claims of Darwinism are invalid," Adnan Oktan, the Foundation's leader, told ISN Security Watch.

Part 2
11 years ago

"The reason why evolution is still espoused in the face of this scientific defeat is ideological. What science reveals is that the universe and life are the work of Allah."

Oktan's group distributed free copies of "The Atlas of Creation," a weighty and expensively produced 700-page textbook that claims to be scientifically based. The book says that Darwinism is "flawed" and that "God created the world." The Atlas was also sent to French, UK and Scandinavian schools and universities. A copy was also sent to ISN Security Watch.

Harun Yahya members regularly distribute creationist DVDs and literature at Turkish schools. In shopping malls across the country, they organize attractive and colorful exhibitions with displays of fossils and models of dinosaurs standing next to humans, with the message "God created the world." Young men dressed in sharp suits hand out leaflets warning that Darwinism is "corrupting children's minds."

"Our scientific activities revealing the false nature of the theory of evolution are having a profound impact all over the world. Twenty years ago, 80 percent of people in Turkey believed in evolution, but nowadays nearly 90 percent of the public believe in creation," Oktan told ISN Security Watch.

With a little help from their friends

Much of the material Oktan's members use draws heavily on the writings of US-based creationist organizations.

The involvement of US Christian groups in Turkey in the battle against Darwinism has a long history. In 1985, the Dallas-based Institute of Creation Research collaborated with the then-Turkish government to introduce creationism into the country's school curriculum.

According to Dr Ozgur Genc, a professor at Bosphorus University and a leading opponent of creationism, its introduction was part of a wider state policy called the "Turkish Islamic synthesis."

The country's military rulers at the time, who had seized power in a 1980 coup, wanted to encourage religion to undermine the then-strong support in the country for left-wing ideas.

"They purged universities and high schools of thousands of liberal-minded teachers, replacing them with more religiously minded people. This opened the way to include creation in the curriculum," Genc told ISN Security Watch.

But Genc's opponents see the controversy as an indication that Turkey is becoming a more tolerant and open society.

"The secular camp has a very old idea of westernization in which it says religion is fully incompatible with modern life. But the West left that idea behind decades ago. I think through this debate we will have a more healthy Turkey," Akyol told ISN Security Watch.

"Over time we are steadily progressing towards a stage in which we can have a pluralistic society, in which the faithful, the people with a headscarf, the people with a mini-skirt [...] can all live together in a society. And when we reach that I think it will be a good example to the Muslim world."

But critics, such as the teacher interviewed by ISN Security Watch, argue that the methods being employed by Islamic creationist advocates raise questions about how tolerant a future Turkish society would be if the country's Islamic movement has its way.

"Of course, all teachers like myself worry about what can happen to our careers and lives, but I am not afraid. I will keep on struggling to teach evolution and not religion in my science classes[...] I believe it is the right of children to have a science-based education."

Creationist Adnan Oktar Offers Trillion-Pound Prize for Fossil Proof of Evolution
10 years ago

Mr Oktar (Harun Yahya), 52, who successfully campaigned for Mr Dawkins' official website to be banned in Turkey, has said he will give 10 trillion Turkish lira, roughly equal to £4.4trn "to anyone who produces a single intermediate-form fossil demonstrating evolution."

He already promised "10m New Turkish Lira (approximately $8.2m" a few months ago and the problem is that it is completely impossible to provide him with what HE calls a transitional fossil :

"If evolution had taken place, then there should be millions of fossils showing that living things assumed their present forms on a stage-by-stage basis. The fossil record should contain strange creatures with organs not fully-developed, with pathological characteristics, with features belonging to many different species. Specimens unearthed from beneath the ground should bear the signs of a strange world like that of the Island of Dr Moreau, and fossils showing that strange creatures like those on the island had once existed should frequently be found."

"The fact is that the living things referred to as transitional forms by evolutionists would have been very odd-looking entities, with limbs protruding from the most unlikely places, with ears where their eyes ought to be, legs protruding from their ears, with fins on one side of their bodies and legs on the other."


New to Care2? Start Here.