MUSTAFA AKYOL > Islam in, Darwin out?

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A few weeks ago, Sözcü, a Turkish tabloid with a hardcore secularist line, ran a headline story that touched on one of Turkey’s bones of contention: The place of the theory of evolution in public education. According to Sözcü, the Scientific and Technical Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) had discontinued the publishing of books on evolution. The paper also added that this was one of the many signs of Turkey’s drift into “darkness,” a synonym for religious bigotry.

The subtext of Sözcü’s text was clear: Under the conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, a more Islamic worldview was pervading official bodies such as TÜBİTAK, while secular icons such as Darwinism were being pushed out.

In fact, it soon turned out that this was a false alarm. TÜBİTAK officials said to the press, including Hürriyet Daily News, that the institution kept on publishing books by major evolutionary scientists such as Richard Dawkins, Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Levontin and James Watson.

Yet still, it is an undeniable fact that a tension between Turkey’s religious conservatives and Darwinian evolution exists. I would hence not doubt that had the AKP had the means to design an all-ideal education system, it would give little, if any, credit to Darwinism.

But why? Why do we have such a tension in Turkey and many other countries of the world, including the United States?

The common answer you will hear in the media is that many religious believers are simply dogmatic and they can’t stand to hear “scientific facts” that contrast their literal reading of scriptures. But my answer is a little different: I think there is dogmatism on both sides of the debate, for the ones who want people to subscribe to their non-scientific beliefs are not only religious believers, but also atheistic believers. (Atheism is a faith in the non-existence of God; a “faithless” person is an agnostic.)

Take Richard Dawkins, for example, arguably the most prominent Darwinist of our times. He is a zoologist at the University of Oxford, but his books promote not just biology, but also the atheist philosophy he passionately believes in. Of course, Dawkins claims that his atheism is a logical outcome of his commitment to science. But a closer look at his work reveals that the real motive is his hatred of religion, something which he sees as a “virus” and “worse than child abuse.”

What Dawkins and similar thinkers really do is a clever sleight-of-hand: They first point out that science can only study the material world (which is true), then they claim that the material world is the sum total of reality (which is an assumption). The late Carl Sagan used a perfect example of this trick in the opening lines of his landmark television series titled “Cosmos.” “The cosmos is all there is,” he used to say, “all there ever was, and all there ever will be.” But this was an unscientific claim, for it could not be tested by the two main methods of science: experiment and observation. Sagan was selling a philosophy, but was disguising it as science.

In the face of such atheistic propaganda, it is only normal for religious believers to take an issue with the “science” that they are exposed to, and develop their own counter-propaganda. Those who advise them against “mixing science and religion” are right. But they should make the same point against those who mix science and atheism as well.


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Hakan Akdenizli

2/15/2013 11:20:42 AM

Mr. Akyol, You are a well educated Muslim, you very well know that Big bang (Cosmic Evolution) and Biological Evolution are Scientific Truths, substantiated with huge amount of Scientific Evidences. You also know that American Evangelicals and Jews are fanatical opponents of Big bang and Evolutionary Creation facts for more than a century in America. So why are you not mentioning and also condemning this Ignorance, and openly support Evolutionary Creation Facts, first of all 4/135, 5/17-18, 51

Turk down under

2/13/2013 1:44:00 AM

What Dawkins refers to as "tantamount to child abuse" is that children are subjected to the religion that their parents observe instead of being able to make an educated choice for themselves as in the case of choosing a political party to affiliate ones self with. No parent ever forces a child of theirs to vote in any particular way so why do that with religion or lack thereof?

Tekion Particle

2/2/2013 9:22:15 AM

@Fenerbahce x 2, If you were logical you would not support Fenerbahce (That was a joke). This is serious though, what are you going on about? Look at the animal kingdom you will see what Darwin was talking about. There is no such thing as Darwinism. Darwin did not invent or made up evolution, it was always there and it will always be there. The whole universe is evolving not just living things. You can believe what u want but it will not stop evolution as it is a continuous process.

fenerbahçe fenerbahçe

2/2/2013 12:10:22 AM

Evolution never occured, all modern findings prove this, beside all so-called "proofs for evolution" happened to be debunked during these last decennia's. That's just a belief evolution and atheism. That's no different than animism or shamanism. that's why darwinism should be tought among the lessons teaching the history of religions, somewhere between buddhism & hinduism. Beside, while Darwinism is collapsing, Islam's assertions are proved 1 by 1. So, Tubitak just follows the logical stream.

Kevin Snapp

1/25/2013 2:41:34 AM

Mr. Akyol, there is no "Darwinism." Evolution is a fact -- unless you believe God created the world in such a way as to deceive us, and then you have a problem with the kind of "God" you believe in. I prefer a God of truth. Mechanisms of evolution are not yet fully understood, and one can believe in a Being behind everything, but He/It cannot easily be identified with the God/Allah of tradition.

Harry Foundalis

1/24/2013 10:09:25 AM

Mr. Akyol, you wrote: “Atheism is a faith in the non-existence of God”. You should put “faith” in quotes. My scientific “faith” in the non-existence of God is only a belief with a very high probability, based on the facts known to me. Your religious faith is an absolute, unquestionable, 100%-true faith — and for that reason so very silly. Also: “a ‘faithless’ person is an agnostic.” Why? Are you agnostic about Santa Claus? About Zeus? Why do I have to be agnostic about your silly beliefs?

ege capulcu mustafa

1/24/2013 2:57:05 AM

I guess that Mr. Akyol you believe that man walked with dinosaurs. I believe that if you taught as much evolutionary science in schools as religion you would have a Turkey that was nonreligious and a better and more tolerant Turkey. But then again that is just my belief, not a scientific fact.

Deacon James

1/23/2013 11:10:55 PM

The huge elephant in the room here is. Why would Sözcü have a chokehold on "Free Speech" in Turkey. Book, sales, not publications moves ideas in the Internet world? Those who seek to advance evolution for profit or to marginalize religion will be best judged by a society of free and informed thinkers. BTW, I have changed my view of evolution to now being one of God's best creations. What else knows of the environments in a millennias then introduces a Genome at creation that will survive it.

Roger Harding

1/23/2013 10:16:55 PM

Aykol writes "secular icons such as Darwinism"? It is not a secular icon Mr. Aykol. It is called science, based on facts. Here is something both Christian and Islamic fanatics share. Fear of science. No wonder Gulen/AKP has a stealth plan to dismantle science that can challenge religion in anyway. Good luck to modern Turkey. Regards.


1/23/2013 9:21:25 PM

It is embarrassing really. Dawkins simply states that there is no proof of God, a basic requisite of existence. It was no sleight of hand by Sagan either when he said cosmos is all there is to know, because it is all that is possible to know. Not at all complicated. What Mr. Akyol should be curious and in fact worried about is that the country in the whole world with the highest density of Darwin doubters is Turkey. Goes beyond just religion obviously. But hey will u believe in your lieing eyes?
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