With all the accumulated idiocy emanating from creationists such as Ray Comfort, Ken Ham and
prisoner #06452-017 Kent Hovind, it can be easy to forget that there exists an entire sad universe of Creationists making their nests in other countries and other religions.
Enter Turkey, a country seeing an alarming rise in Islamism that is finally finding its way into the sciences. A conference recently took place at the prominent Marmara University, titled “Why Does Science Deny Inter-Species Evolution?” It was unofficially billed as “Turkey’s first academic conference on Creationist ideas.”
The participants may have spoken in Turkish, but their words could not be more familiar:
“The molecules and everything cannot randomly come together… This theory disturbs me so much!” said geneticist Ibrahim Pirim of Izmir’s Katip Celebi University, one of the keynote speakers at the conference. “These are not random things; a creator had to put all these things in order.”
A geneticist. A Creationist geneticist. I humbly propose he donate his body to science upon his death, so neurobiologists can study what effects such a massive cognitive dissonance has on the morphology of the brain.
The conference was supported by Hamza Kandur, rector of Marmara University and, more importantly, Turkey’s administrative authority for higher education. The ruling party of Turkey, the Islamist AKP, has been accused of being on a quest to introduce Creationism into supposedly secular classrooms. Textbooks have increasingly downplayed evolution and included Creationism, while teachers are instructed to teach both. They also teach classes on Muhammad, which Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan defended by saying that “all children will be brought up as good Muslims.”
None of this bodes well for a country that has historically stood out for its modernity and capacity to separate private religion from a secular state. But don’t think the secular people of Turkey, be they nontheists or secular theists, are taking any of this sitting down. Hundreds of angry students and academics protested outside the conference, upset that their university was being used to give a veneer of credibility to nonscientific superstition. The University Councils Association held a press conference condemning the Creationist intrusion into science. The Academics Association of the Middle East Technical University has likewise spoken up in defense of science, as have many individual academics.
It’s no coincidence that Turkey has advanced so much more than its more religious neighbors in the past. For decades, it has held the tides of religious fundamentalism, and their entrenched hostility to progress, at bay. Recent years have seen many setbacks, and it looks like Turkey is now in danger of being swept away and becoming another place in the grip of Dark Age mythology. I wish the brave secular Turks well in their fight to take their country into the future, not the past.