Creationism On The Rise in Turkey

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.

Left: Protest outside creationist conference. Right: The University Councils Association holds a press conference to protest the event. (via Hurriyet Daily News)

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.

About Claudia

I'm a lifelong atheist and a molecular biologist with a passion for science and a passionate opposition to its enemies.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FDGYHBEWVNGUG763L5X4TON3JQ Nazani14

    Turkey wants to join the EU, but bizarre religion-based incidents keep cropping up, many of them anti-woman, cruelty to animals, etc.  It seems to be a deeply divided country- just like the US.

  • Sandra Duffy

    Turkey is the only secular democracy that beats the US in surveys  documenting YEC beliefs prevalent in the population. Their scientific community have an uphill battle. I wonder if the ‘geneticist’ mentioned is one of those Machiavellian religious who deliberately set out to attain a PhD in a respected discipline to use it to spread religious misinformation.

  • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

    I had so much hope for Turkey as one of the more moderate (if not outright liberal) Muslim countries that I could cite again and again as a great example of such.

  • David Leech

    ‘Turkey is now in danger of being swept away and becoming another place in the grip of Dark Age mythology. ‘

    Don’t say that as I have a villa there:-( To be fair most Turks on the coast are secular.)

    • Fsq

      I married in Turkey! My ex-wife and I eloped and got married in Istanbul, then spent a good three months down along the coats (Bodrum, Turgetreis etc…)

      With the small exception oif an odd encounter just across the Galatia Bridge in a small print-shop, we adored Turkey. But this was 1996, and things were much different. And yes, the coastal regions were much more secular, but I think that is fairly true anywhere. I live in Southern California, along the coast, and it is exponentially more secualr and bereft of belief than the Inland Empire or other parts of the state.

      • Troy Truchon

        I live in the inland empire and I can whole heartedly agree. I just wake up every morning wondering “When did I move to a Red state?” And what happens to hyper conservative/Religious communities? All the smart people leave. How the Turkish Government doesn’t see this coming I have no idea. 

  • observer

    “The molecules and everything cannot randomly come together… This theory disturbs me so much!…These are not random things; a creator had to put all these things in order.”

    You know what disturbs me? the fact that a vengeful god up there  could destroy us at any moment for whatever reason we do that displeases him. You want to talk about random, how random can you get from a god that created us for no apparent rhyme or reason? why is that any better then nature itself being random?

    Know what else disturbs me? the fact that you find discomfort in evolution because of it’s semi-randomness, yet you find comfort in a guiding hand that randomly kills people (i.e. fatal accidents), and you actually defend it as God’s “mysterious ways”.

    • Hammerud

      The conclusion of some that all is random in
      trying to explain the craziness of this present world is not God’s perspective
      (Isaiah 55 is one place that speaks to that).  Scripture states that God “has
      his way in the whirlwind and in the storm” (Nahum 1:3). In a storm,
      as well as in this world, things might seem random, but not from God’s
      perspective.  God is working His plan for mankind. Psalm 16:33 (Amp),
      “the lot is cast into the lap, but the decision is wholly from the Lord,
      even the events that seem accidental are really ordered by Him,” and in Scripture
      further states that “…God rules in the kingdom of men…” (Daniel 4:17). God has
      entered into the mess of this world, a mess caused by our free will. God is not vengeful. On the contrary, He took our sin upon Himself, offering
      the answer of Christ to “whosoever will.” The craziness of this world is
      being allowed by God to continue for a set time, but it will end.  Jesus Christ is coming back to this
      earth, at which time the Millennial Kingdom will be established just prior to
      the new heaven and new earth, which continues for eternity.  Be part of it
      – Call upon Jesus Christ (Acts 2:21).

  • Shouldbeworkin’

    “The molecules and everything cannot randomly come together… This theory disturbs me so much!…These are not random things; a creator had to put all these things in order.”

    I’m sorry, but one or more person’s incredulity is not evidence…

  • Hammerud

    Glad to see Turkey is embracing some truth. Scripture states, “For the invisible things of God from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that man is without excuse” (Romans 1:20) Why is that which is “clear” not acknowledged by man? Scripture points to “willful ignorance” as the reason: “For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by word of God the heavens were of old…” (2 Peter 3:5). Scripture also highlights the reason for willful ignorance: “all we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way…” (Isaiah 53:6). Turning to our own way then results in a mindset of rejecting God: “…even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge” (Romans 1:28). The root cause of willful ignorance is that we do not want to acknowledge God. Because of that, we discount that which is clear and instead embrace nonsense, falling into the category of those who are “ever learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim 3:7) and of those who “…professing themselves to be wise they became fools” (Romans 1:22). Being a brilliant and intelligent person does not negate the possibility of embracing nonsense. It boils down to a heart issue — we feel comfortable with the delusion that there is no Creator behind all that exists, that there is no God to whom ultimately we must give account. The problem with that thinking is that God is there and Scripture clearly states that one day each of us will stand before Him and give an account: “…every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12). Scripture also makes it clear that in our standing before God, all of the inner motivations, the “secrets of our hearts,” will be made manifest: “Shall not God search this out? for he knows the secrets of the heart” (Psalm 44:21 – same thought is also in Romans 2:16; 1 Cor 4:5). Think about it a little bit. What path are you on in life? God has made a way in Jesus Christ for each of us to stand acceptable before Him, clothed in His righteousness (Philippians 3:9). Turn from nonsense and embrace God, call upon Jesus (Acts 2:21). He is there, He loves you, and He responds to those who want Him. Jesus is God’s great salvation, and “how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3).

  • http://twitter.com/sanbilge Bilge San

    In the book of the compulsory Turkish high school class of “Religion and Ethics”, which mostly talks about the muslim religion and only about religious ethics, atheism and satanism is in the same page. Just an example of the views.


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