UPDATE: In the comments below, reader mecwordpress calls attention to an article in the Hurriyet Daily News in which TÜBITAK denies having censored evolution books:
The Scientific and Technical Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) has strongly denied reports that it has stopped printing books on evolution, saying the claims were “black propaganda” against their institution.
“If we aim to censor Evolution Theory we would discontinue publishing any books containing evolutionist approaches, but on the contrary we are publishing the books that are not being published by other publishing houses,” an official from TÜBİTAK told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday in a phone interview.
However, the official refuted the claims. “There are two books already in our 2012 catalogue regarding evolution, Richard Dawkins’ ‘The Blind Watchmaker’ is one of them … Dawkins’ ‘The Selfish Gene’ is not being published because of a publication rights issue, but this is being manipulated,” the official said.
He claimed that “some circles” had kicked off a “black propaganda” campaign against TÜBİTAK to “shadow its success,” following the successful mission of Turkey’s first Earth observation satellite, Göktürk-2.
Göktürk-2 was launched Dec. 18 in China, but Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan followed the launch at Ankara’s Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ) campus, which witnessed huge numbers of students protesting the prime minister’s visit.
Erdoğan had called on the academics who supported the students to resign, but the police’s heavy-handed intervention in the protests also stirred a debate among Turkish universities, with some backing the police and Erdoğan and some opposing.
Middle East Technical University, a secular and liberal school, was where I gave my talk. Let us hope that this “black propaganda” was really wrong, and that evolution survives (albeit tenuously) in Turkey. Stay tuned.
The Scientific and Technical Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) has put a stop to the publication and sale of all books in its archives that support the theory of evolution, daily Radikal has reported.
The evolutionist books, previously available through TÜBİTAK’s Popular Science Publications’ List, will no longer be provided by the council.
The books have long been listed as “out of stock” on TÜBİTAK’s website, but their further publication are now slated to be stopped permanently.
Books by Richard Dawkins, Alan Moorehead, Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Levontin and James Watson are all included in the list of books that will no longer be available to the Turkish readers.
WEIT hasn’t yet been translated into Turkish (I’m trying!), but of course any English editions would be banned as well. TÜBITAK is probably gunshy because of the fulminating creationism of Turkey:
In early 2009, a huge uproar occurred when the cover story of a publication by TÜBİTAK was pulled reportedly because it focused on Darwin’s theory of evolution.
The incident led to intense criticism and resulted in finger-pointing by various officials of that publication and its parent institute.
Most of us know that there’s a strong antievolution movement centered in Turkey, headed by the odious Adnan Oktar, who goes by the pseudonym Harun Yahya. Many of us academics received free copies of Yahya’s hilarious but expensive Atlas of Creation (see below), which was printed at tremendous expense and distributed to thousands of American scientists. Oktar is opposed by the numerous serious Turkish academics who teach evolution and are facing intimidation or even banning.
When I lectured on the evidence for evolution in Ankara several years ago, I drew the largest crowd I’d ever had (more than 1200 people), and got tumultuous applause. That was not because of me, but because I was presenting something that intelligent Turks accept but that is largely unacceptable in their country. I had death threats before my lecture, and that was the only time in my life I ever feared that I’d get shot. But we can’t let the creationist thugs cow us.
At any rate, perhaps a Turkish reader can fill us in on the controversy as it unfolds. Turkey is one of the few Islamic-majority countries with an official policy of secularism, put in place by the admirable Kemal Atatürk (and enforced, unfortunately, by military power). Headscarves are forbidden in public universities, and evolution was (until now) taught freely. This banning of evolution books is a bad sign for the future of Turkey, and I wonder if the EU—which Turkey has been trying to join since 1987—can do something about it.
A side note: The main theme of Yahya’s Atlas of Creation was that evolution could not have occurred because living creatures are supposedly nearly identical to fossil ones (that’s why there are so many glossy pictures in the book). One fisherman discovered, however, that several of the “living insects” appearing in the book were actually fishing flies that he tied. Graham Owen published Yahya’s deceptive pictures (used without permission) on his web page; here are two from the Atlas showing fishing lures. Notice the hooks!
And a mayfly (Owen’s flies are fantastic; apparently those creationists overlooked the hooks!):
Owen demanded that those photos be removed, and they were in subsequent editions of this execrable book.
What’s sadder are a few comments appearing beneath the Hurriyet article: