No Darwin in Turkey

Nearly a month ago I reported that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his minions had mandated the removal of evolution from the secondary-school curriculum, with the head of the board of education saying that the subject was “debatable, controversial and too complicated for students.” Well, that’s a big fat lie, as evolution is not debatable or controversial, and it’s not too complicated for students over the age of about 10.

The real reason, of course, is that Erdoğan is slowly turning one of the world’s few truly secular Muslim-majority states back into a theocracy, and Islam in general doesn’t accept evolution. Many Muslims read the Qur’an literally, and it contains a creation story in which Allah created man suddenly, to wit:

“Verily We created man from a product of wet earth; then placed him as a drop (of seed) in a safe lodging; then We fashioned the drop into a clot, then We fashioned the clot into a little lump, then We fashioned the little lump into bones, then clothed the bones with flesh, and then produced it another creation. So blessed be Allah, the Best of Creators!” [23:12-14]

Now, according to Reuters, the change is in effect.  The new school curriculum, announced yesterday, has no evolutionary biology:

Turkey announced a new school curriculum on Tuesday that excluded Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, feeding opposition fears President Tayyip Erdogan is subverting the republic’s secular foundations.

The chairman of a teachers’ union described the changes as a huge step in the wrong direction for Turkey’s schools and an attempt to avoid raising “generations who ask questions”.

Education Minister Ismet Yilmaz said the main elements of evolution already underpinned the science curriculum, but there would be no mention of Darwin’s landmark theory until university.

“Because it is above the students’ level and not directly related, the theory of evolution is not part” of the school curriculum, Yilmaz told a news conference.

Of course not that many Turkish students continue on to university: estimates are only about a third of students finishing secondary school continue their studies. And evolution isn’t taught in every university. That means that most young Turks will never be exposed to evolution—unless it’s to the odious creationist lies of Harun Yahya.

The changes have been condemned—by brave people:

Opposition Republican People’s Party lawmaker Mustafa Balbay said any suggestion the theory was beyond their understanding was an insult to high school students.

“You go and give an 18-year old student the right to elect and be elected, but don’t give him the right to learn about the theory of evolution…This is being close minded and ignorant.”

. . . . Mehhmet Balik, chairman of the Union of Education and Science Workers (Egitim-Is), condemned the new curriculum.

“The new policies that ban the teaching of evolution and requiring all schools to have a prayer room, these actions destroy the principle of secularism and the scientific principles of education,” he said.

Speaking out against the Erdoğan government in this way is an act of courage. I suspect that these two men, if not arrested, will lose their jobs. And I need to go back to Turkey and give some public lectures on the fact of evolution. Turkish academics: I await your call!

Meanwhile, Al-Jazeera reports even more disturbing news of the metastasizing and repressive Turkish theocracy:

Six people, including the director of Amnesty International in Turkey, were arrested by a court order on Tuesday for “helping an armed terrorist organisation”, according to the state-run Anadolu Agency news outlet. [JAC: They had been detained and interrogated since July 5.]

They were among the 10 who were detained in Istanbul earlier in July during a workshop on Buyukada, an island near the city.

The group comprised eight Turkish human rights activists, one Swedish trainer and one German trainer.

The Istanbul court ordered the other four be released on the condition of judicial control.

Those arrested include Amnesty International Director Idil Eser, Gunal KurSun, Ozlem Dalkıran, Veli Acu, Ali Garavi ile and Peter Steudtner.

Idil Eser, the director of Amnesty International’s Turkey branch, is the group’s second top level official to be detained in a month [Amnesty International]

h/t: Barrie


  1. Tom
    Posted July 19, 2017 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Someday Mr Erdogen is going to do something even more stupid and Russia will gobble up parts of Turkey and get its longed for direct access into the Mediterranean.

  2. Posted July 19, 2017 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    Wow. Mr Balbay and Mr Balik show some amazing courage. I wonder if I ever could. So sorry for all Turks. What a waste.

  3. busterggi
    Posted July 19, 2017 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    Wait – so the Koran, like the OT, starts with multiple gods of which Allah is the best? So much as monotheism anywhere.

  4. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted July 19, 2017 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    On the human rights activist arrest, I just noticed it yesterday as it made the Swedish newspaper in a big way. I read that our government is putting pressure on Turkey. Swede Ali Gharavi was just an educator in digital security and especially working for human rights activists.

  5. Posted July 19, 2017 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    “And I need to go back to Turkey and give some public lectures on the fact of evolution.”

    I agree that this would be desirable, but it sounds very dangerous, too … would you need security? What would you say to the customs officials?

  6. Randy schenck
    Posted July 19, 2017 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    The decision is the same everywhere in the world of Islam. Do the people want to join the modern, civilized world or remain in the stone age dogma of the religion with very little future. They are trying to figure this out in many countries and all we should do is speak for the modern decision. Doing more has gotten us into a hell of a lot of problems.

    • Diane G.
      Posted July 21, 2017 at 2:28 am | Permalink

      I don’t think a lot of the people in many of these countries really have the option to object, esp. if they value their or their family’s lives.

  7. Ken Kukec
    Posted July 19, 2017 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    The changes have been condemned—by brave people …

    Those of us protected by the First Amendment’s ambit sometimes like to fancy ourselves as champions of free expression. We should pause to appreciate people like Mustafa Balbay and Mehhmet Balik whose skin in the game comes off their own tuchis.

  8. rickflick
    Posted July 19, 2017 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    I suspect there is a sizable proportion of the population that supports Erdoğan in this and other moves that compromise secularism in Turkey. He may be a kind of smart Trump using the backing of a big minority block to work his mischief. He should be deposed, but as we saw in the failed coup not long ago, opposition isn’t big or strong enough at this point.

  9. Bob Barber
    Posted July 20, 2017 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    I certainly hope that no one brings this news to the attention of Betsy Devos.

  10. Phil Rounds
    Posted July 21, 2017 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    This has been going on in Turkey for a few years. It seems that secularism is on the way out there.

    I’d be more worried about what will happen in the USA in the next 4 years….With a delusional and dysfunctional POTUS, a VP that actually believes the Earth is 6k years old and a Congress that panders to gawdly at every opportunity.

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