Turkish schools ditch Darwin in favor of Muhammad

The new school year is about to start in Turkey, and, as I’ve reported before (here and here), the government has removed evolution from the secondary-school science curriculum—supposedly because it was (according to the head of the Board of Education) “debatable, controversial and too complicated for students.”

Nobody believes that malarkey. It was removed because it contradicts the Islamic doctrine of creation, especially of humans. Far more Muslims than Christians think their scripture should be read literally, and an IPSOS poll in 2010 found that, with respect to human origins, 60% of Turks believed that humans did not evolve from other apes but were created by God. That’s nearly 20% higher than in the U.S.

Wikipedia summarizes the government’s suppression of evolution education in Turkey (I’ve omitted the references, but you can get them at the link:

Following the 1980 Turkish coup d’état, the military leadership and subsequent governments promoted Islamicism to promote national unity, which eventually included translation and distribution of materials from the US Institute for Creation Research and creationist high-school textbooks. A survey published in 2008 found that about 25% of people in Turkey accepted evolution as an explanation for how life came to exist. In 2008, Richard Dawkins’ website was banned in Turkey; the ban was lifted in July 2011. As of 2009, creationism had become the government’s official position on origins. In 2009, the Turkish government agency Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK), publisher of the popular Turkish science magazine Bilim ve Teknik (Science and Technology), was accused of stripping a cover story about the life and work of Charles Darwin from the March 2009 issue of the Council’s publication just before it went to press. The planned portrait of Darwin for the magazine’s cover was replaced and the editor of the magazine, Çiğdem Atakuman, claims that she was removed from her post. Most of the Turkish population expressed support for the censorship. In 2012, it was found that the government’s internet content filter, designed to prevent the public having access to pornographic websites, also blocked the words ‘evolution’ and ‘Darwin’ on one mode of the filter.

This has only continued under the Erdogan regime, which not only forbade the teaching of evolution before college, but has made a number of changes in schools favoring Islam. A new article in The Economist, “The decline of Turkish schools“, reports a number of disturbing changes that go beyond merely banning evolution (their quotes):

  • Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has made clear on more than one occasion that he would like to bring up a “pious generation” of young Turks. He has made plenty of headway. The education ministry, says Feray Aytekin Aydogan, the head of a leftist teachers’ union, is working more closely than ever with Islamic NGOs and with the directorate of religious affairs. Attendance at so-called imam hatip schools, used to train Muslim preachers, has shot up from about 60,000 in 2002 to over 1.1m, or about a tenth of all public-school students. The government recently reduced the minimum population requirement for areas where such schools are allowed to open from 50,000 to 5,000. An earlier reform lowered the age at which children can enter them from 14 to ten.


  • From this year onwards, children as young as six will be taught the story of last summer’s abortive coup—presumably without including the mass purges and arrests that followed it. Imam hatip students, meanwhile, will study the concept of jihad. (The education ministry says the term, which can also refer to one’s personal struggle against sin, has been misused.) A module on the life of the Prophet Muhammad will teach the same pupils that Muslims should avoid marrying atheists, and that wives should obey their husbands. Schools are also becoming a target of Mr Erdogan’s mosque-building spree. A new rule requires that all new schools be equipped with prayer rooms, segregated by sex. “The interference of religion into education has never been as visible and as deep,” says Batuhan Aydagul of the Education Reform Initiative, a think-tank in Istanbul.

Last year Turkey fired 28,000 teachers supposedly linked to “terrorism,” and I’m betting that some of them were simply secularists who would teach evolution. As I’ve said repeatedly, Turkey, once a vibrant and largely secular country thanks to Atatürk, is slowly being squeezed into the Procrustean bed of Islam. Will we see it wind up like Iran, once too a country with substantial freedom of speech but now a theocracy? When will the hijab become mandatory in Turkey?

Turkey has far larger problems than creationism, of course, but it’s foolish to prevent school children from learning the truth about biology. Once again I offer to lecture in Turkey about the truth of evolution—if any schools are bold enough to have me. All I require is an air ticket and accommodation.

h/t: Barry


  1. Craw
    Posted October 2, 2017 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    ” it’s foolish to prevent school children from learning the truth about biology. ”

    Whether it’s foolish or not depends on your intent. It might be very wise, if your intent is to impose theocracy.

  2. Draken
    Posted October 2, 2017 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    I suggest you include ‘a bodyguard’ in your requirements, Jerry.

    • Rita
      Posted October 2, 2017 at 8:20 pm | Permalink


  3. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 2, 2017 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    How come the Donald makes pals with evil thugs like this schmuck Erdoğan (and Duterte and Vlad), but rags on our good friends like Oz and Mexico and treats Angela like she’s got cooties?

    • Posted October 2, 2017 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      I suppose that question was rhetorical.

    • Diane G.
      Posted October 3, 2017 at 1:39 am | Permalink

      Bullies of a feather flock together.

  4. GM
    Posted October 2, 2017 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    You have to keep in mind when discussing this issue that in the same time that Turkey is taking backwards steps like this it is also investing very heavily in universities and general education, and has been for quite some time.

    So this is not just an act of religious fanaticism on the side of the government, it is done for internal political reasons (pandering to the Islamists) and because evolution is seen as a decadent Western influence to be actively countered.

    They are more than happy to aggressively pursue technological development and technical education, but when it comes to “values”, it is a very different picture.

    And on balance purely religious motivations are probably not the main driver of this, at least for the circles high in the government hierarchy.

    It is similar in Russia — I highly doubt Putin himself is not secretly an atheist, but he has been heavily pandering to the Orthodox church and promoting its spreading influence over society, because he sees it as a very useful tool in maintaining societal cohesion (the old rallying cry was “God, tsar, fatherland!” and they’re going back to that).

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted October 2, 2017 at 11:10 am | Permalink

      Tonight were gonna party like it’s 1699.

    • nicky
      Posted October 2, 2017 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

      The plebs believe it, the educated think it’s rot, the rulers find it very useful. That was a Roman (Cicero?) who said that, and many after him along the same lines. Avicenna comes to mind, or the Hitch.
      The Dons, Vlads or Receps see eye to eye there: useful.

    • nicky
      Posted October 2, 2017 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

      So, I think ‘social cohesion’ is but a very small, but necessary part of it, ‘power’ being the main motive, I’d say.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted October 2, 2017 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

      Putin grew up an atheist, and although I think his initial conversion was fake I think it might now be genuine.

      Worse, he’s using his beliefs to justify some pretty horrific acts. Killing for Jesus is a way to salve the conscience.

      He sees Russia as being the last bastion of Western Christendom. That also gives him the excuse to intefere in the elections of other countries on the side of far-right and anti-democracy parties. His interference in the recent Germain election on the side of the far-right saw them into government.

      He doesn’t just stoke up fears and interfere the way he did in the US. He actively supports those parties. There’s a conference he strongly supports each year. Many on the far right in the US are involved. David Duke, for example, said he believes Russia, “holds the key to white survival.”

      (See http://www.heatherhastie.com/russia-communists-align-orthodox-church/ )

  5. Heather Hastie
    Posted October 2, 2017 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    It’s very worrying what’s happening in Turkey. Erdoğan is also moving closer to Russia and away from Europe. European leaders aren’t complaining about what he’s doing because they want to keep him on side. He’s still part of NATO and has the second (to the US) largest army of any country in that alliance.

    As for the increasing number of religious schools, that’s scarier than everything else. It was the Saudis investing in madrasses in their part of the world that lead to a generation of young men ready to kill and die for Islam.

  6. Ullrich Fischer
    Posted October 2, 2017 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    ‘m skeptical of the polls that show 60% of Turks believe that humans did not evolve from other apes. It was only recently that the Erdogan regime went full on Islamist and decided to rule according to fundamentalist Islamic dictates. I suspect that such polls are skewed toward to official story because the people being polled know full well what happened to their neighbours and friends who spoke out against the party line, so reflexively repeat the party line when asked controversial questions by people they don’t trust… which would be everyone who is not a close family member.

  7. umar
    Posted October 4, 2017 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    mind your buisness erdogan is moving in the right direction it sad to see nowdays all the is wrong people see right and all thats right people wrong look at the state of the so call civilised western world.murder every second rape homo and of immoral thing like woman selling bodies in shop window is right come on ipen your eyes and heart this the best thing to happen to turkey in recent .how can someone in is right think we evolve from ape .all praise to god

    • Posted October 4, 2017 at 7:33 am | Permalink

      Mind your own damn business, you troll. Erdogan is a despot and a theocrat. Your “comment” is just an unhinged ape, and you have the temerity to deny evolution, which also shows you’re ignorant. You do your countrymen no good with such an unhinged rant. Bye!

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