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

Opponents of euthanizing newborns write in with strong opinions

Six days ago I wrote a post, based on a New York Times piece, arguing that the parents of newborns who were doomed to die, who had a “hopeless prognosis” involving unbearable suffering, or who would have to live their lives wedded to intensive care and respirators, should have the legal right—with appropriate ethical strictures and doctors’ approval—to end the lives of their newborns in a merciful way, perhaps with an injection. I gave my reasons for thinking this in my piece “Should one be allowed to euthanize severely deformed or doomed newborns?” My answer was a qualified “yes,” and in that I agree with philosopher Peter Singer.

Singer has been demonized for his opinion by both religious believers and also by handicapped people who argue that they wouldn’t have wanted to be euthanized as infants if they had the choice. Singer’s talks have picketed and disrupted, and people have even called for his firing from Princeton for merely suggesting the idea of newborn euthanasia. Yet I think that discussing this idea is very worthwhile.

Now I’m being criticized as well, and I expected it. Both the creationist Discovery Institute (in its organ Evolution News) and the conservative National Review have gone after my piece. In the former venue, Michael Egnor, who’s obsessed with me, blames my views on “materialism and Darwinism” (they’re not; they’re based on moral philosophy), compares me to the Nazi doctors who did odious medical experiments (he even shows a photo of them on trial), and says that NO euthanasia, nor even any abortions, can be morally justified. He does, however, allow “withdrawal of care” in terminal newborns because that differs from euthanasia:

There are situations in which continuation of heroic medical treatment (surgery, respirators, antibiotics, etc.) merely prolongs the process of dying, and in which it is ethical to withdraw such heroic care. I have done it many times (I’m a pediatric neurosurgeon). But the purpose of the withdrawal is not to cause death, but to cease interfering with the natural course of a disease, when no good can come of heroic treatment. That is a very different thing, morally and legally, from deliberately killing a child by injecting him with a lethal dose of potassium or a barbiturate.

I disagree with the morality bit, but won’t get into that now.

The National Review also linked me with Nazism, claiming that “Darwinism leads to infanticide acceptance” and saying that my scientific materialism leads people to reject evolution because I couple Darwinism “with anti-humanism and a moral philosophy that was judged a crime against humanity at Nuremberg.” Sorry, but I don’t advocate experimenting on babies or gassing and shooting innocent civilians.

I stand by what I said in my piece. Were I to rewrite my post, though, I’d add that it’s more than just religious people who object to Singer’s and my views on both assisted suicide of rational, terminally ill people as well as to euthanasia of desperately ill newborns. Yes, religious people are big objectors to these practices (and lobbied against assisted suicide when it was made legal in several states), but so are some disabled people who don’t base their objections on religious views. And I should have mentioned those arguments. But their objections haven’t altered my views on the value of discussing the issue of the euthanasia of newborns. And I still think that it’s justified in some cases.

Anyway, readers have written in strongly criticizing my views, and I’ll post some of their comments here rather than continue the discussion in a week-old thread.  I have approved their comments on the original site (or will as soon as I publish this), but have directed them here to continue the discussion. Feel free to continue it in the comments on this post rather than the other one.

ritajoseph” wrote three comments:

In reply to zoolady.

No child is “essentially a vegetable”. Every child can and should be loved tenderly and cared for as long as she or he is alive. Where parents can’t afford basic care,families and communities must help them. It’s called human solidarity.

Financial difficulty is never an adequate excuse for killing a child.


Permitting medicalized killing of the sick and the vulnerable who are viewed as financially burdensome sets a socially engineered trap, in which individual interests freely and legally gain access to a public resource (a health care system that provides unconditional specialized care for the suicidal or the seriously disabled or the terminally ill) and proceed to change it from unconditional palliative care to optional care together with the option of medically assisted suicide.

A tragedy of the commons will unfold as the terminally ill or their carers are pressured subtly to accept the cheaper swifter option. This will lead eventually to depletion of the shared resource—the end of a truly universal, unconditional system of care for the terminally ill. A gradual reduction of specialists, hospices, palliative care resources and research dedicated to the needs of the terminally ill is therefore a typical ‘externality’ – i.e., the unintended and negative consequence of private decisions that ends up affecting everyone.


In reply to zoolady.

Why is assisted suicide not OK? Suicide and assisted suicide contravene the universal human rights principle of inalienability. Human beings cannot be deprived of the substance of their rights, not in any circumstances, not even at their own request.
There is a genuine need to enact positive laws respecting key human rights principles:
o The inherent right to life of the terminally ill and the suicidal is inalienable;
o The terminally ill and the suicidal have the right to recognition of their inherent dignity;
o The terminally ill and the suicidal have the right to security of person;
o The autonomy of “end of life choices” is limited by the duty to secure the rights of all;
o Human solidarity with the terminally ill and the suicidal must not be jeopardized.

(1) Advocacy materials promoting suicide must be more strictly controlled so that positive programs for assisting persons at risk of suicide can achieve their full potential.
(2) Education programmes emphasize the human person as the true source of human dignity and teach the inalienability of the inherent right to life.
(3) Funding for genuine palliative care, research and programmes should be increased so that best practice end of life care becomes available not as a “choice” but as a duty for all of us to provide and as a right for everyone who is in need to receive.


And reader Bill Franklin said this:

You write:
“If you are allowed to abort a fetus that has a severe genetic defect… … then why aren’t you able to euthanize that same fetus just after it’s born? I see no substantive difference that would make the former act moral and the latter immoral.”

Well, you are also *allowed* to abort a fetus for any reason. So do you also “see no substantive difference” between that and euthanizing an otherwise healthy baby who was born a week earlier?

If a woman could abort a fetus at 35-weeks because, for example, she no longer liked the father and did not want the child to remind her of him – why not the same choice if the father ends up arrested for unknown crimes a week post birth?

If not, does that mean you also subscribe to this apparently irrational/religious idea about acquiring a soul in the magic birth canal? As you say, “After all, newborn babies aren’t aware of death” and “Since the newborn can’t decide, it’s up to the parents”…


I have my own responses to these comments (e.g., Bill Franklin completely misunderstands my argument), but I have other things to write about today and so will let readers continue the arguments below. As soon as this goes up, both ritajoseph and Bill Franklin will be directed here.

All I can say is that it’s ridiculous to call someone a Nazi for suggesting an idea like this. By all means give your counterarguments, but avoid the character assassination,


Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’ homophobia

The new Jesus and Mo strip, called “homo”, came with this note:

Today’s strip is inspired by something that happened at last week’s London Pride march.

What happened is that ex-Muslims at the march were accused of “Islamophobia” by the East London Mosque because they were carrying signs that indicted Islamic countries and mosques for demonizing homosexuality, which of course many of them do. Calling that out is not “Islamophobia”; but of course Islam comes with an “I’m offended!” card that allows you unlimited license to conflate anti-Muslim bigotry with criticism of Islamic oppression and doctrine.

Here’s a photo of the demonstration and some reportage by The Free Thinker:

About 20 CEMB [Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain] activists marched on Saturday with placards bearing a range of messages from “We’re here, we’re kaffir, get used to it” to “Allah is gay”. Several wore body paint across their chests depicting eyes crying rainbow-coloured tears.

Maryam Namazie, spokeswoman for CEMB and a Freethinker columnist, said the group was protesting the treatment of LGBT people in states under hardline Islamic leadership, such as Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen and Iran – where homosexuality is a capital offence.

Namazie told the Standard it was “apt” to name the East London Mosque on the placards.

At Pride, we were highlighting the 13 states under Islamic rule that kill gay men – 14 if we include Daesh-held territories.

Namazie said that the signs did not say “Fuck Islam” but “Fuck Islamic homophobia”, adding:

In my view Islam, like all religions, is homophobic. Why is it not possible to say this without fear of reprisal or accusations of Islamophobia?

She said:

Pride is full of ‘God is gay’ and ‘Jesus had two fathers’ placards as well as those mocking the church and priests and pope, yet hold a sign saying ‘Allah is gay’ – as we did – and the police converge to attempt to remove them for causing offence.

For Regressive Leftists, of course, “Islamophobia” is a far worse offense than homophobia. And that prioritization is itself offensive to real progressives. But on to Jesus and Mo, in which Mo expresses the hypocrisy of the excuse-Muslims “soft racism”:

Spot the toad!

Can you spot the toad in this photo taken by Stephen Barnard? He says it’s “medium hard”.  Click photo to enlarge:

Answer at noon Chicago time.

Readers’ wildlife photos

Thanks to the several readers who have sent me photos. Be assured that they’re all in the queue and will eventually appear.  Today I’ll do a potpourri from readers sending just one or a few photos. This one is from reader Bob Felton, who sent a note:

I’m sure this is small-time compared to most of the photos you get, but it’s an attention-getter just outside Raleigh, NC … an albino deer about 20-feet from my back deck at ~ 7:00 PM, 2017-Jul-18 …
Reader Jackie sent a series of photos of an American Robin (Turdus migratorius) bathing:
 A photo from reader Tim Anderson:
This is a Pied Butcherbird (Cracticus nigrogularis), a common and gregarious bird in suburban Australia. It has a melodious warbling song and will keep you company if you feed it (it prefers minced meat).
And another bird, this one from Stephen Barnard:
Here’s a photo I just took of a Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) checking me out — one of a pair that rest in a Russian Olive, between mad, erratic bug-catching frenzies over the creek.
Of the eleven gadwall ducks (Anas strepera) in the brood that hatched by Stephen’s creek, eight remain, but they are big now (ducklings grow fast!). But these eight are large enough to resist many predators. Here’s a photo from Monday with the caption “Eight. . .but look how big they are!”

Stephen thinks that the three that have vanished were eaten by a nearby family of minks.

The caption from yesterday’s photo was “Still eight. They’re dabbling around without their mom.”

Wednesday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

Good morning all; it’s July 19. 2017, and the 200th day of the year. It’s also National Daiquiri Day, though if we’re talking tropical drinks, I much prefer the mojito—especially as served at the Versailles restaurant in Miami, strong and adorned with a spike of sugar cane. Be sure to button your shirt from the bottom up today, and every day, so you don’t misbutton! That is one of Coyne’s Four Rules of Life.

It’s not a great day for either historical events or notable births and deaths. On July 19, 1553, Lady Jane Grey, after ruling as Queen of England for only nine days, was replaced by Mary I; this is surely the shortest tenure of any British Queen. And, on this day in 1848, the two-day Women’s Rights Convention opened in Seneca Falls, New York; it was the world’s first women’s rights meeting. On July 19, 1903, the first Tour de France bicycle race ended; the winner was Maurice Garin. And on this day in 1979, the Sandanista rebels toppled the Somoza government in Nicaragua.

Notables born on this day include Edgar Degas (1834), Herbert Marcuse (1898), and tennis great Ilie Năstase (1946).

In honor of Degas, a very great painter (and sculptor), we have one of his paintings “L’Absinthe” (1875-1876; I couldn’t find one in which there was a cat). I love the way the greenish-white absinthe pops out. When first exhibited painting was reviled by critics and the public alike for showing a degraded milieu of society; in those days, I guess, paintings were supposed to be morally uplifting. Wikipedia says this about the work:

The scene is a representation of the increasing social isolation occurring in Paris during its stage of rapid growth. The models used in the painting are an actress, Ellen Andrée, and a bohemian painter and printmaker, Marcellin Desboutin. The café where they are taking their refreshment is the Café de la Nouvelle-Athènes in Paris.

The café was a meeting place for artists like Matisse and van Gogh, and Erik Satie sometimes played the café piano.  It was also where the fifteen-year-0ld Maurice Ravel was introduced to Satie. The cafe was demolished in 2004, and what a pity!

But wait! Reader Roger found this version, probably never displayed:

Only one person died today whom I want to note: Aung San, the Burmese general and politician whose daughter was Aung San Suu Kyi. He was assassinated in 1947. Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili Marches with Science:

Hili: What is a narrative?
A: It’s a story you are not allowed to doubt.
Hili: And a theory?
A: With a theory it’s just the opposite: it’s strong when it grapples with doubts.
Hili: Cats do not have narratives.
 In Polish:
Hili: Co to jest narracja?
Ja: To opowieść, w którą nie wolno wątpić.
Hili: A teoria?
Ja: A teoria wręcz odwrotnie, jest mocna kiedy uczciwie zmaga się z wątpliwościami.
Hili: Koty nie mają narracji.

Leon is still roaming about the land surrounding his future home, busy with Important Cat Stuff:

Leon: I will check whether mice are feeding on beetroots.


Like a petulant child, Trump gives up on healthcare reform, exculpating himself and saying “Let Obamacare fail”

Now that the TrumpCare health bill won’t even make it to discussion on the Senate floor, Trump has simply given up on his major campaign promise and is saying, in effect, “if you can’t play by my rules, I’m taking away the ball and ending the game.” As CNN reports:

Trump was prepared to shoulder no blame for the failure of the bill on Tuesday, and warned he would now simply let Obamacare fail.

“We’re not going to own it. I’m not going to own it. I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it. We’ll let Obamacare fail and then the Democrats are going to come to us,” Trump told reporters at the White House.

So far however, there is no sign that the Democrats would take part in any effort that would effectively repeal Obamacare. And it seems just as likely that a crisis in the health care industry, involving Americans losing health insurance, would come back to hurt the party in power, in Congress and the White House — Republicans.

There’s little doubt that Trump and his minions will help Obamacare fail, hoping, perhaps, that that will cause the Senate to finally pass Trump’s legislation. But, as CNN notes correctly, the big losers here are the Republicans. After all, this was their major campaign pledge, and it sank in a morass of Republican infighting. Those who were previously satisfied with Obamacare will be ticked off if the Republicans make it more expensive or onerous. and those who weren’t satisfied will blame the GOP for not improving their situation. And even the most pro-Trump Republican can hardly fail to notice that Trump, having failed to deliver his Big Pledge, is now acting that it’s not his fault that it failed—even with his party controlling Congress. After all, saying “I’m not going to own it” means “It’s not my fault.”

Harry Truman famously had a sign on his Oval Office desk that said “the buck stops here.” With Trump the sign might as well be “The buck stops everyplace BUT here.”

What we need now is a bipartisan effort to fix the healthcare bill we have, which is ailing as companies drop out or raise premiums or qualfications. But the chance of such an effort is about equal to the chance that Trump will start acting Presidential.


Science-crazy lads build a model of the solar system in the desert

This lovely seven-minute video was called to my notice by reader Peter, and I don’t think I’ve posted it before. It shows a group of ambitious lads making a scale model of the solar system in the desert. The YouTube notes claim that this is “the first scale model of the solar system with complete planetary orbits.”

The location is the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, and they start with a Sun 1.5 meters in diameter: you’ll see why they chose that size. They then fix the planets, marked with correctly-sized lights, at the appropriate distance from the Sun. At the end, they find Neptune’s orbit (the bastards didn’t count Pluto as a planet!) to be 5.6 km away, and they check their calculations by observing the real Sun compared to the  model Sun while standing at an Earth-distance away.

Be sure you watch the bit beginning at 5:30, as there are some special visitors with some special words.


Another bird interlude

It looks as if today is Bird Day, but what’s wrong with that? Here’s a cool video tw**t sussed out by reader Barry:

Embedding photos in comments

Readers want to know how to do this, and I have no idea. Could you put your solutions in the comments to this post?