Darwin & Islam
A lavishly illustrated “Atlas of Creation” is mysteriously turning up at schools and libraries in Turkey, proclaiming that Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is the real root of terrorism.Of course, we have no problem with Darwinism, but we don’t much like the campaign to ban Intelligent Design from the schools. The people trying to do this seem to be running a sort of Secular Inquisition, intent on stamping out heresy in the name of the scientific orthodoxy.
Arriving unsolicited by post, the large-format tome offers 768 glossy pages of photographs and easy-to-read text to prove that God created the world with all its species.
At first sight, it looks like it could be the work of United States creationists, the Christian fundamentalists who believe the world was created in six days as told in the Bible.
But the author’s name, Harun Yahya, reveals the surprise inside. This is Islamic creationism, a richly funded movement based in predominantly Muslim Turkey which has an influence US creationists could only dream of.
Creationism is so widely accepted here that Turkey placed last in a recent survey of public acceptance of evolution in 34 countries - just behind the United States.
“Darwinism is dead,” said Kerim Balci of the Fethullah Gulen network, a moderate Islamic movement with many publications and schools but no link to the creationists who produced the atlas.
A dose of religion: Like the Bible, the Quran says God made the world in six days and fashioned the first man, Adam, from dust. Other details vary but the idea is roughly the same.
But unlike in the West, evolution theory has not undermined the traditional creation story for many Muslims.
“Science is hardly an issue in Turkey, therefore evolution could hardly have been an issue,” said Celal Sengor, a geology professor at Istanbul Technical University. Darwinism did become an issue during the left-versus-right political turmoil before a 1980 military coup because Communist bookshops touted Darwin’s works as a complement to Karl Marx.
“It looked like Marx and Darwin were together, two long-bearded guys spreading ideas that make people lose their faith,” said Istanbul journalist Mustafa Akyol.
After the coup, the conservative government thought a dose of religion could bolster the fight against the extreme left.
In 1985, a paragraph on creationism as an alternative to evolution was added to high school science textbooks and a US book “Scientific Creationism” was translated into Turkish. In the early 1990s, leading US creationists came to speak at several anti-evolution conferences in Turkey.
Darwin and terror: Since then, a home-grown strain of anti-Darwinist books has developed with a clearly political message.
“Atlas of Creation” offers over 500 pages of splendid images comparing fossils with present-day animals to argue that Allah created all life as it is and evolution never took place.
Then comes a book-length essay arguing that Darwinism, by stressing the “survival of the fittest”, has inspired racism, Nazism, communism and terrorism.
“The root of the terrorism that plagues our planet is not any of the divine religions, but atheism, and the expression of atheism in our times (is) Darwinism and materialism,” it says.
In this context, it’s good to find one quite tolerant perspective at the top levels of the Turkish government.
[The campaign for Intelligent Design] got an unexpected boost last month when Education Minister Huseyin Celik hinted on television that he might want to see it added to Turkish textbooks.
“If it’s wrong to say Darwin’s theory should not be in the books because it is in line with atheist propaganda, we can’t disregard intelligent design because it coincides with beliefs of monotheistic religions about creation,” he told CNN Turk.