November 6, 2006
To find the front lines of a culture war in Turkey, walk into a kebab shop in the Uskudar district of Istanbul. Meat sizzles on metal skewers, and Persian carpets adorn the walls. Look closely and you’ll find a portrait of Charles Darwin—framed in dripping blood.
This is a “creation museum,” the brainchild of Adnan Oktar. He’s the 50-year-old founder of Bilim Araştirma Vakfi (“Scientific Research Foundation”), a creationist organization mounting one of the most potent offensives against evolution outside of the United States.
In its latest campaign, BAV has opened more than 80 “museums” in restaurants, malls, and city halls across Turkey, each stocked with fossils, posters, and eager volunteers. Oktar’s disciples use tactics cribbed from US organizations like California’s Institute for Creation Research, instructing passersby that evolution cannot explain biology’s complexity and is against the word of God.
But unlike its western counterparts, Oktar’s group claims Darwin is responsible for communism, fascism, and terrorism. Terrorists, according to Oktar, are “social Darwinists hiding under the cloak of religion,” while communists, still active in Turkey, are in “bloody alliance” with Darwinism. “Evolution is a communist and fascist belief,” offers Tarkan Yavas, BAV’s president. “The Muslim community understands that now.”
Turkey is among the most Western of Muslim nations. It teaches evolution in its schools, but, even so, appears to be losing the science education battle. In 1985 the minister of education mandated that creationism be included in science textbooks. By the late 1990s, the BAV was attacking scientists who opposed a creationist curriculum via slander and death threats. The cumulative damage to science has been significant. Ümit Sayin, a neurologist at Istanbul University and outspoken critic of Turkish creationism, estimates that the number of university-educated Turks who understand evolution has dropped to 20 percent from 40 percent over the past 15 years.
And BAV, of course, is intimately linked to the U.S. creationist crazies: one of its spokesmen testified in support of intelligent design at the Kansas school-board hearings last year.
TrackBack URL for this entry: