Fundamentalist Christians are not generally big boosters of Islamic fundamentalism. But it appears that American creationists hate Darwin and the science of evolution even more, and are aggressively helping Islamic fundamentalists undermine both science and the secular governmental traditions in Turkey. According to an article in the Washington Post, the teaching of evolution is under attack by Islamic fundamentalists armed with materials created by American creationists. The article opens with an anecdote that, with one exception, will be all too familiar to U.S. science educators:
Sema Ergezen teaches biology to Turkish students interested in teaching science themselves, and she has long struggled with her students' ignorance of, and sometimes hostility to, the notion of evolution.
But she was taken aback when several of her Marmara University students recently accused her of being an atheist, or worse, for teaching anything but the doctrine that God created the Earth and everything on it.
"They said I was a liar if I called myself a Muslim because I also accepted evolution," she said.
Anti-evolution forces are blossoming, according to the article, thanks to American backers of creationism and intelligent design:
Translated and adapted for a Muslim society, the purported proofs that Darwinism and evolution were wrong came directly from American proponents of Christian creationism and its less overtly religious offshoot, intelligent design.
Ergezen's experience has become increasingly common. While creationism and intelligent design appear to be in some retreat in the United States, they have blossomed within Muslim Turkey. With direct and indirect help from American foes of evolution, similarly-minded Turks have aggressively made the case that Charles Darwin's theory is scientifically wrong and is the underlying source of most of the world's conflicts because it excludes God from human affairs.
"Darwin is the worst Fascist there has ever been, and the worst racist history has ever witnessed," writes Harun Yahya, the most assertive and best-known critic of evolution in Turkey, and long a favorite of more conservative American creationists.
The article notes that Turkey, with it secular government traditions, has been more open to scientific understandings of evolution than other Muslim countries, but that's changing with the help of American institutions like Seattle's Discovery Institute and The Institute for Creation Research in Dallas.
To many Turkish scientists and educators, this is a worrisome development. The founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, was an advocate of science, education and, some say, even evolution. Turkish science has been especially strong in the Muslim world. If Turks close their minds to evolutionary thinking, advocates say, it won't be long before religion and politics shut off other scientific pursuits.
To John Morris, president of the Institute for Creation Research in Dallas, however, the news could hardly be more encouraging.
"Why I'm so interested in seeing creationism succeed in Turkey is that evolution is an evil concept that has done such damage to society," said Morris, a Christian who has led several searches for Noah's Ark in eastern Turkey. Members of his group have addressed Turkish conferences numerous times.
The Discovery Institute of Seattle, which researches and promotes intelligent design as an alternative to creationism and evolution, also sent speakers to Turkey after being invited by the Istanbul municipal government in 2007. President Bruce Chapman said the institute helped bring Turkish evolution critic Mustafa Akyol to a 2005 Kansas school board hearing on teaching critiques of evolution.
The Post quotes Aykut Kence, an American-trained scientist with a doctorate in evolutionary biology, who has been targeted by local creationists circulating leaflets with pictures of him and Mao, equating the teaching of evolution with communism. Where have we heard that before?
After a decade in the trenches, Kence said he believes aggressive creationism "is part of a larger plan to convert people to a more conservative Islam."
The Islamic-oriented government, elected in 2002 and reelected in 2007, has telegraphed its views on evolution by adding doses of creationism to a required public school course on "Religion and Morals," proponents of evolution say. This year, the editor of one of the nation's prominent science journals, Science and Technology, was fired by government officials over her magazine's plans to put Darwin on its cover.
Major Religious Right conferences like the Values Voter Summit have devoted many hours in recent years to talking about the threats posed by radical Islam. Will they now add the Discovery Institute and the Institute for Creation Science to their list of those aiding and abetting the nation's enemies? Or is their hatred for Darwin and secularism so strong that they're willing help those pushing for a more theocratic Islamic government in Turkey?