- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 9, 2007

ISTANBUL — An Islamic version of “scientific creationism” has found fertile soil in Turkey, where three in four residents reject Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Its leading exponent is Tarkan Yavas, who sports shoulder-length hair and expensive suits and says his aim in life is “to cleanse Turkey of the atheist materialism and the immorality Darwin opened the door to.”

Mr. Yavas is the public face of the Science Research Foundation (BAV), a group set up in 1990.

Headed by Adnan Oktar, a university dropout turned charismatic preacher, BAV“s latest publication is “Atlas of Creation,” a 770-page, 13-pound tome the group sent to scientists, journalists and schools in Britain, France, Scandinavia and Turkey in February.

Much of the book resembles Western creationists” work, which appears to have been brought to Turkey by Western fundamentalist Christian groups in the mid-1980s.

Though details vary, the account of creation in both the Bible and the Koran says God created everything in six days.

In the atlas, page after page juxtaposes photographs of fossils and living species, arguing that the similarities disprove assertions that species adapt over time.

The political message is different, with evolution blamed for communism, Nazism and — under a photograph of the Twin Towers in flames — September 11.

“Darwinism is the only philosophy which values conflict,” the text explains. “We’re fighting a cultural war on scientific lines,” Mr. Yavas said.

He and others like him have found fertile soil in Turkey. A survey last year showed that only 25 percent of Turks accepted evolution. Even science teachers are affected, with a 2005 poll showing almost 50 percent questioning or rejecting the theory.

Turkey has become the headquarters of creationism in the Middle East,” said Haluk Ertan, a geneticist at Istanbul University.

“Not just the Middle East, the world,” Mr. Yavas said. “Darwinism is dying in Turkey.”

That may be premature. BAV has been taken to court repeatedly in the past decade.

Last month, Turkey’s supreme court opened the way for a new trial when it ruled that 2005 criminal charges brought against the group should not have been dropped because of time constraints.

With Turkish secularism as sensitive as it has ever been, the ruling marks the latest stage of a growing war between evolutionists and creationists for control of the country’s classrooms and laboratories.

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