Turkish creationism takes root

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The battle began in earnest last spring, when 700 academics took the Ministry of Education to court calling for the removal of references to creationism, present in school science syllabuses since 1985.

“There are compulsory religious classes in Turkish schools as it is,” said biologist Ozgur Genc, who began organizing the legal case after five teachers in southern Turkey were transferred to another school in 2005 for teaching evolution.

The court has not issued a ruling.

The BAV has organized hundreds of conferences on creationism in the past decade as well as a recent flurry of American-style “creation museums.”

Yesterday, Mr. Oktar held a press conference aboard a luxury yacht off Istanbul’s northern Bosporus shores near the mouth of the Black Sea and said the evils of the world were a direct result of Darwinism.

“Communism, fascism, and Freemasons stand on the tenets of Darwinism, and the world power of capitalism stands on the same. … Hitler and Mao were both Darwinists,” Reuters news agency quoted him as saying.

“We will not deceive ourselves that scientists have a monopoly on truth,” he said.

Mr. Oktar, speaking in Turkish, said a million of his books and movies were being downloaded from Internet sites every month.

Copies of his books and movies had been distributed in 170 countries, he added.

Scores of books in different languages, purportedly written by Mr. Oktar under the pen name Harun Yahya, were on display aboard the yacht bearing titles such as “The Dark Spell of Darwinism,” “A Historical Lie: The Stone Age” and “God’s Gentle Artistry.”

Opponents of creationism, meanwhile, also are increasingly taking their arguments to the Turkish public.

A series of scientific conferences have been held in central Anatolian towns during the past few months. One popular science magazine has devoted its past two issues to answering the claims in “Atlas of Creation.”

“When the creationist movement began to surface in the early 1990s, many scientists just laughed at it,” said Nazli Somel, a former teacher now writing a doctoral paper on Turkish creationism. “It’s good to see they’re taking it seriously now.”

She is confident the scientists will win the battle.

Although most public figures avoid associating themselves with Mr. Oktar’s group, more upscale versions of creationism have powerful supporters in Turkey.

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