Censorship of science in Turkey

The science journal Nature reports that a Turkish popular science magazine, Bilim ve Teknik (Science and Technology), has been forced to withdraw its March cover story concerning Darwin and evolution (Turkish scientists claim Darwin censorship).

As part of this process, the magazine’s editor lost her job.  It seems as though this is an act of political interference from Turkey’s research funding and science management organization, TÜBİTAK, who recently took over running the magazine.  The article in Nature reports that

In an interview with Milliyet, one of Turkey’s highest-circulation daily newspapers, the editor of Bilim ve Teknik, Çiğdem Atakuman, confirmed that she had been removed from her post over the affair, but declined to comment further because she is still a TÜBİTAK employee.

Milliyet reports that the editorial changes were ordered by TÜBİTAK’s vice-president, engineer Ömer Cebeci. Neither Cebeci nor TÜBİTAK’s president, Nüket Yetiş, were available to be interviewed by Nature, and the agency has released no official statement on the matter.

If true, this is nothing short of appalling – that in a supposedly secular nation (albeit under seige by reactionary Islam) such ideologically motivated censorship should be conducted by a national science research organisation horrifies me.  I guess many readers of this blog will be aware of the bizarre creationist buffoon Adnan Oktar (aka Harun Yahya), who engineered the banning of Richard Dawkins’ website in Turkey, and who has flooded the world with irrational and stupid books proclaiming Darwinist evolution as dead.

I am saddened by the nature of the comments appended to the Nature article, and suspect the hand of Adnan Oktar and his followers.  They start with some reasonable comments (from both Turks and non-Turks), but then descend into a series of absurd creationist rants (all signed with Turkish-sounding names).  At the risk of sounding totally geeky, perhaps it would be interesting to to know the origin of the comments and whether this looked like an orchestrated response.  Some examples:

Harun Yahya has long told about a global Darwinist dictatorship, which has control over almost every institution, publication etc all over the world. But this dictatorship will eventually collapse. What has happened now here in Turkey is just an example of standing up against this dictatorship. Bravo!

Clearly a devotee of Adnan Oktar there, I guess, and with an unhealthy dose of conspiracy theory.  Perhaps a tinfoil hat would help.  Here’s an example of spectacular ignorance:

If there is no evidence in a theory, we do not believe it. This is as clear as the sun in the sky. There is – NO – evidence for any gradual development in nature. Where do you find step by step evolution in nature? Half developed noses? Half developed smelling ability? Half developed ribosomes? Half developed pancreas? Half developed lungs? Just do not breath for more than a few minutes, you die! Reason and logic work hand in hand and science decides on reason. Darwin was wrong! There is no evolution in the entirety of living organisms. Otherwise, the earth would be filled with mutants and all fossils unearthed would come up to be freaks. Please think without prejudice for a few seconds. Darwin fooled the entire world.

Pretty much classic boneheaded ignorance there, and on a par with Adnan Oktar’s intellectual capability (i.e. severely limited).  I would suspect a coordinated campaign by Oktar’s brigade of Islamic creationists.

One or two comments have been left by individuals who say they are Turkish postdocs working overseas, and reading those just makes me so sad and sympathetic for their situation.

3 thoughts on “Censorship of science in Turkey

  1. I am Turkish academic in the USA. I was depressed by these news. I just wanted to add my voice to say there are those of us in Turkey who are outraged by this. I know many people will say America is no better in terms of people not believing evolution. Maybe… But the US certainly does better in terms of freedom of speech. In Turkey currently access to Richard Dawkins' website is banned…. This is certainly not the Turkey Ataturk had envisioned… But worse, it's not even the Turkey I grew up in, or even the Turkey of my parents' generation… I had a very good education, and grew up in a secular environment which contributed to me becoming the successful (female STEM) scientist I am today. This shift in Turkey is a real shame…

    1. I hadn't realised Dawkins' site was still banned in Turkey. It's always difficult to gauge the extent of (for example) creationist belief from web comments, especially as you can get coordinated commenting, as I suspect happened to the Nature article.
      Here in the UK, I think creationists are a little less strident, but we still have fundamentalist christians with a vociferous web presence – see some of my past articles for examples.

  2. The New Humanist Blog has an article about this case by an Oxford-based Turkish academic, Kerem Oktem (A Turkish take on the Darwin cover story controversy – http://tinyurl.com/cpmrq2). He provides a clear discussion of the social background, and concludes:

    "Most pious Muslims and probably all Islamists, even in the more moderate variety of AKP appointees like Cebeci, believe in creation and reject evolution. That their worldview is now shaping the outlook of Turkey's Research Council shows that after seven years in government, "moderate" Islamism has come close to hegemony in Turkey. And this means that evolution is either taught as one theory among other, more compelling theories like creationism. Or, Darwin is removed altogether from the debate, or, as in this case, from the cover of the country's leading science journal.
    Welcome to the New Turkey, goodbye to evolution!"

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