Monday, 7 March 2011

Enlightenment at last

We can close down our biology department. Why? Because the Islamic Society here have invited Oktar Babuna and Cihat Gundogdu to give a lecture on 'Evolution: Fact or Fiction?' at the university - in a teaching room, with the university's logo plastered over the flyer.

Their answer, you'll be unsurprised to learn, is that evolution is a fiction.

Taner Edis has said "there is nothing new in the Yahya material: scientifically negligible arguments and outright distortions often copied from Christian anti-evolution literature, presented with a conservative Muslim emphasis" concluding it "has no scholarly standing whatsoever". According to Richard Dawkins, Oktar "doesn't know anything about zoology, doesn't know anything about biology. He knows nothing about what he is attempting to refute".
The Council of Europe's Committee on Culture, Science and Education wrote in its report on this book that "None of the arguments in this work are based on any scientific evidence, and the book appears more like a primitive theological treatise than the scientific refutation of the theory of evolution." 

Who are these characters? They're disciples of Adnan Oktar - a leading Turkish Holocaust denier, antisemite and anti-science quack. Babuna and Gundogdu employ a range of sciencish to make a large number of false claims which ultimately boil down to insistence on the literal truth of their chosen sacred texts. Pretty quickly, their examination of evolution leads into an exposition of the End Times (Christians don't have a monopoly on Rapture nonsense). Oktar also got Richard Dawkins' site banned in Turkey.

They assert that evolution denies the existence of God, abolishes moral values, and promotes materialism and communism. Oktar argues that Darwinism, by stressing the "survival of the fittest", has inspired racism, Nazism, communism and terrorism. A claim not unexpected in Turkey when during the political turmoil before a 1980 military coup, communist bookshops touted Darwin's works as a complement to Karl Marx.
BAV spearheaded an effort to confront Turkish academics who taught evolutionary biology. A number of faculty members were harassed, threatened and slandered in fliers, leading to legal action against BAV. 

This really bothers me: universities shouldn't be hosting non-scientific charlatans. If students want to explore evolution, they should take a biology course in which they can experiment to their hearts' content, rather than attend pseudo-scientific events hosted by religious groups. Freedom of speech demands that all loons have their chance: but they shouldn't be given the credibility of a university as cover for divisive and dangerous nonsense.

In intend to go to this lecture - I may well blog it. I hope some of my biologist colleagues attend too. Come along: MC418, 1-3


ed said...

Give 'em hell in the Q & A Vole (respectfully, of course).

The Plashing Vole said...

Bollocks to respect. Religious groups have rarely extended respect to anyone - hence the Inquisitions - so I don't feel bound to be nice. I do intend to be scientifically accurate though.

ed said...

Hehe, ok, point taken.

Just, erm, don't take your sabre.