A top official at Turkey’s science agency reportedly forced the editors of its science magazine to remove a cover story on the life and work of Charles Darwin in what appears to be a sign of the Turkish government’s official discomfort with the theory of evolution.
The article was stripped from the March issue of the widely read popular-science magazine Bilim ve Teknik (Science and Technology) just before it went to press. The magazine, which is published by Turkey’s research funding and science management organization, TÜBİTAK, also switched a planned cover picture of Darwin for an illustration relating to global warming [Nature News]. The editor of the magazine says she was removed from her post over the incident, but has declined to comment further as she’s still an employee of TUBITAK.
The March issue of the magazine, which was intented to celebrate Darwin’s 200th birthday, reached newsstands a week late and 16 pages short. Once the behind-the-scenes machinations became known, academics reacted with outrage. Turkish writer Ender Helvacıoğlu from Science and Future magazine called on the science community to react against this incident and pressure the government, who has the last word appointing the council’s scientific committee. “This intervention can’t be regarded as solely censorship. It connotes the states rejection of science” [Bianet], he wrote. Today a group of university professors were expected to gather at the science council’s headquarters to call for the resignation of the official who ordered the article removed.
The council’s move has been considered an indication of growing political influence over the science institution, as were the August 2008 amendments to TUBİTAK’s charter that gave the government a certain degree of control over the institution [Hurriyet]. TUBITAK has also been criticized recently for partisan appointments.
TUBITAK officials haven’t yet commented on the incident, and government officials have sent decidedly mixed messages. State Minister Mehmet Aydin, who oversees TUBITAK, also slammed the forced change of the magazine cover, even though he appeared to dismiss evolution as a “mistaken” theory…. The council “is supposed to reflect the views of all those who have served to science, no matter how mistaken they can be,” he said [AFP].
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