Darwin Is Too Hot for Turkish Officials: Evolution Article Gets Censored

By Eliza Strickland | March 11, 2009 2:12 pm

Charles DarwinA 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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Image: Wikimedia

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Human Origins, Living World
  • Truk

    Darwin believed Turks were an inferior race. Ofcourse they re not going to put him on a cover of a magazine..

  • docdeal

    i was not aware that Darwin believed the Turks to be an inferior ethnic group or race. the truth about differences between the races is a hot button issue those within generalization parameters there are obvious differences. however just as there are exceptions to every rule there are those within their respective races that buck the tyrend of general findings. for instance, it is obvious that among ashkenazi jews the group is disproportionally represented with Nobel Laureates, scientific achievements and IQs higher than 140. Yet I am certain the group also has idiots, imbeciles and morons like the rest of us.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/ Eliza Strickland

    I also have never heard anything about Darwin’s thoughts on Turkish people. And while he certainly wasn’t immune to the prejudices of his time, he did come from a family of abolitionists.

    This 80beats post has full explanation of how his anti-slavery views may have influenced his work on evolution, and the comment thread has an impassioned debate.

  • Nicole

    Armenians have never been in better company. The Turkish government censors information on the Armenian genocide and on Darwin’s theory. Can anybody doubt the desperation of these fools? The Turkish people deserve better.

  • Michael

    All peoples deserve access to information and opinion. Where that is stifled, ignorance and war result. The internet should be unfettered and accessable in all countries.

  • Starwatcher16253647

    I had thought I had remembered reading that turkey was a rather secular society, I am rather surprised they choose to censor.

  • Steve Anderson

    How about a citation for such outrageous claims, such as Darwin considered the Turks an inferior race?

  • http://johnkyrk.com/evolution.tr.swf Uzay Sezen

    This is an outrageous event. Sadly, Turkey is rapidly sliding into being a rather conservative (radical) state. Financially strong creationist groups spend inconceivable amounts of money to produce gorgious glossy hardcover books which has no scientific basis claiming to refute evolution. Same groups are banning access to internet sites with strange court cases. They open those cases in towns where judges have been known to be strategically replaced by the islamist government. Scientists are under intense creationist propaganda with the good old arguments.

    Soon I am pretty sure this forum will be flooded by the followers of the creationist groups (a.k.a Harun Yahya, a fake pen name) who are systematically tracking such articles. Secularist folks in Turkey are frustrated, overhelmed and feel rather marginalised with such happpenings occuring almost daily.

  • Mika

    Why is it such a big news that in Turkey they censored one science article? They do that in the USA all the time. Is the memory that short? Evolution was banned in Kansas; denied, buried, silenced, made illegal, ripped out of school books, etc. You do not have to go all the way across the Atlantic to find that kind of sabotage of the truth. It is a real shame that Kansas, USA, has made us such a joke in the Western World. Not to mention the whole “Creationist” propaganda that further gives us the Weirdos of the World-status. Nothing to be proud about.

  • John

    According to the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK), who publish the journal in question, this is not a case of censorship. They point out the many evolutionary texts the organisation is responsible for. They also say we can expect a special issue devoted to evolution this year.

    Press release here:
    http://www.tubitak.gov.tr/home.do?ot=5&rt=3&sid=0&cid=13697

  • http://johnkyrk.com/evolution.tr.swf Uzay Sezen

    Mika, in an interconnected world we cannot ignore a node and leave to boil down with its own problems. Turkey has recently became a staging ground for creationists:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/17/science/17book.html

    John, the explanation from TUBITAK came after overwhelming number of protests.

  • Aykut

    The matter of the fact is, Darwin is viewed in many east asia and african countries as trying to conceal racism with science, not only in Turkey.
    This is one of his letters;

    http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?viewtype=side&itemID=F1452.1&pageseq=334

    I suppose if a man with such credibility in the scientific society reduces himself to groundless accusations as these that credibility will begin to weaver sooner or later.
    I honestly cant see anything bigger than European and American (Caucus races) having more support for Darwin than anywhere else in the world.
    Its not that Turks dont believe in the idea of evolution and has nothing to do with the fact that Turkey is a muslim country, its just too hard to believe words of a man claiming one thing one day and completely the oppsite the next.

  • penny

    Aykut

    You have been seriously misinformed about Darwin. I seriously suggest that those critical of Darwin should actually read his text (real text) before critisising him.

  • Ayse

    It is 2012, there is no race difference, same religion and same goal which is to help everyone and

    educate them. This is science used to heal cancer, climate change for comparison of species

    distribution. Everything should be discussed to approach the truth.

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