Turkey abandons High Tech Future by Banning Teaching of Evolution

By James Williams | (The Conversation) | – –

In the US there have been many attempts to expunge evolution from the school curriculm or demand that creationism – the idea that all life was uniquely created by God – is given equal treatment in science textbooks. While all these have failed, the government in Turkey has now banned evolution from its national curriculum.

US creationists want both views to be presented, to let children decide what to believe. Bids to reject this are wrongly characterised as attempts to shut down debate or free speech – to promote a scientific, atheistic, secular, ideology over a more moral, ethical, commonsense religious worldview.

Turkey’s decision goes much further. This isn’t about claiming equal treatment, it’s an outright ban. The government justifies it by claiming evolution is “difficult to understand” and “controversial”. Any controversy however is one manufactured by ultra-religious communities seeking to undermine science. Many concepts in science are more difficult than evolution, yet they still get taught.

Creationist arguments

Evolution, creationists argue, is just a theory – it’s not proven and so up for debate. Evolutionary trees (especially for humans) are regularly re-drawn after new fossil discoveries, showing how poor the theory is. After all, if the theory was correct, this wouldn’t keep changing. Often, creationists will pose a challenge for science to prove how life started, knowing that there is not yet a firm, accepted theory. Finally, there’s the king of all arguments: if we all evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?

These arguments are packed with factual inaccuracies and logical fallacies. Evolution doesn’t need an explanation of how life started. It simply describes how life develops and diversifies. Humans did not evolve from monkeys – we‘re great apes. Modern apes, including humans, evolved from now extinct pre-existing ape species. We’re related to, not descended from, modern apes.

Key creationist misconceptions

Creationists fail to understand that evolution itself is not a theory. Evolution happens. Life develops and diversifies, new species come into existence. We can see intermediate life forms right now, such as fish that are transitioning to living on land and land mammals that recently transitioned into aquatic life. The “theory of evolution” explains how evolution takes place. Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace first described the mechanism that drives the change – natural selection – in 1858.

Creationists also fail to understand the difference between a theory and a law in science. This is something that even science graduates suffer from, as I’ve noted in my own research. Theories explain scientific concepts. They are evidenced and accepted by the scientific community. Theories are the pinnacle of scientific explanation, not just a hunch or a guess. Laws however have a different role, they describe natural phenomena. For example, Newton’s laws of gravity do not explain how gravity happens, they describe the effects gravity has on objects. There are laws and theories for gravity. In biology however, there are few laws, so there is no law of evolution. Theories do not, given sufficient proof, become laws. They are not hierarchical.

A third issue is the lack of understanding of the nature of science. Science aims not to find some objective truth, but to elicit an explanation of natural phenomena. All scientific explanations are provisional. When new evidence is found that contradicts what we think we know, we change our explanations, sometimes rejecting theories that were once thought to be correct. Science is always working to try and falsify ideas. The more those ideas pass our tests, the more robust they are and the greater our confidence is that they are correct. Evolution has been tested for nearly 160 years. It’s never been falsified. Science only deals with natural phenomena, it doesn’t deal with or seek to explain the supernatural.

Why the ban is dangerous

Banning good science undermines all science, especially considering evolution’s place underpinning modern biology, with plenty of evidence to support it. For mainstream scientists, the fact that evolution happens is neither seriously questioned nor controversial. Any controversy in discussions of evolution resides in the role natural selection has in driving diversity and change, or the pace of that change.

This ban on teaching evolution in Turkish schools opens up the possibility that alternative, unscientific ideas may enter science teaching, from those who believe in a flat earth to deniers of gravity.

How do we deal with the apparent schism between religious belief and scientific evidence?

My research and approach has been to distinguish between religion, a belief system, and science, which works on the acceptance of evidence. Beliefs, including but not limited to religious beliefs, are often held irrationally, without evidence, and are resistant to change. Science is rational, based on evidence and is open to change when faced with new evidence. In science, we accept the evidence, rather than “choose to believe”.

The ConversationTurkey’s move to ban the teaching of evolution contradicts scientific thinking, and tries to turn the scientific method into a belief system – as if it were a religion. It seeks to introduce supernatural explanations for natural phenomena, and to assert that some form of truth or explanation for nature exists beyond nature. The ban is unscientific, undemocratic and should be resisted.

James Williams, Lecturer in Science Education, Sussex School of Education and Social Work, University of Sussex

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

Wochit News: “Turkey Will No Longer Teach Evolution In High Schools”

6 Responses

  1. This represents another step in Turkey’s turn toward the [Mid]East and away from Europe under Erdoğan’s leadership. His neo-Ottoman vision conjures the glories of Mehmet and Süleyman, but more likely will be a Neo-Hamidian return of “The Sick Man.”

    Sultan Recep Tayyip Çok Yaşa!

  2. It is extremely unfortunate that science is sacrificed at the altar of power struggle. Who would have imagined that Turkey a secular country would take 180 degree turn simply to hoodwink its people in the name of religion. Our country Pakistan also underwent the same frenzy and now it has become a violent place where terrorism of all hue and cry has found a safe haven in. Polarizing a country is the biggest sin a leader can possibly commit and Erdogan is well on his away to accomplish this abominable task.

    • My brother had asked his Pakistani colleagues at a party, most of whom are doctors by profession and in the US, whether they believed in evolution. Almost all did not. Considering some of their positions included research he wondered how they could dismiss it when their profession was built on and depended on that knowledge.

      Not surprisingly a lot of Pakistanis seem to support this anti-science initiative by Turkey, besides their support for Erdogan, whose like their new Islamic Sultan that’s going to bring back glory to the Muslim world for them somehow.

      I remember the Turkish Harun Yahya (otherwise known as Adnan Oktar) character who seemed to gain popularity amongst Muslim groups years earlier, including in the West, propagating anti-evolution (anti-science) beliefs and promoting an Islamic creationist narrative. Not surprisingly he was picked up by Pakistani TV personality Shahid Masood, which just mainstreamed more religious pseudo-science misinformation. The topic on evolution is now harder to teach or just skipped altogether by some teachers.

  3. The simple REALITY is due to technology, the earth now has a huge excess of workers.

    That is, **ALL** the goods and services needed or wanted by the 7.5 billion humans on earth can easily be provided by about 4 billion humans and that number is decreasing by the day as technology eliminates the need for humans in most activities.

    So, in the coming decades this will mean that less and less humans will be able to find jobs. It appears that there will soon be 25 humans competing for every available job on earth and the ones with the best trained brains will be the ones that succeed.

    Basically what is happening is religious based education which ignores REALITY in favor of the myth, will end up handicapping young adults who will not have a good background in the sciences and math.

    Of course the students that understand how their education is handicapping them just may rebel and in the end reject religion.

    Anti-intellectualism will not succeed in the end, especially in a world where the entire earth’s knowledge is available to most people 24/7/365 and censoring the Internet is an extremely complex and mostly losing proposition. Nations that over censor the Internet, will lose out in the global economy.

    What puzzles me is why parents would doom their kids to a miserable existence rather than want them to get well educated so they can succeed in a future world. All to protect some myths.

  4. Truth can’t be surpressed, it is a pressure cooker waiting to explode. Even placing a ban on teaching evolution theory is a victory for Science. New generations are socially and politically aware, they are not as naive as the older generation. The future is theirs and Science shapes our future today.

  5. The tentacles of religion are once again doing what they do best; strangling the life out of anything or anyone that dares oppose its simpleton mix of fantasy and reality.

    It’s an utter shame we are only allowed to point to bombs and violence as the dangerous ‘extremist element’ of religion, while major parts of the world being indoctrinated into lunacy on a daily basis doesn’t register as a problem at all.

    This wilful ignorance is and will be the cause of countless times the suffering all the IEDs in the world could ever hope to inflict.

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