Muslim Creationism on the Rise in Europe

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The New Humanist has an article on the Islamic creationist group led by Turkish kook Harun Yahya (nee Adnan Oktar), and their mysteriously well-funded efforts to promote the anti-science agenda in Europe: Western front.

Examples cited of a growing creationist influence ranged from subtle downgrading of evolution in science education to outright attacks on the validity of Darwinism and the personality of Darwin himself. In Greece, the report found, evolution education was relegated to the very bottom of the science curriculum, which often meant in effect that secondary students learnt nothing about it because of a lack of time. In Switzerland organisations like The European Biblical Centre and the ProGenesis group were devoting considerable resources to promoting creationist education. In Russia a 16-year-old girl launched a court case against the Ministry of Education, backed by the Russian Orthodox Church, challenging the teaching of just one “theory” of biology in school textbooks as a breach of her human rights. In the UK in 2006 the Intelligent Design propagandists Truth in Science sent out a “teaching pack” to every secondary school and sixth-form college in the country.

One of the more bizarre cases cited by the report comes from Poland, where in October 2006 deputy minister of education Miroslaw Orzechowski told the Gazetta Wyborccza that “The theory of evolution is a lie, an error that we have legalised as a common truth.” He further argued that evolution is the “feeble idea of an aged non-believer” and put this error down to the fact that Darwin was “a vegetarian and lacked fire inside him”.

Each of these cases confirms the existence of a strong Christian creationist lobby in Europe, but the report also focused its attention on a new phenomenon – the rise of Muslim creationism. The central figure here is the Turkish Muslim creationist Adnan Oktar, who, writing under the pen name Harun Yahya, has made a career out of attacking Darwinian evolution. Oktar is a figure fairly well known to Darwinists and despite his claims to scientific competence is clearly little more than a crank. However what had changed, according to the report, was the scale and ambition of Oktar’s pseudo-scientific message. Since 2006 copies of a substantial, glossy and smartly packaged book called Atlas of Creation, credited to Harun Yahya, had been arriving at schools and universities across Europe. In Spain, France, Switzerland and Denmark clear evidence of the growing resources and confidence of European Muslim creationism was thudding on to the mat. The book is the first of a projected seven-part series, and parts two and three have already begun arriving at educational institutes Europe-wide.

Clearly, for the assembly, the report amounted to strong evidence that creationists were working strategically across Europe, with the aim of influencing the science curriculum as well as public opinion. Though it does not say so explicitly the implication of the report is that creationists of different denominations and faiths are, or might soon be, working together in a concerted assault on science teaching, in the same way that American creationists have been for the past decade. In response to the call for action from the Assembly, only the Swedish government acted promptly, swiftly issuing a general ban on the teaching of creationism and Intelligent Design in their schools.

My own copy of Atlas of Creation, all six kilos, arrived in 2006, just after my research group at the University of Aarhus had launched our Darwin in Denmark project, with online editions of Danish translations of Charles Darwin’s writings. In fact 20 copies arrived, unrequested and completely free.

Hardbound and expensively produced with almost 800 pages of text and images printed on glossy paper, this book presents one of the most remarkable attacks not only on the theory of evolution but on science itself. The book is full of scientific jargon, diagrams and tables, and appears to discuss Darwinian evolution in detail and refute it through careful consideration of the evidence of the fossil record, animal biology and the history of science. Most of this is the same old tired creationism, emphasising the gaps in the fossil record and making much of the various scientific hoaxes like “Piltdown Man” which, it argues, were attempts by Darwinians to fabricate proof for their hypothesis.

One of the most astonishing claims in the book is that Charles Darwin – the quiet Victorian gentleman naturalist – was responsible for the worst evils of the 20th century: racism, communism, fascism, Nazism, terrorism and, ultimately, 9/11. In a piece of overt symbolic theatre the book’s creators marked the anniversary of 9/11 last year by sending the Atlas to a large number of Protestant priests across Europe. The message was clear: in the fight against the theory of evolution Christians and Muslims stand united.

(Hat tip: Timothy Sandefur.)

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