Every now and again we hear from evolution educators that creationism is somehow unique to the United States. In his recent popular video denouncing creationism, for instance, Bill Nye “The Science Guy” said exactly that.
Not so fast! As scholars such as Ronald Numbers have documented, creationism has long been an international affair. In places such as Australia and Turkey, for instance, creationism has strong and apparently growing support.
The FT story demonstrates both the similarities and differences of creationism across national and cultural boundaries. In some senses, the story could come straight out of the USA. Other parts seem uniquely Turkish.
For instance, the story describes a controversy over the use of anti-evolution textbooks in Turkish schools. A teachers’ union has taken legal action to block schools in Istanbul from using anti-evolution textbooks. Just as in the USA, the Turkish government has made moves to loosen Turkey’s traditional government secularism in a strongly religious nation. The government, according to the FT article, has allowed more schools to favor religious themes.
All of this sounds like it could have come directly from the evolution/creation controversies in the USA.
But other parts of the story have a uniquely Turkish twist. The schoolbooks, for example, denounce Darwin as Jewish. According to the FT, the textbooks warn students that Darwin “had two problems: first he was a Jew; second, he hated his prominent forehead, big nose and misshapen teeth.” The books mock Darwin’s lack of formal education, noting strangely that he preferred to spend his time with monkeys in the zoo.
Such anti-Semitic attacks do not usually appear in America’s evolution/creation controversies. More common would be attacks on Darwin’s atheism. For the record, Darwin was not Jewish. However, a creationist attempt to discredit Darwin by “accusing” him of Jewishness makes some sense in a Turkish context.
Clearly, context matters. Students in Louisiana’s publicly funded schools might read textbooks promoting creationism and evangelical Protestantism. Students in Istanbul’s publicly funded schools had read that Darwin could not be trusted because he was Jewish.