Tuesday, January 15, 2013

And TUBITAK denies it has halted publication of evolution books

by Salman Hameed

When evolution becomes a political issue, it becomes very hard to trace what is really going on. Just yesterday, I had a post about TUBITAK - the Scientific and Technical Research Council of Turkey - halting further publication of evolution books. These concerns have also been echoed by some Turkish academics as well. But TUBITAK has denied this and says that this is propaganda against them (tip from Don Everhart):
The Scientific and Technical Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) has strongly denied reports that it has stopped printing books on evolution, saying the claims were “black propaganda” against their institution. 
“If we aim to censor Evolution Theory we would discontinue publishing any books containing evolutionist approaches, but on the contrary we are publishing the books that are not being published by other publishing houses,” an official from TÜBİTAK told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday in a phone interview. 
A number of reports in daily Sözcü claimed Jan. 14 that TÜBİTAK had put a stop to the publication and sale of all books in its archives that support the theory of evolution.
The evolutionist books, previously available through TÜBİTAK’s Popular Science Publications’ List, will no longer be provided by the council, the daily had claimed. 
Titles from prominent writers including Richard Dawkins, Alan Moorehead, Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Levontin and James Watson were listed as being among those which would no longer be available to Turkish readers. 
However, the official refuted the claims. “There are two books already in our 2012 catalogue regarding evolution, Richard Dawkins’ ‘The Blind Watchmaker’ is one of them … Dawkins’ ‘The Selfish Gene’ is not being published because of a publication rights issue, but this is being manipulated,” the official said.
Okay that is the first part. But this is where politics, evolution and science gets mushed together:
He claimed that “some circles” had kicked off a “black propaganda” campaign against TÜBİTAK to “shadow its success,” following the successful mission of Turkey’s first Earth observation satellite, Göktürk-2. 
Göktürk-2 was launched Dec. 18 in China, but Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan followed the launch at Ankara’s Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ) campus, which witnessed huge numbers of students protesting the prime minister’s visit.  
Erdoğan had called on the academics who supported the students to resign, but the police’s heavy-handed intervention in the protests also stirred a debate among Turkish universities, with some backing the police and Erdoğan and some opposing. 
TÜBİTAK had previously been the target of evolutionist circles for alleged censorship practices.  
In early 2009 a huge uproar occurred when the cover story of a TÜBİTAK publication was pulled, reportedly because it focused on Darwin’s theory of evolution. The incident led to intense criticism and finger-pointing from various representatives of the publication and its parent institute.  
A few months later, the article in question appeared as the publication’s cover story.
As you can see, there is the issue of TUBITAK's reputation, student protests, and the academics - many of whom do not support the ruling party, AKP. Let's see how the dust settles on this matter. 

But if you are interested, here are some past posts that may help in making some sense of the current situation:  

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