For Immediate Release: June 23, 2017
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director
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The Education Ministry of Turkey will no longer allow the teaching of evolution in schools, a decision that the Center for Inquiry and Richard Dawkins have denounced as an unconscionable neglect of Turkey’s students, and a troubling rejection of the country’s proud tradition of secularism.
“This is a tragedy for the future of Turkey, as a generation of its young people will be robbed of the opportunity to learn about this fundamental and undeniable principle of biology, and misled about their country’s secular foundations,” said Robyn Blumner, President and CEO of the Center for Inquiry (CFI).
“As Turkish scientists will agree, evolution is an established fact, as firmly established as plate tectonic movements or the solar orbits of the planets,” said renowned evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, whose foundation is a division of CFI. “I’d like to pay the Turkish framers of this ridiculous education policy the compliment of assuming that they are cynical political manipulators. But actually, I fear they are more likely to be just plain stupid.”
Alpaslan Durmus, head of the curriculum board, said that evolution was “too controversial” a subject for students, and that it is “beyond their comprehension.” The new curriculum, which will also diminish the importance of secularism in the country’s founding and history, is set to take effect in 2019.
“The claim that evolution is ‘too complicated’ is absurd and an insult to Turkey’s students and teachers,” said Blumner, “We know from our work with middle school science teachers that students pretty easily grasp the basic principles of evolution. Moreover, learning about natural selection — the process that undergirds the diversity of all of life on Earth — fascinates and inspires students. How can the government even consider withholding that from students?”
The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science sponsors the Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science (TIES), a program dedicated to training middle school science teachers to more effectively teach evolution and answer its critics.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is pursuing a destructive religious conservative agenda based on Islamist principles, a stark contrast to the country’s secularist foundations.
“We urge the Turkish government to reverse course. Purposely fostering scientific ignorance will handicap generations of children,” said Blumner, “The Turkish people must speak out against this decision, and stand up for their children’s — and their country’s — future.”