ISTANBUL - The reports about Turkey’s top science agency pulling its own magazine's cover-story on Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution at the last minute has hurt the international standing of Turkish science, with major dailies and respected science journals reporting the case.
Nature magazine reported on the outcry on the Scientific and Technical Research Council of Turkey, or TÜBİTAK’s, decision to withdraw the article, while science magazine Discover reported the controversy as "Darwin is too hot for Turkish officials."
Discover said Turkish writer Ender Helvacıoğlu from Science and Future magazine called on the science community to react against this incident and pressure the government, which has the last word in appointing the council’s scientific committee. "This intervention can’t be regarded as solely censorship. It represents the state’s rejection of science," he wrote.
Newspapers also struck out at TÜBİTAK over the matter, with the New York Times reporting on the debate about the growing influence of religion in secular institutions.
"Darwinism is a controversial topic, but rarely came up in public debates before the AKP, which has Islamic roots, came to power in 2002," the article read.
Irish Times reported that local academics were up in arms over the controversy, quoting Tahsin Yesildere, the head of the Association for University Lecturers, as saying, "This incident makes it clear that Turkish science is in the hands of anachronistic brains who hold it in contempt."
Lord Martin Rees, president of the Royal Society in London, described the changes to the magazine as an "astonishing" example of "cultural corruption and É intellectual dishonesty" during an interview with CNN-Türk.
Irish Times also reported on a 2006 quote by Hüseyin Çelik, the education minister, who said: "Evolutionary theory overlaps with atheism, [creationism] with religious belief. Given that polls show only 1 percent of Turks are atheists, not teaching creationist claims in biology classes would be tantamount to censorship."
Turks not receptive
"Yet with polls suggesting that barely a quarter of Turks accept evolutionary theories, analysts say it would be wrong to lay all the blame at AKP’s door," the Irish daily also wrote.
British daily the Observer wrote that the controversy over the Darwin article had become a political issue, noting that academics and opposition politicians were accusing the government of trying to impose religious ideas on academic institutions.
French daily Le Monde described TÜBİTAK as Turkey’s most prestigious scientific institution, adding that the incident showed it had come under the influence of the government. Le Monde said anti-evolution groups had staged many campaigns in the past few years, including shutting down Web sites. It said this was the first time a state institution had become the target of anti-evolutionist groups.