ANKARA - After suppressing an article about evolution, Turkey's primary science and technology institution became the target yesterday for high-level state officials who disapprove of the censorship.
Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey, or TÜBİTAK's, "Science and Technology" magazine canceled a story on Charles Darwin, founder of the evolutionary theory, at the last minute earlier this month. Parliament speaker Köksal Toptan warned TÜBİTAK to be more careful, and said suppressing the Darwin issue was the wrong decision.
A group of academics from the University Councils Association protested the "Darwin scandal" in front of TÜBİTAK headquarters yesterday. "Stop the enemies of science," read the group’s placards. TÜBİTAK Vice President Professor Ömer Cebeci allegedly canceled the 16-page story on Charles Darwin and the evolutionary theory, which was prepared as part of the 150th anniversary of the publication of "On the Origin of Species" (Nov. 24, 1859) and the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth (Feb. 12, 1809).
"Cebeci did not refuse the claims," said the group. Science and Technology’s March issue also removed a two-page list of TÜBİTAK’s books on Darwin. The journal published a story on climate change instead of the Darwin piece. "Whether you like it or not, TÜBİTAK should have been more sensitive on the issue," Toptan said. The magazine’s chief editor, Çiğdem Atakuman, who prepared the Darwin cover, was removed from her post by Cebeci.
’The guy is already dead’
State Minister Mehmet Aydın expressed discontent at the removal of the Darwin story. The government never politicizes science, said Aydın at the opening of the TÜBİTAK’s Aegean research and development day in İzmir yesterday. "You cannot censure such a renowned scientist. This is not TÜBİTAK’s mission," the minister said.
Aydın said the chief editor was not removed from her post, basing his comment on a conversation with a TÜBİTAK official. "What kind of a fight can we have with Darwin? The guy is already dead," Aydın said. TÜBİTAK President Professor Hüket Yetiş was present at the opening but did not answer questions on the Darwin censure. "The evolution theory is a basic feature of the biological sciences. Since the start of 2008, 23,406 scientific articles on evolution were published worldwide, including fundamental science magazines like Nature and Science," said an academic from the University Councils Association."Cebeci is an ignorant manager and is unaware of the scientific research going on abroad and at home. The political decision makers that brought Cebeci to his post are just as ignorant as Cebeci himself," the academic said. The University Councils’ Association will organize a symposium on evolutionary science with the participation of Turkish scientists for May 23 and 24. The Electrical Engineer's Chamber condemned the alleged suppression of the Darwin story yesterday and "recalled that freedoms are not all about religion and faith."