Cüneyt Ülsever - English

Religion and science

30 Aralık 2008
Religion and science are two travelers on the same path looking for the truth. Religion, however, is based on certainty as science relies on doubt.

So their methodologies are different.

Theory in religion is true eternally but in science it is true until proven false by another theory.

What is "right" is found and affirmed by heart in religion. But in science, right is "right" until proven wrong.

For instance, the sentence "There is no neighborhood pressure in the AKP period" is right for some people since it is impossible for a Muslim to pressure others.

Yet according to others, the thesis "There is no neighborhood pressure in the AKP period" is wrong if there exists single evidence.

Why did I write these?

The research conducted by Professor Binnaz Toprak on laic circles proved once again that the Turkish media is not equipped with science at all!

Columnists, who are insulting science just to look good to the governing Justice and Development Party, or AKP, have no clue about methodology. But they were quick to fiercely criticize methodology of the in-depth interview. In the end, they had to make a U-turn about "There is no neighborhood pressure in the AKP period" and changed their discourse to "There is nothing wrong with it. Ignorant and intolerant people always apply neighborhood pressure!"

Interpretation of scientific methodology by applying allegiance methodology is not only a form of thought for writers with religious education. It is also applied by professors with degrees abroad or writers graduated from Boğaziçi University who are buttering up the government.

The reason is that once you have surrendered to the AKP government, you should never make a mistake against the administration mentality that never takes a shred of criticism. Otherwise you will be labeled as the "traitor". It is not important at all if you become an object of derision in scientific circles or if your articles are about to wipe off your prestige!

On the other hand, being a toady opens the doors that you are after anyway!

Education’s objective is to teach learning. And the only way of learning is to have doubts on what you know. For this reason, Islamic scholars in the Golden Era of Islam organized debates and asked the question "If someone asks us to prove that Allah does not exist, how will we answer?"

Being skeptical, however, runs the risk of hearing "Hang him!" at times.

Apparently, not everyone can take such a risk!

We have learned two things from Professor Toprak’s study: 1) Neighborhood pressure is definitely there and is fueled by the AKP. 2) Some columnists write their pieces by applying allegiance methodology even if they are not religious!

*I wish you all a Happy New Year.
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Country of people spitting over research

25 Aralık 2008
A section of journalists in Turkey see scientific studies in two dimensions: 1) Studies that suit me; and

2) Studies do not suit me.

As they are illiterate of scientific methodology, or forget about methodology, as they are ignorant about the concept of science, they make assessments with the feeling of "I don’t care," or "He is awesome! Do you see how he crushed it into pieces?"

Due to being clueless about science, they are never ashamed of spitting over research methodologies of scientists and do not care about putting themselves in an awkward position in front of scientists at the cost of protecting the government.

That’s why I analyzed the methodology of the field study on "neighborhood pressure" conducted by a team of scientists led by Professor Binnaz Toprak. I reached the following conclusion:

"The methodology of the study, conducted on laic circles only, is in-depth interview! In such research no certain numeric results come out.

"Similar perceptions and events in different places are not scientific findings, but they compose strong opinions and give birth to hypothesis for future studies."

I knew all along that the attacks would be made on the methodology. In fact, as far as I see Bülent Korucu, Mehveş Evin, Ahmet Taşgetiren, Emre Aköz, Ayşe Böhürler and regrettably Hayrettin Karaman verbally attacked the methodology.

Some have never heard of a research methodology called "in-depth interview."

Emre Aköz of daily Sabah, speaking on ATV, commented on the pressure applied by drinkers to non-drinkers and said, "Stop building opinions through drinks."

That’s fine, but didn’t his wife with the following remark prove a short while ago that he is not buttering up Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan;

As reported in Radikal on Nov. 16, 2008, "He [Emre Aköz] was the one who drank Talisher whiskey across the Prime Minister, this is called buttering up, I think!"

And I think Aköz was sipping Talisker as he was reading this study or speaking on ATV. I have nothing to say for columnists like Ahmet Taşgetiren who fail to see the neighborhood pressure applied in the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government period on laic circles, due to their training of thought.

However, I am of the opinion that the study on laic circles only taught ex-liberal- new-pro-AKP columnists a good lesson.

Former liberals saying "Neighborhood pressure certainly did not exist in the AKP period," and condemning Şerif Mardin for introducing the concept, have begun to dance around as this study was released and say, "Come on, there is always neighborhood pressure, lack of tolerance has always existed in the society!"

They are right, neighborhood pressure always exists, but what they want to cover up is that the concept of "pressure" always goes hand-in-hand with the concept of "government" and these two concepts always move in the same direction.

The following conviction attributed to laic circles and voiced almost all the time by Professor Toprak is very critical:

"We heard from retailers, businessmen and civil servants that most people have begun to attend Friday prayers or closed down their stores just to be seen as though they are going to mosque during the praying time and people whom their wives began to cover their heads since then as salutations have transformed into "Selam aleykum" from "Hello," they hesitate to have drinks in public places and began to act as if they are fasting during Ramadan though they are not..."

The situation is put into numeric values as follows: The number of Memur-Sen members, a pro-government trade union for civil servants, jumped up to 325,000 in 2008 from 42,000 in 2002 as the number of the Confederation of Public Employees Trade Unions, or KESK, members dropped by 39,000!

Tomorrow, we will look at the Fethullah Gülen religious community.
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I congratulate Professor Toprak

24 Aralık 2008
Professor Binnaz Toprak is one of the most important scientists in Turkey. She put her mark on very critical field studies. Previously, Ms. Toprak conducted research on feelings and thoughts of the pious who are sensitivity toward Islam and made great contributions to the exposition of their feeling of exclusion. And now, together with İrfan Bozan, Tan Morgül and Nedim Şener, she is analyzing the concept of "neighborhood pressure," introduced by renowned sociologist Şerif Mardin, on laic circles through a study supported by Boğaziçi University and the Open Society Institute and titled, "Being Different in Turkey: Those who are made to be like others based on religion and conservatism."

I, as a person claiming that the governing Justice and Development Party, or AKP, is causing neighborhood pressure by exploiting the National View since 2004 through the neighborhood policy, scrutinized this study and followed a related meeting with pleasure.

First of all, I congratulate Professor Toprak and her fellow scientists for their courage. They conducted research on a topic which we will discuss for a long time and will have a hard time digesting. Before mentioning the findings of the study, I would like to share my observations on its methodology because those who will belittle the study will make their attempts through this angle.

Key points
The study was conducted during face-to-face meetings in 12 provinces, by spending three to four days in each, and with a total of 401 people, 265 of whom were men and 136 were women. Its methodology is in-depth interview! In such research, no certain and numeric results come out. Besides, I am not sure how certain the results in studies on perception could be. For instance, a person may not perceive the neighborhood pressure as a pressure if he or she knows life through such pressure, or some other may perceive it as a pressure even if it is applied on one person only. In a country where even figures can be interpreted at one’s personal discretion, remember what happened to Tarhan Erdem in a previous study, a study that does not reveal numeric results will also be interpreted at one’s own discretion.

2) This study was about the neighborhood pressure on laic circles only, as I mentioned above. Professor Toprak conducted research on the pious previously and was applauded by them, too. Now hearing the remark "Why don’t you analyze [the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, Istanbul deputy] Canan Arıtman?" from these pious circles is pure nonsense! A crime writer cannot be asked "Why didn’t you write about love?" If this is done, it is called not playing the game.

However, if Professor Toprak is, on the contrary, applauded as "Welcome among us," this becomes equally unfair. Praise like "I have known all about the fact. Look you have learned it too," is being disrespectful to the researcher.

3) The thesis that the study was conducted with 401 participants only, or only members of such and such associations were interviewed, reflects how much the person making such a claim favors the non-scientific approach. For instance, a scientist making a study on Muslims cannot be lashed out at through the remark "Why didn’t you go to church, but went to mosque instead!" Laic participants can be found in laic associations.

4) If participants from different cities came up with similar stories and expressed similar concerns, these findings cannot be labeled as "urban legends," as they were created by the media.

Similar perceptions and events in different places are not scientific findings, but they compose strong opinions and give birth to hypothesis for future studies. I read this study through the description above. I will talk about the findings tomorrow.
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Possible impact of the crisis on Turkey

3 Aralık 2008
I wrote yesterday that I had a chance to listen to the 1999 winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics Robert A. Mundell, expert in economy politics Arvid Lukauskas, and expert in international finance and growth economics Francisco L. Rivera-Batiz during a conference titled "The Global Financial Crisis and its Possible Effects on Turkey" organized at Bahçeşehir University. I was inspired by Batiz’s speech so analyzed the reasons behind this global crisis. Today, I will focus on its possible effects on developing countries, including Turkey.

According to the figures Batiz gave, increases in Gross National Product, or GNP, in some countries due to the crisis will be as follows (%):



Japan 2.10.5-0.1

Eurozone2.6 1.0-0.6





With this pessimistic tableau, Professor Batiz says the crisis was transferred, and will be transferred, to the developing markets from the United States through the ways I list below:

1) Institutions and private individuals who were credited or invested in a sunken mortgage will not be able to take their money back. So they will be negatively affected by the crisis. Russian oligarchs and banks of UBS are in the lead among them.

2) U.S. and European banks affected by the crisis and having branches, partnerships etc. in developing countries will carry the crisis into these countries.

3) Countries including Ireland and Spain that have provided U.S.-like mortgage credit are in crisis now due to declining real estate prices all over the world.

4) Since this financial crisis slows down the economy, the United States and some other rich countries will purchase fewer goods from developing countries. So the export in developing countries will decline. Good prices have already decreased. The U.S. reducing imports will face relative foreign trade deficit.

5) Risk factors attributed to countries with shrinking export and therefore economy will rise, as foreign capital will escape from them. Russia became the country facing the highest loss in value (%68.9) when the Russian stock market lost foreign capital in 2007. Turkey is ranked number two with 67.6 percent in the list of countries losing capital severely.

6) Countries having current deficits of over 5 percent of their GNPs, which is 6.6 percent in Turkey, will hardly find foreign credit.

7) Eventually, the monetary units of developing countries will face a dramatic devaluation against the U.S. dollar. With 41 percent, Turkey is the second following South Korea (48.7 percent) in the list of the countries whose monetary units lost most in 2008. What should Turkey do?

Batiz says Turkey has to strike a deal with the International Monetary Fund!

However, it should reject the practice of high interest rates and tight monetary policy impositions by the IMF due to fears of increasing inflation. Inflation is going up but the global economic recession and declining prices will curb inflation automatically. Turkey should not try to protect the YTL against U.S. dollar because that could encourage dollar purchasing from markets and pull the interest rate up and invite economic recession through a shrinkage in money supply. In summary, Turkey should, at all costs, maintain economic activities, encourage export, give value to high goods and service exports and stimulate more savings.
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Reasons for the economic crisis

2 Aralık 2008
Friends in Bahçeşehir University helped me to indulge a day of wisdom on Friday. I was equipped with valuable information on the global economic crisis and its possible effects on Turkey on that day and was thrilled with the brain storming there. Nobel Prize for the Economy winner, Robert A. Mundell, expert in economy politics Arvid Lukauskas and expert in international finance and growth economies, Francisco L. Rivera-Batiz, participated in the conference titled, "The Global Financial Crisis and its Effects on Turkey," organized by Bahçeşehir University and Columbia University. So I had a great opportunity to listen to these gurus who all are faculty at Columbia University.

I will write about the reasons of this crisis today and will focus on Professor Batiz’s speech about possible effects of the financial crunch on developing countries.

Today let me analyze the reasons.

Professor Batiz lists the reasons behind the crisis, about which American officials have been trying to earmark $5.1 trillion in the form of funding, direct loans or loan guarantees and about which the International Monetary Fund, or IMF, estimated a loss of $1.5 trillion, as follows:

1) With ever increasing levels of prosperity in the world, net private sector investments of other countries in the United States between 1999 and 2005 increased about 100 percent. In 1999, the United States received $248 billion in foreign investment and that jumped to $482 billion in 2005. Plainly, foreign investment flowed in the United States.

2) China is a good example to what extent the prosperity increased just before the crisis! China had $53.6 billion foreign exchange reserve in 1994 and that jumped up to $1.528 trillion at the end of 2007. (I think approximately $1 trillion of these reserves in the United States Ğ C. Ü) Increase in the amounts of reserves was recorded as roughly 30 times in 13 years.

3) But on the other hand, U.S. investments remained at 19 percent of gross domestic product, or GDP, in the period 1994-2001 and savings dropped from 17 percent to 14.3 percent. The United States spent more money at that time, saved less, but did not limit investments. The United States met the difference which amounted to 4.9 percent from 2.6 percent by foreign financing.

Figures Professor Batiz gave clearly show that the United States before the crisis was going through a borrowing mania over the last decade. A foreign exchange influx was consumed irresponsibly. And that some part of this money was channeled into the real estate sector which was growing independently from costs, population increase and other income sources. The abundance of resources made less fortunate people buy houses through mortgage credits. Sub-prime credits were met only if the house prices were increasing. Distributing mortgage credits non-stop finally hit a dead-end and banks could not sell more houses. This time the houses prices took an opposite turn, downwards. With that, even safe debtors turned into risky ones.

Credits that were collected from other countries and that were financed through various financial instruments toxic papers sped up the financial crisis globally.

Tomorrow, I will analyze the effects of this crisis on Turkey.
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The biggest trump card against the crisis: Iraq!

25 Kasım 2008
As the United States withdraws from Iraq, either this or that way, Iraq will see Kurds in the Northern Iraqi Administration as its closest ally and for the sake of it, Iraq needs a stable Turkey. As you know, the United States decided to pull out of Iraq by the end of 2011. And we are now worried about whether we will have permission from Iraq to hit the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, as the authority on the entire of Iraq will rest with the Iraqi army as of 2009. However, there is something more important about this decision which affects us deeply.   

Shiite Leader Muqtada al Sad forming a militia army, Mahdi Army, with his thousands supporters announced he will not recognize any agreement with United States and will resist until the United States withdraws from Iraq completely. Al Sadr believes the United States made a truce not with the Iraqi people but with Kurds only, i.e. Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani.

Iran backs al Sadr and some Sunni groups support him for not complying with the agreement signed between the United States and Iraq regarding the pull-out.

Al Sadr had not recognized the U.S.-led Iraqi Temporary Government and declared the formation of an alternative government. When the Sadr region was surrounded by U.S. forces and with Shiite leaders’ mediation al Sadr had stepped back.

If he is not convinced, even civil war may be an issue in Iraq not alone reaching an agreement. As I wrote many times, ever-fighting Sunni and Shiite in Iraq may form an alliance against Kurds following a U.S. pull-out. A civil war right before our noses and the eventual disintegration of Iraq may be the case. So Turkey should make calculations of, "what will we do in case of an Iraqi civil war," rather than "from whom will we have permission for an airborne attack?"

It is for sure that as the United States withdraws from Iraq, either this or that way, Iraq will see Kurds in the Northern Iraqi Administration as its closest ally and for the sake of it, Iraq needs a stable Turkey.

The future of northern Iraq is quite relevant to Turkey’s consent to be its patron.

Ercan Kumcu of daily Hürriyet wrote in an article on Nov. 24, 2008, that countries not having convertible monetary units cannot remedy the economic crisis by pumping up hot cash to markets while having loose finance policies. We are a country that has no other option but to find foreign resources and the International Monetary Fund, or IMF, is our key anchor.

"The third group is countries trying to reach a stand-by agreement with the IMF. What they have common is that they have a current transaction deficit in general and have foreign exchange reserves that are not enough to allow them to loosen up monetary and finance policies. Turkey is in this category," Ercan Kumcu wrote.

Developed countries with a convertible monetary unit should claim the countries in the third category for the sake of their own benefits. However, Turkey is only one of the countries in this category. What I want to emphasize here is that Turkey is among these countries due to the Iraqi issue and is distinguishable due to the Iraqi issue!

The developed countries, primarily the United States, will definitely need Turkey as part of their strategy about the U.S. withdrawal. So they have to consider that Turkey needs to take place among the countries least affected by the crisis.

I am sure that someone has already shared, or will share, this with the IMF officials. And I hope Turkey will make a good use of this advantage!  
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Why AKP has changed

18 Kasım 2008
The governing Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has recently inclined toward the status quo and is becoming more hawkish. Various people think there are various reasons behind this policy change in the AKP. Some voices say Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is being left alone so he cannot produce new policies, that due to exhaustion his nervous system is worn out. Therefore, following the closure case, he has preferred the status quo and the Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK, so they say. You can say that Mr. Prime Minister has never been a real democrat or liberal and is now returning to his origins.

Certainly, in all these statements, there is reality, as societal facts are usually not based on single reasons; what has influenced those reasons may be different though.

I, on the other hand, seek a single rational reason in every societal fact; therefore I see the change in AKP as based on one simple reason; Local elections!

Erdoğan is almost obsessed with winning İzmir, Diyarbakır and Çankaya municipalities and not losing the İstanbul and Ankara municipalities. His strategy does not focus on freedoms, demands, or pleasing liberals. These concepts no longer serve to bring him additional benefits.

Erdoğan intends to act with a new, more solid concept and a new alliance in local elections, both of which were planned in the past, but were not yet prioritized.
The National View and the appearance of income transfer!

What he thinks of as income transfer is gearing up distribution of coal and food, and pumping municipal expenditure to construct roads, bridges, cross-roads, parks etc.

For him, city planning projects are another way of earning extra money for the bread-and-butter. If Erdoğan is able to keep the International Monetary Fund, or IMF, busy enough, he may send the message, "Look, keeping foreigners away helps us to direct public resources at your service." As part of the plan, the economy will not depend on the IMF, a reliable international institution. However, it is necessary to take a chance on the impact of this on the economy and the political cost of layoffs, until March.

I think Mr. Prime Minister has already made the cost-benefit analysis as part of his choice. Erdoğan wants to use the National View group, acting together with the AKP, to make more compromises. There are two reasons behind this;

1) Young, dynamic Numan Kurtulmuş was elected as the new leader of the Saadet Party, or SP. So National Viewers are motivated by that. But now the AKP needs a new motivation to keep former National Viewers in the party. This time Erdoğan will praise National Viewers and will clearly rely on them in the elections.

2) Erdoğan also plans to activate Islamist Kurds, who are fed up with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and who are quite strong in the Southeast, rather than concentrating on freedom for Kurds in general. Instead of stealing votes from the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party, or DTP, Erdoğan has planned to bring more non-DTP votes to his party.

However, I cannot measure how well Erdoğan has made the cost-benefit analysis, how much pro status quo policies, not including the discourse of freedom, acting together with the military, will influence Islamist Kurds. Besides, I really would not know the extent to which he will be supported by the Gülen Community and Hezbolllah, both of which are very influential with Islamist Kurds.
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What’s going on with old friends?

11 Kasım 2008
I think Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s separating ways with his right-hand man Dengir Mir Mehmet Fırat is a turning point for the governing Justice and Development Party, or AKP.

Perhaps the claims raised by Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu of the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, have played a role in this and even Fırat’s health problems have pitched in, too. But I believe the real problem between these two friends is the difference of opinion on the "Kurdish issue." I write articles that Erdoğan has given up on making radical statements since the end of 2004 and adopted a policy of pleasing a party group that was transferred from the National View to AKP.

In this direction, Erdoğan had even started to make excuses in Turkey’s accession bid to the European Union and sold out Alevis at once! But his attitude against the military’s involvement in politics was then keeping Erdoğan away from the line of pro-status quo. To this end, his reaction to the Apr. 27 military e-memorandum became one of the factors that brought Erdoğan a victory in the July 22 general elections.

Besides the deep silence the former Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Büyükanıt kept after reaching the famous Dolmabahçe consensus with Erdoğan caused rumors against the general. But regardless of the motives, Büyükanıt’s hawkish stance against the passive opposition was registered as a political success on Erdoğan’s account. The appointment of Gen. İlker Başbuğ as the new top military commander has turned all the balances upside down.

In the aftermath of the Aktütün attack committed by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, weaknesses of the Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK, became the central topic of media debates. And the government kept complete silence against the criticisms that razed the TSK to the ground. After Taraf daily published some photographs and intelligence information about the attack, government spokesman Cemil Çiçek likened the TSK to the televised game show Big Brother Watching.

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