Creationist Cult Leader Adnan Oktar Sentenced To Prison

 Adnan Oktar aka Harun Yahya, who styles himself as an Islamic preacher and expert on creationism, has been sentenced to three years in prison, not because of his beliefs, but as the outcome of a long-running case against him in which he was accused of blackmailing his acolytes, the young offspring of wealthy Turks, by, among other things, threatening to release to the media secret videos of them engaging in sex. This had a particularly chilling effect on his female followers. When I interviewed him at his home several years ago, he was under house arrest on these charges. His glass-walled house is set in a terraced garden that covers a large part of a hillside overlooking the Bosphorus on the Asian side, a property worth many millions. During the interview, it became clear to me that — in my opinion, at least — Mr. Oktar knows next to nothing about Islam, not surprising since he has no training in it.

It surprises me that, although these things are widely known about him in Turkey, he still manages to attract followers, including the two well-educated, intelligent young men who brought me to the interview. There is a cultish element to his operation. He wears black Armani and, I was told by people who said they had witnessed this, his well-dressed acolytes recruit followers in fancy upscale nightclubs.

The western press has played along and given him international notoriety by describing him as a Muslim preacher and Islamic author without mentioning the court case against him, which even the most rudimentary research would have revealed. This notoriety and the vast sums of money he spends on publishing fancy-photo creationist tracts and mailing them around the world have increased his popularity globally, a perfect example of hype creating reality. The AKP and the Fethullah Gulen movement’s support of creationism in Turkey has had the effect of increasing Oktar’s legitimacy, even though neither the AKP nor Gulen’s people claim affiliation. Yet there they were last summer — Oktar’s acolytes — manning a week-long exhibition of creationist posters in the public hall of the Tunel subway in Istanbul, for which they would most certainly have had to get city permission. How did that happen?

Richly litigationist, Oktar’s organization relentlessly pursues anyone who makes the slightest criticism of him in public. Even if he doesn’t win, the legal onslaught is so unremitting that it serves to quash criticism of him. Last year, Turkish courts banned some well-known international websites on the basis of Oktar’s libel claims. (click here, here and here for some of my previous posts on this issue.)

The Reuters article I quote below (click here) implies that the case against Oktar is similar to the case against the Islamic ruling party, AKP, when in fact they are entirely different matters. Perhaps Oktar is played up in the west as ‘the Islamic creationist’ because that’s a familiar figure and therefore you can know what side of the issue to come down on. Truly understanding the complexities of Islam — and who represents what ‘side’ — in Turkey or elsewhere can be confusing and too time-consuming to lay out for a news sound-bite. Better the devil we (think we) know…

…Controversial Turkish Islamic author Adnan Oktar was sentenced to three years in prison on Friday for creating an illegal organization for personal gain, state-run Anatolian news agency said. A spokeswoman for his Science Research Foundation (BAV) confirmed to Reuters that Oktar had been sentenced but said the judge was influenced by political and religious pressure groups.

Oktar had been tried with 17 other defendants in an Istanbul court. The verdict and sentence came after a previous trial that began in 2000 after Oktar, along with 50 members of his foundation, was arrested in 1999. In that court case, Oktar had been charged with using threats for personal benefit and creating an organization with the intent to commit a crime. The charges were dropped but another court picked them up resulting in the latest case. Oktar planned to appeal the sentence, a BAV spokeswoman said…

Istanbul-based Oktar, who writes under the pen name Harun Yahya, has created waves in the past few years by sending out thousands of unsolicited texts advocating Islamic creationism to schools in several European countries… Oktar’s publishing house has published dozens of books that have been distributed in more than 150 countries and been translated into more than 50 languages. He has a wide following in the Muslim world…

But Turkish commentators say the group’s books, numbering more than 200, are probably written by a pool of writers, a charge the author denies.

76 Responses to “Creationist Cult Leader Adnan Oktar Sentenced To Prison”

  1. JW,
    .
    Overall, I think this was the best article I have read here so far.
    .
    I did take a cursory look at the links you gave your older articles too.
    .
    I am surprised that in all these articles, you have highlighted only the ‘creationist’ aspect of Adnan Oktar (Harun Yahya) as far as his works are concerned.
    .
    And, the reason I am surprised is basically because you yourself said you have interviewed him.
    .
    If so, I’d expect you to have studied him better.
    .
    His claim to fame (in TR) isn’t ‘creationism’ [more about that later], but his revelations about ‘Free Masonry’ and ‘Jewish Conspiracies’.
    .
    These are the topics he focused and published several books on for a very long time.
    .
    And, it just happens that these two topics were very close to the hearts of most Islamists in TR [and of Milli Gorus people in Germany].
    .
    That made him an unspoken hero.
    .
    From then on, even if he was taken court by the parents of those ‘rich kids’ for a criminal act of his, he used the argument that he was being persecuted by the Free Masons and their ‘deep State’.
    .
    This –coupled with the general distrust against both the Free Masons and the ‘Deep State’ (an undirected distrust which you yourself have exhibited here)– simply served to add to his popularity as he was considered a victim.
    .
    This is how he manipulated the domestic audience.
    .
    Now on creationism.
    .
    Oktar used this soft spot of the religious quite successfully –even better than those in the US.
    .
    While I do think the fanatic Darwinists have a number of cardinal sins for their attempts to undermine theistic religions by positioning Darwinism as another religion [I wont go into any more detail here], Oktar made a song and dance about this way beyond reasonable.
    .
    This helped him gather not only more internal audiences it did also create a new external (mainly in the US) audiences.
    .
    This second aspect of his suddenly turned him into an intellectual (albeit a little cranky) in the eyes of US liberal intelligentsia (I think I can count you in amongst them) who believe in pluralism and hence think he should be protected from being ‘silenced’ –even if it is prisoning him for his downright criminal activities.
    .
    I’ll give it to him: He is an incredibly intelligent person.
    .
    Even though he knows next to nothing [*] about Islam, he can pull wool over Islamists (or the devout Muslims) so much so that some even believe his claims that he is the Mehdi [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mehdi ] .
    .
    Even though his earlier works (still in print) border on the verge of anti-Semitism –some are arguably beyond–, some of us consider him a legitimate intellectual.
    .
    Even though his creationism is quite different from that seen in the US, and also the fact that what he is saying is simply nothing further that “I don’t believe what you say; prove me this or the other”, there are individuals still find him credible.
    .
    In short, I am surprised that otherwise intelligent people –you included– cannot call a spade spade or call a crook criminal.

    [* A few days ago he was on TV defending his positions. And the answers he gave to various questions made it more than obvious that he does not have a clue about Islam.]

  2. CA– Your long post is filled with inaccuracies, as usual. Let me just mention a couple. “Darwinist” is a word used by creationists to discredit legitimate scientific positions relating to the history of life on Earth. Biologists do not use the word, and contrary to your assertion in your post, “darwinism” is not a religion because the scientific principles underlying the concept of common descent in biology do not rest on unsubstantiated beliefs, but rather on evidence, and enormous amounts of it. Some atheists, such as Richard Dawkins, are outspoken proponents of evolution because they believe that rationalism, and not mystical or archaic beliefs unsupported by evidence, should be the basis of education and government policy. These people, who mostly write books and give lectures, can hardly be considered “fanatic,” as you say. You also claim that Oktar “is saying …simply nothing further that “I don’t believe what you say; prove me this or the other.” This is incorrect, as seen by Oktar’s extraordinary unsolicited mailing of an expensive self-published coffee-table book to hundreds of scientists in the US, purporting to show evidence against evolution. This represents one of the more extravagant creationist efforts in recent times. His call for more “evidence,” when irrefutable evidence from biology, geology, physics and chemistry studies related to life on Earth is abundant and easily accessible, is straight out of the US creationist tool kit.
    Oktar’s sentencing presents an interesting resemblance to a prominent American Young Earth creationist and racketeer, Kent Hovind, now in prison. Here’s some info on him:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/03/kent_hovind_is_still_in_jail_a.php

  3. CA,

    thanks for your excellent post. Indeed Jenny White, like most American liberals, has a disturbing tendency to be much more condescending with even outright evil like Adnan Oktar than with the “nationalist-secularist-militarist establishment”. I too wonder what prevents her and like-minded “experts” from calling crooks and criminals like Adnan Oktar what they really are.

  4. perhaps, simply labeling the individual a crook would represent a failure to recognize that the organization he heads and the many other individuals involved represent a social phenomenon. And as such, the movement and all the details of its development and maintenance in Turkey reflect the broader society into which it has inserted itself. And as is clear from the stories about the organization, its fair to say, as a social phenomenon, it has entailed some pretty rough material consequences, for a broad range of individuals in Turkey and beyond. And THIS is of sincere interest to individuals committed to a sensitive understanding of the complicated social world in which we all live.

    point being, calling a spade a spade doesn’t really accomplish much- thinking hard about what enabled a spade to pull off the many and diverse criminal acts that he has,and remain a compelling and by-degrees credible religious figure? analysis of the way his organization is structured, the sorts of social (CLASS!) assumptions it played upon, the consequences of its existence, and now potential dismantling? that feels like a more productive direction for discussion to me. but i’m partial to the social sciences.

  5. Meliz: It’s an open secret that a country of uneducated people is a good place for charlatans to ply their trade.

  6. I second emre’s point. In the US, the extent of fundamentalist, Bible-thumping religious practice tracks with low levels of education and high levels of social dysfunction (teenage pregnancy, child abuse, etc). In these regions, religious charlatans are ubiquitous, generally raking in the dollars from the credulous.

  7. Michael,

    Your long post is filled with inaccuracies, as usual.

    Wow! Filled with inaccuracies..
    .
    And, ‘as usual’ at that, heh?
    .
    I think you’re more innocent than that: You haven’t properly read (or comprehended) what I wrote, as usual..

    Let me just mention a couple. “Darwinist” is a word used by creationists to discredit legitimate scientific positions relating to the history of life on Earth.

    What those so called ‘legitimate scientific positions’ are doing is predicting the past –something as bad as what the religious are doing.
    .
    When there’s not enough evidence –nor can we do comprehensive lab experiments–, what we’re claiming is religion especially when we position it against other religions.

    Biologists do not use the word, and contrary to your assertion in your post, “darwinism” is not a religion because the scientific principles underlying the concept of common descent in biology do not rest on unsubstantiated beliefs, but rather on evidence, and enormous amounts of it.

    Whether the biologists use the term or not immaterial now.
    .
    And, it is unsubstantiated belief if ‘the scientific principles underlying the concept of common descent in biology’ cannot be proved –beyond reasonable doubt–, and it has not been so far.
    .
    Go look it up: A theory is not the same as a theorem.
    .
    So far, what we have is a gleam –a theory– in the eyes of the biologists.
    .
    What they are telling us does sound plausible, but it isn’t incontestable.

    Some atheists, such as Richard Dawkins, are outspoken proponents of evolution because they believe that rationalism, and not mystical or archaic beliefs unsupported by evidence, should be the basis of education and government policy. These people, who mostly write books and give lectures, can hardly be considered “fanatic,” as you say.

    I do consider them fanatics –just like there are fanatics on the opposing side too– simply because the atheists are attempting to use Darwinism to score over conventional religious belief, while it is blatantly obvious that what they are doing is just as murky as how the religions try to explain the extremely distant past.
    .
    Science should not compete with religious beliefs this way.

    You also claim that Oktar “is saying …simply nothing further that “I don’t believe what you say; prove me this or the other.” This is incorrect, as seen by Oktar’s extraordinary unsolicited mailing of an expensive self-published coffee-table book to hundreds of scientists in the US, purporting to show evidence against evolution.

    He keeps asking for a ‘transitional form’ carved practically in stone –fossils. And, he dictates the kind of transitional form he will accept too. Unless he is shown exactly that, he declares the whole theory baseless.
    .
    This attitude, IMO, is logical fallacy for a few of reasons:
    .
    First, it denies logical reasoning.
    .
    Second, transition does not have to be the way he dictates. I.e., a transition form does not have to have, say, left arm a fin and right
    a wing –this sort of creature wouldn’t be able to live at all, let alone living until an accident fossilizes it. IOW, there’s next to nil a chance that we’ll ever find such a fossil. A DNA mutation that produces an early form of arms/legs (as opposed to fins in the previous descendant) should be good enough, but –according to him– these samples should be rejected point blank.
    .
    Third, he also rejects any living organism even though they may be good examples of transition. According to him, transition means just that: valid/applicable for a short while, but no more. It does not have to be like that. A transitioning creature might find that the ‘temporary’ form can survive as well as the resultant (evolved) form.
    .
    Fourth, trying to discredit Darwinism/evolution is fine and dandy, but his actual target should be proving creationism. This he does not.

    This represents one of the more extravagant creationist efforts in recent times. His call for more “evidence,” when irrefutable evidence from biology, geology, physics and chemistry studies related to life on Earth is abundant and easily accessible, is straight out of the US creationist tool kit.

    What you’re saying is true to a certain degree (see above). But, the thing is, the evidence isn’t so irrefutable as you say, either. There are far too many gaps and fill-in-the-blanks assumptions in the evolution theory.
    .
    It is this fact that gets on my nerves: Darwinists trying to complement the other half of half-truths with beliefs. This is what makes it a religion.

    Oktar’s sentencing presents an interesting resemblance to a prominent American Young Earth creationist and racketeer, Kent Hovind, now in prison.

    As far as I am concerned, Oktar is a mix between Creationism and Scientology. He is using the tactics of the latter to extort money from dumb rich, while positioning himself in close proximity with the religious –even though he knows zilch about Islam (his tenet).
    .
    Parading as religious while pushing a completely different agenda has never been an exception –we can look at Mustafa Akyol for a younger form of it–; but, doing (and finding green pastures while doing) that with absolutely no knowledge of the religion must be an interesting phenomena –as others here have noted– to make it worth of observation.

  8. as a U.S. citizen, I catch your drift, Emre.

    however, I have to disagree with the underlying assumption that people join cults because they are stupid/naive/uneducated. It might be easier to approach rather alarming events like Jonestown, Waco, etcetcetcetera with that sort of perspective, but still, don’t we need to work a little harder here to explain why these movements have proven so deeply compelling to such a wide range of people?

  9. Meliz,
    .
    however, I have to disagree with the underlying assumption that people join cults because they are stupid/naive/uneducated.
    .
    Well as far as college students in fairly hard to get into colleges are concerned, we can drop ‘stupid.’ No, I will not claim that intelligence is one dimensional and that the level along that dimension is measured by the centralized entrance exam here. The weaker assumtion about the top 5-10% that get selected (probably much higher for places like ITU, BU, ODTU) not being ‘stupid’ seems plausible though.
    .
    ‘Naive’ and ‘uneducated’ seem more likely (as does ‘horny’ since Oktar is known for both employing ‘motor’s and coming up with the term itself). ‘Uneducated’ is, in fact, highly likely because we see what kind of trash professors produce when they set out to write columns and what level of nonsense gets printed in the likes of (secular mind you) Taraf and Radikal w/o much reaction from the well-off and supposedly highly educated readership. This is a very dangerous kind of ignorance because it comes with prized pieces of paper bearing the imprimeteur of prestigious universities here.
    .
    May I ask, Jenny, what school the “two well-educated, intelligent young men” who took you to Adnan Hoca had attended here? I’m assuming they spoke English? Bogazici or ODTU perhaps?

  10. Michael: again, I would ask that rather than remark upon statistical correlations that conveniently confirm socio-economic stereotypes, such as those that align fundamentalist christian affiliation with social practices (and class, and race, and, and, and), we should be considering why it is that some individuals, or even groups of individuals, are drawn toward the sorts of social movements that, to ‘the rest of us’, seem so clearly predatory, unsavory, criminal, or even just full of it. perhaps it could be a consequence of particular modes of disenfranchisement these individuals experience? Perhaps these movements provide a promise of or material realization of sorts of upward mobility (and not just economic) that such individuals feel beyond their reach in mainstream social networks? or maybe they actually find the theology compelling- IT HAPPENS. and not just to poor people, as this case in Turkey so nicely evidences.

  11. Meliz,

    My take:

    First there’s the capacity and natures..

    Not every one of us have the capacity to comprehend every scientific fact/truth there is. And, unless we do that, we are invariably leaving ourselves someone else who is an expert in that particular field.
    .
    Yet, we do know that the very act of identifying an expert in any field requires our knowledge in that field –if not, we have to go by a ‘chain of trust’.
    .
    This doesn’t always work.
    .
    The basketball player (or movie star) you can trust to help win the game (or an Oscar) may not be the best person to take the advice of when choosing a tooth paste (diet program).
    .
    Similarly, it’s not in our nature.. Not every one of us want to see/witness hard realities of life.
    .
    I know so many people who cringe at the sight of a snake swallowing a frog –on a documentary film, at that. They’d like that scene be censored, cut off, not shown to them. I.e. they’d like to be protected.
    .
    They don’t even mind that the moment you let someone else filter things for you, you’re letting that someone control your life.
    .
    And, then, there is the real-life economic and political side of things.
    .
    Education is already an expensive thing. It would be prohibitively more so if we tried to educate every single person to reach higher levels of all-around understanding –against their capacities and natures at that.
    .
    Even though it may be prohibitively expensive, we could chose to do it out of our collective philanthropic hearts; but, then, who would do the dirty works, serve burgers at McDonalds, fill in the boring-as-hell forms in offices, do intricate lab experiments etc.?..
    .
    IOW, we need those ‘idiots’ (although they may be exceptionally skillful, well trained in certain trades, educated in certain fields) to do what they should as best as they can. I am talking about the experts at incredibly narrow fields we produce.
    .
    It is, IMO, only natural that the incapacious individuals or the narrow-field-experts fall prey to expert-crooks –this is by design.

  12. CA,
    .
    Go look it up: A theory is not the same as a theorem.
    .
    So far, what we have is a gleam –a theory– in the eyes of the biologists.

    .
    Please don’t do this. Neither science itself nor epistemology deserve to be taken this lightly and talked about in such loose terms in this tone. But I’ll take that tone about the conversation here and say that if you do indeed care to look it up, you’ll find out that theories in natural science don’t become theorems when they grow up.
    .
    I do agree that, for example, the people who use the Darwin fish against the Jesus fish probably care more about being anti-religion than pro-science and are actually a part of a politicial polarization rather than one concerning the truth (or the Truth). It ought to be possible, though, to argue this w/o resorting to abuse of terminology and downplay of perfectly useful disciplines with immensely valuable bodies of work.

  13. OMG!
    .
    And, it is unsubstantiated belief if ‘the scientific principles underlying the concept of common descent in biology’ cannot be proved –beyond reasonable doubt–, and it has not been so far.
    .
    Go look it up: A theory is not the same as a theorem.

    .
    Of course, a [scientific] theory is not the same as a [mathematical] theorem. It [is not] proved in the same manner as the latter. So it is ‘unsubstantiated,’ and will remain so…
    .
    It’s merely a theory in other words…
    .
    Is that what I am reading?

  14. My car features a Jesus fish on the back, and a rival institution’s emblem in place of the front licence plate. The first owner was a devout Christian, and she did associate with that rival institution. These symbol thingies are so meaningless to me that I didn’t bother taking these two specific ones down. The idea didn’t cross my mind even. In the light of the discussion above, I am exalted, and feel like I passed an important test: I am not what I oppose. Yey!
    .
    By the same token, I hope, I am not what I eat, either. For, despite all warnings given by my religion and ethics teacher at high school, I eat pork.

  15. BM, and Nihat,

    Please don’t do this. Neither science itself nor epistemology deserve to be taken this lightly and talked about in such loose terms in this tone. But I’ll take that tone about the conversation here and say that if you do indeed care to look it up, you’ll find out that theories in natural science don’t become theorems when they grow up.

    .
    If ‘taking lightly’ also means ‘not respecting’; then no, I am not ‘taking it lightly’.
    .
    But, with all the respect there is, we are talking about a theory that –some people, or some proponents of it– are trying to extend into an extreme past of/about which not only do we not have sufficient information, but also we’re not likely ever to do so.
    .
    Of course a theory does not become a theorem when it grows up.
    .
    But, it is –I believe you will agree to this– also true the Evolution Theory (as its name indicates) is not a theorem [ http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/theorem ].
    .
    Yet, some people –I have to call them fanatics– put it as if it is a theorem, or an axiom; and, then call/imply those who express doubt either heretics or infidels of Truth.
    .
    It is none of them –neither a theorem, nor an axiom–, it is –yes– merely a theorem.
    .
    And, chances are, it will remain that way for a very [VERY] long time as far as extreme distant past is concerned.
    .
    But, having said all that, I do agree that it is probably the best theory we have; and it holds a lot of water in trying to explain much of the life on earth.
    .
    Evolution Theory is a very/most valuable tool; but we do not have to deify it –that would be beyond the limit of my respect.

  16. Correction:

    If ‘taking lightly’ also means ‘not respecting’; then no, I am not ‘taking it lightly’.

    Should have been:

    If ‘taking lightly’ also means ‘not considering useful’; then no, I am not ‘taking it lightly’.

  17. CA– With regards to evolution, you have no idea what you are talking about (as your comment about the supposed lack of transitional forms in the fossil record attests), yet you blather on in smug ignorance. I suggest you read more on the topic before you attempt another post. There is a superb new book by Jerry Coyne, “Why Evolution is True.” It’s straightforward and very readable. I highly recommend it. Here’s the link at Amazon:

    http://www.amazon.com/Why-Evolution-True-Jerry-Coyne/dp/0670020532/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1250635096&sr=8-1

  18. meliz– I agree that the coincidence of religiosity and social dysfunction in the US is merely a correlation, but historical patterns in North America and Europe suggest that increases in education and wealth coincide with a dramatic reduction in religious practice, especially of the fundamentalist sort. My comment was really meant to respond to emre’s point about charlatans taking advantage of the devout. A particularly intriguing (to me) example of a decline in fundamentalism in the US is the popularity of Rick Warren’s “soft” evangelism, which includes tennis clubs, Starbucks coffee shops, and elaborate children’s play centers at mega-churches. In the US, evangelical Christianity seems to be evolving slowly toward a more mushy, much less doctrinal theology, with minimal fire and brimstone and more cafe lattes.

  19. In the timeless words of the Decider, “I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully.

  20. CA, how do you define ‘extreme past’? Evolution is about biological life, and it –rather the theory– does not extend back beyond the beginning of life. But it doesn’t start somewhere in the middle, either: it necessarily extends till the beginning.

  21. Michael,

    I have wasted enough of my time arguing this stupid subject with ID and creationism people. I was on the side of the Evolutionists/Darwinists –which, largely I still am–; but whenever I hear people claiming Theory of Evolution is true, I get trigger happy.
    .
    I read the ‘reviews’ under the link you gave.
    .
    There are gems like these there:

    “[...] he demonstrates that evolutionary theory makes predictions that are consistently borne out by the data—basic requirements for a scientific theory to be valid.”

    Unless someone invented a time-machine while I wasn’t looking, someone needs to tell him that you cannot make a prediction about the past and then get to demonstrate it to be valid –unless, of course, you have an immensely large datasets (from various different periods) that the predictive model you design gives you consistently plausible results that no one in their sane minds can dispute.

    “Far more presentational than disputatious, Coyne’s demonstration that evolution has proven itself in lab and field is still a deliberate answer to anti-evolutionism, especially creationism or intelligent design (ID).”

    Ah.. here is the crux: This book seems to have been written to refute the claims of creationists.
    .
    In other words, he is in the same field as the religious.
    .
    i.e. another case of belief against belief..
    .
    If this is the book you are suggesting; no, thank you; I am not going to waste any more time on these.

  22. CA– Let me expand my point about you not knowing what you are talking about with regards to evolution to science in general. You can absolutely use science to make predictions about the past. Scientists do that all the time. Example: A famous remark, usually attributed to J.B.S. Haldane, about what would it take to disprove evolution would be the discovery of a fossil rabbit in Precambrian rocks.

  23. What should scientists do wrt creationist/IDist salvos including politicking to inject religion into science classes? Remain aloof behind the doors of their high offices, or refute the crooks? I believe they tried and continue trying both approaches. Blame them to your heart’s content, CA, but please not by a philosophical hyperbole such as:
    .
    This book seems to have been written to refute the claims of creationists.
    In other words, he is in the same field as the religious.
    i.e. another case of belief against belief.

    .
    Also, predictions about the past are possible. They are called retrodictions. Click for more on the creationist claim that evolution is not predictive.

  24. Nihat,

    how do you define ‘extreme past’?

    Tough call.
    .
    I’d say, about 3 billion or so years back (mid-precambrian?).
    .
    Beyond which, we don’t really have much evidence –other than what I call ‘predicting the past’– to go by.

    Evolution is about biological life, and it –rather the theory– does not extend back beyond the beginning of life. But it doesn’t start somewhere in the middle, either: it necessarily extends till the beginning.

    I am no expert (no prizes for having guessed that), but I find the theory of evolution both a beautiful and a handy tool/model to explain and help us understand quite a bit about how we got here.
    .
    But, it is a micro to medium scale tool.
    .
    Here is what I mean by that:
    .
    Just like why we shouldn’t use Newtonian Physics for modeling sub-particle interactions, nor should you use it for designing complete paths for interstellar (extreme distance) travel; simply because Newtonian Physics wasn’t designed for those scales and hence not much use there.
    .
    Consider this:
    .
    The Earth is about 4.5 billion years old.
    .
    The oldest fossil, AFAIK, is about 2.74 billion years old; and it clearly isn’t the first-life specimen.
    .
    We have no idea what happened and when and how during those 1.8 billion years.
    .
    And, 1.8 billion years is an awful long time for Theory of Evolution to cover and explain to everyone’s satisfaction.
    .
    We should not expect too much from the Theory of Evolution.
    .
    It’s OK if it does not (cannot) cover extremely distant past; especially since we have no information from then.
    .
    I’d rather be honest and say “I don’t know” and put the burden and the onus of proof on the religious.
    .
    Let them try to prove it all.
    .
    They can start with proving ‘the word of God’ is that (word of God) first.

  25. CA,

    But, with all the respect there is, we are talking about a theory that –some people, or some proponents of it– are trying to extend into an extreme past of/about which not only do we not have sufficient information, but also we’re not likely ever to do so.
    .
    I don’t know this. I haven’t studied what is said by scientists to scientists about this issue and your performance here makes it hard for me to take your word for it. In the political domain it appears that anything goes when one has or can, um, create the right kind of audience. So I wouldn’t be surprised to find groups and pundits who are convinced that, say, unicorns went extict because flying elephants fell on them when the gravitational constant changed (and duh, everyone knows that).
    .
    I’ll tell you what I told the Turkish creationists (and promptly got verbal abuse for in your own blog even): these subjects (not just biology and paleantology but also epistemology and complexity theory) can be studied and sould be accessible to motivated people with the right background and aptitude even w/o the aid of a formal teaching environment. For some reason I don’t fully understand, you act as though you need this both about the terminology and the approach. I happen to have had some indirect exposure to the philosophy and math side of things but I cannot help in this (ie I’m not motivated to do the work) and would be afraid to mislead people[1]. I’m surprised — though I shouldn’t be since I can now ‘predict’ the past with a revised theory and find confirmation in my memory of your past strifes online — that you’re allowing yourself to be pushed to extreme and indefensible positions by Emre and Michael’s style of engagement here. I don’t mean this as an insult but as a plea since I believe you have the wherewithall to help us here with many things.
    .
    [1] I’d at least recommend looking into why just saying ‘another case of belief against belief’ says more about the utterer than the subject it purports to be about. The implied moral equivalence, as it were, doesn’t exist much beyond the level of syntax. “Justified inference” “rational belief” etc. are some of the things you can feed to google, you might also look into “inductive inference” or “uncertain inference” (as opposed to deductive inference) to at least clear up the theory/threorem confusion. In general I’d look at this not from a evolution/creation POV but as part of a more general study of epistemology, Add no, in case anyone brings him in, Dawkins’ popular polemics for atheism are not appropriate sources for this. Think of simpler cases. To give an extreme example, think of an investor investing in a gambling establishment believing that he’ll make money, and a customer of that establishment holding the same belief. I’d bet on the former if I could find someone to take the other side of the bet (say at even odds) even though it is possible for someone to break the bank on the opening day. I’d say while the investor and I both are acting out of a belief it is a fundamentally different kind of belief than the apparent beliefs of those who bet against us.

  26. Check out one of my previous posts on evolution (all the posts are under the ‘science’ category): http://www.kamilpasha.com/2009/04/09/explaining-evolution/

  27. Nihat,
    .
    What should scientists do wrt creationist/IDist salvos including politicking to inject religion into science classes?
    .
    I think the US and Turkey are different in this regard. For Turkey, I’d look into why ‘good’ schools in this country are graduating people who cannot see through the argument style of Oktar and others. This seems to be part of a general problem here. We’re also seeing a facet of the same problem in gross spin and more or less counter-factual propaganda becoming ‘fact’ or, at any rate, being pushed with apparently no cost to the culprits’ credibility or respectability.
    .
    That mufti with the cancer info is another example. I don’t think he said it because he’s religious. He could have been an atheist and taking a political stance and he’d have asserted things like that w/o any repercussions (we’ve also seen those in the far left do precisely that previously). Not that the Turkish Society of Urologists (or whatever) came out with reliable info on the matter either (did they?). There are obvious and repeated failures in this society and its (formal or informal) institutions on such matters. Or, take the new head of YOK asserting something that’s patently false the first or second time he opened his mouth (‘nowhere on earth do you find free higher education” or somesuch). Did he apologize? Did he resign? Did he even acknowledge that he said misleading if not outright false things? If not, why not?

  28. CA, so, extreme past as it concerns the evolution theory covers the era from the estimated time of the beginning of life on earth till the time after which we start to have evidence. And you are saying that the theory should not purport to be able to make predictions about that era since there is no evidence that old and there isn’t likely to be any such evidence to be found in the future. Do I understand you correctly? If yes, …
    .
    Man, I think you are wrong. Firstly, [the ability of] making predictions about such extreme past of life on earth –that is still in the dark evidence-wise– is arguably the ONLY way we are ever gonna find any evidence from that era. In other words, without such predictions, all you have is dumb luck. I am not saying luck wouldn’t help science ever, but luck is not what science resigns itself to. You know, modern science doesn’t quite work according to that old view where you collect immense amounts of data without guidance, and then have smart people sit down and harvest knowledge off of the pile.
    .
    Secondly, a scientific theory does make all predictions that it can make. There is no stopping this. It’s the nature of the beast. And the theory of evolution, in my opinion, must make those predictions about the extreme past you’re talking about. As I said before, it’s about biological life, and it by definition is concerned of the entire history of life on earth. It would be strange if it stayed silent about some parts of that history. I’d go one step further and say that the theory would have in fact been a religion-like paradigm had it not make those predictions (not because it is making them). The reason is simple: there may exist in that dark past a counter example to the theory, and the theorists’ silence about that (i.e., their ignoring the possibility) could only be explained as an act of religious belief in their theory.
    .
    I also think that your Newtonian physics analogy is misplaced. Correct me if I am wrong, but its failure for scales too small and too large was realized when people tried using it for those scales, wasn’t it? In fact, isn’t that on important mechanism by which the extent and boundaries of a scientific theory form? You seem to be denying the theory of evolution that mechanism based on –as far as I can see– arbitrary periodization of the past, as in “We have evidence dating this far back. Let that be the starting epoch, let’s not look any further, or else, it becomes religion.”
    .
    To me, this is a form of science-stopping argument more insidious than the IDists’ “Oh, look at this. How awesomely complex! An intelligent agent must have designed it.”

  29. Bulent, I take this discussion to be about science in general (beyond national boundaries). But I hear you re: that sad state of affairs in Turkey. I won’t be saying much by asking this, but isn’t the one-letter polemic about ilim–bilim telling us something? I had an imam as my science teacher in ninth grade. He was something.

  30. [Jenny, please ignore my previous one.]
    .
    Bulent, to say something more tangible on your question(s), I think I have come across quite a few people who, as an explanation for the wretched state of affairs, pointed to the weakening (or elimination of?) philosophy and logic classes from high school curricula. They may have a point, but I am not so sure. For I don’t think I am who I am today (that is, subjectively speaking, correctly appreciative of what science is) because of what I was pedantically fed in those classes. Nor was it the other science classes (physics, chemistry, biology) as you learned next to nothing in those classes about how that knowledge had come about. Perhaps, some more focused, better grounded course(s) on the history and principles of (strictly modern) science course might be good to have in high school curricula. I mean, that might be a better approach than teaching philosophy and logic, which in my opinion suffered political resistance due to their purported or perceived supremacy over religious beliefs/teachings. As we can see here in this discussion, there is obviously no guarantee that that wouldn’t happen in or to a history/principles of science class, but I would expect the problem to be more manageable. After all, there is a solid history and principles that are proven to work to talk about without having to engage with religious/political thought emotions.
    .
    Take politics out of education, then hopefully, you will have honest people to take the lie out of politics. Easier said than done, huh?

  31. CA— ***Banging head on desk**** (1). The oldest known fossils (fossilized algae) are about 3.5 billion years old. (2). Principles underlying the theory of evolution derive from data from astronomy, astrophysics, cosmology, chemistry, and geology, which collectively reach back much farther than the ***age of the Earth***. A recent example is the just-reported discovery of an amino acid, a component of proteins, in a comet. One day, and this day is probably fast approaching, we will be able to use spectroscopy to identify organic materials, and possibly the direct signature of life, on extrasolar planets. We’ll be able to do that even though no one will have visited such planets. We don’t need to “be there” to make testable predictions and confirm them to a high level of confidence.

  32. Funny, I could’ve said that astronomy and cosmology were synonymous, the latter being the Soviet version of the former (astronaut vs cosmonaut, see) :)
    .
    Michael, what happened to the disciplines such as botanics, paleontology, molecular biology, genetics, .etc.? Though your list –”astronomy, astrophysics, cosmology, chemistry, and geology”– may have provided further confirmations, helped expand the scope and reach of the theory, and even contributed some new principles or refinement of principles, I don’t follow how it could be that “[p]rinciples underlying the theory of evolution derive from data from [them]“. Are we talking about the same theory exactly? Or, is it just hasty/imprecise language to get a point or two across? I don’t know, you seem to be well equipped with intimate knowledge about the current state of the theory. Maybe you’ll enlighten the peasant here (no pun :).

  33. Nihat– Sorry for the imprecision, but I was specifically referring to the contention that, prior to the earliest fossils, we have no evidence for evolution. All of the fields you mention provide abundant evidence for evolution, however, if we cannot retrieve ancient macromolecules from rocks that are billions of years old, we cannot in that case use the tools of molecular biology. I was just implying that not all disciplines are relevant to all cases and that the evidence for evolution extends far beyond our study of fossils. Some long-period comets are believed to originate from the Oort cloud, an enormous collection of debris at the extreme edge of the solar system. These components date to the formation of the solar system itself, over 13 billion years ago. Because comets from this region enter the inner solar system, it is possible to use principles from astronomy, chemistry and physics to study questions related to the origin and evolution of life. We are now sending robotic probes directly into comets and retrieving cometary components. Therefore, one could even imagine these experiments providing evidence for life much more ancient than the age of the Earth.

  34. First, I think I should replace a word I used here with another word more appropriate: ‘[to] predict’ does not seem to convey my meaning, it should have been ‘[to] foretell’ –it contains both prediction and prophesy; and this is precisely what I think of what is being done.
    .

    .
    You’re right. My fault. The oldest fossil is about 3.5 billion years old –I just checked.
    .
    I suppose it is important too.
    .
    But, to me, it really isn’t. Not anymore.
    .
    Here is one of the many reasons why not: It still leaves a gap of a billion years.
    .
    And, it’s not only that there’s a billion years we have no concrete idea as to what happened as far as life is considered between the time earth came by until the time we have the first fossils; but also the fact that there’s 3.5 billion years (since the first fossil) till now which isn’t exactly crystal clear either.
    .
    These numbers are too huge to be fathomable by ordinary humans.
    .
    It’s damn hard to picture 3.5 billion years.
    .
    We have scant little usable hard data to use as pixels –the amount of extrapolation (using stuff from astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, geology, archeology etc.) we are having to do is enough to make even the most devout scientist vomit in disgust.
    .
    Almost always, what we have isn’t evidence at all, just signs vaguely pointing in some direction whose interpretation is wide open to personal taste.
    .
    This is one practical and valid complaint.
    .
    Yet, even if we had several fossil specimens for each species for every year of that duration (i.e. 3 billion times, say, 10 fossils for each and every species), I am not sure if the picture we get would be any more meaningful.
    .
    In all likelihood, we’d have, say, 30 trillion points of contention to sort out the jig-saw puzzle.
    .
    How long would that take?
    .
    A few centuries of intensely heated discussion among the scientists themselves?..
    .
    Now, don’t get me wrong.
    .
    I am not saying it wouldn’t be a good thing to work towards a solved jig-saw puzzle; nor am I saying science should stop just because conclusion is far away.
    .
    What I am saying is this: IMO, this is not the correct/right time to pick up that fight –we’re not rich enough in weapons and ammunition– about origins of life etc.
    .
    But, that’s not all.
    .
    The fact that there’s such an intense public debate on evolution makes me wonder if the issue is really the theory of evolution alone, or is it something else.
    .
    Frankly, I think it is something else. We’re beating around the bush, so to speak.
    .
    That ‘something else’ should be what we need to find out and address –instead of wasting time arguing about artistic merits of 20-trillion-pixel (non-existent so far) picture.
    .
    What could that ‘something else’ be –given that highly educated people (along with laymen) take positions against evolution theory?
    .
    Any ideas?

  35. BTW, that last question above (“Any ideas?”) is my attempt to ask you all (of course, that includes me too) to rise above the evolution/creation debate, and philosophize about why we are discussing all this.

  36. Okay, I am giving up on the philosophy of science part of the debate. (Not that there isn’t new juicy stuff on that front. The comparison of the theory with a discrete image with countably many pixels, for example. Nature is said to have fractal geometry. So is life arguably. You do the math.)
    .
    As for that ‘something else’, CA, maybe we should ask M. Akyol about it. Maybe he would give us some insightful self-criticism in the light of his recent fine tuning of position. Come to think of it, in this discussion, you have essentially laid out a premise [the motive of] which is arguably not significantly different from that of Akyol’s ID carrier. So, I presume you too might have a good deal to say on that ‘something else.’
    .
    If I have to say something, I have a few crude cliches. Like the perennial tug of war between science and religion. Enlightenment, modernity, the backlash, the so-called post-modernism…
    .
    Actually, I too could recommend a book: Ken Miller’s Only a Theory. He presents a compelling case of the similarity between the Discovery Institute’s ID drive against hard sciences and the social sciences’ getting emasculated by liberal ideology. (Oops! I hope I haven’t committed a faux pas in the presence of our gracious and always forgiving host and her readers who are partial to social sciences.)

  37. It’s important to distinguish between the public “debate” about the veracity of evolution and the scientific picture. No legitimate scientist questions evolution and common descent as the mechanism that generated the diversity of life on Earth. Scientists who claim to doubt the validity of evolution are cranks, and have about as much credibility in the scientific community as do astrologers. The “debate” arises from the impact of religious teachings and also from a widespread reluctance by many to recognize humans as biological organisms. The concept that we are related to both the house fly and the banana (in Sam Harris’ example) is not only counterintuitive (as is much of science), but deeply discomfiting for many people, even highly educated ones. The paradox of recognizing the truth of the matter, while persistently disbelieving (i.e., by claiming humans are somehow metaphysically different from animals) is one of the many things that makes the evolution controversy interesting from a psychological or sociological perspective.

  38. Nihat,

    About Mustafa Akyol: He is a journalist who thought he could ride the wave of ID.
    .
    Trouble is, even though he was among the pioneers of ID in (i.e. people first introduced ID to) TR, the first thing they did was to depart from the original source without even knowing it.
    .
    Here is how:
    .
    In Turkish, ‘intellectual’ is ‘zeki’.
    .
    So, any person who knew just a little bit of Turkish and English would have translated ‘Intelligent Design’ as ‘Zeki Tasarim’.
    .
    Yet, they ended up calling it ‘Akilli Tasarim’ which translates back to English as ‘Wise/Smart/Clever Design’.
    .
    That I could forgive: it makes more sense to call an original designer wise/smart/clever than intelligent –which makes the ‘intelligent designer’ sound like a reverse-engineer-er.
    .
    But, when it came to the question about where that designer is now (after all, there hasn’t been any original designs for quite while, so (s)he may have done his/her job and gone away) MA simply got stumped:
    .
    Giving a meaningful answer to that would place him in a camp closer to the atheists/agnostics and that he couldn’t risk as he was –at the time– riding the rising Islam wave.
    .
    That was about the end of his adventure in those waters.
    .
    Nowadays I see him –not that I am anymore interested– expressing expert opinions on things like Kurdish issues just because he is written (or, rather, compiled) a book on the subject without either paying a single visit to the area or speaking to anyone even remotely related to the subject.
    .
    Or, how utterly compatible Islam is with Capitalism, Western Way of Life etc. while knowing even less than what Adnan Oktar knows about Islam.
    .
    Nowadays, I use him as a yardstick to describe how low the level of our young intellectuals are –a fraction of a yard.
    .
    Anyways.
    .
    Turning to that ‘something else’..
    .
    The story is far too long to tell here in a short comment, but if I had to sum it up –necessarily a little too sketchily–, I’d call it a form of class struggle [I am sorry if I offended anyone by using a Marxist term].
    .
    When I look at it from that perspective, I find it rather humorous (ironical) to see how times change..
    .
    Initially, in the UK, it was Darwin’s theories that were popular among the working classes as it meant that there were no God-given right to the ruling classes.
    .
    Then, once they took over, they still used Darwinism to claim that they were where they were because they had evolved to be better than the rest –this is called ‘Social Darwinism’ yet all of it as political as any– which went on to foster eugenics and “might makes right” kind of elitism and liberalism etc.
    .
    Now, the new up and coming classes see the old block entrenching themselves with science/scientists; and consider, therefore, science/scientists an impediment to the advancement of their class(es).
    .
    That confusing sentence (to me too) is how interpret this situation.
    .
    And, no; IMO, that millenia-old tug-o-war between ‘positive science’ and religion has not been a war between the intelligent and the moron.
    .
    It too is a struggle between coalition of classes.

  39. Nihat,
    .
    Actually, I too could recommend a book: Ken Miller’s Only a Theory.
    .
    I checked Bogazici and ODTU libraries. They don’t yet have it as far as I can see (BU doesn’t but ODTU does have Coyne’s book). The same happened to me about general CS, intellectual property etc. when I found it appropriate to recommend books (not, say, proceedings from somewhat obscure conferences). Good material is available in book form and we have [mainly younger and ethusiastic] people here who have good or reasonable command of English who’d perhaps be willing and able to read that material and most certainl;y would benefit from it, but they cannot access it even if they are studying in good schools.
    .
    You can import books personally from Amazon etc. but if you do it in sensible batches (more than 100 euros AFAIR) to save on shipping, you pay for it in terms of time, annoyance and tax at customs (did it in 2004 once, not doing it again to see if things changed). The way technical books are priced, you can go past that wih just a couple.
    .
    It is going to take some time for this to get better and the ‘net will play a role. As far as the general population goes, you don’t see anyone complaining about public libraries because it doesn’t seem to occur to the people that they can be had. When people here talk about neighbourhoods where cultured and educated (I’ve seen ‘elite’ and ‘kaliteli’ used too) live, they mean women there wear their husbands’ money and walk on stilts when they are not in their trucks, expensive mall-like things exist, and places where they’ll serve you a cup of cafe fanfinfon for $5-10 are plentiful. They don’t mean good libraries etc. Try it if you come visit and have firends who are now sometimes called ‘plaza people’. If someone says ‘this place is turning into NYC’ (some people were calling Maslak Mashattan due to the tall buildings) ask them to show you the equivalent of NYPL and you’ll see what I mean by the blank stare you’ll get.

  40. Michael, point well made (re: distinguishing the public debate and the scientific veracity of the theory).
    .
    CA, politics and class issues must have something to do with it as you say.
    .
    Bulent, what can I say? Why doesn’t some philanthropist put some money in it? I wonder… I also wonder: Should we blame 12 Eylul? As it dealt a conspicuous blow to books and knowledge? Practically speaking, doesn’t electronic readers (like the ones by Sony and Amazon) provide some fast and less expensive solution?

  41. Nihat,
    .
    Bulent, what can I say? Why doesn’t some philanthropist put some money in it?

    I don’t fully understand our relationship with books but I know it is different that of the Americans’. I’ve been to (and worked at, sold equipment to etc.) small town libraries in semi-rural Western NY, and found those places were almost as old as the towns themselves. It isn’t that everyone uses them, but enough people do. Those communities apparently did (and probably still do) care about such stuff to extablish those institutions way back when.
    .
    Perhaps this has happened to you too since it has to me and more than once. Occasionally I’d get invited to family barbeques or weddings and such and end up chatting with older people who want to find out about this foreigner (or just guy with an accent) their kids/nephews/nieces are friends with. Invariably they ask you about your country etc. and then some go badger their local librarians about things they heard from you that they found interesting. I know this because the next time I would see that nice lil teyze or amca they’d tell me about what they have read. (Korean war and the Turkish role in it, Islam, Ottoman style of gov’t and multi culturalism, Turkish ‘revolution’ (Ataturk) etc. are usually what they check out). We’re not talking about Ivy League alumni, or even university graduates.
    .
    Perhaps another manifestation of inquisitiveness getting expressed through an interest in books is the rumored spike in the sales of English translations of the Quran after 9/11.
    .
    As for what philantropists can do, I am not sure. I’m toying with the idea that of an online library for physical books where people can check out books using a temporary charge/hold on their credit card. We have the package delivery infrastructure, and for about $2 (retail) you can have a book or two delivered. This is roughly the cost of two trips using municipal public transportation in Istanbul if you stay on the same continent. Add to this the expense of real estate here, and the numbers probably work out in favor of a warehouse-like facility in a cheaper part of Western Turkey if the aim is getting the books to the people in an economical manner (and you can serve the entire country with an online facility). Of course there’s no reason why a foundation university with an existing library and staff cannot offer this service (even for a modest fee).
    .
    Practically speaking, doesn’t electronic readers (like the ones by Sony and Amazon) provide some fast and less expensive solution?
    .
    What would be excellent is a short copyright term but the trend is just the opposite I have a small first generation tablet (an HP T1100 that I bought used from Gittiigidiyor (Turkish ebay)) that works OK with stuff from project Guntenberg. Even about Turkey, you can access books from Lawrence and Toynbee etc. (though stuff from Moltke and von Sanders aren’t there yet and I am reasonably sure that at least the former has been translated to English). That only works for books published before 1923 (I believe) and the rest is off limits due to the Copright Term Extension Act of ’98.

  42. You might be interested in the statistics in this post on reading: http://www.kamilpasha.com/2008/04/09/literacy-is-up-but-turks-dont-read/
    Also, in my time with working-class families and in villages, I learned that it is often considered improper for women to read anything except the Quran. Even newspapers. It makes them appear idle and they should be busy. In fact, they often sit around, bored, but as a village woman told me last year when I suggested that if people are bored why not read books, “People in the village would laugh if women read books. There isn’t more than one book in the whole village.”
    So much for libraries! There’s also a tendency to read only things that support one’s point of view, not to read for information. And there’s also the issue of social control. Widespread, indiscriminate reading for information would undermine state and government attempts to indoctrinate students in schools.

  43. BM,

    As for what philantropists can do, I am not sure. I’m toying with the idea that of an online library for physical books where people can check out books using a temporary charge/hold on their credit card.

    Would you want to lead this idea into being a reality in TR?

  44. JW,

    Also, in my time with working-class families and in villages, I learned that it is often considered improper for women to read anything except the Quran.

    I think we should clarify this a little:

    By ‘reading’ you’re not implying they are actually ‘reading’ it –like you read and comprehend something–, all they are doing is silently/loudly reciting a text written in old Arabic. IOW, no usable information –whatever there is in Kuran– is obtained.
    .
    Indeed, some cults (‘cemaat’, ‘tarikat’ etc.) do make it quite clear that their followers should either not read any Turkish translation/interpreattion (‘meal’/’tefsir’, in that order) other than the officially sanctioned one, or none at all.
    .
    IOW, that practice of making people recite something they have no idea about reminds me of an old practice by the British in India: make them memorize logarithmic tables as prerequisite for job applications.
    .
    Here’s an anecdote to another station if I had happened to have landed on an Arabi: My grandmother, years ago, used to prevent me from moving onc radio station –such as Radio Cairo– because she used to think they were reciting the Kuran, even though all they were doing was singing some classical Arabic music.
    .
    Bless her. Though she wasn’t religious in any sense, she must have thought listening to other people reciting Kuran would probably cleanse her soul –or, some such thing.

  45. Jenny,
    .
    There’s also a tendency to read only things that support one’s point of view, not to read for information.
    .
    It is worse than that, those who write and act as though they write to inform also — at least — play fast and loose with the facts to serve their purpose and get away with it. Having a POV is inevitable, but a somewhat sophisticated readership will act to keep pundits in check when it comes to just making stuff up. W/o that and with ever-present praise (and perhaps money) from stake-holders whose interests get served, we’re also corrupting our ‘public intellectuals.’ It is not a coincidence that you get praised here on this blog (eg the Adnan hoca piece) when you write about things you have personally observed or researched and get criticism when you rely on second-hand information as reported by sources you deem reliable.
    .
    And there’s also the issue of social control. Widespread, indiscriminate reading for information would undermine state and government attempts to indoctrinate students in schools.
    .
    This is not limited to the gov’t. In fact the gov’t has gotten laxer about this. I know you were here at least for a while back when they were tougher. When we were growing up we’d get stopped on the street and our bookbags would be searched (I’d say from 14-15 onwards for males). They weren’t just looking for guns, they were looking for books too. No such thing happens now, perhaps, in part, because — at least for university students — control by various cemaats has replaced heavy-handed gov’t control and works better. And that cemaat thing is another example of this. The info you get on them (especially the biggest one) is designed either to make you fear them or make you believe that they are a godsend.

  46. We need to make a political issue of this. The only way it is going to get fixed is if kids pick up the habit in primary school. First, their teachers should read to them. Then they should read together (teachers and students). Finally, they should read by themselves. Teach them to distinguish good books from bad books. Test their comprehension skills. My dream campaign: an hour of reading a day in primary school.

  47. Emre,
    .
    My dream campaign: an hour of reading a day in primary school.
    .
    We had a version of this. Perhaps not every day, but it was more than once a week. Sometimes the teacher would read, sometimes she’d make us read aloud. This was a public school (in the US sense) in the early 70s with 70+ kids to a classroom (and an excellent teacher. Lemme tell you, those novels from the early days of the Republic about heroic women teachers in service of their nation aren’t making things up. Such women existed in public service). So it isn’t a matter or wealth or anything like that.

  48. [Trying to see if this will get through. Others didn't; so I combined bith into one. Sorry.]

    BM,

    If, by epistemology, you are referring to limits of knowledge; no, that isn’t quite what I am on about.

    Although related, my focus is on the current practical means and limits of gathering data and information and then turning it into a knowledge that we all share and agree.

    Evolution is a complicated field. It involves innumerable factors.

    I haven’t studied what is said by scientists to scientists about this issue and your performance here makes it hard for me to take your word for it.

    For some reason I don’t fully understand, you act as though you need this both about the terminology and the approach. I happen to have had some indirect exposure to the philosophy and math side of things but I cannot help in this (ie I’m not motivated to do the work) and would be afraid to mislead people[1]. I’m surprised — though I shouldn’t be since I can now ‘predict’ the past with a revised theory and find confirmation in my memory of your past strifes online — that you’re allowing yourself to be pushed to extreme and indefensible positions by Emre and Michael’s style of engagement here. I don’t mean this as an insult but as a plea since I believe you have the wherewithall to help us here with many things.
    .
    [1] I’d at least recommend looking into why just saying ‘another case of belief against belief’ says more about the utterer than the subject it purports to be about. The implied moral equivalence, as it were, doesn’t exist much beyond the level of syntax. “Justified inference” “rational belief” etc. are some of the things you can feed to google, you might also look into “inductive inference” or “uncertain inference” (as opposed to deductive inference) to at least clear up the theory/threorem confusion. In general I’d look at this not from a evolution/creation POV but as part of a more general study of epistemology, Add no, in case anyone brings him in, Dawkins’ popular polemics for atheism are not appropriate sources for this. Think of simpler cases. To give an extreme example, think of an investor investing in a gambling establishment believing that he’ll make money, and a customer of that establishment holding the same belief. I’d bet on the former if I could find someone to take the other side of the bet (say at even odds) even though it is possible for someone to break the bank on the opening day. I’d say while the investor and I both are acting out of a belief it is a fundamentally different kind of belief than the apparent beliefs of those who bet against us.

  49. BM,

    As for what philantropists can do, I am not sure. I’m toying with the idea that of an online library for physical books where people can check out books using a temporary charge/hold on their credit card.

    Would you want to lead this idea into being a reality in TR?

    JW,

    Also, in my time with working-class families and in villages, I learned that it is often considered improper for women to read anything except the Quran.

    I think we should clarify this a little:

    By ‘reading’ you’re not implying they are actually ‘reading’ it –like you read and comprehend something–, all they are doing is silently/loudly reciting a text written in old Arabic. IOW, no usable information –whatever there is in Kuran– is obtained.
    .
    Indeed, some cults (‘cemaat’, ‘tarikat’ etc.) do make it quite clear that their followers should either not read any Turkish translation/interpreattion (‘meal’/’tefsir’, in that order) other than the officially sanctioned one, or none at all.
    .
    IOW, that practice of making people recite something they have no idea about reminds me of an old practice by the British in India: make them memorize logarithmic tables as prerequisite for job applications.
    .
    Here’s an anecdote to another station if I had happened to have landed on an Arabi: My grandmother, years ago, used to prevent me from moving onc radio station –such as Radio Cairo– because she used to think they were reciting the Kuran, even though all they were doing was singing some classical Arabic music.
    .
    Bless her. Though she wasn’t religious in any sense, she must have thought listening to other people reciting Kuran would probably cleanse her soul –or, some such thing.

  50. It’s always comforting to know we’re behind where we were decades ago.

  51. What Jenny has said brought to my mind the saying “Kadinin sirtindan sopayi, karnindan sipayi eksik etmeyeceksin.” Come on everyone! Let’s bang heads on desk.
    .
    I find it hard to believe that it is that bad all across. I also find Bulent’s supply-side idea practical and worth one’s while. An electronic library of printed-on-paper books (after the NexFlix movie rental business model, so to speak).
    .
    Bulent, have you seen Sony Reader or Amazon’s Kindle? Rather, have you seen what they call paper display, which is what these devices use? It is so cool: you have pretty much the same look as that of a printed page, low radiation, easy on the eye. It doesn’t have the same feel unfortunately. No pages to finger-flip through, but they try to give that effect by animation. Other advantages include keyword searches, bookmarking and annotation, and font magnification to reader’s satisfaction.

  52. And don’t forget “Kizini dovmeyen dizini dover”.

  53. Nihat,
    .
    Yes, I know what e-paper looks like, I’ve seen early samples years ago but no I haven’t used the devices. Not yet anyway. Ideally I’d want 4-5 of those running linux or at least operating with non-proprietary text and data/annotation formats and no DRM. I want a bunch so they can be planted in various places around the house like I do with books. Kindle fails on the DRM front, Sony’s might be OK though.
    .
    My low tech solution with PDF documentation is a duplex laser printer and a comb binder. That way annotations can be done in pencil, little post-it placeholders work, and the thing can be held on one’s lap or on the desk w/o eating up screen real estate. If searches or copy&paste are needed, acrobat or xpdf can be used on the e-copy. Also, nothing bad happens when you drop the ‘e-manual’ or it slips from the messy desk.

  54. Kindle now does PDF.

  55. One reason why I brought up electronic readers/e-books was I thought they could address the access problem experienced by bookworms in Turkey, however rare they may be and irrespective of DRM restrictions. Can’t you, for example, buy an e-book at Amazon at a cheaper price than for its hardcopy and download it right away, without S&H costs or customs worries?

  56. I just found a poem in my inbox. The poet is a certain Ahmet Selçuk Ilkan. I can’t make out who that is; he may or may not be a name I am supposed to know. It is, I guess, safe to say that he is a “dinosaur.” The poem is in Turkish, and I am pasting it here “as is” (/w apologies to English speakers) for its relevance to our discussion and to Bulent’s cultural observations.
    .
    ———-
    Sevgili oglum
    Bugün tam on yedi yasindasin
    Görüyorum ki artik
    Her seyin farkindasin
    Ama ne zaman ararsam seni
    Ya diskoda
    Ya barda
    Ya da televizyon karsisindasin
    .
    Haklisin oglum
    Devir artik bu devir
    Sen de çemberini çagina göre çevir
    Senin neyine
    Resim roman siir
    Senin neyine
    Sanat vesair
    Ne diyor meshur televizyon büyükleri
    Vur patlasin çal oynasin
    Devir artik bu devir Nasilsa
    Son dügmesi de koptu insanligin
    Vefa can çekisiyor arka sokaklarda
    .
    Umut mendil salliyor giden trenlerin ardindan
    Onur, adres ariyor mezarliklarda
    Dostluklar çöp tenekelerinde sahipsiz
    Ve anahtar teslimi asklar satilik köse baslarinda
    Hem de üç kurus mutluluklara. ..
    .
    Ama sen de haklisin
    Sana mi kaldi
    Kurtarmak vatani
    Sana mi kaldi
    Uyandirmak yatani
    Sana mi kaldi
    Duvara yapistirmak
    Bu memleketi satani
    Anasini aglatani….
    .
    Gel gör ki oglum
    Senin de kurtulusun yok bu gidisten
    Ne etsen- ne yapsan
    Bir dügün
    Bir bayram
    Bir lale devri
    Hangi ekrana baksan

    Kim kiminle evleniyor
    Kim kiminle çildiriyor
    Kim kime daldan dala
    Gelinim olur musun diyor
    Kimisi sahte gelin
    Kimisi zengin bir prens
    Kimisi de insanliktan bir yudum bir nefes
    Bekliyor da bekliyor
    .
    Bak her gün ayri bir kanalda
    Bambaska bir ‘ünlüler çiftligi’
    Her kanalda söhret olmanin dayanilmaz hafifligi
    Ve iste böyle
    Pazara dökülüyor bir bir
    Herkesin yumak yumak ipligi
    Yillar var ki oglum
    Birileri iste
    Bizi hep böyle gözetliyor…
    .
    Ve sen de görüyorsun ki
    Bu sahneler
    Bizi ne de güzel özetliyor
    Kimin umurunda yarinlar
    Kimin umurunda çocuklar
    Kimin umurunda bu isyankar çigliklar
    Bir kavgadir
    Bir yaristir
    Bir rezalettir gidiyor.
    .
    Kime sorsan
    Cevaplar dünden hazir
    Halk böyle istiyor oglum
    Halk böyle istiyor
    .
    Gel gör ki
    Bir reyting ugruna
    Ne ‘günesler batiyor’ oglum
    Ne günesler batiyor….

  57. Bulent,
    I never answered your question about what school the 2 male acolytes attended. I can’t find my notes right now and don’t remember the schools, but I remember being impressed. At least one of them had an M.A.. I think we spoke English in the car, although the interview with Oktar was in Turkish.

  58. Nihat, it appears Kindle is usable abroad but with limited functionality (ie no wireless connectivity). You still seem to need the physical hardware and that needs to be shipped to an US adress. I could manage this at some monetary and time cost, but that doesn’t solve the general problem.
    .
    The ‘Halk böyle istiyor’ part in that poem reminded me of this:Koyluleri nicin oldurmeliyiz?. That poem is from a different era and is about the parents of this present ‘halk.’

  59. Jenny,
    .
    Thanks anyway. What branch of social science deals with that kind of gullibility among the smart&educated? Any links?
    .
    An M.A. here means at least 16 years of formal education. Especially in earlier times, Adnan Hoca’s writings required not much more than mere literacy to peg him. I don’t understand the process. (Our half-serious reaction as snooty engineering students when his people appeared in Bogazici U. was saying stuff like ‘they got the view but not the brains’ or ‘oralara essek baglasan bitirir zaten’ (you could tie a donkey in front of those departments and he’d graduate) about the social science students.)

  60. I found my notes: One guy had an MA in International Relations from Istanbul University.

  61. Hmm. I tried to find out, at least for undergraduate studies, what kind of entrance exam score (and percentile rank) was required for that department in the past. Unfortunately I couldn’t manage to get that from the OYSM site (ran out of patience with blank documents and incomplete links). I don’t have much hair left to pull, but others might. This info must be online but I seem to be unable to find it. Here’s the link:

    http://www.osym.gov.tr/BelgeGoster.aspx?F6E10F8892433CFFAC8287D72AD903BE8F59EC4393613791

  62. BM,

    I’m toying with the idea that of an online library for physical books where people can check out books using a temporary charge/hold on their credit card.
    .
    We have the package delivery infrastructure, and for about $2 (retail) you can have a book or two delivered. This is roughly the cost of two trips using municipal public transportation in Istanbul if you stay on the same continent.
    .
    Add to this the expense of real estate here, and the numbers probably work out in favor of a warehouse-like facility in a cheaper part of Western Turkey if the aim is getting the books to the people in an economical manner (and you can serve the entire country with an online facility).
    .
    Of course there’s no reason why a foundation university with an existing library and staff cannot offer this service (even for a modest fee).

    This does sound like an idea whose time has come; but I am not sure.
    .
    The thing is, it has to be financially largely self-sustaining once it has been set up –otherwise it would be a flash in the pan.
    .
    How would you go about setting it up?
    .
    Where would you get the books?
    .
    How many people would you need to run it with?
    .
    Are non-public (even if non-profit) entities allowed to loan out books?
    .
    Probably more importantly, how would you handle the actual loaning of the books –what if they never get returned; what if they get returned but are worn beyond re-use?
    .

  63. CA,
    .
    This thread got carried over to Yuksek Okce’s blog. I’ll answer here, but perhaps we should continue over there.
    .
    The thing is, it has to be financially largely self-sustaining once it has been set up –otherwise it would be a flash in the pan.
    .
    Yes.
    .
    How would you go about setting it up?
    .
    I’d start by pricing small warehouses set up in large enough plots of land in Western parts of the country and see what kind of pricing one can get from the package delivery companies for pick up (or to see if pick-up makes sense). You might not even need fast (or wired) internet connectivity in that location, or electricity from the grid.
    .
    Where would you get the books?
    .
    Sahaflar, directly from publishers (ie deals) donations etc. It wouldn’t be just books, it would be [bound] periodicals too. Especially for foreign books, one model could be acquiring them on request and charging the cost and then giving ‘strore credit’ to the patron over time.
    .
    How many people would you need to run it with?
    .
    Probably just a couple at the start.
    .
    Are non-public (even if non-profit) entities allowed to loan out books?
    .
    This would be the kind of thing they’d ban here, wouldn’t it? I don’t know. If you step on toes they might get our wonderful politicans to make it illegal. (Especially if you carry other content, like Netflix does.)
    .
    Probably more importantly, how would you handle the actual loaning of the books –what if they never get returned; what if they get returned but are worn beyond re-use?
    .
    If they never get returned, you turn the ‘hold’ on the credit card into an actual charge (obviously it might not be that simple. If one were to do this, money would need to be spent on lawyers first). Worn beyond reuse with the borrower refusing to pay might trigger a ban (both person and address) rather than a charge because the legal stuff might be complicated and costly.

  64. CA,
    .
    How would you go about setting it up?
    .
    I gave a different answer above because I assumed that you were asking about an independent outfit. This would best be done as an extension of a university library. I’d preferably be a private/foundation university to trigger replication of this among others who want to make a name for themselves. (I’ve seen an ads for a foundation university in ek$i sozluk, so we know at least one of them spends money on such stuff).

  65. CA, roughly speaking…
    .
    It could be a membership organization. Members finance the acquisition of the new books they like, while having access to the whole pool of books (by borrowing). In other words, each member has a deposit made –you make a deposit even if you don’t request new books– and is in good standing as long as (s)he keeps returning borrowed books. Say you loved a book you borrowed and want to keep it. You do that, but replenish your deposit to continue borrowing.
    .
    It’d be especially sweet if members could do the shipment to one another, without a central warehouse to which each book is returned between checkouts. Actually, this may be an essential component of the system for cost effectiveness.
    .
    Are non-public (even if non-profit) entities allowed to loan out books?
    .
    And in Turkey, that’s the kind of question we ask ourselves. I wish it wasn’t.

  66. Nihat,
    .
    It’d be especially sweet if members could do the shipment to one another, without a central warehouse to which each book is returned between checkouts. Actually, this may be an essential component of the system for cost effectiveness.
    .
    I thought about that. People aren’t used to that kind of sharing (they don’t really understand the music download programs work this way). There’s an increasing number who are used to shopping online with credit cards though. What you are saying is indeed very sweet, but can quickly sour people to the idea when glitches happen and would cause headaches for the organizers (ie folks who run the database) who’d end up dealing with the complaints. Also, women tend to be careful about these things, they might not mind getting, say, Lady Chatterley’s Lover from a library facility, but they might mind getting it from or shipping it to a male and disclosing both their address and ‘interest.’ (People here hit on women working in customer support even. Though that might work both ways, some support girl once said ‘gencim, guzelim, bekarim‘ to me on the phone here. I’d done nothing to trigger that other than remarking that whatever outage I was complaining about must be making their jobs hard over there or somesuch innocuous thing.)

  67. I just had an idea. Why doesn’t YOK doesn’t do something useful for a change and create an online repository of all the theses and dissertations created in the country? We could have an opt-in or opt-out system that encourages students, for the greater good of their country, to submit their works to the public domain. Well-off universities could retain a graphic designer to polish them first. Maybe even sell them, sharing the proceeds with the authors.
     
    It would be like UMI Dissertations.
     
    Students are constantly churning out monographs that gather dust. Why not put them to use? We’d have a treasure trove of reliable information. At least no worse than what’s on the market. They’d be dry reading but who can complain for the price?

  68. Emre, something similar to what you want exists in some form. I haven’t signed up and checked it out due to my pathalogical aversion to dealing with our academic bureaucrats. Here’s a link:

    http://www.ulakbim.gov.tr/cabim/bs/mis/uye/

  69. That’s not going to cut it! The whole point of my proposal is that we reduce the barrier to accessing information. It has to be easier than going to the library or the book store, otherwise what is the point?

  70. BM,

    I’ll answer here, but perhaps we should continue over there.

    Yes. Let’s.

    But, before that, let me write a few things about some other suggestions:

    Nihat’s idea of peer-to-peer distribution is a great one. It could also be removed of privacy concerns too.
    .
    Here’s how:
    .
    You work closely with the delivery/transport/cargo company (DTCC) and give each shipment a distinct ID number. When that ID number gets picked up by the DTCC, you simply reroute it to the new recipient –without it ever coming back to your offices.
    .
    Trouble may arise when the item is found to be in unusable state (i.e. when someone has to pay damages). It then becomes a he-said-she-said issue. This needs to worked out.
    .
    I would also love to see Emre’s suggestions to come through.
    .
    But, I am afraid it’d be more realistic to plan for a skiing trip in hell before that happens. Public institutions here don’t do that sort of useful thing anymore –they have been said to have done such thing 80 years or so (through Halkevleri etc.), but that’s about it.
    .
    I would be more than glad if those no good for nothing public institutions managed to stay out of this all together.

  71. CA,
    .
    But, I am afraid it’d be more realistic to plan for a skiing trip in hell before that happens. Public institutions here don’t do that sort of useful thing anymore –they have been said to have done such thing 80 years or so (through Halkevleri etc.), but that’s about it.
    .
    That’s partly why I didn’t even bother to check the facility out and just gave the URL. It is like the joke about bad boyfriends turning women on to other women, those people gave me libertarian inclinations…
    .
    I would be more than glad if those no good for nothing public institutions managed to stay out of this all together.
    .
    Benden uzak, Allah’a yakin olsunlar. (This is an ambigous cross between a curse/blessing. It means ‘may they be away from me and close to God.’) At least there seems to be a concerted effort to accomplish or fake the latter lately.
    .
    I agree with your assessment of and the suggestion about Nihat’s P2P idea, that’d be wonderful.

  72. I am having a busy weekend. Doing slave work to represent Turkey at a local festival. Good discussion. Will try to get back with you later.
    .
    When and how the discussion mover over to YuksekOkce’s place totally escapes me at the time…

  73. This is an ambigous cross between a curse/blessing. It means ‘may they be away from me and close to God.’

    ideal proximity being attainable only through quietus.

  74. Nihat,

    When and how the discussion mover over to YuksekOkce’s place totally escapes me at the time…

    My fault –or, rather, this blog’s software’s fault–; I tried to post here a dozen times and all the time it ate them.
    .
    Out of frustration, I then posted to YO’s blog.

  75. Out of frustration, I then posted to YO’s blog.

    Then I mistakenly thought YO was asking me about this and responded to her, which got her interested and she started asking questions. We can move over there if there are still things to be said. There doesn’t seem to be much point in holding this conversation in English. Here’s the last comment:

    http://yuksekokcedenmemleketmanzarasi.blogspot.com/2009/08/jet-imamlar-evden-burjuvaya-3g-ile.html?showComment=1251091307691#c2638557287636615649

    (If you don’t know what a ‘jet imam’ is, youtube is your friend (and a clownish one at that)).

  76. Turkish educators take note: Students Get New Assignment: Pick Books You Like

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