Turkey will stop teaching schoolchildren about evolution and natural selection, education officials announced, because it’s considered too complicated and controversial for young minds to understand.
The country's education chief announced that the new curriculum will remove a chapter called "Beginning of Life and Evolution" from the nation’s standardized biology textbooks used up to ninth grade. The material will be left for when students go to university level.
"We are aware that if our students don't have the background to comprehend the premises and hypotheses, or if they don't have the knowledge and scientific framework, they will not be able to understand some controversial issues, so we have left out some of them," Alparslan Durmus, chairman of Turkey’s education authority, announced in a video late last week, as translated by Reuters news agency.
Richard Dawkins, the famed evolutionary biologist, has chucked in his two cents, saying in a statement: “As Turkish scientists will agree, evolution is an established fact, as firmly established as plate tectonic movements or the solar orbits of the planets.
“I’d like to pay the Turkish framers of this ridiculous education policy the compliment of assuming that they are cynical political manipulators. But actually, I fear they are more likely to be just plain stupid.”
Around 49 percent of Muslims in Turkey believe “that humans have remained in their present form since the beginning of time,” according to a 2013 report on religion and public life. For contrast, around 62 percent of people in the US believe in evolution.
Since the foundation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, the country has proudly fostered a reputation for being secular. However, in the past few years under the reign of President Erdogan, many commenters have argued the country is being pushed away from its secular foundations and slipping towards a conservative theocracy.
“The claim that evolution is ‘too complicated’ is absurd and an insult to Turkey’s students and teachers,” added Robyn Blumner, president and CEO of the Center for Inquiry. “We know from our work with middle school science teachers that students pretty easily grasp the basic principles of evolution. Moreover, learning about natural selection – the process that undergirds the diversity of all of life on Earth – fascinates and inspires students. How can the government even consider withholding that from students?”