There is much talk going around the media that Turkey will now be banishing the teaching on evolutionism from its school curriculum, with Erdogan’s appointing of Education Minister Ismet Yilmaz. But looking at what Yilmaz has said recently, makes this simple allegation to not be entirely accurate. Yilmaz wants to remove any mention of the word of “evolution,” but he himself says that he believes in evolution; that he wants to continue the teaching on the fundamentals of evolutionism while not mentioning the word so as to prevent objections from the people, and that he is in favor teaching full out evolutionism, with Darwinist terms and all, at the university level. As one BBC report says:
Mr Yilmaz denied that evolution theory was being completely omitted from secondary education.
“We are not against evolution. If science says something, it is impossible to resist it. Also, the subjects on inheritance, mutation, modification and adaptation are still present in the curriculum. These are all within the theory of evolution,” Mr Yilmaz argued.
“We only say this: Let’s not teach this subject at this level, but delay it to undergraduate study,” he added.
And one Turkish publication, the Hurriyet Daily, gives more detail on this story:
The debate over the exclusion of the theory of evolution from the curriculum in Turkey has now reached a new level, thanks to a man heading the board in charge of overseeing and approving all textbooks and educational materials used in Turkish schools.
Speaking at a press conference to announce the details of the new curriculum and to defend it, Board of Education head Alparslan Durmuş contested that contrary to reports, the theory of evolution was actually included in the curriculum – through its reflections in various courses.
“Do you ‘believe’ in the screwdriver? Do you ‘believe’ in the pincer?” Durmuş asked another official during the news conference while trying to explain himself.
“You say ‘I use the pincer.’ Just like this, do I believe in evolution? No, I don’t ‘believe’ in evolution, but I do use it. I use it in biotechnology and to explain certain biological issues. For me [evolution is] like a tool box. Every theory is in fact a tool box,” he said.
To be fair, Durmuş said evolution “is a theory, a valid one,” drawing the ire of many ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) supporters who had launched a campaign on social media demanding his removal “for defending the theory of evolution.”
“Saying that evolution was excluded [from the curriculum] is ignorant,” Durmuş said, noting that antibiotics, the diversity and classification of living organisms, genes, genetic variation and gene technologies, heredity and biological diversity, and stem cell and stem cell technologies are all included in biology textbooks in different chapters.
So it seems that high school students in Turkey will be taught about the applications of the theory of evolution, but not Charles Darwin’s theory itself.
Durmus obvious believes in evolution and Darwinism, but he is playing the same trick as what the Young Turks did before and during their ruling over Turkey: and that is, to apply eugenics, to describe Darwinism, without having to mention explicitly “evolution,” “Darwin,” or the like. An expression of respect towards, and an observing of the beliefs and practices of Islam, while at the same time holding onto and applying Darwinist principles: this is Ottoman Darwinism, and we should be prepared to see its rise. In the 19th century, and in the first half of the twentieth century, the Young Turks — idealistic and elitist Ottoman nationalists — subscribed to Darwinian race theory, being influenced by “survival of the fittest” ideology of thinkers like Herbert Spencer and German Darwinist Ernst Haeckel.
But the Young Turks did not explicitly declare their beliefs in evolution, rather they chose to describe such beliefs, while applying them in their genocide of the Assyrian, Armenian and Greek Christian populations, who they say as hinderances to their goal of a homogenous Turkish society. The Young Turks were fanatically inspired by the Japanese in their “Meiji era” of westernization, their supposedly homogenous society, and their ability to use Western technology while not losing their Eastern culture. Japan, to the Young Turks, was the primary example of an Eastern people who adapted to Western technology.
The Young Turks advanced the European ideas of nationalism, rational science and pride in one’s homeland, in their movement against the Sultan. But, in wanting to maintain their Oriental image, the Young Turks went on to “glance east” towards Japan as the role model for a nation that kept its Asian identity while at the same time utilizing Western technology and Enlightenment ideology. The religion of the Enlightenment led to the developing of evolutionism and eugenics, since Erasmus Darwin — Charles Darwin’s grandfather — was a thinker of the Enlightenment period who supported the carnage and slaughter of the French Revolution and articulated ideas which would help serve for the “survival of the fittest” ideology that became so popular in subsequent centuries.
Enlightenment philosophy and Darwinism would be absorbed by both the Japanese and the Ottoman Empire, and both of these would use such belief systems as justification for their own genocides, be it in China or Armenia.
In the early 20th century, the Ottomans, tired of their state of decline, wanted to restore the glory days when it was much more powerful and feared. The Young Turks looked to the theories of Herbert Spencer, the Darwinist who coined the term “survival of the fittest”. Now Spencer came up with a theory that there was a hierarchy of people, and the Ottomans applied this theory to themselves, seeing it as an evidence that their empire could return to a state of superiority over the European nations. The Japanese as well applied Spencer’s ideas to themselves, seeing Japan as biologically determined for superiority over Europe and other Asian countries.
Popular amongst both Turkish and Japanese elites was a social-Darwinist book entitled, The Psychological Laws of the Evolution of Peoples, published in 1894 and written by the French eugenist, Gustave Le Bon. In this very book, Le Bon writes against race-mixing, stating in very eugenist language:
“The first effect of interbreeding between different races is to destroy the soul of the races, and by their soul we mean that congeries of common ideas and sentiments which make the strength of peoples, and without which there is no such thing as a nation or a fatherland.”
Now I will reveal the eugenist beliefs of the Ottoman Empire and Turkey, showing that it was not just about Islam, but social-Darwinism as well, a reality that is rarely ever discussed. Ayca Alemdaroglu wrote a very in depth essay on the eugenics of the Young Turks and describes some of the eugenist beliefs of Ataturk:
“Atatürk, the leader of the Republican modernisation movement never mentioned eugenics as such; nevertheless, in the eyes of the eugenicists some of his famous remarks such as ‘strong and sturdy generations are the essence of Turkey’ and ‘the nation should be protected from degenerative perils’ were the basis of Turkish eugenic discourse.”
There was a Turkish doctor by the name of Fahrettin Kerim Gokay, a professor of psychiatry at Istanbul, who promoted and advocated for eugenics. He subscribed to the German ideology of “racial hygiene,” and affirmed that the preservation of superior racial traits from degeneration must be amongst the highest principles of the Turkish nation. Gokay referred to retarded people as ‘inferior’ beings who were a danger to the morals and order of the Turkish society.
Server Kamil Tokgöz, a Turkish medical professor, wrote in his 1938 book that “abnormal” people will reverse the process of Darwinian evolution. He broke society down into three categories: the superiors, the mediocre, and the “cacogenics,” that is the inferior people, who he described as the mute, the deaf, the insane, alcoholics, vagabonds, the immoral and the criminals. While praising the Young Turks — even though they butchered millions — he would go around labeling criminals as “inferior.”
In the 1934 book, entitled Biology and the Human Life, by Devlet Matbaasi, it affirms that the survival of Turkey will depend on the perpetuation of the superior genes of the Turk:
“The Turkish race of which we are proud to belong has a distinguished place amongst the best, strongest, most intelligent and most competent races in the world. Our duty is to preserve the essential qualities and virtues of the Turkish race and to confirm that we deserve to be members of this race. For that reason, one of our primary national duties is to adhere to the principle of leading physically and spiritually worthwhile lives by protecting ourselves from the perils of ill health, and by applying the knowledge of biology to our lives. The future of our Turkey will depend on the breeding of high valued Turkish progeny in the families that today’s youth will form in the future.”
The Young Turks believed in both biological and spiritual racism. The Armenians and Greeks were seen as both racially and spiritually distinct from the Ottomans, and thus they were a threat not only to the Turkish people, but to the religious unity of the nation. This is why the Young Turks demanded for a constitutional government and society that would be based on both Islam and contemporary science, in their vision of a modern Islamic nation.
In modern Ottomanist ideology, to be a true Ottoman was to be Muslim, to believe in modern science, and to respect Ottoman hegemony. The Armenians and Greeks, being Christians and refusing to consider themselves as Ottoman, posed a threat in the eyes of the Young Turks.
The Japanese thinker, Fukuzawa Yukichi, described Japan’s “leaving Asia” to “enter the West” as Bunmei Kaika, or progress towards enlightenment. Whereas the Ottomans, being a people whose lineage originally stemmed from Central Asia, believed that they had to “revisit” Asia to rediscover and reinvigorate their racially Eastern potential. It was the Japanification of Turkey. In other words, Turkey wanted to go back to their Central Asian ancestors.
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