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Turkish delight

Adnan Oktar

Prominent Turkish creationist and propagandist gets three years for corruption, reports Ted Nield

Geoscientist 18.7 July 2008

Turkish author Adnan Oktar was sentenced to three years in prison on Friday May 9 for "creating an illegal organisation for personal gain", the state-run Anatolian news agency announced. Born in 1956, Oktar (also known as "Adnan Hodja", or "master") is the inspiration behind a well-endowed organisation, based in Turkey, which champions the belief that God created the world in six days as told in the Bible and the Koran. The precise source of Oktar's Foundation's enormous wealth remains unknown. Oktar claims to be funded by "private donations".

The most notorious of Oktar's books, the glossily produced Atlas of Creation, has been sent, unsolicited, to scientists around the world. Even members of the US Congress have had copies mailed to them. Weighing in at about 6 kilos, with a bright red cover and almost 800 lavishly illustrated pages, the cost of the postage alone beggars belief. Signed under another Oktar pseudonym – Harun Yahya – thousands of copies were also mailed to universities and scientific institutes in France.

Until then, creationist literature was a rare sight in France, which prides itself on being the most secular nation in Europe – if not the world. French scientists spoke out vigorously against the book, which was duly impounded by the highly centralised French school system so that children would not be exposed to it. The Geological Society of London has not received one (yet).

“In our country we are used to nonsense like this” Professor Kevin Padian, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, told the New York Times. He also told NYT that people who had received copies were “just astounded at its size and production values and equally astonished at what a load of crap it is." The noble art of turd-polishing is, it seems, much more advanced than most people believe.

Yahya resembles the fundamentalist creationists familiar in the west, in that he believes that the world was created by a deity in six days; but he is no "young Earther". Oktar holds to the belief that creatures living today are simply the same as those in the past.

Oktar had been tried with 17 other defendants in an Istanbul court. The sentence came on the heels of an earlier trial that began in 2000, after Oktar and 50 members of his foundation were first arrested in 1999. According to the news agency Reuters, in that court case Oktar had been charged with "using threats for personal benefit and creating an organisation with the intent to commit a crime". These charges were initially dropped but another court then took them up.

Oktar's publishing house has released dozens of books, distributed in more than 150 countries and translated into more than 50 languages. Many Turkish commentators say the books (over 200 of them), are probably the work of many hands. Oktar denies this. He also says that the cases against him were part of a plot by Freemasons, and that his ideas were the origin of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair's conversion to Catholicism, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy's recent declarations on religion.

According to sources close to Oktar, an appeal is in preparation.

Europe is worried

the Atlas of Creation - as finely polished a turd as you are ever likely to see

On 4 October 2007 the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly passed Resolution 1580. It warned of creationism on the rise in Europe…

It's official: creationism is on the rise in Europe. The recent resolution of the Council of Europe highlighted some worrying trends, notablky the unsolicited targeting of education. It warned of “a real risk of serious confusion being introduced into our children’s minds between what has to do with convictions, beliefs, ideals of all sorts and what has to do with science”.

Such language is not common in European pronouncements. Moreover, the Council seemed to be uncharacteristically united, writing: “An ‘all things are equal’ attitude may seem appealing and tolerant, but is in fact dangerous", and urging member states to “defend and promote scientific knowledge” and “firmly oppose the teaching of creationism as a scientific discipline on an equal footing with the theory of evolution.”

The resolution came in the wake of a comprehensive report delivered in June last year and prepared by the Committee on Culture, Science and Education. The report cited examples of creationist onslaughts from 14 member states, as well as countries beyond the EU's borders, including Serbia, Russia - and Turkey.

Read the resolution