Why do the Muslims hate us? It's the methodological naturalism!

(Important Preliminary Note: The phrase, “Why do the Muslims hate us?” is derived from political discussions after the 9/11 terror attacks and is based on bogus assumptions on several levels. It is employed in the title as parody. See point 4 of this post for the context.)

While a flood of news stories came out at the beginning of the Kansas Kangaroo Court, stories on the end of the hearings (Day 3) seem to be coming out very slowly. Here is the first and only one I’ve seen so far. I suspect that exhaustion, boredom, and/or cynicism took their toll on the reporters. (See Note 1)

The slow press coverage is kind of a shame for the IDers, because it appears that they scheduled their A-team for Day 3 – Stephen C. Meyer (director of the Discovery Institute Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture, and a very rare pro-ID Steve to boot); Warren Nord (religion-in-public-schools advocate and Dover expert witness for ID); Angus Menuge (a philosopher with a serious-sounding name at the serious-sounding Cranach Institute; if I recall correctly, Ronald Numbers pegs the Cranach Institute as the home of the Lutheran Young-Earth Creationists), the famed Michael Behe as the cleanup hitter, and the obligatory non-conservative-Christian ID supporter, the conservative Muslim Mustafa Akyol.

Mustafa Akyol is an interesting character. Earlier this week, Tony Ortega of The Pitch, an alternative newspaper in Kansas City, published a detailed writeup on Akyol (Ortega’s full story on the Kansas hearings, “Your OFFICIAL program to the Scopes II Kansas Monkey Trial, is a must-read).

Among the things that make Akyol an interesting witness:

1. No science background whatsoever. Enough said.

2. Akyol and BAV/Harun Yahya – Akyol has close associations with the Turkish BAV group and Harun Yahya – who are, among other things, proud Young Earth Creationists and fervent recyclers of the materials of the U.S. YEC groups.

(Yes, that’s right, fundamentalist Muslims copying arguments from fundamentalist Christians. I’ll give everyone a second to go reboot their irony meters.)

And, according to many reports, the Turkish creationists are anti-intellectual thugs. Ortega writes,

[Akyol] also has identified himself as a spokesman for the murky Bilim Arastirma Vakfi, a group with an innocuous-sounding name – it means “Science Research Foundation” – but a nasty reputation.

Said to have started as a religious cult that preyed on wealthy members of Turkish society, the Bilim Arastirma Vakfi has appeared in lurid media tales about sex rings, a blackmail prosecution and speculation about its charismatic leader, a man named Adnan Oktar. But if BAV’s notoriety has been burnished by a sensationalist Turkish media, the secretive group has earned its reputation as a prodigious publisher of inexpensive ideological paperbacks. BAV has put out hundreds of titles written by “Harun Yahya” (a pseudonym) on various topics, but most of them are Islamic-based attacks on the theory of evolution.

Turkey is a secular country that aspires to join the European Union and boasts several institutions of higher learning on a par with good Western universities. But beginning in 1998, BAV spearheaded an effort to attack Turkish academics who taught Darwinian theory. Professors there say they were harassed and threatened, and some of them were slandered in fliers that labeled them “Maoists” for teaching evolution. In 1999, six of the professors won a civil court case against BAV for defamation and were awarded $4,000 each.

But seven years after BAV’s offensive began, says Istanbul University forensics professor Umit Sayin (one of the slandered faculty members), the battle is over.

“There is no fight against the creationists now. They have won the war,” Sayin tells the Pitch from his home in Istanbul. “In 1998, I was able to motivate six members of the Turkish Academy of Sciences to speak out against the creationist movement. Today, it’s impossible to motivate anyone. They’re afraid they’ll be attacked by the radical Islamists and the BAV.”

Sayin is well aware of Mustafa Akyol, whom he identifies as one of BAV’s many volunteers. (Akyol himself has described his role for the group as that of a spokesman.) The organization’s source of funding and internal structure are well-guarded secrets, Sayin says. The Turkish government, he adds, refuses to take an interest, tacitly encouraging the ongoing effort against scientists.

“It’s hopeless here,” Sayin says. “I’ve been fighting with these guys for six years, and it’s come to nothing.” As a result of the BAV campaign and other efforts to denounce evolution, he adds, most members of Turkey’s parliament today not only discount evolution but consider it a hoax. “Now creationism is in [high school] biology books,” Sayin says. “Evolution is presented [by BAV] as a conspiracy of the Jewish and American imperialists to promote new world order and fascist motives … and the majority of the people believe it.”

The secret to BAV’s success is the huge popularity of the Harun Yahya books, says a professor closer to home, Truman State University physicist Taner Edis, who was born in Turkey. “They’re fairly lavishly produced, on good-quality paper with full-color illustrations all over the place,” he says. “They’re trying to compete with any sort of science publication you can find in the Western world. And in a place like Turkey, Yahya books look considerably better-published than most scientific publications.”

The books are slick, but BAV has had plenty of help. Sayin says that creationism in Turkey got key support in the 1980s and 1990s from American creationist organizations, and Edis points out that BAV’s Yahya books resemble the same sorts of works put out by California’s Institute for Creation Research. Except in Yahya’s books, it’s Allah that’s doing the creating.

In 2001, Science magazine called BAV “one of the world’s strongest anti-evolution movements outside of North America,” and Edis tells the Pitch that Yahya books are gaining popularity in other parts of the world, including London (which is increasingly becoming a global center for Islamic publishing) and Indonesia.

When Ortega asked IDNet organizer Bill Harris about BAV, you’ll never believe what he said. (Warning: Set your irony meters on maximum).

To opponents, it’s a coy act. Most of ID’s leading lights are devout Christians. Earlier this year, the Pitch put it directly to one of the movement’s local point men, University of Missouri-Kansas City professor of medicine William Harris: Did he believe the “designer” was the Christian God?

Harris admitted that, for him, that was true. But intelligent design itself had no opinion on the matter, he said. “I know Muslims who equate that designer with Allah,” he told us.

Which is why Kansans are paying to bring Mustafa Akyol to Topeka.

Harris included Akyol on a list of witnesses whom he wanted brought in to testify on behalf of intelligent design in this week’s hearings.

Harris says he hasn’t heard of BAV. Told of the group’s harassment of biologists in Turkey and evolution’s defeat there, he replies, “Great! Congratulations! I mean, that is the point, once people start to see science more objectively.”

3. Genocide and Genocide Denial – Akyol has stated explicitly that he is not a Holocaust Denier. This is fine, but he might not realize that BAV and Harun Yahya certainly have promoted Holocaust Revisionism (see Harun Yahya and Holocaust Revisionism at TalkOrigins.org). Also, have a look at how Akyol recently described the Armenian Genocide, widely seen as one of the inspirations for Hitler’s “Lebensraum” policy and the Holocaust:

The “Armenian revolutionary agitation” is deliberately neglected by those who argue that Armenians experienced a Holocaust under Ottoman rule. They truly suffered, especially in 1915, and I am in no way willing to minimize or trivialize that tragedy. But that was not a “holocaust.” In the real Holocaust, Nazis exterminated 6,000,000 Jews simply out of an unprovoked, sadistic hatred of the Jews. What happened in 1915, and beforehand, was mutual killing in which the Armenian loss was greater than that of the Muslims (Turks and Kurds), but in which the brutality was pretty similar on both sides.

Mustafa Akyol, “What’s Right With Turkey.” December 3, 2004

I’m not sure what else to call the virtual extermination of the Armenians in the Ottoman empire except for “genocide” or “holocaust.” (See Note 2)

4. Akyol on methodological naturalism, evolution and Islam-western relationsAccording to the news story (see also a similar account from Thoughts about Kansas), at the hearings Akyol apparently argued that methodological naturalism and evolution are part of why the Muslims don’t like the U.S.!

One of the other witnesses was a Turkish newspaper columnist with no science background but a nearly 10-year-old interest in intelligent design. Mustafa Akyol testified that the naturalistic bias in Kansas’ science standards contributes to the ill will between the Muslim world and the United States.

He urged the board to adopt the critical approach to help alleviate that ill will.

“This is not the only reason for anti-Westernism, but it is an important one,” he said.

Kansas City Star, 5/7/05, emphasis added

Okay. First, go replace the fuses on your irony meters. Second, contemplate the cause of minor episodes like the Crusades which are actual historical incidents creating “ill will” between Islam and the west. Hint: it wasn’t methodological naturalism or evolution. Third, contemplate the major factors that currently cause ill will between Islam and the west. I don’t think that U.S. science education is a major factor, and I don’t think that the Islamic world’s main concerns with the Bush administration involve Bush pushing evolution on other countries.

Finally, contemplate Akyol’s proposed solution – U.S. government encouragement of a very specific religious belief, derived straight from U.S. fundamentalist Christianity, in public school science classes. The jews in Kansas have already mentioned that they don’t think this is such a hot idea (see the story, “Jews eye ‘intelligent design’ hearings”, in the Kansas City Jewish Chronicle). I suspect many U.S. Muslims would feel the same way, for the same reasons.


Note 1: Also, the poor reporters probably went in on Day 1 armed with only cheap, regular-strength irony meters which would not have lasted through 30 seconds of the Kangaroo Court before massive overload and catastrophic disintegration. Experienced creationism-watchers know that reinforced, industrial-strength irony meters are required for any such event. Ideally, one would have multiple irony meters arranged in series, so that the backup meters can kick in automatically when sudden irony spikes occur. Perhaps the few reporters that made it through to the end of day 3 pieced together workable arrays from the stacks of damaged irony meters discarded near the auditorium exits by those fleeing irony overload.

Note 2: I started looking into the various online debates involving Akyol, various genocides, terrorism, and Islam. I was not able to reach the bottom of the debates or reach a firm conclusion in any reasonable amount of time, but for the record I offer some superficial impressions: (1) Some of Akyol’s critics appear to be in the Islam-intrinsically-supports-terrorism camp. This is indeed a stupid position and a worthy thing to argue against, and I applaud Akyol for doing this. (2) However, minimizing the genocide of the Armenian Christians is a clear misstep. (3) Just like the Holocaust, there is a massive amount of web material on the Armenian Genocide, and also a significant denialist campaign. (4) The only argument of the Armenian-Genocide-Deniers that seems to have any merit is the claim that the Muslim Turks experienced millions of deaths and forced dislocations in the 1800’s and early 1900’s, and that this does not get the same attention in the west and in academia that has been given to the Holocaust and Armenian Genocide. The thesis that there has been relative neglect in the West of the history of genocide against Muslims seems eminently plausible, although I can’t speak to the history. (5) Regardless, the separate question of other genocides does nothing to ameliorate the Armenian Genocide. (6) Many of these web debates seem to be about who-killed-who first, and who killed more of who. Many of these debates seem to have underlying subtexts about the intrinsic validity, morality, and correctness of Islam vs. Christianity. (7) All of this goes to show how fun it is to mix religion and government.