Turkish funding agency denies grant to evolutionary biology

Science reports today that Turkey’s main science-funding agency denied a grant to a workshop on the grounds that “evolution is a controversial subject.” The purpose of the workshop was “to expose Turkish biology students to population genetics, game theory, and evolutionary modeling.” The organizers of the workshop had asked for approximately $18,000 (US) to cover the cost of students’ lodging and speakers’ travel. The workshop will go on, with private donors contributing the $18,000.

A spokesman for the funding agency, Tübitak, told Science that the proposal was rejected on its merits, despite wording in the rejection letter that

evolution is both nationally and universally a controversial subject. … It is difficult to regard it as an activity on which a consensus can be reached. … Since evolution is still a debated issue, the degree to which the organizers represent the community/country is very questionable.

The organizers of the workshop

are calling this [rejection] the first open admission of a bias against evolutionary biology by Turkey’s conservative government. The government began blocking educational evolution websites in 2011, and recently TÜBİTAK stopped publishing books on evolution, a decision it claimed was based on copyright issues,

according to the Science article.