Turkish schools to stop teaching evolution

Evolution will no longer be taught in Turkish schools, a senior education official has said, in a move likely to raise the ire of the country’s secular opposition.

Alpaslan Durmuş, who chairs the board of education, said evolution was debatable, controversial and too complicated for students.

“We believe that these subjects are beyond their [students] comprehension,” said Durmuş in a video published on the education ministry’s website.

Durmuş said a chapter on evolution was being removed from ninth grade biology course books, and the subject postponed to the undergraduate period. Another change to the curriculum may reduce the amount of time that students spend studying the legacy of secularism.

Critics of the government believe public life is being increasingly stripped of the secular traditions instilled by the nation’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

The secular opposition has long argued that the government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is pursuing a covert Islamist agenda contrary to the republic’s founding values. Education is a particularly contentious avenue, because of its potential in shaping future generations. Small-scale protests by parents in local schools have opposed the way religion is taught.

There is little acceptance of evolution as a concept among mainstream Muslim clerics in the Middle East, who believe it contradicts the story of creation in scripture, in which God breathed life into the first man, Adam, after shaping him from clay. Still, evolution is briefly taught in many high school biology courses in the region.

The final changes to the curriculum are likely to be announced next week after the Muslim Eid or Bayram festival at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. The draft changes had been put forth for public consultation at the beginning of the year.

The subject of evolution in particular stirred debate earlier this year after Numan Kurtulmuş, the deputy prime minister, described the process as a theory that was both archaic and lacking sufficient evidence.

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey is to stop teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution in high schools, deeming it controversial and difficult to understand, a senior education official said, a move likely to alarm secular Turks.

Critics say President Tayyip Erdogan and the Islamist-rooted AK Party are undermining modern Turkey’s secular foundations by pushing a conservative agenda, including tighter regulation of alcohol and other restrictions, since coming to power in 2002.

A chapter entitled “Beginning of Life and Evolution” will be deleted from the standard biology textbooks used in schools and the material will be available only to students who go on to university studies from age 18 or 19, Alparslan Durmus, head of the national education board said in an online address this week.

“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,” he said.

Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is rejected by both Christian and Muslim creationists, who believe God created the world as described in the Bible and the Koran, making the universe and all living things in six days.

The Bible presents that as the exact time needed for creation but the Koran says “days” actually means long periods of time.

Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said earlier this year that Darwin theory, first published in the 19th century, was “old and rotten” and did not necessarily have to be taught.

A lobby group that promotes secular education, the Egitim-Is (“Education Work”) Union has voiced concern at the changes to the curriculum, saying it reduced emphasis on the achievements of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey who banned Islam from public life.