Turkish court bans Dawkins' website
Squawking over Dawkins
Comment Once upon a time, it took a Pope or a Stalinist dictator like, um, Stalin to have scientific discourse banned by decree. Nowadays, however, it merely takes a large and influential publishing house, and the agreement of Turkey’s criminal court of peace.
So it is that the website of leading UK biologist and thinker Richard Dawkins may no longer be accessed in Asia Minor.
The story begins with the publication in 2006 of the Atlas of Creation, an 870-page rejection of evolution by Turkish author Adnan Oktar.
Oktar, who writes under the pen name of Harun Yahya, is no stranger to controversy. He has used the Turkish courts before, most recently when he attempted earlier this year to have Dawkins' book The God Delusion banned in Turkey on the basis that it was insulting religion. That case was thrown out.
In August 2007, however, he succeeded in blocking access to millions of blogs using the Wordpress.com hosting service after finding that a number of them carried libellous comments.
In May, he was found guilty of creating an illegal organization for personal gain and sentenced to three years imprisonment. He is appealing the decision.
This latest action appears to follow comments made by Richard Dawkins on his website, describing the book as "preposterous". He added that he was at "a loss to reconcile the expensive and glossy production values of this book with the 'breathtaking inanity' of the content.
"Is it really inanity, or is it just plain laziness – or perhaps cynical awareness of the ignorance and stupidity of the target audience – mostly Muslim creationists."
According to Oktar, he and his book 'Atlas of Creation' have been defamed by these and other comments in similar vein.
His press assistant, Seda Aral, added: "We are not against freedom of speech or expression but you cannot insult people.
"We found the comments hurtful. It was not a scientific discussion. There was a line and the limit has been passed.
"We have used all the legal means to stop this site. We asked them to remove the comments but they did not."
Turk Telekom is now blocking access to Richard Dawkins site and Turkish internet users seeking the site are redirected to a page that says in Turkish "access to this site has been suspended in accordance with a court decision".
One irony of this action is that Oktar benefits greatly from a freedom to publish that he appears unwilling to extend to others. He has used hundreds of books, pamphlets and DVDS to contest Darwin's theory of evolution, and has recently been embroiled in controversy for distributing thousands of copies of the Atlas of Creation to schools in a number of European countries.
Before we pat ourselves too smugly on the back, we should recall recent events in the UK. The Daily Mail is fond of publicising details of individuals investigated by police for the various new "phobia" offences ("homophobia", for instance). Many of these are no more than a storm in a teacup, but they reveal a worrying trend in our own psyche - and it is just two years since a victory by just one vote pulled the teeth of the Government’s much-vaunted Religious Hatred Bill.
As it is, we now have a law that can be used against individuals who use threatening language that is targeted on the basis of religion.
Had that vote ended differently, we would now be living in a land in which anyone could be sentenced to seven years' imprisonment for the crime of using insulting language, even if the insult was unintended and what you said was based on truth. Far from laughing at the absurdity of the Turkish courts, we would now be reading about the arrest of Richard Dawkins and his impending prosecution in the UK for religious hatred.
A narrow escape? ®
@ Peter Mellor
<< I can hardly believe that so many of the commentators on this article in El Reg could have been so stupid as to attack Dawkins, who is arguably the best-qualified and highest-profile opponent of the wave of superstitious ignorance which the enemies of the open society wish to inflict on us. >>
He is certainly one of the loudest and most fervent. Whether he's the most qualified depends on whether we're concerning ourselves with what he's qualified *in*.
Dawkins tends to attack religion based on a relatively narrow view of it, which seems to cover *all* religion as a superficial variant on fundamentalist, anti-evolution, anti-science, young-Earth creationist Christianity. And you can see him rationalising away religions that don't fit that template in order that he can continue to treat 'religion' as entirely uniform. Check out the way he disposes of Hinduism and Buddhism in the initial sections of 'The God Delusion' (Hinduism is redefined as a monotheism and treated alongside Christianity; and Buddhism is dismissed as 'not really a religion at all'). The simple fact is that like so many who ape him, Dawkins has set his face against religion as a whole and this damages his arguments, made as they mainly are against one single, specific strand of religion.
It's not 'stupid' to attack Dawkins, as long as you attack him *with good reason*. And there are those who genuinely seem to believe that the man should be held above any kind of criticism - his academic position seems to render him inerrant in their eyes. But I'd suggest that this is precisely the same attitude that Dawkins himself condemns in reference to the religious: "this is my belief, it's sacred, and you aren't allowed to question it."
Personally I see Dawkins as an educated and intelligent man, and I've said before that I deeply admired his earlier books, which I considered alongside those of Stephen Hawking in bringing science to non-experts. But when he speaks and writes about religion I believe he's no longer 'Professor' Dawkins, and is instead simply 'Mr Dawkins' - because unless I'm mistaken, religion isn't the area in which he's trained. So I treat his opinion with the respect I'd give to any equally educated and intelligent person speaking outside their specialist field. It doesn't mean he isn't right - but nor does his academic status alone mean that he is. I ask a simple standard of him, and those who follow him: if they're going to attack me for being religious, I want to know that they understand what I believe and why I believe it, and I want to see them advance considered and rational arguments against those beliefs. I want to see that they've taken my beliefs into account before they attack me. And if they can't or won't meet that standard, then really I see no reason to heed what may be nothing more than opinions born of prejudice and ignorance.
But, to edge back towards the point, I personally dismissed this Harun Yahya when he/it/they claimed he/it/they had *ten trillion lira* (£4 trillion) to hand over to anyone who could produce an intermediate-form fossil (failing, as creationists always do, to understand that *all* fossils are to some extent 'intermediate-form').
A few facts about Adnan Oktar (alias Harun Yahya)
The comments on this article seem to have concentrated on Richard Dawkins (often slagging him off), largely to the exclusion of Adnan Oktar, who publishes under the pseudonym "Harun Yahya". (This nom-de-plume is an arabisation of "Aaron John".)
There are many items on the web by and about Oktar (or "Yahya"), including videos and transcripts of interviews, reviews, opinion pieces, etc., etc. The following facts are drawn from these and can be easily checked by anyone.
Oktar is an "old Earth" creationist. He accepts that the age of the Earth is several billion years, but completely rejects evolution. He asserts that Allah created all species in the forms in which we now observe them, and that there has been no divergence of species. (In one video interview, he claims that a fossil in his possession is of the skull of a lion, dating back to the age of the dinosaurs. This specimen has not been examined independently by a competent palaeontologist (unsurprisingly), and although it is not shown at all clearly in the video, from the glimpse that I caught of it, it looked reptilian.)
It is claimed that Oktar has written more than 250 books. A copy of his "Atlas of Creation" has been distributed free of charge and unsolicited to every school in France (and possibly to schools in other European countries and in America). This created an outcry among teachers in France, where the education system is rigorously secular. This was a free distribution of hundreds of thousands of copies (not the few hundred that an earlier post referred to). The production is lavish: hardback, large format, glossy, with colour illustrations. The cost of this operation alone must have been very considerable.
In person, he appears to be quite young (mid-40s, perhaps). He has a well-trimmed beard and moustache and black hair. His sartorial appearance indicates opulence, and he seems to spend a lot of time on yachts.
(He has fallen under a cloud regarding alleged sexual and financial improprieties, but I do not have time to check the facts right now, so will not try to expand on this.)
What follows is speculation on my part. (I wish to make this clear as an arse-covering ploy, to avoid a libel suit.)
From the sheer volume of his output, at a relatively early stage in his career, it is (to say the least) questionable that this is all Oktar's own work. A reasonable guess would be that "Harun Yahya" is a front for an Islamic creationist propaganda organisation, which outsources the writing to sympathetic universities (i.e., Islamic universities, in the main). The man Adnan Oktar is probably basically a Mr. Fixit who channels funds, rather than the eminent scientist that he claims to be.
As for the source of the funds, it is well known that Saudi Arabia (or certain organisations based there) are funding a massive Islamic (and specifically Sunni and Wahabist) propaganda exercise, including the building of mosques, running madrassas, training imams, etc., etc. A reasonable guess would be that Oktar's organisation is part of the "education" wing of this offensive.
The size of this exercise is measured in billions, rather than millions, of dollars. In this context, Oktar's free textbook scheme looks modest.
The nature of this propaganda offensive may be judged from the Channel 4 Dispatches documentary "Undercover Mosque". (When I last looked, this was still available on:
Oktar's rise from nowhere to mysterious eminence should be seen in this context. His litigious approach to justified criticism from a real scientist of genuine eminence should be seen in the context of the tactics actually employed by the Saudis: they have abused the notoriously lax libel laws in the UK to suppress publication of books critical of Islam. (See article by Nick Cohen in The Guardian a few months ago.)
I can hardly believe that so many of the commentators on this article in El Reg could have been so stupid as to attack Dawkins, who is arguably the best-qualified and highest-profile opponent of the wave of superstitious ignorance which the enemies of the open society wish to inflict on us.
[Black helicopters, since the Islamofascists are coming!]
No disagreement. I understand it so why tell me?