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Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Islamic Creationism : According to Mr Yahya

A mysterious new book called The Atlas of Creation has been showing up in the mail boxes of prominent US academics and politicians in a well coordinated mailing campaign. You might expect a book that arrives unsolicited to be little more than a large tract, but in fact The Atlas of Creation is a sumptuous production by any standard. The tome is 11 by 14, weighs 12 pounds and consists of 800 glossy pages, most with eye-catching illustrations. The book presents the creationist myth from an Islamic perspective.

The author, Harun Yahya, is no fan of the theory of evolution. In fact his opposition to Darwin and all Darwin stood for is so visceral, he comes across as a-man-on-a-mission. He refers to the theory of evolution as "illusory, a lie, a deception" and a "perverted ideology."

'Harun Yahya' is the pen name of Adnan Oktar, a Turk who has produced numerous audio-visual materials detailing his science and faith opinions. However given the prodigious output of Harun Yahya, it is entirely possible that the name is that of the organization promoting his ideas, and may also be a front for writings by other contributors.

The main thrust of his attack on Darwinian theory is the assertion that creatures living today are pretty much identical to creatures living during the fossil age. He points to a fossil that looks recognizably like a lizard and declares that nothing much has changed. This approach flies in the face of scientific findings and damages the credibility of The Atlas of Creation.

There certainly are transitional fossils - evidence which Yahya simply ignores. He points out that there is a lack of evidence for "half-fish, half-bird" fossils - exotic hybrids of the Ripley's Believe It or Not variety. In fact the speciation event was excruciatingly slow, in some cases spanning up to a million years. The changes that occurred were very gradual.

Evidence of species-to-species transition is clearly evident in fossil remains that demonstrate significant changes in vertebrae and teeth for example. Creatures that formed part of a higher taxon (new genus), were not remarkably different from those of the older taxon. The changes were slight, yet significant. As more species evolved the process continued, until species appeared that compared with the 'parent stock' were significantly different.

Despite the ease with which this book can be dismissed from a scientific point of view, it also carries a cultural and ideological message. It is this message that makes the book a phenomena rather than any type of breakthrough likely to threaten Darwinian theory.

The production and distribution of The Atlas of Creation required extensive organization and funding. So who is behind this multi-million dollar enterprise? Since the book presents creationism from an Islamic perspective, there are those who have speculated that the Saudis may be behind it. This is highly unlikely to be the case however because Yahya is far from a traditional Muslim and not a fan of Wahhabism. If anything he appears to espouse a form of Islamic mysticism that has a good deal in common with Sufism and neo-Platonism. He is also much more open to making common cause with Jews and Christians than traditional Wahhabis would ever be. He has even spoken of the need for a sort of ecumenical "moral front" to oppose the "perverted ideology" of Darwin.

A lot of his writings show strong influence of Western creationist ideas. It's possible to detect borrowings from Creation Research (ICR), and ideas derived from 'intelligent design' theory. However it is a leap to suggest that Yahya is being funded by American creationist organizations - this is just as unlikely as funding from Saudi backers.

Although American creationists such as Duane Gish have traveled to Turkey to give talks to pro-creationist audiences, Turkish creationists have specific goals that set them apart from their American counterparts. They see themselves as part of a renaissance of the Islamic sciences derived in large part from the teachings of the Qu'ran. There is also an underlying anti-Western bias at work. For example Yahya takes the view that 9/11 was a direct consequence of Darwinism and materialism.

Even though Yahya's organization is viewed in Turkey with the same kind of suspicion reserved for Scientology in the US, there is no questioning the success of his movement. It tends to attract affluent and well educated young people, and there seems to be no lack of talent and funding to help forward the aims of the organization. The cultural and ideological agenda of the organization is just as influential as the creationist message.

Despite the glaring flaws in his scientific thinking, Harun Yahya is a charismatic force to be reckoned with.

Tags: Harun Yahya, The Atlas of Creation, Adnan Oktar, Darwin, theory of evolution, creationism, Duane Gish, Creation Research, Intelligent DesignSite Feed (via aidan maconachy)



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