The Evolution concept in Turkish-Islamic people

Yazar: Berkay ÖZCAN

evoislamThe mystery of where all the life forms came from and how they developed has always been the most appealing and debated subject in the history that revealed by the fact and the theory of evolution, which is supported by reasonable scientific theories and evidences. However, the struggle between religious people in Muslim countries (Turkey is included) and scientific side has been continued throughout the centuries, especially after the masterpiece of Darwin gave the biological world a scientifically powerful interpretation of evolution to correct all the previous mistaken explanations on earth and life.

So, in this paper, whether evolutionary idea and religious, Islamic believes could be compromise or not and if there was an agreement in the past, the reason(s) why believes and evolution conflict(ed) throughout the history and nowadays among Turkish-Islamic people with the views of opponents and proponents will be examined.

In this article, firstly the scientific meaning, explanation and birth of evolution idea will be described. In this historical period, the first Islamic scientists’ viewpoints, names about creation of God correlated with evolution and the styles, ways of thinking, the progress in the science, rationalism and philosophy and later recessions, the affect of Gazali’s mission to this regression will be mentioned. Then, we will rapidly give an eye to the Ottoman age, particularly the last decades of it about these concepts. At last, this study will be investigated with the affects, income and pseudoscientific sources of so-called religious communities, press, newspapers, and magazines in this debate in Turkey.

The basic goal in this essay is to become aware of that the concept of evolution may not contradict with sacred values if they are commented through scientific look and to emphasize the significance of the integration of rational thought to Islamic nations. According to us, accepting or refusing the evolution theory is related importantly with the rational thought, so with the modernization of minds.

The birth of Evolution concept

Evolution theory became famous with Darwin’s contributions by adding “natural selection mechanism” to the biology, however first primitive explanations goes to the first and medieval ages. The Ancient Greek philosopher Anaxiamander invented the concept that all living things were related and that they had changed over time[1]. Herakleitos gave a leap to this change in time[2]. The classical science of their time was observational, philosophical rather than experimental. The other ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle explained his concept of the advancement of living things from inanimate matter to plants, then animals and finally man[3]. During middle era, special creation view without any changes was dominated and evolution was objected by Christianity[4]. On the contrary, traces of biological evolution is seen in Muslim people (following the early philosophy of Mu’tazile heavily inspired by Greek and Hellenistic views and focused largely on the concept of independent, rationalist thoughts[5]) and scientists’ books[6].

Scientific definition of Evolution

If it is wanted to merge two separate worldviews, primarily the true meaning of evolution must be transmitted to the public. The meaning of biological evolution can be defined as the alteration through generations in the organisms’ structure and actions. However, it should not be considered as a developmental change in an organism’s lifetime[7]. This change is cumulative and every organism has altered from a previous ancestor. The environmental conditions have the major control on the biological units, thus there is a battle for living in any environmental condition. The battle for life decides which organisms will increase their population by contributing more offspring because the survivors are the best fit ones[8].

It will be important to mention about a common misunderstanding among opponents about the evolution theory that it is just a “theory”; therefore it can be disproved by scientific progression one day. It must be made clear that the evolution process is a “fact” and a theory itself, but the distinction of a “fact” and “theory” should be done carefully in order to understand the true meaning of evolution (especially by public masses). A fact may be known and accepted as true and the forces that determine its existence may not be known fully, but its mechanism can be interpreted by scientific theories. Facts do not change while scientists regenerate new theories. The theories suggested by Darwin or some other will not change the fact of evolution, but they can alter mechanisms of evolution[9].

Rise of “rationalist thought” and concept of evolution in early Islamic era

If the history is investigated, it can be witnessed that Muslim scholars and scientists once led the world in discovery and reason. The most important event triggered the progressivist, scientific achievements of Muslims during four-five hundred years was approval of Mu’tazile section based upon to “reason” by Caliph Al-Ma’moun as the official sight of the state in 823. This rationalist religion understanding adopted as the ideology of state by the hands of Caliph[10]. This civilization accepted biological evolution that is controlled and directed by God, almost 1,000 years before the West.

Probably, unknown to the West, the Muslim scientist Al-Jahiz (776-869) first proposed the theory of biological evolution, “natural selection” of Darwin in his book, Kitabul Hayavan (Book of Animals), in the 9th century. According to his also experimental thoughts, “animals engage in a struggle for existence, for resources to avoid being eaten and to breed. Environmental factors influence organisms to develop new characteristics to ensure survival, thus transforming into new species. Animals that survive to breed can pass on their successful characteristics to offspring”. Beside he is telling about the biological term “mutation” as mesh (Arabic)[11]. Al-Jahiz was not the only Muslim to accept evolution as a fact. The Persian scientist and philosopher Ibn Miskawayh (932-1030), went forward and suggested that animals evolved into apes and then apes evolved a lower kind of a barbarian man, a superior human being, a saint, a prophet, respectively[12]. In fact, distinct/similar evolution theories of early Islamic philosophers like Al-Jahiz and Ibn Miskawayh also Biruni (973-1051), Nazzam (835), Cabir bin Hayyan (721-815), Ibn Tufeyl (1100-1183), Iraki, Kazvini (1203-1283, Tusi (1201-1274) and Ibn Haldun (1332-1406), Ibn Heysem (965-1039) were widely accepted and taught in medieval Islamic schools[13].

From beginning of Recession to the End of 19th century

During the rationalist, wealthy period of Islamic states, at the beginning of the 12th century the first Crusades had begun. Priests, in Europe could easily agitate poor people to become fanatics, far away from scientific thoughts to die or get the wealth of the east earths. This closing danger was wondering the Islamic state about their people irrelevant with a war thought and like comfort and quiet, philosophical and scientific occupation. This condition was as a consequence of predominant Mu’tazile section. Muslim people can not be persuaded easily like Christians. So, the state gave a mission to Gazali having deep knowledge about Mu’tazile, rationalism (because he was also a rationalist at the time) to disprove the proposals of Mu’tazile, and lessen the importance of “thought”. Interestingly, in these years Gazali’s ideas accepted as the official ideology of the State. Desired situation was succeeded due to the profound affect of Gazali on public[14]. The outcome was the widespread of the school called Ash’ari postulating that certain aspects of nature were beyond the ability of humans to comprehend. So, emphasis moved away from scientific study to only theology. This gave the birth of the concept of taqlid stressing the acceptance of religious ideas handed down by authorities, without the need for evidence[15].

Transformation from an ape-like creature was/is a shocking idea for Christian and Jew theology due to the fact that “The Holy man is created as the image of God”. This thought in the course of time affected the Islamic schools of thought and evolution was rejected commonly until now[16]. Even, the early scientist Nazzam was blamed as unbeliever, materialist and Satan by Ash’ari school because of evolution thought[17].

At Ottoman history, Erzurumlu İbrahim Hakkı is seen in front mentioning about evolution as “tekâmul” in his famous work Marifetname[18]. Evolution theory through positivist ideas was again introduced to public by a materialist Abdullah Cevdet. He even influenced greatly Atatürk in this issue[19].

The rising actions of Evolution opponents during last 30 years

There have been a permanent “evolution opponents” on a small scale in Turkey for decades. Before the 1980’s, many defined Islamic communities especially like “Nur Cemaati”, “Milli Görüş” had got an opposite attitudes, propaganda against the evolution idea showing it with the periodical articles, writings in their newspapers like “Zaman”, “Yeni Asya”,“Milli Gazete” and magazines such as “Sızıntı”, “Zafer”. After 1980’s, Ministry of Education of Turkey that is controlled by Islamic conservatives consulted to the ICR (Institute of Creation Research) rooted from American Christian Creationists to strike that there is a serious scientific criticism against the evolution. Various ICR-based pseudoscientific publications were translated into Turkish and presented to the high school teachers in this period[20].

Today, scales of publications of a big Islamic foundation, BAV (Bilim Araştırma Vakfı) that is established in 1991 by Adnan Oktar, are beyond the activities of other communities. BAV has published several books under the penname Harun Yahya and delivered copies to the public free of charge. All of the books belonged to the group can be downloaded from the net just freely[21].

BAV is an important part of the rise of anti-evolutionists in Turkey. Its activities and publications utilize millions of dollars each year, it is difficult to imagine that this amount of funding can be supplied just by donations, as BAV claimed. The source(s) of its funding remain very obscure[22].

BAV books usually adapt ICR’s arguments to construct their own arguments for defeating evolution. BAV has also contacted for a long time with American creationists, including receiving assistance from ICR. Duane Gish and Henry Morris visited Turkey in 1992, just after the establishment of BAV and participated in a “creationist conference” in Istanbul. BAV’s creationist conferences in 1998 in Istanbul and Ankara included many US creationists[23]. After that, Harun Yahya started to publish his anti-evolution books to the public free of charge and distributed as promotions by the daily fundamentalist newspapers Akit, Milli Gazete and Zaman[24].

Yahya’s announcements can also be found in conservative press every day, in Türkiye, Vakit, Yeni Çağ, Yeni Şafak, Önce Vatan[25].

Meaning of “Evolution” for Creationists

Nowadays, people against evolution take their arguments almost from a unique source, BAV’s editions. So, causes of refuting evolution can be detected from the lines in these books. The parts related with evolution opposition mostly carbon copy of their main books, “Evrim Aldatmacası”. According to arguments in this book, the point of view of anti-evolutionist can be understood.

It is mentioned that evolution is not a fact, because it is not reported in the Holy Qur’an. Evolution theory is the greatest hoax of all centuries. All the scientific data collected during the last 150 years disprove evolution. All the scientific data prove that, from DNA to organisms, everything has a design and purpose and that everything was created all at once. Science has proved that God created the life on earth[26].

Yahya also argues according to his traditional religious comments that Qur’an does not support evolution, because man is created from mud in heavens specially, so a believer can not accept evolution theory and see it appropriate with religion. Evolution is a theory lacking any scientific basics. It’s just a theory of blind coincidences rejecting the power and will of God, so its real target is religion. He continues that theory’s ideological framework consists of anti-religious thoughts to strengthen atheism. Theory of evolution was constructed upon materialist philosophy. Materialist philosophy uses the theory of evolution, both of which complement each other, to describe for the emergence of life. Modern science demonstrates the invalidity of the materialist-evolutionist claims and confirms creation. According to Yahya, even the most prominent worldwide scientific magazines, such as Science, Nature, Scientific American or New Scientist are forced to admit that several aspects of Darwin’s theory have reached a dead end[27].

He is telling that Darwinism gave humanity nothing but harm over the last and a half century. It has brought humanity nothing but conflict, war and degeneration. Believers should avoid defending this theory and realize its ideological meaning contradicting the truths of Islam. He warns people that it is essential to launch a serious fight against evolution on the ideological level[28].

BAV have serious books, brochures, videos relating “Evolution theory” as the causer, supporter of Terrorism, Fascism, Communism and Materialism and call about this so-called relations as “the Dark face of The Darwinism” at their website[29].

Apart from BAV, there are also popular anti-evolutionist books sold in bookshops in Turkey, such as Yaratılış Gerçeği ve Evrim by Fethullah Gülen (popular in his group), Evrim İflas Eden Teori by Prof. Dr. Adem Tatlı, Evrim by Gufran Koyuncu can be searched in bookseller websites[30].

Conclusion

Evolution is scientifically one of the greatest and intellectually stimulating ideas in history which was a revolution in its age, which challenged a lot of negative critics but still accepted as a central concept in science because of its strength. Evolution expresses the idea of a continually changing universe rather than a universe at a stable. Unless the approach to this mechanism is scientific, the truths can not be revealed.

Evolution theory in our age is explained by the help of high technologies and supportive evidences, therefore opposing it from an unscientific perspective, even adducing verses from Holy books is nonsense. Determining from a rational point of view and considering the meaning of evolution, criticisms on evolution can be seen probably ideological, far from being logical.

As described above parts, it may be now surprising to somebody that while most modern conservative Muslims reject the concept of evolution, Muslim scientist-philosophers believing in the Islamic faith, born in 8-13th centuries and could write passages about evolution, even transformation from ape-like creatures. So, it can be seen that sacred verses could be commented according to the scientific verses. There should not be a must to see “evolution idea” as a Satan that should be fought.

If biological evolution theories are legally prohibited in schools, will all conflicts, wars and degenerations of societies be finished? No, because these issues are irrelevant with evolutionary theory. These problems are consequences of selfish behaviors of humanities, not a theory. Evolution does not define what humans must behave; it only expresses how livings are behaving. Some ideologies or men might have used evolution for their benefits, but it does not interest a biological theory. However, if weak connections of scientists with public that should be transmitted the scientific truths in a popular language and insufficient number of scientific-popular magazines is accounted, the power, effect and manipulations of mentioned anti-evolutionist movements can be waited normally.

Evolution concept is directly related with the “rational thought” leading modern minds. Science tells that all natural processes are running through some defined basic laws of the nature established from the appearance of the universe. Creation of species at once from nothingness contradicts with the laws of nature. This style of thought that close to the Ash’ari school implicates the unexpected interferences of a Supernatural existence in any time leaving a universe that will be chaotic. In this situation, science can not be done because of changeability of the nature laws in any time.

In conclusion, I think that in a modern-scientific thinking way, evolution process can be easily considered as the Creation itself. This unification is able to solve the all conflicts among religious faiths and scientific facts happened until now.

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References

[1] A. M. Celâl Şengör. Yaşamın Evrimi, (İstanbul: İTU Yayınevi, 2004), p.37

[2] ibid., p.39

[3] Think Quest, Pre-Darwinian theories of Evolution, Evolution in Greece, (2000), retrieved from

http://www. utm.edu/research/iep/e/evolution.htm

[4] ibid., Medieval Theories

[5] Cengiz Özakıncı. İslamda Bilimin yükselişi ve Çöküşü, (İstanbul: Otopsi yayınevi, 2006), p.334

[6] A. M. Celâl Şengör. Yaşamın Evrimi, p.46-52

[7] Mark Ridley. Evolution, (Boston: Blackwell Scientific Publications, 1993), p.5

[8] ibid., p.10

[9] S. J. Gould. Evolution as Fact and Theory[Electronic version]. Hen’s Teeth and Horse’s Toes, (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1981), p. 253-262, retrieved from http://www.stephenjaygould.org/library/gould_fact-and-theory.html

[10] Cengiz Özakıncı. İslamda Bilimin yükselişi ve Çöküşü, p.337

[11] Mehmed Bayraktar. İslam’da Evrimci Yaratılış Teorisi, (Ankara: Kitabiyat yayınları, 2001), p.49,51,57,59

[12] ibid., p.93,94

[13] ibid., p.16-17

[14] Cengiz Özakıncı. İslamda Bilimin yükselişi ve Çöküşü, p.339-393

[15] Nuh Ha Mim Keller, The Re-Formers of Islam, (1995), retrieved from

http://www.masud.co.uk/ISLAM/nuh/masudq2.htm,

[16] Okan Konuralp, Allah’ın izniyle maymuna evet!, (2005), Tempo Dergisi,

retrieved from http://www.tempodergisi.com.tr/toplum_politika/03636/

[17] Mehmed Bayraktar. İslam’da Evrimci Yaratılış Teorisi, p.41

[18] Okan Konuralp, Allah’ın izniyle maymuna evet!, (2005), Tempo Dergisi

[19] Sinan Meydan. Bir Ömrün öteki Hikayesi, Atatürk, Modernizm, Din ve Allah, (İstanbul: Toplumsal dönüşüm yayınları, 2003) p. 91-97

[20] Taner Edis, “ABD’deki Yaratılışçı akımlar ve Türkiye’deki bağlantıları,” Bilim ve Gelecek,

Sayı-39 (2007), p.14-16

[21] Bilim Araştırma Vakfı, (n.d), retrieved from http://www.bilimarastirmavakfi.org/html/vakif_hakkinda.html

[22] Taner Edis, “ABD’deki Yaratılışçı akımlar ve Türkiye’deki bağlantıları,” p.16-18

[23] Harun Yahya, “Materyalizmin Çöküşü, Yaratılış Gerçeği Konferansı”, (n.d), retrieved from http://www.harun yahya.org/evrim/hy_materyalizmin_cokusu/m_cokusu4.html

[24] Harun Yahya, “Konferansın ardından”, (n.d), retrieved from http://www.bilimarastirmavakfi.org/evrim_ istanbul1.html

[25] Harun Yahya, “Basında Harun Yahya”, (n.d), retrieved from http://basindaharunyahya.com/index.php?Pg= NoticePage&Date=2007-10-30&Number=9338

[26] Harun Yahya. Evrim Aldatmacası, (İstanbul: Araştırma yayıncılık, 2006), p.26-29

[27] Harun Yahya. Kur’an Darwinizmi Yalanlıyor, (İstanbul: Global Yayıncılık, 2003), p.17

[28] ibid., p.14-15

[29] Mainpage of www.harunyahya.org

[30] www.kitapyurdu.com

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