Skip navigation.
The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2009/09/18

(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)

Dear Friends of NCSE,

The leading exponent of Islamic creationism is unflatteringly profiled
in New Humanist, while the new film about Darwin, Creation, is
favorably reviewed by NCSE's executive director.


A long, and occasionally lurid, story about Harun Yahya and the
resurgence of Islamic creationism appears in the September/October
2009 issue of New Humanist. "Inspired by the high profile of its
Christian American counterpart, Muslim creationism is becoming
increasingly visible and confident," writes Halil Arda. "The patron
saint of this new movement, the ubiquitous 'expert' cited and
referenced by those eager to demonstrate the superiority of 'Koranic
science' over 'the evolution lie', is the larger-than-life figure of
Harun Yahya," the pseudonymous leader of the Science Research
Foundation, headquartered in Istanbul, Turkey.

Although Islamic creationism is often regarded as a curiosity in the
West, it is "treated far more seriously across the Muslim world," Arda
warns. "From daily newspapers in Egypt and Bosnia to influential
satellite TV stations like al-Jazeera and (the Iran-funded) Press TV,
to small Muslim broadcasters in the West like Radio Ummah and Radio
Ramadan, Harun Yahya's argument, with its appearance of scientific
credibility, its crowd-pleasing critique of Western materialism and
its promise of the imminent collapse of the 'Darwinist Dictatorship',
is enthusiastically welcomed by a new audience hungry for compensatory
narratives of Islamic superiority."

But how did a young interior design student named Adnan Oktar
transform himself into the undisputed leader of the Islamic
creationist movement? According to Arda, "Combining his undoubted
charisma (something even his most ardent opponents concede) with a
gift for manipulation, Oktar set out to build a cult around himself
... targeting disaffected but affluent and educated young people,
insisting they turn their worldly goods over to the cult, and
vigorously enforcing rigid hierarchies and punitive rules." As the
group coalesced, "discipline was maintained through humiliation, the
threat of expulsion and physical violence."

With a cadre of dedicated followers and their resources at his
disposal, Oktar was able to gain political and economic influence with
Turkey's Islamist Welfare Party in the mid-1990s. After the party was
disbanded in 1997, however, Oktar turned to antievolutionism. In 1998,
Arda writes, the Science Research Foundation, founded by Oktar in
1990, "launched its campaign against Darwinism, distributing tens of
thousands of free copies of his book The Evolution Deceit in Turkey,
paving the way for the Atlas of Creation and Oktar's new role as the
spokesman for Muslim creationism."

The form of creationism adopted by Harun Yahya's group is not
constant. The Science Research Foundation originally adopted its
antievolution arguments from young-earth creationist organizations in
the United States, but discarded claims about a young earth and a
global flood flood not vouched for by the Qur'an or Islamic tradition.
Subsequently, it evinced a degree of sympathy for "intelligent design"
creationism instead, employing catchphrases like "irreducible
complexity" and using the phrase "intelligent design" as equivalent
with "creation." Later, however, Harun Yahya denounced "intelligent
design" as insufficiently Islamic.

Arda comments, "Oktar's ideological and political promiscuity seem to
support the claim that he has no genuine beliefs at all, and merely
opportunistically jumps on issues which will further his notoriety,
following the lead of smarter followers. As one former follower told
me, 'We had something to please everybody: Ataturk, namaz (prayer),
creationism and, if need be, cocaine.'" But his influence may be
waning: in 2008, Oktar was sentenced to three years in prison for
"creating an illegal organization for personal gain," and Arda reports
that he is expected to lose his final appeal to Turkey's Supreme
Court, with a decision expected in October 2009.

Contemplating the rise of Harun Yahya, Arda concludes, "Thanks to the
'War on Terror', Oktar could paint himself as a credible alternative
to radical Islam; thanks to our timidity and incompetence around
issues of faith he can gain credibility as a representative of Muslim
sentiment and a champion of 'inter-faith dialogue'. And, most of all,
for many disoriented Muslims, he provides a compelling vision of a
superior Islamic science. He is a deluded megalomaniac who has
artfully exploited the global resurgence of religious sentiment to
cheat us all. A ludicrous man for ludicrous times."

For the article in New Humanist, visit: 

For NCSE's previous coverage of Islamic creationism, visit: 


In a guest post at The Panda's Thumb blog, NCSE's executive director
Eugenie C. Scott reviewed the new film about Darwin, Creation,
describing it as "a thoughtful, well-made film that will change many
views of Darwin held by the public -- for the good." She described the
science as accurate if limited and the history as satisfactory if not
wholly accurate, explaining, "This isn't a documentary about Darwin,
it's a movie about Darwin. And there's a difference. With the latter,
you don't expect absolute fealty to the historical record -- though
you don't have to -- and shouldn't -- accept wholesale violations."

Most important, Scott insisted, is the film's sympathetic and detailed
portrayal of Darwin (played by Paul Bettany) as flesh and blood, as "a
passionate, loving human being" as well as a dedicated investigator of
the natural world. "By telling an interesting story, and making Darwin
human," she wrote, "Creation will I think encourage some viewers to
find out more about the historical Darwin and his ideas. From my
standpoint as director of NCSE, that's useful, indeed. The more people
know about evolution and its most famous proponent, the less they will
fear it."

It is not yet clear whether Creation will find a distributor in the
United States. The producer, Jeremy Thomas, told the Telegraph
(September 11, 2009), "It has got a deal everywhere else in the world
but in the US, and it's because of what the film is about. ... It is
unbelievable to us that this is still a really hot potato in America."
A few days thereafter, however, NBC Bay Area (September 15, 2009)
reported that a distribution deal was imminent, quoting a spokesperson
for the film as saying, "There is now a bidding war for the film in
the US. A US deal will be in place by the end of the week."

For Scott's review, visit: 

For information about Creation, visit: 

For the article in the Telegraph, visit: 

For the article from NBC Bay Area, visit: 

Thanks for reading! And don't forget to visit NCSE's website -- -- where you can always find the latest news on 
evolution education and threats to it.


Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
420 40th Street, Suite 2
Oakland, CA 94609-2509
510-601-7203 x310
fax: 510-601-7204

Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism -- now in its second edition! 

Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools 

NCSE is on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter: 

NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today!