Evolutionary science has been under attack for decades by conservative U.S. Christians. Now, New Humanist (Sept.-Oct. 2009) reports, a new anti-Darwinist movement has emerged not in the Bible Belt but in the Muslim world. The fresh anti-science charge is being led by Harun Yahya, a charismatic “larger than life” figure with a growing influence.
On more than 60 websites and in dozens of books like The Evolution Deceit and The Dark Face of Darwinism, Yahya, the magazine writes, has created “a well-funded version of evolution-denialism, carefully calibrated to exploit the current fashion for religiously inspired attacks on scientific orthodoxy and ‘militant’ atheism.”
With his white linen suits, neatly groomed beard, and ever-present sunglasses, the Istanbul-based Yahya began attracting young, well-educated Turkish people to meetings in cafés and homes in the 1980s and 1990s. Preaching anti-Semitism alongside a self-aggrandizing brand of Islam, he built a following that former members have described as a cult, New Humanist reports. Women were allegedly coerced into sex with leaders and political allies; women and men alike were made to wear the designer clothing he favors.
When Yahya’s growing political influence took a hit after Turkey’s “bloodless coup” in 1997, he turned his attention to spreading his anti-Darwinist message in other countries.
Yahya and his followers crank out books and other anti-evolution materials through the Science Research Foundation, harass their foes through lawsuits and intimidation, and court media around the globe. Yahya is always available for interviews, and if journalists go to Istanbul for a personal audience he’ll even pay all their expenses. Yahya’s dodgy science is easily debunked, but his overall message is not so readily dismissed, American journalist Nathan Schneider tells New Humanist: “Its power, for those who are not scientifically literate, lies in its vision of redemption.”