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Turkey scraps theory of evolution from school curriculum

Academics fear the move will leave students lacking knowledge of basic science [Getty]

Date of publication: 18 September, 2017

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The theory of evolution and Charles Darwin is being scrapped from school textbooks in Turkey, after the country's education minister said the topic was "too controversial".

Students in Turkey are returning to school where they will be taught evolution for the last time in their biology classes.

Next autumn, evolution and Charles Darwin will be scrapped from their textbooks.

Turkey has announced an overhaul of more than 170 topics in the country's school curriculum, including removing all direct references to evolution from biology classes.

Education Minister Ismet Yilmaz said the new "value-based" curriculum would teach evolutionary mechanisms such as natural selection but evolution itself was too advanced for high school and would not be taught until college.

"We have excluded controversial subjects for students at an age unable yet to understand the issues' scientific background," he told a seminar in Ankara in June, according to Hurriyet Daily News.

"As the students at ninth grade are not endowed with antecedents to discuss the 'Origin of Life and Evolution' section in biology classes, this section will be delayed until undergraduate study."

The upcoming changes have caused an uproar, with critics calling them a reshaping of education along the conservative, Islam-oriented government's line.

Some biologists say the move will leave Turkish students unable to understand even basic science, while other academics pointed out the only other country to exclude evolutionary theory from schools was Saudi Arabia.

Some Muslims, like some Christians, believe in creation, not natural selection. Turkey is majority Muslim, with a constitution that emphasises its secular character.

But a battle has been underway between secular and religious Turks ever since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to power. He was elected prime minister in 2003, and president in 2014.

Erdogan's critics have long accused the president of eating away at the secular pillars of modern Turkey as set up by its founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk when he established the Turkish republic in 1923.

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