Apparently some creationists are so eager to advance their agenda that they will use just about any materials they can get their hands on – including a video made by a controversial evangelist in Turkey who collects young woman followers and has been accused of being a Holocaust denier.
Recommended curriculum for 10th graders in Youngstown, Ohio, public schools includes a video called “Cambrian Fossils and the Creation of Species.” As detailed by sound science activist and Americans United ally Zack Kopplin, the video claims it has evidence that “totally invalidates the theory of evolution.” It then proceeds to put forth an old and unconvincing assertion that a rapid increase in the number of new species on Earth starting around 500 million years ago proves creationist accounts.
Kopplin noted that the video has minimal Islamic content despite its source. At the beginning of the presentation, a screen flashes momentarily that says “this film is based on the works of Harun Yahya.” A small gold bubble also appears that says, “Muhammad is the messenger of Allah” in Arabic.
So who is Harun Yahya? For starters, that’s not his real name. He’s really Adnan Oktar, and he’s a Turkish TV preacher and ardent creationist who has written numerous books. In 2007, he sent copies of his book Atlas of Creation to a number of political figures and scientists in the United States.
Oktar may also have penned The Holocaust Deception: The Hidden Story of Nazi-Zionist Collaboration and the Inner Story of the Hoax of “Jewish Holocaust.” He says he didn’t actually write that tome; instead, Oktar claims someone else wrote it under his name. It’s hard to say what really happened, but that’s a pretty bizarre explanation.
When it comes to Oktar, however, bizarre is typical. He owns a Turkish television channel where he broadcasts his unusual version of Islam. During his broadcasts, young women in tight clothes and fake blonde hair assist him in advancing his agenda. The women refer to him as “master” and Oktar calls them his “kittens.” As Slate reported previously, Oktar claims the women’s beauty is evidence of creationism.
So, how do Youngstown school officials feel about all this? Timothy Filipovich, who is the executive director of teaching and learning for Youngstown schools, told the Youngstown Vindicator that “we don’t teach creationism.”
Filipovich also said the creationist video was added to the curriculum recommendations before he held his current job, adding that students “have to be able to determine the merit and flaws of the resources and evidence to support one argument or the other.”
We’ve heard arguments like that before. The U.S. Supreme Court banned the teaching of creationism in public schools in 1987, and since then some groups have pushed for “teaching the controversy.” The problem with that approach is that evolution isn’t controversial in mainstream scientific circles.
No matter how creationists try to dress it up, there is no getting around the reality that all of these underhanded tactics have the same result: They are attempts to interject religion into public schools.
This particular video in Youngstown, however, is especially disturbing given the source. It’s simply not appropriate for a public school in any context.
Filipovich told the newspaper he’s not sure how the video got into the curriculum but added, “It’s an easy fix to remove it. That’s probably the direction that will be taken.”
Yes, please – and do it sooner rather than later.