The first conference bringing Intelligent Design to the attention of the Turkish public took place on Feb 24, 2007, in Istanbul’s second biggest hall, the Cemal Resit Rey Concert Hall. An audience of approximately 500 hundred people, which included many university students, scholars, scientists, and journalists, joined the event and listened to the four-hour long program on “The Origin of Life On Earth.”
First, Mustafa Akyol made an opening speech in which he criticized the mindset of Turkish intellectuals who equate science with materialism without question. In the speeches given by David Berlinski and Paul Nelson, a brief but comprehensive criticism of Darwinism and naturalism was introduced along with a summary of basic Intelligent Design arguments. John Lennox made a broader criticism of scientific materialism and reductionism. The last speaker, Alpaslan Açıkgenç, explained how Islam looks at science, nature and life. The presentations were followed by questions and answers.
The speakers, their titles and abstracts are as follows:
Mustafa Akyol, “Rethinking the Science-Religion Debate in Turkey”
Since the end of the 19th century, Ottoman and Turkish intellectuals were increasingly influenced by “Western science.” And since this science included some materialist teachings which contradicted the traditional beliefs and values of Turkish society, a conflict developed over time between the “Westernized elite” and the “traditional believers.” However there was something that the “Westernized elite” were not aware of: Some of the views they have embraced as “science” were in fact nothing but philosophical beliefs. This became apparent with the decline of positivism. And moreover, the scientific fidings of the past decades have started to turn against those very philosophical beliefs that was once seen as “scientific.” There now is the time to reconsider the science-religion debate in Turkey.
Dr. David Berlinski, “Where Darwin Went Wrong”
Charles Darwin completed his masterpiece, On the Origin of Species, in 1859. At once, the theory that is introduced became popular. One hundred years later, it was widely celebrated as an outstanding success. Thereafter, the time of troubles began. For the past forty years, the great global vision that Darwin introduced into biology has been dying by degrees. Critics and skeptics have never been satisfied with Darwin’s theory. Mathematicians have been especially dubious. But now even the biologists have begun to read those alarming medical reports with a heightened sense of concern. At least five fatal maladies are converging on Darwin’s theory. In the first place, the theory makes no sense. Either it collapses into triviality or it invokes a force with no known cognate to the forces of physics. In the second place, the theory lacks for confirmation from the historical record. In the third place, it lacks for confirmation both from laboratory experiments and research into natural selection in the wild. In the fourth place, the theory cannot be simulated by means of computer algorithms. If the simulation honestly uses Darwinian principles, it does not work; and if it works, it does not use Darwinian principles. And in the fifth and final place, the theory has never been defended in terms that make mathematical sense.
Dr. Paul Nelson, “Intelligent Design in Biology”
Intelligent Design (ID), viewed broadly, is the study of patterns in nature that are best explained as the result of intelligence. Within the sciences of biology, ID theorists see strong indicators (evidence) of intelligent causes, such as the information stored in DNA, the molecular machines of the cell, and the higher-level functional properties of organisms. Since Darwin’s time, however, most biologists have argued that organisms should be understood, not as designed, but as the products of randomly-arising variations and natural selection. However many at patterns of evidence from cellular machinery and genomics are best explained, not by any evolutionary theory, but by design. Thus ID holds great promise for the future of biological science.
Dr. John Lennox, “Reductionism in Science and Ethics”
The science-religion debate is about the status of the universe. The ethics debate is about the status of morality, the bioethics debate in particular being about the status of human life. Contemporary science in the West is dominated by a materialistic/naturalistic reductionism that is increasingly being used not only to undermine the traditional theistic base for ethics but to suggest that science can provide a replacement for it. This means that the science-religion debate has increasing relevance for the much broader ethics debate and therefore for society as a whole. The object of the lecture is therefore to discuss the intellectual validity of such reductionism within the wider context of the science and religion debate.
Dr. Alpaslan Açıkgenç, “Science, Nature and Life According to Islam”
Islam attaches importance to science. In the first century of Islam, while Muslims were not practicing any science at all, it is possible to see the existence of a developed and curious scientific mindset. Thanks to the penetration of this scientific mindset to society, Muslims were able to excel in all areas of science and surpass other societies in this regard. The words used in the Qur’an such as “earth,” “universe” or “world” can be seen as synonymous with “nature.” However this term, originating from Greek philosophy, refers to an active entity, whereas “nature” in the Islamic sense is more passive. In other words, it is something “created.” The Qur’an also tells that life itself is created. Hence it gives life a meaning and explains that it has a purpose.
The conference was sponsored by the Cultural Affairs Bureau of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality , which is headed Kadir Topbaş, a member of the incumbent conservative AK Party. (Hence it can be said that the event had official support.) Moreover, about a dozen local mayors in different municipalities within the Istanbul region have sent telegraphs of congratulations to the conference. A few months ago, Turkey’s Minister of Education, Hüseyin Çelik, had argued for Intelligent Design on a popular TV program.
The conference made its way to the Turkish media and mainstream newspapers such as Sabah and Radikal.
This event will indeed be the first of a series of conferences focused on science, philosophy and religion. Theh next event, which is tentatively titled “Does Science Challenge Atheism?”, will be held in May this year.