Charles Darwin, the father of modern evolutionary theory, tried to reconcile his faith with his scientific observations about the origin of humans. But few religious fundamentalists in Turkey are willing to try the same: On November 22, the Turkish government instituted a new “Secure Internet” filtering system in the country. While a largely unfiltered version of the Internet is still available to the population, the new system offers two filters that did not previously exist: a “Child Profile” and a “Family Profile”. A few weeks ago, Turkish independent media network Bianet reported that all websites pertaining to Darwinian evolution are banned under the “Child Profile”.
Online input: a way around the ban?
Some evolution-related websites that were unavailable through the Child Profile, however, are now accessible.
Darwinday.org and evrimianlamak.org (“understanding evolution”), for example, were two of the blocked websites when Bianet’s story ran three weeks ago. But now they are accessible. Other sites, such as aboutdarwin.com and darwin-online.org.uk, are still blocked.
So how did these changes come about? Online votes.
As Bianet reported, the information website for the new filtering system has a webpage where users can search for domain names to check their status under each filter. Unfortunately, any computer can only search for ten domain names — after that, a message pops up saying that the number of queries is too high.
But for those first ten domain names, visitors to the site have the power to vote on whether they should be accessible or not, from either filter. Evidently, darwinday.org and evrimianlamak.org received enough votes to move off the “blocked” list.
Evolutionary biologists have long found it hard to work in Turkey, where many reject Darwin’s theory on the grounds that it clashes with Koranic teachings about the origin of humankind. It is not unusual for high school biology classes to gloss over the theory, or deny it outright.
In March 2009, the Scientific and Technological Research Institute of Turkey (TUBITAK) refused to allow any articles commemorating Darwin’s 200th birthday in that issue of its monthly journal.
Many Turks accept the theory, however, and seem embarrassed by their countrymen who think otherwise. Thousands of marchers protested the decision by TUBITAK in 2009.
Now it’s up to Internet users to decide whether Turkish children using the Child Profile Internet filter can access accurate information about Darwinian evolution or not.
Image via shehal