Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Since I will be going back to Turkey for the total solar eclipse of March 2006, I was quick to read the article Bordering on What?" ("The East in the West") by Christopher Caldwell in Sunday's New York Times Magazine, about changes in Turkish society.

Since the founding of the modern Turkish state by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1923, Turkey has been a secular nation, overwhelmingly Islamic, but with no established religion and full freedoms for minority Christian and Jews. Istanbul and Ankara are sophisticated modern cities, and Turkey is anxious to be admitted to the European Union.

But changes are afoot. Fundamentalist Muslims in the provinces are acquiring economic and political clout, and access to powerful technologies of communication. Religion is being driven to the forefront of Turkish politics. Preachers rail against the "growing immorality of society." Religion is invading the secular curriculum of schools. There is an increasingly strident assertion that "Turkey is an Islamic nation." An Islamic Republic is not impossible.

Does all this sound familiar? The irony is that as we watch with anxiety Turkey drift under the influence of religious fundamentalists, America is heading in exactly the same direction.

Is this of relevance to science? Consider the case currently before the U. S. District Court in Harrisburg, PA.

(Please, if you have not already done so, let us hear your opinion of subtitles below.