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Funny, we can't find any images of Mohammed riding a velociraptor


The amount of stupid piling up in Youngstown, Ohio, public schools is pretty impressive. Not only does the science curriculum openly include lessons on "Intelligent Design" (ruled unconstitutional waaay back in 2005), they're using a video by a nutty Islamic fundamentalist to do it. Whee! Let's pile all the culture wars into one arena, shall we?

Zack Kopplin, who's been fighting creationism invading public schools since he was in high school, brings us the deets:

A curriculum map (PDF) recommends teachers in this public school district show a creationist video, Cambrian Fossils and the Creation of Species as part of 10th grade science education. The video claims that the Cambrian Explosion “totally invalidates the theory of evolution.” The Cambrian Explosion was a time period, nearly 550 million years ago, where, over the next tens of millions of years, the number of species on Earth experienced a (relatively) rapid expansion by evolutionary standards. Christian creationists regularly point to this explosion of life as evidence for creation by God and against evolution.

Blink and you’d miss the Islamic connection in the video. A black screen flashes for less than one second that says “this film is based on the works of Harun Yahya.” In the right corner, there’s a gold bubble that says, “Muhammad is the messenger of Allah” in Arabic.

Seriously, watch a bit of this idiotic video, which has some lovely computer graphics of Cambrian sea life, all to the theme music from Twin Peaks, which we're pretty sure is still under copyright.

It's the usual "oh, life is so complex it couldn't have just happened" bullshit -- and no, the Cambrian explosion doesn't "disprove" evolution at all. There's no overt mention of Islam in the video, although as Kopplin points out, in other publications, Harun Yahya (a pseudonym for Adnan Oktar), pushes creationism on his Turkish cable TV network to back his claim that science "proves" the truth of Islam (or at least Oktar's highly eccentric interpretations of both "science" and "Islam"). He's also dabbled in Holocaust denial, but Oktar says he's renounced that particular line of scholarship.

Among other fun facts about Harun Yahya/Adnan Ocktar, we learn that he heads a freaky sex cult and has been accused of blackmailing the rich and powerful:

As the criminal indictment vividly illustrates, young girls were lured into sex parties with the promise of being admitted to the group, but ended up having to perform sexual acts with men of influence, whom the group needed for its economic and political success ... The encounters were filmed and used to coerce the men in question to act in the group’s interest.

Oktar was convicted of "running an illegal organization for personal gain" in 2008, but the conviction was overturned in 2010. Lucky guy! Oktar also said the blackmail sex orgies were perfectly consistent with Islam, because 1) it was all consensual and 2) "because it included only oral and anal sex, it did not violate the teachings of Islam[.]" Isn't it nice to know that fundamentalist pervs indulge in the same rationalizations regardless of their faiths? It's kind of an ecumenical moment. Yr Wonkette, ever sex-positive, is all in favor of sex orgies, but only the non-blackmail kind.

Kopplin wasn't able to get anyone in the Youngstown public schools to tell him why they were using Oktar's videos in their science classes, although he does acknowledge it's unlikely the schools are pushing Islam, since the other creationist materials recommended in the curriculum outline are all from Christian outfits like the Discovery Institute and Focus on the Family, neither of which, we'd note, is actually a scientific organization.

As Kopplin notes, the Youngstown science curriculum explicitly aims to "teach the controversy" by treating creationism and evolution as equally valid, which doesn't meet Constitutional muster but is awfully good for making conservative Christian voters happy. Bob Boston, of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, told Kopplin,

The district is doing its students a disservice by pretending that a controversy exists when none does ... That the district is apparently inadvertently using material produced by an evolution-denying, anti-Semitic Islamic TV preacher who has been accused of running a sex cult only makes the situation worse.

No word of a potential lawsuit, at least not yet. Surely there has to be a parent somewhere in Youngstown who's willing to push back against this unconstitutional idiocy? If nothing else, maybe the folks who freak out over "creeping sharia law" will demand the schools remove Harun Yahya's filthy Muslim indoctrination, even if it means teaching only science in the science classes.

Haha, we are blind optimists, aren't we? They'll simply demand that the video be replaced with some decent godfearing Christian pseudoscience.

[Daily Beast / National Center for Science Education / New Humanist]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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