I'm feeling left out

The New York Times is reporting that Adnan Oktar aka Harun Yahya, the Turkish creationist, has sent a mass mailing of his fancy, glossy, Atlas of Creation to scientists all over the country. It's an 800-page, professional piece of work, even if the contents are garbage. These Islamic creationists must have access to bucketloads of money.

While they said they were unimpressed with the book's content, recipients marveled at its apparent cost. "If you went into a bookstore and saw a book like this, it would be at least $100," said Dr. Miller, an author of conventional biology texts. "The production costs alone are astronomical. We are talking millions of dollars."

It probably helps reduce the cost that they just rip off their artwork and consider shots of chewed wads of gum scientific illustration, but still, that's loads and loads of money … but not enough to send a copy to some peon at a small liberal arts college in the Midwest. The positive news is that there are limits to their budget! Hooray!

I'm still disappointed to be left out. All I've gotten so far is the Discovery Institute's Explore Evolution, which is probably on a par with Adnan Oktar's book in the erroneous vapidity of its content, but isn't quite as bulky. Here it is on the shelf with a few of my other introductory biology books:

i-e4102200f7fe576026940c5ebfa67a90-explore_evo.jpg

It's rather easy to miss—it's that narrow yellow spine, fourth from the left. What you can't tell is that the pages are on thick stock, unlike the flimsy stuff legitimate biology texts use to keep the size physically manageable — Explore Evolution is about a tenth the length of the copy of Life next to it. I know, you're going to complain that Life tries to cover all of biology, while EE only discusses evolution … but the page count for just the chapters that mention evolution in the title in Life is about the same as the total length of EE, and that's ignoring the fact that evolution is implicit in much of the rest of the book. Oh, and if we discounted all the pages that are wrong in EE, the comparison would be even more devastating.

It's something I suppose, but getting a pimple of a creationist book in the mail just doesn't compare to the mountain of idiocy all those other guys got. It's just not fair.

And I did get my new copy of Stuart Pivar's Lifecode book, which … well, you'll have to wait until I finish reading it to find out. Maybe I'll put up something this evening.

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A few months ago, my boss (a professor of structural biology at the University of Oxford) received a strange package in the mail, unsolicited. It contained a rather large and colorful book that was quite stunning in appearance. Inside, though, spread across hundreds of color-illustrated pages,…
Poor Adnan Oktar. The New Humanist published an exposé, and he and his organization are clearly freaking out. I've been getting several near-hysterical emails a day from the Turkish creationist mouthpiece, Seda Aral, insisting in many different font colors that the accusations are baseless and are…
Yesterday, I mentioned the Atlas of Creation a book by Islamic creationist Adnan Oktar (a.k.a. Harun Yahya) sent unsolicited to scientists around the world. My boss also received a copy a few months ago, and yesterday he dug up the enormous volume for me. My first impression was that it was even…
The New York Times has a funny article up, Islamic Creationist and a Book Sent Round the World, which recounts the mass distribution (gratis) of Harun Yahya's latest tract, a lavishly illustrated and packaged glossy book which aims to show that evolution didn't occur. This is chuckle worthy: He…

All the scientists who got the book should get together and... well... I was going to say burn the books, but that would be such a waste. They should make a big deal out of tearing them apart and recycling them. At least that way SOMETHING good could come out of it.

Actually, I hope it shows up on eBay. I'd like to see it this thing out of curiosity.

*cheers for Raven & Johnson*

It makes me sad that I won't be taking organic chemistry and biochemistry classes. Unless there's some miracle that allows me to take them while I'm in graduate school for physics.

By Mike Saelim (not verified) on 17 Jul 2007 #permalink

Actually, it's available online. At least some of it.

Harun Yahya sent his book out to evolutionary biologists in Europe earlier this year - there's a copy sat proudly on the desk of the editor of the Journal of Evolutionary Biology. I didn't get one either, though.

Bob

I looked at the book yesterday- as Dave Wake was "lucky" enough to be sent a copy... It really is a fantastically made book- GREAT for kids- before they can read, you know, as a picture book.. The photography is really nice.

My neighbour is a prof at Columbia and they all received theirs a couple of weeks ago. She says she will give me hers if she can manage to lug it back to her apartment... and if she does, then I'd be happy to make your dream come true.

A copy was sent to my University science department in Cornwall, United Kingdom some time ago and adit it's beautifully produced in A3 hardback with a holographic cover. Must have cost a fortune.

If you get your hands on a copy I recommend you go to page 589 where is states that all terrorists are not muslims but Darwinists!

Under a colour picture of the World Trade Centre in flames it states "No matter what ideology they may espouse, those who perpetrate terror all over the world are, in reality, Darwinists. Darwinism is the only philosophy that places a value on - and thus encourages - conflict

"...For this reason, if some people commit terrorism using the concepts and symbols of Islam, Christianity or Judaism in the name of those religions, you can be sure that those people are not Muslims, Christians or Jews. They are real social Darinists."

I guess that makes me a terrorist. As for what to do with such a weighty volume, we've found it's great for resting the projector on during lectures.

By Samuel Cronin (not verified) on 17 Jul 2007 #permalink

Our microbiology lab at Dartmouth Medical School was mailed a copy. Crazy. I didn't realize there was a junk mail list for scientists.

By Niles Donegan (not verified) on 17 Jul 2007 #permalink

Re the money: I've been curious about this, in particular, a while. Taner Edis' 'An Illusion of Harmony' mentioned the same thing... the so-called 'Science Research Foundation' (or BAV, or Bilim Araştırma Vakfı) that promotes his* stuff claims to be supported by donations... But damn, that's gotta be a lot of donations.

Creationism is/has been actually taught in schools in Turkey, started officially some 20 years ago... But even given that, that'd be one hell of a textbook contract that would allow him to give his stuff away to libraries, so on... Kinda looks to me like most of it goes at a loss.

*Note... I've heard it mooted he's not really one author, that a lot of the stuff is ghost-written/edited together... Dunno if that's true.

Confounded pronoun references... that 'his' stuff promoted by the BAV would, of course, refer to Yahya's stuff, not Edis'. And the 'he' who might also be more than one author is also, of course, Yahya.

OK... now THIS is Freudian. First you warm up with two phallus posts, then talk about how BIG the biology books are compared to the IDiot's books?

We got a copy a couple of weeks ago. It's made for some pretty hilarioius lunchroom discussions. In another week or two, I'm going to ask my advisor if I can keep it. I think my 17 month old son will love the photos (and it's not good for much else).

Keep in mind, though, that if the pictures are really nice, it's because he steals them shamelessly. The Turkish creationists did not produce them, they just ripped 'em off.

My Head of Department got sent a copy a few months ago (perhaps another similar book by HY). She'd never heard of him, and was rather bemused as to why anyone would produce such a thing, let alone send it to her.
The picture quality is very good. As I recall, nearly every page is taken up by a large, glossy, colour picture of some animal or plant, and the text underneath says something like 'This is (Latin name of animal/plant). It has a feature that couldn't possibly have evolved. Another example of the failure of Darwinism!'
Literally hours of fun.

So, do we try to make the Islamic Creationists allies of the Christian Creationists, or their enemies?

This idiot came to my school (University of Florida) a few months ago. Sponsored by Islam on Campus, he was paid $3,000 with student government money for an hour long lecture.

So, do we try to make the Islamic Creationists allies of the Christian Creationists, or their enemies?

-Grackle

ICR's support of the BAV goes back decades, they are already allies.

I downloaded the PDF version. The pictures are great! I'll enjoy looking at them. I've never seen so many great fossil pictures in one place (which doesn't mean such a place does not exist). I hope someone pinpoints the original sources for the pictures. I'd much rather look at them in proper context.

I thought this statement from page 768 of the book neatly summed up its pseudoscientific nature:

WARNIING!!

The chapter you are now about to read reveals a crucial secret of your life. You should read it very attentively and thoroughly for it is concerned with a subject that is liable to make a fundamental change in your outlook to the external world. The subject of this chapter is not just a point of view, a different approach, or a traditional philosophical thought: it is a fact which everyone, believing or unbelieving, must admit and which is also proven by science today.

By the way, each pair of pages in the PDF is in reverse order, i.e. page 769 comes before 768 and so on.

It's possible to leave comments on Yahya's site, so have at it!

Some of his other sites are interesting, too, such as "Union of Faiths" . He seems to be advocating some kind of ecumenism, and at least he explicitly denounces violence.

By Tim Tesar (not verified) on 17 Jul 2007 #permalink

Tim said, regarding the pictures in Yahya's "Atlas of Creation": "I hope someone pinpoints the original sources for the pictures."

Hey, Tim, weren't you paying attention? In his post, PZ indicated that most of the pictures are from The Virtual Fossil Museum. Pay closer attention next time.

By Tim Tesar (not verified) on 17 Jul 2007 #permalink

Details that were left out:

The copies of Atlas of Creation that were delivered to University of Colorado were apparently delivered by Michael Korn.

In which case, we might have a lead on who this nutjob's working with.

I've paged through the book.

The pictures are indeed wonderful and, as a bonus, the cover has all sorts of cheesy art and optical effects. The text, however, probably embarrasses even Henry Morris with its simplicity. There is no way you could buy an 800-page tome, with the same production values, for less than $150-$200 in a bookstore.

I saw it at a small regional science museum in MN. They received a case of the books (apparently one for each board member) and are uncertain about what to do with all of them.

My suggestion was that they but them on eBay (keeping one for posterity, of course). The idea of a science museum using a gorgeous creationist book as a fundraiser seems rather ironic, and the back-story might boost the bids.

It will be interesting to see how DI and AiG respond to this work. I'd love to be a fly on the wall for those prayer meetings.

Could this be the common ground that will build bridges between the extreme elements of two great religions? Probably not would be my guess.

Here at the New York Hall of Science (Science Center in Queens) we probably got about 15 copies. Basically we figured out if you had science in your job title you received one. Which was funny b/c some people like "Science Programs Coordinator" got one (basically an administrative asst) while upper management did not.

We wanted to do a photo blog of "Alternative uses of the creation atlas" ie to workout with, to reach tall shelves, to prop up laptops, to fend off attackers...but real work took priority....

By chris lawrence (not verified) on 17 Jul 2007 #permalink

We (our lab) got our copy (in German) earlier this year when Oktar launched his European book blitz. It somehow bypassed the library entirely to take up residence in the kitchen, there to amuse people during their coffee break.

The production quality is indeed high, in an over-the-top cheesy chintzy type of way. Lots of fake gold leaf... that sort of thing. It occurred to us that, surely, Mr. Oktar's money would better serve his cause if these books were sent to, say, churches rather than biology labs.

If indeed that book has stolen copyrighted photos, the copyright holder can get the US Government to seize all copies of the work. Every single copy. It is no different than if they shipped over pirated copies of music CDs or movies. And if they actually registered them with the copyright office, they can sue for a boat load of money.

Oh, that's why they had one of those in the back of the Berkeley MVZ! I was wondering about that...

I appreciate the complements on the photographs,
some by me, most by others that were ripped off at The
Virtual Fossil Museum
. In viewing the pdf, many are ours, but many are from
elsewhere. Many are also on YouTube. While we always grant no-cost usage permission to public and private individuals
and for-profit publishers for legitimate scientific and educational purposes, it is always after screening usage and with the proviso that images will not be
used for creationist's purposes of any sort. I should have saved and posted on the site the comical pretenses, excuses, lies, and deceit used by the creationist community to try to circumvent our policy. Were it not for such people, we would likely have removed our copyright from the site.
Is there an international copyright lawyer out there who can handle a lawsuit? If so, you can share any proceeds with worthy causes, such as Michael Moore or movinon.org, or chip into Larry Flynt's fund for snaring
hypocritical, family-value-oriented, fundamentalist politicians.
I can't help but wonder if Yahya is a really a true believer,
and simply a narcissistic con man, or perhaps operating a front for some nefarious
purpose - perhaps Homeland Security should be alerted.

VFM webmaster

You can buy the book on Amazon (although not directly from them). $145. (up to #8,000 in sales today.)

Does the *book* actually use some of your photos?

If so, and if you so desire, a copyright lawyer should be able to help you stop the sale of the books in the US (although it may be a lot of effort, sending letters to distributors and bookstores). If you registered the works (the photos) with the copyright office, you can get statutory damages (of, I think, $100,000 per work infringed). If you didn't register them, you only get actual damages (which probably would be nominal in this case).

In either case, you can write letters to disrupt distribution, and you could probably get an injunction soon after filing a case that would put a formal halt to the sale. OTOH, there might be some defenses (fair use, criticism, etc) that might complicate things.

On the third hand, would it be worth the effort?

BTW, you don't need an international copyright attorney, since you'd be focusing on the violations here, but if the author and publisher is in Turkey, collecting any judgment would be probamatic (as it is even with domestic defendants).

For web site piracy, you might just contact the company that hosts the site with proof of the violation of your copyright. Most reputable ISP will force the user to remove the material once they've been informed. (they don't have a duty to actively police their content, but (IIRC) once on notice of an infringment, they must take steps to stop it.)

[disclosure: not a copyright attorney, just recalling copyright class from years ago]

I didn't realize there was a junk mail list for scientists.

There certainly is in the Life Sciences. I regularly get stuff advertising some new whizzy thing for molecular biology. You would have thought having an address at a department of maths and stats might be a hint that I won't be interested in buying lots of stuff for a genetics lab.

Bob

I have a friend whose father (not a scientist) received that book as a gift. She showed it to me and I must say, my first reaction as a biologist was "what a waste"... As it has been said, the book is absolutely gorgeous, wonderful illustrations - I'm not surprised to hear they're ripped off - but, aaargh! The text is enough to make you nauseous after half a sentence. What a crying shame to waste so much resources, when you think of the beautiful educational book one could make with that...

BAV is distributing the book throughout the UK.

We've looked into what is going on and think that BAV is spending some US$30m a year promoting creationism. Now Turkey is not the biggest or richest of countries yet its main creationist organisation appears to be larger than all the other creationist organisations put together including ICR, AiG, DI, CMI and whatever. Where is the money coming from?

The tip we have had out of Turkey is that the money comes from Saudi Arabia, possibly through Texas. BAV has long-standing US connections through ICR. Lenny Flank also tells me that it is also has close connectinons with Answers in Genesis.

The matter needs some really good research, particularly in the light of breach of copyright.

It could get worse. The Atlas of Creation being distributed now is the first of seven volumes (the second is available online on BAV's web site).

Has anyone got any good contacts in Turkey who might give a clue as to what is going on?

One of the bizarre explantions we have received out of Turkey (a country where conspiracy theories abound) is that the objective of BAV and its financial backers is to stop Turkey joing the European Union because, by doing so, it will shift the balance of power in the overlap between south-east Europe and the Middle East away from the USA to Europe.

BAV's role is to try to show that Europe is essentially a Darwinian creation (you know this sort of stuff is common amongst US fundies) and get the Turks to reject EU membership because, otherwise, they would be dominated by heathens, pagans, atheists, agents of Satan, the anti-Christ in the form of the next Pope or whatever.

Roger Stanyard, British Centre for Science Education.

It strikes me that BAV exemplifies the fact that the fundamentalists are actually far better at utilizing technology than are we evolutionists. BAV seems to have a battalion of geeks who are experts at building websites and achieving web prominence, stealing images and working the magic of Photoshop, publishing books, and ubiquitously invading modern media venues. They are also better collaborators, as evidenced by the $30M cash flow conjectured above by Roger Stanyard. If you Google "Atlas of Creation", not a single legitimate science site is on page one that gives the ridicule that the abomination of science deserves. By dominating venues, particularly the Internet, fundamentalists are extremely efficient at promulgating their cultish rhetoric, thereby protecting young adolescent minds from assimilating alternate worldviews outside their fundamentalist strictures, such as those of the type expounded in the workshops of the devil, e.g., university classrooms such as PZ's classroom.

With a little collaboration, we can change this within a week, by making sure the coveted top Google spot (for a search on "Atlas of Creation") links to a page that discredits this Atlas. To do this, some individual with creds and a website must take the lead, for example PZ on TalkOrigins, or perhaps Richard D himself. A page needs to be written that discredits the Atlas, and all of us with a web site needs to link to it, and we need to spread an appeal far and wide for others, especially academicians, to do the same; I will personally guarantee recruiting links from seven websites, but I'm sure many of you have far more influence. The web page needs to have the meta title tag "Atlas of Creation", with not a word less, or a word more. Note that links from most blogs (including this one) and wiki's provide no Google rank help owing to the automatically appended "no follow" spider command to external links, an anti spam measure.

How about it PZ? Or, if not you, will you recruit someone? I'll provide the pictures, including a Cretaceous Octopus, and a Pleistocene trilobite.

we just got our copy. I am surprised no one is really talking about how heavy it is. We were joking that dropping this out of a plane a la propaganda leaflet would be synonymous with carpet bombing. I think it weighs over 20 pounds.