Thursday, July 26, 2007

Islamic Creationism

One of the dilemmas that is always mentioned in library school during collection development class is what to do with unsolicited gift books. Of particular interest are those items that are donated directly to libraries by advocacy groups or individuals with a strong point of view on a particular topic. As librarians, we have a responsibility to build collections that represent a wide variety of viewpoints. Still, when someone donates a book that represents an extreme, or shall I say reality challenged, position, this can create a difficult decision.

The July 17th New York Times had an interesting article on just such a book. A work that, among other things, offers a new spin on an old controversy:

In the United States, opposition to the teaching of evolution in public schools has largely been fueled by the religious right, particularly Protestant fundamentalism.

Now another voice is entering the debate, in dramatic fashion.

It is the voice of Adnan Oktar of Turkey, who, under the name Harun Yahya, has produced numerous books, videos and DVDs on science and faith, in particular what he calls the “deceit” inherent in the theory of evolution. One of his books, “Atlas of Creation,” is turning up, unsolicited, in mailboxes of scientists around the country and members of Congress, and at science museums in places like Queens and Bemidji, Minn.

At 11 x 17 inches and 12 pounds, with a bright red cover and almost 800 glossy pages, most of them lavishly illustrated, “Atlas of Creation” is probably the largest and most beautiful creationist challenge yet to Darwin’s theory, which Mr. Yahya calls a feeble and perverted ideology contradicted by the Koran.

In bowing to Scripture, Mr. Yahya resembles some fundamentalist creationists in the United States. But he is not among those who assert that Earth is only a few thousand years old. The principal argument of “Atlas of Creation,” advanced in page after page of stunning photographs of fossil plants, insects and animals, is that creatures living today are just like creatures that lived in the fossil past. Ergo, Mr. Yahya writes, evolution must be impossible, illusory, a lie, a deception or “a theory in crisis.”

Mr. Yahya, of course, has every right to produce and disseminate his work. If he started sending it to libraries, however, would we be obligated to accept it? If he sent one to my library, and I was asked to decide whether or not we keep it, I would almost say "yes", just to preserve the book as a curiosity piece if nothing else. I'm interested to hear what others might think about this.


Blogger Nathan said...

We are all ideolgues. I think some of us are simply bigger ideologues than others. Having this or that inherited worldview, we all say that "facts are stubborn things" - to some extent. It seems to me that it is what we do with the realities on the ground - how do they effect the unanswered questions that we actually do have (if we have any doubts!) - that makes the real difference between this and that ideologue.

He seems intelligent and like he argues his case well - bring him on (I am suspicious whenever any view is said to not be given the honor of a free and open debate - if the view is that stupid, it will be shown to be so when cross-examined).

7:48 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

I say yes. I agree with Nathan's comments - we are all ideologues and let's let everyone with an opinion voice said opinion in public debate. If Mr. Oktar/Yahya's publications fit into the particular library's approval plan and there is space on the shelf, then accept the gift. I would also try and balance the collection at the same time and offer an opposing viewpoint. If a librarian finds their library's collection has accepted his gift yet has no equally affecting works supporting evolution, then that material should also be purchased.

6:50 PM  
Anonymous KL said...

It's interesting you talk about creationism. I heard an interview in which your heroine Ayaan Hirsi Ali said that anyone who teaches creationism in schools should be sent to jail.

9:57 AM  
Anonymous Jeffrey Quick said...

I'm glad that, being a music librarian, I don't have to make that call. Deciding what to do with the score and CD spam is bad enough. I'd probably do as you would...keep it around as a curiosity. At least this is preferable to the people who steal books from libraries because they contradict their point of view. But there are days when I wish that "Bulls--t" were admissible as a free-floating subdivision in subject headings.

12:02 PM  

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