• Turkish textbooks’ “anti-Semitic attack” on Charles Darwin, and Scientific American’s claim that he was Jewish

    This image appeared in the Scientific American

    The January 2013 issue of the Scientific American has an article by Steve Mirsky, on page 78 (not online). It makes the claim that Charles Darwin was Jewish.

    First the background story:

    Turkish schoolchildren in Istanbul received a series of books denouncing scientific figures, including one denying the theory of evolution and describing Charles Darwin as a big-nosed Jew, the Financial Times reported.

    Really, who better than Islamists to combine anti-Semitism and creationism? Even though:

    Maltepe’s director of education, Faik Kaptan, told Turkey’s Radikal newspaper that he was unaware the books contained anti-Semitic references, saying, “It is not possible to check all the books distributed in the district.”

    Right, along with the scientific errors in the books. I guess that was an oversight as well.

    But back to the Scientific American story: after making a number of quotes from Charles Darwin with (I presume) Yiddish words, the author adds this:

    So, of  course, Darwin was Jewish. Why that fact should in any way diminish the intellectual achievement of his evolution insights is beyond me. His ideas stand on their own merits and would be no less brilliant were he, say, Anglican, or someone who came to hold no religious beliefs at all.

    The “why” question is not a hard one. If you are an anti-Semite it is not hard to imagine that you would portray someone you don’t like as a Jew. (The textbooks did attack Einstein as well, who, in fact, was Jewish.)

    But is the Scientific American right in saying Darwin was Jewish? According to the sources I could check, no. The magazine seems to have made an error.

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