Last Saturday, the Bilkent Socialist Thought Society held its first Evolution Symposium, an initiative intended to increase awareness of the creation-evolution controversies that have long been a factor in the history of Turkish education. Attended by undergraduates and senior faculty alike, the day-long event was highlighted by several informative seminars from both the organizing members of the Socialist Thought Society and invited speakers from Bilkent and other universities.
After a brief introduction, the day’s talks began with Dr. Ergi Deniz Özsoy’s comprehensive overview of evolution and its place in history, which dispelled misconceptions that modern evolutionary theory could be reduced to the conclusions of Darwin alone and underlined how more recent discoveries, such as those regarding protein synthesis and DNA-based inheritance, have contributed to the development of our modern conception of speciation.
Dr. Engin Umut Akkaya then presented a sketch of how the very first cells are thought to have formed, detailing the process by which simple organic molecules, produced by exposure to thunderstorms, meteor impacts or the superheated streams of hydrothermal vents, could have organized into a self-replicating structure that would later develop in complexity, recruit a protective membrane and eventually become the cells that we are now familiar with.
Ender Helvacıoğlu’s talk focused on the nature and soundness of common creationist arguments, with emphasis on the requirements of a scientific hypothesis and whether they could be satisfied by a “theory” comprising a literal interpretation of the Abrahamic creation story.
The event concluded with the presentation of Dr. Mehmet Somel, who explained how our ancestors spread from Africa to the rest of the world while picking up some Neanderthal DNA on the way, and how minor variations in certain traits, such as skin tone, altitude tolerance or the ability to digest milk, were selected differentially across human populations in response to environmental conditions to create the vast diversity of races that now populate the world.
By Alper Özkan (MSN/PhDIII)