A Turkish academic who claims to “speak for science” said that Noah used a cellphone to call his son before the Flood and powered the Ark with a nuclear reactor. The latest bizarre pseudoscience out of Turkey comes a year after the Turkish government claimed that the patriarch Abraham’s father built Göbekli Tepe and a couple of years after Turkey’s strongman president claimed that Muslim explorers built a mosque in Cuba long before Columbus visited the island. Such claims are part of a growing religious fundamentalism in the Turkish state, where the secularism of Ataturk has eroded in recent years in favor of Pres. Erdoğan’s policy of Islamization.
Yavuz Örnek, 59, teaches marine science at Istanbul University. He was educated in Turkey and here in upstate New York (but of course) at Syracuse University. He is a specialist in organic chemistry and studies algae, but he is also an outspoken opponent of women’s rights, claiming that families break down when women are free and that gender equality must be bad because “the Jews” advocate for it. Speaking on the state-run TRT 1 television network on Saturday, Örnek outlined his strange claims about Noah’s Ark.
“There were huge 300 to 400-meter high waves and his [the Prophet Noah’s] son was many kilometers away. The Quran says Noah spoke with his son. But how did they manage to communicate? Was it a miracle? It could be. But we believe he communicated with his son via cell phone,” Örnek said, according to a translation published in the Hürriyet Daily News.
The passage Örnek refers to appears in Qur’an 11:42-43: “And the ark swam with them between waves like mountains: and Noah called up to his son, who was separated from him, saying, Embark with us, my son, and stay not with the unbelievers. He answered, I will get on a mountain, which will secure me from the water. Noah replied, There is no security this day from the decree of God, except for him on whom he shall have mercy. And a wave passed between them, and he became one of those who were drowned” (trans. George Sale). As you can see, there is no indication in the text that Noah’s son was kilometers away; rather, the plain reading is that Noah passed him in the Ark and called to him as the ship sailed by him.
Örnek also took issue with the Abrahamic article of faith that the Ark was made of wood and rode along atop the waters. Such an account is given in Genesis, though the Quranic version in Sura 11 omits the material the Ark is made from but alludes to the Judeo-Christian account in having Allah refer to “the form and dimensions which we have revealed unto thee.” Later, in 54:13, the Qur’an is specific enough to describe the materials used the make the Ark: “And we bare him on a vessel composed of planks and nails.” Örnek, who is apparently as bad at Quranic study as he is science, decided to replace this clear statement with random fantasy, in this case that Noah built the Ark like an aircraft carrier, made of steel, and then powered it like a submarine with nuclear power.
He claims that the birds Noah released were not actually birds but unmanned aerial vehicles.
“I am a scientist, I speak for science” Örnek added.
I believe that should be “fantasist” and “fantasy.”
He said he could prove his claims scientifically, but declined to offer evidence. He conveniently expects us to take the Qur’an literally when it suits him and metaphorically when it does not.
What bothers me is that Turkish state media and organs of the Turkish government seem interested in promoting this Ancient Aliens style exploration of the mysteries of the Qur’an, and seem happy to give air time to lunatic ideas that are both godawful science and prima facie bad theology. I don’t know if their intention is to provoke outrage, but the growing government patronage, direct or indirect, in Turkey of nut-job ideas about history is a sure sign of the country’s retreat from modernity and secularism.
I'm an author and editor who has published on a range of topics, including archaeology, science, and horror fiction. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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