We recently got an email invitation to interview this gentleman for our blog. Apparently the Wall Street Journal also got one and accepted. The story that resulted is not at all complimentary.
We don't know if Mr. Oktar-Yahya is a "complete and utter ignoramus" - Richard Dawkins' characterization cited in the story. We do know that he is not part of any academic or recognized theological discipline. That matters to us and to the world.
The grandstanding offer Oktar makes to debate Dawkins or other academics and his "contests" seeking proof of evolution - these are all transparent gimmicks to enable him to claim some value from contrived academic encounters.
Real peer review in an academic discipline may not be the perfect way to assure the value of a person's work, but it is the best way we have to filter out the slacker, poser or charlatan and to reward the merit of the real scientist or the thoughtful philosopher. Oktar obviously wants none of that process.
The first half of the WSJ article is informative in a negative way. In the rather dark conclusion of the WSJ profile there is mention of his book with "Judaism" in the title. I hereby invoke the ten-foot pole rule. So we won't be reading his books any time soon. And yes we do know enough to judge that is fair. Andrew Higgins in the WSJ concludes:
In 1986, Mr. Oktar published his first book, "Freemasonry and Judaism," a tirade against the perils of atheism. He then spent 10 months in a mental hospital. Mr. Oktar says he was never mentally ill but was institutionalized to stifle his views. Military doctors later declared him mentally sound, he says, but he complains that Turkish media "propagated the idea that I was a lunatic."
Mr. Oktar has had various brushes with the law, including a 1991 drug-possession case in which, he says, security agents planted cocaine in his food. He was acquitted. A glamorous model then accused him of blackmail. The case collapsed. Mr. Oktar is now fighting to reverse a conviction last year of himself and six others for forming an unnamed illegal organization that Mr. Oktar says does not exist.
"I have a great number of enemies," says Mr. Oktar, who blames his troubles on a "Darwinist dictatorship."
Unlike strict Christian creationists, who assert the world was created in six days around 10,000 years ago, Mr. Oktar allows for a far longer time period stretching back billions of years. But he agrees with those Christians who insist life didn't evolve, asserting that animals and plants now are exactly as they were at the dawn of time.
His "Atlas of Creation" produces thousands of pictures of fossils of birds, snakes and other creatures side by side with what he says are their identical modern kin. Prof. Dawkins derides the exercise as "total inanity" and says Mr. Oktar confuses snakes with eels and makes other elementary blunders.
One of the pictures in the first volume of Mr. Oktar's work features what is labeled as a caddis fly. It is in fact a man-made fishing fly with a metal hook clearly visible. Mr. Oktar says this is a "little detail" and believes that "just 10 pages of my book can defeat Dawkins."
He's offered a reward of 10 million Turkish lira (around $6 million) to anyone who can produce a fossil that proves evolution. He has also invited his Oxford foe to a debate.
Prof. Dawkins says he has no intention of accepting, as that would only "give legitimacy" to "this weird phenomenon." Mr. Oktar, he says, "doesn't know anything about zoology, doesn't know anything about biology. He knows nothing about what he is attempting to refute."