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Charles Darwin Was A Bad Jew

Well, at least, according to new Turkish schoolbooks

Adam Chandler
January 11, 2013

What do you get when you cross creationism, crude Turkish anti-Semitism, and children’s books?

The first answer: Hilarity

The scientific answer: A malfunctioning upshot of cross-pollination

The physical answer: A series of Turkish children’s books depicting Charles Darwin, once a student of Anglican theology, as a “as a hook-nosed Jew who kept the company of monkeys.”

When do inflammatory books become more than just isolated propaganda? After the books are distributed to over 1,000 young students in Istanbul.

The books sparked outrage in Turkey and protests from Turkish teachers. The Istanbul area school district which distributed the books later claimed it was not aware of their content.

I guess you could call that reflexive choice of textbooks a natural selection then?

For more groans, Steve Mirsky, at Scientific American, gets the Marcus Twain Prize for satire with his response to the episode. Here’s a bit of Mirsky’s reply:

Though common knowledge in the Jewish community, Darwin’s Judaic background seems to be a shock to many non-Jews. I have only just learned, for example, that most readers of Darwin’s many publications do not know that the versions with which they are familiar are highly edited. The great evolutionist wrote in a very particular Jewish style, which his Victorian publisher then revised into highbrow 19th-century English.

For example, Darwin’s printed autobiography includes these lines about the captain of the Beagle: “Fitzroy’s temper was a most unfortunate one. It was usually worst in the early morning, and with his eagle eye he could generally detect something amiss about the ship, and was then unsparing in his blame.” But Darwin’s original version, written on cocktail napkins during meetings of the Shrewsbury Beth Israel synagogue’s building committee, reads: “Don’t get me started on Fitzroy and his meshuggaas. This meshuggener had a bed with only a wrong side because that’s what he always woke up on. Always looking for tsuris. What a schmuck.”

Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.

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