As you may have noticed, the Vatican has been celebrating the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin by holding a proper, grown-up scientific conference about evolution. Like the Church of England, the Roman Catholics are trying to use the anniversary as an excuse to claw back some ground from the likes of Richard Dawkins. Their message is that evolution poses no problems for Christianity after all, not even slightly. Things got off to a rather shaky start when Cardinal William Levada, head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, described as "absurd" Dawkins' claim that evolution is incompatible with a belief in God. Which of course is true: evolutionary biology is not incompatible with "the existence of God". It's just very difficult to square with particular religious doctrines, for example belief in an interventionist deity or the special status of the Bible.
Still, the Vatican does at least seem to realise that this is one area of science where they can't swim against the tide of human knowledge without looking both foolish and irrelevant, so they had better just embrace it. When it comes to the practical application of that knowledge, however - in genetic research, for example - they're not always so scientifically enlightened.
Not everyone was happy to see the Vatican engaging with science in this way. The bizarre Turkish creationist cum Bond Villain Adnan Oktar, for one, issued a press release claiming that the Papacy was under the control of Darwinist conspirators (he sees Darwinists where others see Freemasons or Jews - though he sees those too, of course) as a consequence of which "the Pope was forced to advocate a deviant opinion". I'd love to see Oktar left alone on some island with only Pastor Fred Phelps, Bishop Williamson and perhaps Geert Wilders for company. It'd make great TV.
Oktar sent a sidekick of his, apparently named Oktar Babuna (which sounds like it means "Oktar is a baboon") to gatecrash the event's opening session at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. It's not clear how he got in, but he took the opportunity to stand up and begin ranting at the assembled professors (including Douglas Futuyma of New York State U) about how they had made "allegations ...not verified by scientific evidences". He demanded to know where were the "transitional forms" that in Oktar's view ought to exist: "monstrous animals with no wings for example, single wing, little bit wing that shows incomplete organs".
The theory of natural selection presupposes no such thing, of course, but pointing out the lack of "transitional forms" is a big thing with "Harun Yahya", as Mr Oktar also calls himself. So much so that he has repeatedly offered a "prize" of eight trillion dollars (and I assume he doesn't mean Zimbabwean dollars) for anyone who can convince him otherwise. Unfortunately, even if he were a man open to rational persuasion (and the money actually existed) scooping the prize would be a hard task given the idiosyncratic meaning of "transitional forms" Oktar has adopted. Mr Baboon told the conference (before his microphone was turned off) that Archaeopteryx didn't count, despite ticking most of the boxes for what a "transitional form" ought to look like, since it was "a complete animal". He's looking for "incomplete animals", presumably. Perhaps Oktar himself would foot the bill, having apparently been born with an important part of his brain missing.
The whole incident was filmed and proudly presented on Oktar's website as further evidence of the suppression of dissent to which anti-evolutionary ideas are subjected. As he spun it,
Darwinists intended to show off and deceive people, but they were riposted. Douglas Futuyma left the platform in the face of truth. Futuyma found the solution in fleeing, just like Richard Dawkins.
Well, judge for yourself.
It's impossible to make out most of the words (apparently Baboon claims to be a brain surgeon) but it's fairly clear what's going on: a serious scientific conference is interrupted by a mad heckler. That's not how Baboon saw things, needless to say. According to Reuters, he described the incident as "very anti-democratic and very un-academic", further proof that evolution was "not a scientific theory but an ideology". In Turkey, he proudly pointed out, the 1% of deluded Darwinists in the population were tolerated and indulged. And it's true that Adnan Oktar is always willing to make himself available for interviews. So the refusal of the scientific establishment to take him seriously is obviously evidence of a conspiracy of denial. What other explanation could there possibly be?