Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

I don’t know who put it on the Netflix queue, but a copy of Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006) arrived in my mailbox recently. That, of course, is the mockumentary starring Sacha Baron Cohen as the eponymous Borat Sagdiyev, a Kazakh journalist touring the United States. Much of the film, as I understand it, consists of unscripted interactions in which Baron Cohen behaves badly with unsuspecting Americans on the pretext of not understanding American customs and/or adhering to fictitious (and frequently repulsive) Kazakh customs. Frankly, it doesn’t sound like my cup of tea, and I don’t know that I’m going to bother to watch it. Maybe I’m too tenderhearted, but I felt sorry even for the young-earth creationist Kent Hovind when he was similarly treated by Ali G—also a character played by Baron Cohen. But receiving Borat in the mail reminded me that I’ve been meaning to discuss public opinion about evolution in Kazakhstan. (My to-do list is as eclectic as it is extensive.)

Why Kazakhstan? Well, it is often claimed that the level of rejection of evolution in Kazakhstan is phenomenally low, at 28%. Probably the most prominent source of the claim is Salman Hameed’s “Bracing for Islamic Creationism” (Science 2008;322:1637–1638, subscription required), according to which “only 28% of Kazakhs thought that evolution is false, a fraction much lower than that of the U.S. adult population (~40%).” In his article, Hameed offers the important warning that “although the last couple of decades have seen an increasing confrontation over the teaching of evolution in the United States, the next major battle over evolution is likely to take place in the Muslim world (i.e., predominantly Islamic countries, as well as in countries where there are large Muslim populations),” explaining, “Relatively poor education standards, in combination with frequent misinformation about evolutionary ideas, make the Muslim world a fertile ground for rejection of the theory.”

Hameed’s article is, as far as I can tell, generally accurate. But it grievously errs in its uncritical use of data to be found in Riaz Hassan’s article “On Being Religious: Patterns of Religious Commitment in Muslim Societies” (The Muslim World 2007;97(3):437–478, subscription required), which reports data from surveys in seven Muslim countries on various religious beliefs. Among the questions posed was “Do you agree or disagree with Darwin’s theory of evolution?” for which the results were as follows:

 

Glenn Branch
Short Bio

Glenn Branch is Deputy Director of NCSE.

branch@ncse.ngo
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