…in Tehran. The current (7/21/06) issue of Science has an article on science in Iran. From which:
A glance at the evolution exhibit at Tehran’s museum of natural history reveals the tension below the surface. Wave after wave of schoolgirls in matching headscarves file past a row of glass cases containing meticulously arranged fossils. A label next to a trilobite, for example, says that the specimen, discovered in the nearby Alborz mountains, came from the Devonian, a period 400 million years ago when those sediments were submerged in a shallow sea. Along the opposite wall, a diorama chronicles the evolution of life on earth. Painted scenes of ancient life look as if they’ve been copied directly from the latest biology textbooks. But the exhibit takes a sharp detour from science in the final display case where evolution is summed up. In an open tome representing the Koran, phrases in calligraphy proclaim that ‘God willed an atmosphere created from gases’ and ‘God created man from water.’ Above that is a poster–published by the Creation Evidence Museum in Glen Rose, Texas–describing how Earth was created in a few days by an omnipotent being.
If this exhibit leaves you wondering what the curator actually believes, then that is probably by design. Under today’s Iranian theocracy, ‘you are forbidden to deny the existence of god,’ explains Eghbal Taheri, a pharmacologist at the Tehran University of Medical Sciences. ‘You can do your science,’ she says, ‘but in the end you must choose your words carefully.’ For example, ‘you cannot say that the amazing cells in the eye are nothing more than a product of evolution over millions of years.’
The article goes on to note that in addition to evolutionary biology, other dangerous (i.e. to the researcher) areas of science are psychology and neuroscience. Most dangerous of all is sociology, “where the benefits of theocracy are questioned at a researcher’s peril.” A recent example is Sorbonne-trained sociologist Ramin Jahanbegloo, arrested at Tehran airport on his way to a conference in Belgium. One of the Iranian newspapers–state-controlled, of course–described Mr. Jahanbegloo as: “an element of the United States who is part of the plot to overthrow the regime under the guise of intellectual work by peaceful means.” There are several websites discussing Dr. Jahanbegloo’s plight–this one, for example.