Muslim creationism is back in the news, this time in Egypt

November 16, 2009

darwinm-portraitMuslim creationism is back in the news. There’s been a spate of articles in the U.S. and British press recently about the spread of this scripture-based challenge to Darwinian evolution among Muslims, mostly in the Middle East but also in Europe. The fact that some Muslims have embraced creationism, a trademark belief of some conservative American Protestants, is not new. Reuters first wrote about it in 2006 — “Creation vs. Darwin takes Muslim twist in Turkey” – and this blog has run several posts on the issue, including an interview with Islam’s most prominent creationist, Harun Yahya. What’s new is that these ideas seem to be spreading and academics who defend evolution are holding conferences to discuss the phenomenon.

(Photo: Portrait of Charles Darwin, 12 Feb 2009/Gordon Jack)

There are too many recent articles about Islamic creationism out there now to discuss each one separately, so I’ll have to just link to them in the … New York TimesWashington PostBoston GlobeSlateGuardianNational Beliefnet … … Many of these articles highlight the role of Harun Yahya, the once secretive Istanbul preacher and publisher who has gone on a PR offensive in recent years and turned very media-friendly (as Steve Paulson describes in that Slate article). But as Michael Reiss, a London education professor and Anglican priest told the Guardian, “what the Turks believe today is what the Germans and British believe tomorrow. It is because of the mass movement of people between countries. These things can no longer be thought of as occurring in other countries.”

Harun Yahya, 21 May 2008/Osman Orsal

(Photo: Harun Yahya, 21 May 2008/Osman Orsal)

Over the weekend, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Alexandria, Egypt hosted a conference on “Darwin’s Living Legacy: An International Conference on Evolution and Society” with the British Council. The simple fact of holding a conference on Darwin in the heart of the Middle East, where his theory of evolution is widely rejected, is already noteworthy. According to the Guardian‘s Riazat Butt, Nidhal Guessoum, professor of physics and astronomy at the American University of Sharjah, told the conference that only three Muslim or Muslim-majority countries out of a possible 22 taught evolution. Another participant, astronomer Salman Hameed, who is professor of integrated science & humanities from Hampshire College in Massachusetts, wrote on his informative science-and-religion blog Irtiqa: “It is incredible that this conference is taking place in Egypt. I don’t know what will be the reaction here. Simply by its location, it may remove some of the stigma regarding evolution in the Muslim world, or it may end up generating a backlash. Frankly, I have no idea about the reaction.”

In an update on Sunday, Hameed wrote: “There have been some anti-evolutionary comments made in the sessions that dealt with religion and evolution – but overall, the reception seems to have been quite positive – both in Egyptian newspapers and among the local participants.”


(Photo: Salman Hameed/Irtiqa)

As a example of what they’re up against, another participant was Zaghloul El-Naggar, a leading proponent of the theory that the Koran foresaw scientific theories and discoveries, including the Big Bang and a possible cure for AIDS. He was quoted prominently in a recent Al-Jazeera report on the discovery of the 4.4 million year old skeleton known as Ardipithicus or “Ardi.” The report claimed that the find disproved Darwinian evolution — the opposite of what scientists said about the spectacular discovery of the most complete early hominid specimen we have.  The report only appeared in Al-Jazeera’s Arabic-language television channel, which is very popular in the Middle East, and not in its English-language broadcast. “The presence of El-Naggar totally polarized the debate and evoked an equally polarizing reaction from the audience,” wrote Hameed, who promised further posts from the conference ending today.

Last month, Hameed’s Hampshire College hosted a conference on Darwin and Evolution in the Muslim World. Webcasts of presentations there can be found on the conference website.

What do you think? Is the spread of creationism among Muslims a matter for concern? Is it the same as the battle between creationism and science in Christianity?

Here’s the video of the Al-Jazeera report, with subtitles in English added by critics of its presentation:

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I just came across a book “Extraterrestrial Intelligence: Amazing New Insights from Qur’an…” It quotes extensively from Qur’an to prove in an extremely amazing and convincing idiom that biological evolution isn’t at all at variance with the Qur’an. It is available online at HarperCollins’ website Authonomy: ookid=11309

Posted by Tahseen | Report as abusive

Whether right or wrong… ‘Religion has failed to provide any scientific or positive evidence that a deity exists’ …at best, can be an ‘excuse’ to accept the faith on “today’s living beings have come into existence automatically from its previous versions through gradual evolution”… but can never be a logic on rational ground. In fact, the basis of my post was not what the creationists or some religions have given for their own theory rather my question was, are the information provided by the evolutionists in support of their own theory really ‘conclusive actual evidence’ for the evolution theory itself?One can find a lot of similarities between an old model calculator and a key board of computer. In their outlooks, characteristics, structures even in molecular level there are lots of similarities. Besides, one can find out the time difference between the first appearances of these particular items in this world. After observing these similarities and time difference, if someone concludes that the calculator gradually evolved of its own in course of time into a keyboard that conclusion doesn’t necessarily mean ‘a scientific theory’. At best it can be a fairly tale to be included in the nursery rhyme. This observation does not proof this scientific theory conclusively in any way as there is another possibility… that is with all that differences and similarities both calculator and key board would have been manufactured separately with intellectual intent and design.The differences between calculator/keyboard example with all that fossils, dating of fossils, so called vestibule organs etc etc. are the time and place. One is on the earth and other one has been found under the earth and which is dated back to hundreds of years. This difference makes some people to believe in such fairly tale under the cover of scientific disguise. After finding all that ‘transitional fossils, radiological dating, biology, (so called) redundant organs, genetics, bacteria, breeding, animal domestication and documented natural selection’ if someone believes the beings have come into existence with one evolving from other and if it is claimed as \’scientific theory\’ then on the same ground creationism is a scientific theory as well. Because creationists equally could state there is a creator who created the amazing diversity of life and also the similarities between species. Fossils and homologies would just as much, if not more, support this ‘theory’ of a creator.If creationists oppose the evolution theory to protect their deity than reversely, the evolutionists are used to fire off the evolution theory to oppose the said deity….. not as it (the theory) of being a scientific one. If someone aims to disregard and reject one idea, no matters whether does it have any evidence or not s/he will propagate opposite one and will hunt after evidences to prove his or her predefined conclusion. Absence of evidence can never be enough to change his/her mind.

Posted by Straight Talk | Report as abusive

Evolution -> genetics -> modern medicineCreationsists should stay out of hospitals

Posted by Digger | Report as abusive

Religion is like say my imaginary friend is better that your imaginary friend. The work of Darwin and many other people in the fileds of science work on facts.All religions work from a text which are thoughts and views of the writer at the time. These thoughts are then told to the masses and a view point or “religion” is born….not on facts. No religion known to man can prove anything but science can. Im sure if they find some life on another planets people will turn to religion to prove a view point which they cannot. science and the understanding of life and how we progress should be the new religion

Posted by The Dark Knight | Report as abusive

Exibit,, Fish in sea,( of GOD ) Birds in air,( of God ) Stars in Firmament,( of God ) WORD,( of God ) Apearance of Thinking, ( of GOD ) Fishers of Man chuckle of JESUS. Conceptional matters tehe

Posted by Eden and Apple | Report as abusive

I appear to think therefore i accuse then JUDGE like an idiot Would,,,, i think some one said that or was it I appear to be human or Not to BE that is the Answer,

Posted by Eden and Apple | Report as abusive

Straight Talk, your point is moot for a very simple reason. There are some fundamental differences between your keyboard example and the evolution of species. First of all, keyboards don’t have a copying mechanism like all living organisms. Instead, they are all created in factories. Also, the amount of “mutations” that occur when the factory builds keyboards is very small, and “mutated” keyboards are always thrown out. Moreover, there is no crossing over during reproduction because, well, there is NO reproduction (sexual or otherwise). So most of the basics ingredients of evolution aren’t there.Secondly, in the case of keyboards we know for a fact that a creator existed: it is us. We can see people, we have records of people having lived on Earth for thousands of years now, and we have records of people designing and building keyboards. This, combined with the obvious lack of mutation in keyboards, is what makes the idea of typewriters evolving into computer keyboards sound ridiculous.Evolution is very different in many ways. First of all, organisms aren’t seen to be created by anybody or anything, but rather they themselves reproduce, sexually or asexually. During this reproduction, mutations happen, as can be seen nowadays either by analyzing the genetic code directly, or by the increased resistance to drugs of bacteria, viruses etc. Crossing over of genes has been observed scientifically since the time of Mendel (1850s), and is the reason for which we have grapes selected for their flavor, dogs selected for their looks, and fruit flies selected for whatever reasons scientists have. Detailed computer simulations show that it is reasonable for complex organs such as the eye to naturally develop through evolution in long enough periods of time–compatible with the periods of time observed for such evolution in the fossil record. Observe moreover that nowadays, living organisms need no creator; rather, they copy themselves, from parents into offspring. There is also absolutely no evidence that a creator ever existed–we’ve never met such a creator, have no records of one, fossil or otherwise. These are some of the reasons for which your analogy is completely flawed, and why scientists accept evolution as a fact.By the way, what was your point? That all biologists are just stupid and ignore obvious evidence against their theory? Isn’t that a bit arrogant of you?…

Posted by Tibi | Report as abusive

Believing evolution does not negate the existence of the creator for those that know of the creator. No one tells a king how to rule. And no one tells God how to give, and or, develop life.If evolution is the vehicle of creation so what? To the one who understands that they are created beings evolution can either be true or not and it doesn’t matter. To those who deny the existence of a creator evolution is fiercely important. If it is proven wrong then they must acknowledge other possibilities. If it is proven correct. The spiritual person can accept it. And it does not remove God from the equation.

Benny, it’s true that the fact of evolution does not invalidate the idea of a god, although it definitely dismisses the most literal interpretations of a number of “holy” texts.You are however wrong about the importance of evolution for atheists. First of all, there is so much evidence for evolution, that it is clearly true in some approximation, even if it turns out to not be absolutely right. But even if it did turn out to be completely wrong, that would just prompt scientists to find a better theory. There is no reason for alarm for atheists if one particular alternative to god would be proven false.It might be a catastrophe for a Christian to learn there is no God, but for a scientist to learn that a theory is false is just part of the job. If the theory is a well-established one, then the discovery of its falsehood is full of excitement and prospects for a lot of fruitful future work.

Posted by Tibi | Report as abusive

Tibi,What did you mean by mutation of keyboard in factory? I am afraid, did you mean if that… “mutated keyboards are not always thrown out”… then over the time typewriter manufacturing machine will once start to produce computer keyboard!!????!!!!!! Yes, you are right…..the theory of evolution is that absurd indeed.How did we come to know that computer keyboard needs a creator? Is it only because that “We can see people, we have records of people having lived on Earth for thousands of years now, and we have records of people designing and building keyboards.”???? Well, like many other people, I never went to any keyboard manufacturing factory and never saw people are producing keyboard in a factory…..what do you suggest for me? Should I belief that keyboards are evolutes by themselves? Or should I belief, though of having no records, that the keyboards are manufactured by people???? Neither manufactured nor reproduced by themselves, rather I would like to belief that keyboards are found in the computer accessories shops. Sounds silly??? That is the theory some people like to believe in, in the name of scientific one as they propose… “organisms aren’t seen to be created by anybody or anything, but rather they themselves reproduce, sexually or asexually.”… Or… “living organisms need no creator; rather, they copy themselves, from parents into offspring. There is also absolutely no evidence that a creator ever existed–we’ve never met such a creator, have no records of one, fossil or otherwise.”You can go to a pharmaceutical products manufacturing factory and will see how tableting machine is producing tablets automatically without the touch of human hands. In front of that tablet machine you can only see machine producing tablets, you will not find designer of the tablet, you need not to meet the manufacturer, you will find no fossils of manufacturer either. What your scientific study tells you then? Are the tablets produced by themselves? Machine produces tablets without requiring a manufacturer? Or Manufacturer set the machine to produce tablets automatically?All these examples including that one of straight-talk are flawed if you discuss on the basis of philosophy. But if you consider evolution as science these are very much relevant. Whenever we are talking about evolution we have to keep in mind, this is not the objective study of a topic of biology rather it’s a discussion related to matters which we see around, their behaviors. What is the difference between a living being and a running machine on the basis of science? Why some matters/substances (as you call them ‘living beings’) started to evolutes from one stage to another but others can not? You can’t differentiate some particular matters from others to favor your logic. Of course we have made divisions, like physics, chemistry, biology etc in the study of science. But these are not contradictory to each other, as long as you are working on scientific basis, they can not be. When you incorporate any philosophical idea into scientific study than it becomes problematic for one division of science to face another. This is the case with evolution theory. A philosophical dogma has long been well discussed in scientific style.

Posted by Vista | Report as abusive

Evolution doesn’t need to remove god from the equation.Last time I checked, religion has yet to prove that god is part of the equation to begin with.

Posted by Haha | Report as abusive

Vista, the theory of evolution does not claim to apply to everything. Rocks do not evolve. Metal knives don’t evolve. Keyboards also don’t. The things that evolve are large groups of systems that are able to copy themselves, where the copying mechanism is susceptible to some level of error, and where the systems compete for limited resources, and die if they cannot collect enough for themselves. Does any of these requirements apply to keyboards? They do apply to bacteria, plants, animals etc. Evolution explains how bacteria evolved into the rich life we see on Earth today.We see animals mating and multiplying–maybe you yourself never witnessed that, but it has been observed by many people, starting from all mothers in the world (including yours). For keyboards, such copying has never been observed. Not by a single person. Can you notice the difference now?Also, scientists aren’t stupid. If they saw a machine manufacturing medicine, they would analyze the machine and check who made it. They have done this for nature. They saw living beings create other living beings. They asked who created the parents. They got the answer: their parents. Scientists followed this trail millions of years back in time, and never found a different answer than just “parents”. This is why the theory of evolution has not been invalidated. There never has been any indication that an external entity was involved. It must, then, be that living beings “figured it” all out by themselves. Scientists provided a framework within which this does happen very naturally; it is called evolution. Again, if you have any trouble understanding that evolution happens, please realize that it is being observed in the lab every single day by thousands of biologists. Denying it is like denying that computers exist. The only questions that are still open are about the details of how evolution works, not whether it happens or not.Another difference between keyboards and organisms is one of probability of mutations. Carbon-based compounds are observed to be likely to interact with other such compounds, and also are easily decomposed if subjected e.g. to temperatures a little higher than room temperature. Such reactions are immensely less likely to occur for plastics and silicon, which are some of the main materials that make up your keyboard. That’s why you should recycle, not just throw stuff in the trash: it will (almost) never decompose on its own! This is also why life is not made of plastic or metal or other stable compounds. Alcohol for example visibly reacts with fatty acids, but put a keyboard next to a computer, and wait until one of them changes shape!If you want to talk about evolution, you need to satisfy the basic requirements for evolution to happen. You need to have a large number of systems each of which is capable of copying itself. The copying process must have some probability of error. Next, these systems must compete for limited resources, and must be allowed to die if they can’t collect enough resources. Then you need to wait for a long time. Such simulations have been done on a computer, and the results do indeed show evolution. You can find some examples on CDK007s channel on YouTube 7?blend=1&ob=4An older computer framework written to allow a bunch of small programs to compete for resources is Tierra, ra_%28computer_simulation%29you can try to look into that.Please learn about evolution before criticizing it. All of your “complaints” were strictly related to your not understanding the theory, not to actual flaws in it!

Posted by Tibi | Report as abusive

Despite years of effort on the part of the scientific community, creationism will not go away not because the evidence for God and creationism is based on flawed thinking, but because the views on abiogenesis, the evidence for evolution from one species to another, and for spontaneous, random existence without the requirement for the external hand of God has now been roundly demolished. God is real. And evolution is science’s greatest ‘mistake’.

Google me on the subject, if you doubt it. I’ve written extensively on the matter and you are welcome to challenge any particular.

But there was a good reason for this ‘mistake’, and only now are we able to reveal why this ‘mistake’ was inevitable. I’ve called it ‘the attempted murder of God’, a title that quite provocatively suggests a deliberate project to underwrite the current confusion in the debate. Hence, ‘mistake’ is in inverted commas, since there is no real mistake, and everything we ever thought we knew about the subject was always going to be questioned, because we were never presented with the whole picture.

Until now.

That picture has changed in 2010… The paradigm has shifted once again… And the ‘hidden’ science’ we are all surely entitled to know can now be revealed.

Best Regards,

Posted by Scrooby | Report as abusive