Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ghamidi on Islam and evolution

Prof Ghamidi's name has come up in several conversations about evolution here in Pakistan. He is considered to be one of the more liberal and enlightened Islamic scholar. However, I was introduced to his work via his comments on evolution (tip from Zakir Thaver) - in which he rejected biological evolution. Many have been surprised here by his rejection. So here is a clip about his views on Quran and evolution (sorry its only in Urdu - but I will summarize his basic points below. Ghamidi is the one without a beard):

So first of all, he believes that God used evolution as the foundation principle in the creation of the entire universe. He even talks about changes (he uses the same Urdu word for evolution for this: Irtiqa) in individuals - from a fetus to a grown up. He says that we don't see grown ups coming down from the sky or growing up on trees (his example). But then he rejects Darwin's theory based on common descent. Ghamidi believes that Quran talks about the creation of individual species - but he says that this interpretation is not completely certain - but it appears to point in this direction.

Couple of comments regarding this: It seems that Ghamidi is not fundamentally opposed to biological evolution. After all, he is ok with the concept of evolution for the universe and for individuals - it is only the issue of common descent that is bothering him. But even then, he is not closing the door completely.

There is glimmer of hope as his objections to biological evolution are centered on his understanding of the fossil record. Here he brings up the standard creationist arguments - that there are species that have not changed for millions of years, and that there have been fabrications, and there too many gaps in the fossil record (he laid out some of these arguments in another TV segment). Well...these are simple misunderstandings that can be clarified even with an undergraduate biology textbook (and Ghamidi appears to be the kind of person who wants to know). For example, not all species have to change over time. For example, turtles are very successful in their niche (no evolutionary pressure to change) and they have been around in the same form for millions of years. So have jelly fish and many other creatures. Here are 5 major misconceptions about evolution, including that of missing fossils.

Ghamidi is a prominent name in Pakistan regarding religion. He does not seem to be strongly against evolution - and most of his critique is based on old creationist arguments. I hope he gets to read more about evolution - from scientists. He can be an important voice for evolution.


apashiol said...

I imagine it is difficult to reconcile evolution, as it is understood as being without direction, with teleology. I am assuming here that if a Muslim admits of a progression from simple to complex forms that would have been the will of Allah.
To be able to accept that some species don't change because they are optimally adapted for their particular environment while others do introduces a randomness that conflicts with the idea of divine intention.
This besides the fact that Humanity loses its special status as a different creation according to the naturalistic viewpoint.
Which of these ideas do you think would be more threatening?

Xoff said...

What Mr. Ghamdi is referring to can be more appropriately called growth rather than evolution. A foetus grows, it does not evolve, at least not in the sense of biological evolution, there is no mutation in the genetic blueprint of the individual.

I think reconciling with evolution will involve a major rethink on the part of religion. The question is, whether rationality and faith can co-exist? In my mind, they are usually mutually exclusive.

Salman Hameed said...

Apashiol, can always be argued that God works through natural selection - and it may only appear directionless to us. This is roughly the position adopted by the Catholic Church. So evolution doesn't have to clash with religion. Now, of course, it does exclude certain types of religious claims. For example, if it is argued that humans are completely different than every other species on the planet - well that won't work with evolution.


Yes, I agree, Ghamdi is mixing up growth with evolution. It appears that his main point is that things develop via a process and are not dropped down from the sky as is. But then he doesn't clarify how did various species form - if they have never changed. Did whales get created as is? And did they just appear one day - matter out of nothing? And individual creation for each individual species - including all the ones that have gone extinct (and many more species are extinct than are alive today)? So it raises more questions than answer.

Anonymous said...

Javed Ahmed Ghamidi By Doctor Mufti Abdul Wahid


truth_teller said...

The strongest proof which Ghamidi has mentioned is the lack of intermediate fossils. This has been discussed in the article on under the heading: "There are no transitional fossils." But the problem is that it doesn't give a satisfactory answer. For example, simple logic says that there should be theoretically infinite species between modern day tiger and saber tooth tiger, but this is contrary to the fossil record. Another interesting case is of bacteria, which has a high speed (synchronous) motor on its back, leaves a huge question mark on the slow and steady natural selection. All the answers so far given by the proponents of evolution seems more like a fantasy than a reality (the complexity of the system increases and individual components of the motor can't operate without other parts and each part has to be evolved at the same time with the correct assembly, same argument goes for all the other complex organs; here example of bacteria is the simplest to explain this phenomenon)

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Faisal said...

A detail version of Ghamidi Sb, views on evolution can be seen at
Go to Videos-->Al-Hikmah-->Islamic Beliefs-->Nazriyah Irtiqah

This is one hour program telecasted originally on Geo tv famous programm (Ghamidi)