Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Biology textbooks and religion in Pakistan and the US

I'm back from the McGill Islam & Evolution Symposium, after being finger-printed and patted down at the Montreal airport. But the symposium was a lot of fun - good food, great talks and excellent organization. The video of the proceedings will be available soon and I will post it here. Too bad - there were no cameras around when we were playing pool (on a gigantic billiards table). Without going into the details, I can just tell you that the "good guys" won ;)

But just as a teaser, here is a quick note about a point that came up yesterday during the talk by Anila Asghar & Jason Wiles. They were commenting on the heavy presence of religion in biology textbooks in Pakistan. When comparing it with the US, they brought up an interesting contrast that Qur'anic verses in Pakistani textbooks are placed there to support evolutionary ideas, whereas almost all efforts to include religion in the US textbooks are designed to oppose evolution. Part of the reason is that these Pakistani textbooks are written by Muslim biologists who accept evolution as a fact of science but also take a negotiated stance that does not exclude religion.

Perhaps, this is also the reason why the topic of evolution has not become a political issue in Pakistan (yet?). In the US and in Turkey, on the other hand, evolution maps onto the culture wars and is a much more politically charged topic. (Related earlier post on the topic: Creationist mess in Texas and evolution in textbooks in Pakistan)

I will post the webcast when its available.