I have been traveling to Pakistan for the past few days (yes, plane delays, missed flights, and detours have made this into a multi-day odyssey). On the flight from London to Dubai, an Iraqi/British pilot was sitting next to me (no - I was not sitting in the cockpit). We struck a conversation and when talking about research, the topic of evolution came up. And oh-boy - he turned out to be a full blown creationist with all the bells and whistles (Adam was made by Allah using "hands" and Eve was literally made out of Adam's ribs, they were brought to Earth from the outside, etc). He did not know much about evolution, but he was thoroughly convinced that he opposed it. Okay - so I have encountered these kind of views before. But, perhaps not surprisingly, he also believed that humans never went to the Moon, was a believer in astrology and ghosts, and had our flight not landed, I'm sure he would have told me about the Lochness monster and the Big Foot too.
So what's the big deal? I don't know. It bothered me that he is a pilot - and flies some of the most amazing technology developed on the principles of science. Plus, we were having this discussion while above the clouds at 35,000 feet. If all humans displayed this much lack of critical thinking, we would still be only talking about mythological figures flying in the skies. I don't know - his utter lack of critical thinking and this level of creationism really bugged me. He is a pilot after all! (yes, I know, the same applies to medical doctors as well...)
Oh and I was also admonished by a young bearded dude (a fellow passenger for the Pakistan-bound flight) for drinking coffee openly during Ramadan. It was 9am and we were waiting for the plane to board. Since there was still time to kill, I asked him for his precise reasons (I'm also aware of the fact that fasting is not an obligation for travelers. One may still choose to fast, but it is not a requirement). And he said he was worried about the temptation for the weak willed believers (weak "iman"). I asked him if he was being tempted. He said, no, no, his "iman" is strong, but others don't have the same "iman". Aah...but of course. To be fair, he was quite polite - apart from actually asking me to drink coffee in hiding.
Next few posts will be from Pakistan (this is a family trip - so no talks and no research business). I should be back in the US by Sept 21st.