Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A fact-check on Zakir Naik's rant against evolution

by Salman Hameed

Two years ago I had posted some comments on Zakir Naik's rant against evolution. There is nothing new in it - and it basically rehashed creationist arguments embellished with some incredible misinformation. Here is that earlier post: Zakir Naik's Rant Against Evolution. Now somebody has actually gone through his often-incorrect statements and have done a fact-check on them. The fun part is to listen to Zakir Naik throw some made-up names at the audience. But my favorite is his declaration that homo sapiens are extinct species. But all fun aside, we have to realize that guys like Zakir Naik still hold substantial influence over audiences in the Muslim world (though not as much as they often claim). While many will still follow him no matter what, videos like this one (below) are useful in exposing some of their craziest statements. Enjoy! (tip - from the much saner Zakir: Zakir Thaver)

 [I have some minor quibbles with the corrections. For example, Newton, Boyle, etc. were lumped-in as Catholics, instead of Protestants, or something else altogether in the case of Newton. But overall these are minor issues.]

Also see:
Dr. Israr Ahmed on Evolution
Ghamidi on Islam and evolution
The evolution of Harun Yahya's "Atlas of Creation"
Zakir Naik's rant against evolution
Yusuf Estes' ignorance and hilarity combo about evolution
Maududi on evolution
"Islamtoday" on evolution


Naveed Ejaz said...

This is excellent. Given that Zakir Naik claims to be a medical doctor, his knowledge of science is extremely bad. My own judgement is that he purposely misleads his audience with false claims.

Recently he was banned from the UK for remarks that were considered to be inciting hatred. The oxford union then offered him a platform to inform British viewers through a satellite video link. In it he got a question regarding his views on the death penalty for blasphemy laws. He categorically denied them, whereas only a year ago he gave an interview to a Pakistani news channel categorically saying that he supported the death penalty.

Also, I saw the side link to Ghamdi's view on evolution. Ghamdi is an excellent scholar but I think he's misinformed about the scientific basis of evolution. He does seem to be the sort who wants to learn about the truth.

I was wondering if you came across this old debate between him and Professor Hoodbhoy. The first part can be found here. He seems to be much more accepting of the theory in these videos.

Akbar said...

Nice. It is quite similar to the rants against the concept of 'God' by Richard Dawkins when he makes a total clown of himself on stage like Mr Naik by using false analogies and showing total ignorance about the concepts of religion, especially Islam. I think concept of evolution/creation has been hijacked by total losers like Oktar, Dawkins, or Naik, yet they are still listened and still quoted on mindless blogs.

Akbar said...

"pecking on the niches"!!...hilarious enough to last a whole month :-)

apollo said...

Nay, there is a bit of a difference here. Dawkins is the top evolutionary biologist and emeritus fellow at oxford. He is perhaps a bit less ignorant about evolution than other names mentioned, or perhaps than the rest of us.

Akbar said...

Who is ever questioning Dawkin's competence on evolution? But I have serious doubts about his understanding of religions, particularly Islam and Quran, and the concept of creator therein. (only if he and his likes ever bother to read what is written in Quran than to comment mindlessly.) I consider him as an ultimate authority on evolution indeed, but in my view he is as legitimate a commentator on religion as Zakir Naik is on evolution. And as he is an evolutionary biologist, his total ignorance for the halocline effect is enough to give me jitters.

Space Alien said...

Salman, since you've done a lot of work on religion and teaching of evolution I would like to ask you one thing.
Does evolution refute the claim all humans are descendants of one human being -- ie Prophet Adam?

Akbar said...

Quranic view on Adam is a bit different as it does not openly suggest him as the first human being. Muslims believe him to be the first 'human' based on the several interpretations of the versus. He is mentioned as the father of humankind. This can have several meaninigs. Being the first 'messenger of God' may have a meaning in itself as a person who brought some 'divine guidance' to separate the human race from the mainstream apes on the basis of the concept of virtue and sin and delegate responsibility for all actions.
The first mention of Adam in Quran is in the second chapter when God announced human as his 'deputy' in the world and the angels were supposedly unhappy keeping in view the violent and destructive nature of human beings (based on observation of any existing race?). Well it is open to interpretation.

Space Alien said...

Thanks Akbar for your response.
I guess Salman is too scared to get into this discussion.

"Quranic view on Adam is a bit different as it does not openly suggest him as the first human being."

Dind't God say that he created Adam from clay?
If God created Adam from clay and Eve from Adam's rib, then I think God is talking of the first couple here. No?

Ganji said...

@Akbar "but in my view he is as legitimate a commentator on religion as Zakir Naik is on evolution"

This is a false equivalency. Evolution is an established evidence based scientific theory. Religion is a pseudo concept that relies on faith. It does not require a rigorous thought process (as it does in science) to conjure up interpretation of holy books and claim to be an authority.

Salman Hameed said...

"I guess Salman is too scared to get into this discussion. "

Yes, Space Alien, your question is so clever that I'm terrified! [travel and family trips can actually delay responses].

As far as your question is concerned, Akbar has provided with one version and a perfectly valid interpretation. I take a slightly different approach. The one-to-one correspondence of religious texts and scientific findings is a relatively new phenomenon (started really in the 19th century). Otherwise, many have interpreted texts metaphorically and do not consider these Holy texts to be books of science. Since the primary purpose is about morals, people over the centuries have interpreted information about the physical world based on contemporary information. There are many Muslims who do not find a conflict of the story of Adam with evolution of human beings (some consider Adam's story to be metaphorical to begin with, whereas, others think that Adam was the first Homo Sapien, etc).

The main point is that there are many approaches and interpretations. Some clash with the scientific explanations and some don't. Your question seem to indicate that there is only one answer - and you are eager to pounce on it.

By the way, also check out Nidhal's book "Islam's Quantum Question". He addresses the topic of human evolution and its place in Islam quite head-on, and hopefully will provide you with yet another interpretation.

Akbar said...

Seems like we have a concensus after all those years :-)
Space Alien:
Eve from Adm's rib? What are you referring to for this information? That would be helpful.
Religion may be a figment of imagination, but in order to comment on anything, one needs some knowledge of the subject too. Would you comment on the contents of any book written by a certain author without actually opening it and reading it?

Space Alien said...

Hi Salman,

Thanks for the long response. But you have not answered my question. May be you got carried away because Akbar has broadened it. My question has nothing to do with the Qur'an, its interpretation, etc.
My question is a simple question that I can ask atheists like Dawkins too.
So here it is again.
Does evolution refute the claim all humans are descendants of one human being -- ie Prophet Adam?

Space Alien said...


"Eve from Adm's rib?"
Ha ha.
Yes, Eve from Adam's rib. I know this is not given in the Qur'an anywhere. But apparently the Prophet's sayings has it.
The Qur'an mentions that Eve was created from Adam. Whether she was created from a 'rib' or not is not mentioned in the Qur'an.

"Quranic view on Adam is a bit different as it does not openly suggest him as the first human being."
Why do you say this?
My understanding is that God created Adam and we are all his descendants.
Am I wrong?

Akbar said...

Space Alien:
Well you are now referring to the sayings of Holy Prophet (pbuh) which started to be compiled more than a century after his death. That explains differences in the meaning, sometimes contradicting, in scriptures of different sects, notably Shia and Sunni sects. So it may be better to take these sayings as guidance rather than reference. He certainly didn't say opposite things as is otherwise apparent from the difference in various texts and compilations.
Regarding your understanding, if it is based on something, I appreciate that. However Quran discusses the creation of 'Adam and Eve' with plentiful metaphors, as beings who had 'comprehension' and delegated responsibility of actions as compared to more amorphous 'angels' or other creatures. Does it really suggest that he was the first human being I am not sure, may be you can help me. I would rather follow a cautious approach if something is not verbatim in Quran despite my morbid wish it was there.
(P.S. I am not an ahmadi or atheist or jew, neither am I on CIA payroll. I am as practicing a muslim as anyone else may be, and pray four, if not always five times a day)

Salman Hameed said...

"Does evolution refute the claim all humans are descendants of one human being -- ie Prophet Adam?"

I actually don't know. I rely on science for such answers irrespective of religious interpretations. I don't think we yet know if the origins of homo sapiens was unique or at multiple places. If it is the latter, then yes, it will refute the interpretation that all humans are descendants of one set of homo sapiens. Even if it is the former, I don't think this will be a validation of any religious view either. All this will mean is that all humans have a common human ancestor. No big deal, since all life has a common ancestor too. These issues are scientific issues independent of religious ideals. However, if someone makes a stronger claim that Adam was created elsewhere - or that humans are not a product of evolution, then that claim is already refuted.

Atif Khan said...

Thanks for sharing. This puppet Naik is fooling around and lot of people without verifying his lame stories do believe in him like religious people follow their religion.

DAWKINS is an authority on Evolution and comparing him to Naik is very funny.

Naveed said...

Just to add to what Salman said, even if you establish that there is one common human ancestor, the evolutionary tree isn't that simplistic either.

Like Salman mentioned there are two competing arguments. One that there is one true lineage of modern man, and the other that there was multi-regional and independent evolution.

Even if you completely disregard the second argument and believe in the first, there is strong genetic evidence that shows that modern humans interbred with neanderthals, which on the basis of the assumption of a common ancestor up the tree, means that down the line, there is a mixture of species.

Umar said...

Did u go through all the Darwins work to authenticate or the zakir naik point. all of the human tree started from a single set it is in Quran.

Anonymous said...

zakir naik goes to diff countries and does so many talks , but no one dares point out his mistakes over there right ? . zakir naiks opinions can differ . he can change his opinions . guys no use sitting here and cribbing , go to his talks which he gives or free and challenge him then there .

I personally think evolution theory works for limited areas . the evolution theory does not obey the law of genetics which says that genes are inherited from one generation to another . if you agree to Charles darvins theory then we all are from java man or from a single cell , then we should have all the genes from the start of life . do you think is theoritially

okay even if you agree,it is possible theoretically , why don't we find a plant human or a fish man , etc . a lot of people claim that there are fossils of a java man who is supposed to between us and apes . please go review those fossils again . to me they look like the "Father of the child" in the first ice age movie . the fossils are considered 95% correct , which is still not enough to prove 100% of the religions wrong .

why not do some personal research on "evolution theory disproved" see the facts for yourself .

Yasir Anzar said...

Great Article.

Didn't know so many rationalists visit your page.

Yasir Anzar said...

Great blogging website of yours Dr. Hameed. Keep up the good work.

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