Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Al Jazeera discussion on London Muslim medics and evolution

by Salman Hameed

Last week, biologist Steve Jones gave an interview to the Sunday Times in which he said that some of his Muslim students (not a majority) have walked out of his biology classes when he addresses the topic of evolution. Now, this is an interesting observation based on his personal experience. However, the story took a life of its own and the blogosphere and even couple of other British newspapers were suggesting that Muslim medics are boycotting evolution classes in elite medical schools in London. Notice, how "some Muslim medics boycotting" turned into "Muslim medics boycotting". I will have a separate post on the media coverage of this and some suggestions on how to cover such evolution-related stories (in the mean time, you can read this article from earlier this year - also about another controversy involving London: Fallen Angels, Risen Apes: Covering Islam and Evolution).

Al Jazeera also weighed in today on its show The Stream. I was one of the guests along with philosopher Stephen Law from Oxford and Imam Joe Bradford from Jacksonville, Florida. We actually had a pretty good discussion and I appreciated the comments of both Stephen and Joe about what our attitude towards science and evolution should be (the only exception was in the post-show discussion, when Imam Joe was ambiguous about the possibility of human evolution). I also think that the host, Imran Garda, had done his homework and hence the level of questions was quite good. Even the selection of Twitter and Facebook comments was good, and the result, I think, was a fruitful and civil conversation.

Here is the video (by the way, the quality of Skype turned out to be quite good!):

4 comments:

Gary said...

The unhealthy aspect of this aside from the obvious that some of these guys will eventually be doctors is that they boycotted the lectures. They should have at least attended so they would have a chance of understanding what they are actually rejecting. That sort of close-minded approach suggests they won't be good listeners which is an important skill for a doctor.

Ayesha said...

Completely agree with Gary's comment. As someone who comes from a Muslim background but has rejected religion for Secular Humanism (and as someone who was born and brought up in England), incidents like this exasperate me.

The reactionary close-mindedness of many British Muslims drains me and leaves me without hope in all frankness.

Thank you Dr. Hameed for talking sense on "The Stream"!! You have no idea how refreshing it is to hear a scientist of Pakistani origin (and I'm assuming Muslim heritage) actually speak like a scientist instead of imparting gobbledygook and nonsense!

Salman Hameed said...

I agree with both of you. I think this is a small incident a bit overblown by the news coverage. But I hope this walking out dumbness doesn't catch-on.

Kaushik said...

I think religion should be taught by philosophers, not clerics or priests, who tend take a literal view of what is written in the religious scriptures. A philosopher trained in metaphysics will do a better job of explaining the true meaning of the scriptures which are SYMBOLIC expressions of some very profound, and also very beautiful if somewhat inexpressible ideas.