Monday, January 07, 2013

The importance of Evolution and Islam debate in London

by Salman Hameed

I'm now back in US and I'm glad that I had a chance to attend the London debate, Have Muslims Misunderstood Evolution? It was organized by The Deen Institute and I posted some quick thoughts on Saturday.

You can find a good summary of each speaker's presentation at Farrukh's blog.

Here are a few reasons why I think the London debate on evolution and Islam may turn out be a game-changer in the way Muslims look at evolutionary biology, and science, in general.

This was an intra-faith debate. There is no question that the topic was controversial. However, the conversation on evolution often gets derailed by common misconceptions and juvenile creationist ideas. The debate would have been a failure, had it been simply between biologists and those who follow Harun Yahya. There is no common ground - as Yahya's group has no understanding of science.

The reason for the success of the debate was that almost all of the speakers (with the exception of Harun Yahya acolyte, Oktar Babuna) accepted the scientific consensus on evolution. Then the question became: Can Muslims reconcile human evolution with their faith? Now this is an important question.

Here are a few take-aways from the London debate:
1. It is crucial for Muslims (and non-Muslims) to know that there are Muslim scientists out there, who not only understand evolution but have thought about its implications for their own personal faith. Both Ehab Abouheif and Fatimah Jackson talked about their own personal belief and the way they reconcile evolution, in particular, human evolution, with Islam. What is important here is that they accept mainstream evolutionary ideas - and not some fringe ideas of directional evolution or the American version of Intelligent Design (ala Irreducible Complexity of bacterium flagellum). Furthermore, they are first rate researchers who take a no nonsense approach to science, and a no nonsense approach to religion. Fatimah Jackson, a convert to islam, teared up when talking about her faith - and she emphasized that no one can question her Iman. She took the position that science tells the how - and not the why.

Both Ehab and Fatimah are spectacular role models for budding Muslim scientists. When a genetics student asked about potential experiments to test evolution, Ehab invited him to join his lab, which is doing cutting-edge research on ant evolution (he has two papers in published in the prestigious journal Science just in 2011!).

2. The theological debate between Usama Hasan and Yasir Qadhi was also interesting. The important thing to note is that both accepted the science of evolution. Usama Hasan's main position was that science is clear on human evolution as well and Islamic theology has room to incorporate it. Yasir Qadhi, on the other hand, said that he has no problem with almost all of evolution, except for human evolution. However, he made it clear that he is not speaking on the science of human evolution, but rather on human evolution from an Islamic theological perspective. He went after Usama, and I think, he was quite condescending towards him. Though to be fair, Yasir Qadhi had also come really prepared for the debate. But if you listen carefully, the difference in their positions is razor-thin.

Why do I say that? On the one hand, Yasir Qadhi insisted that theologically, Muslims cannot accept human evolution. On the other hand, he said that the "maximum we can go" from the theological perspective is to say that Allah inserted Adam in the natural order - and while we may not see any difference, it is actually a miracle. He used the example of dominos. He asserted that Adam was the last domino. Now, in his perspective, we are seeing the last domino, and that domino is specially placed by Allah. However, for non-believers, it may seem to be connected to all other dominos. This way, the miracle of Adam is preserved.

Usama and Yasir could have easily agreed on this point. However, it seemed to me that Yasir was insistent on inflating the differences between his position and Usama's. As it turns out, they both know each other from way back, and their rivalry goes beyond the topic of evolution. Overall, Usama was interested in emphasizing the lessons from history about the changing religious (including Islamic) interpretations in wake of new sciences (for example, earth-centered to sun-centered universe), whereas Yasir was focusing on a close textual reading of the text, claiming that this current interpretation is really definitive.

But notice that overall, this is a subtle debate on the theological acceptance/rejection of human evolution only. Even if one takes a conservative position, almost all of evolution is okay for both of them.

3. The audience was diverse and deeply interested in the topic. There were 800 people in a packed auditorium. The talks started at 11am and went till 6pm (with lunch and prayer breaks), and it was amazing to see that almost all of the audience stayed until the end. This is all the more amazing since most people lined up to get in the auditorium from 9am. Plus, there was no heckling or disruption. This was a very civil debate on a controversial topic. A lot of it had to do with the host, Mariam Francois-Cerrah. She was fantastic in not getting the debate out of hand, and in handling the questions.

But what struck me the most was the diversity in audience members. There were some whose religiosity was explicit (with hijabs, niqabs, beards, etc) and there were others that did not show that. In conversations, I found a film-producer, a pharmacist, a philosophy undergraduate, a chemist, a science communication professional, a hedge-fund manager, an IT professional, a medical doctor, a nurse, a genetics student, a biology postdoc, etc. Most of them were there to simply hear the debate. None of them had a strong position on evolution, one way or the other, but were interested in hearing Muslim positions on it.

It is a shame that the debate did not take place at Imperial College. I had posted a few weeks ago about the opposition to the debate by the Islamic Society there. The success and the tenor of the debate shows that the Islamic Society at Imperial College may simply be a step behind much of the community. Ultimately, it is the students at Imperial College that may have missed out on a high quality debate.

4. The debate exposed the shallowness of Harun Yahya brand of creationism. Those of us who follow Islamic creationism have known this for a while (for example, see the crude quality of his Atlas here). However, the media has often portrayed him and his group as the leading "intellectual voice" of Islamic creationism. However, they only have a few talking points: Evolution is an evil ideology, evolution is false, quoting Darwin out of context, and a constant reference to fossils. Well, Ehab Abouheif in his opening remarks did a fantastic job of neutralizing most of their arguments by showing the common misconceptions about evolution.

This would not have been enough had the debate lasted only hour. People who are not familiar with the debate would have seen two people disagreeing - and would have left undecided. However, the conversation went deeper, in particular with the introduction biological anthropology by Fatimah Jackson, and then a historical and philosophical discussion between Usama Hasan and Yasir Qadhi. The response of Oktar Babuna was - "fossils". The conversation had moved along - but Babuna had nothing new to add. And the audience figured it out. Towards the end, Oktar Babuna was serving as a comic relief. Other panelists would be talking about something substantial, and Oktar Babuna would bring up his fossils. People were rolling in their seats with laughter. I even started feeling bad for him towards the end.

The bottom line is that the Yahya position of no evolution at all (and with almost no change in the DNA) is akin to those who still believe in a universe where the Sun goes around the Earth. Yahya people have been able to gain traction by using evolution as a synonym for atheism and eugenics and by presenting evolution as an ideology pushed by non-Muslims against Islam. Their claim to present an alternative "scientific" idea, however, did not work when they were confronted by world class Muslim biologists. Furthermore, they don't offer any sophisticated theology either.

London is one of the strongholds of the Harun Yahya group amongst Muslims (much more so than most of the Muslim world). The debate may have permanently exposed their shallowness in both Islamic theology and Islam. And yes, even in the evolution debate, Oktar Babuna brought up Mahdi, and the End of Times. (see earlier post on Harun Yahya's fascination with Mahdi and if sees himself as The One).

5. Ultimately, this was a grown-up debate. This shows a maturity within Islam on dealing with a serious challenge from a scientific idea. Instead of a knee-jerk reaction, The Deen Institute managed to bring together a fantastic panel that engaged with the topic. And this can serve as a good model for other issues as well (freedom of speech, gender equity, etc.). I'm curious to the see the direction they will take after this event.

There is going to be a circus reaction as well. There will be some who will be upset by the debate. The Harun Yahya people will also go on the offensive and may try to manufacture a controversy. It will be unfortunate, if the press focused on some of the outliers.

This is a long post - but I think this was an important event.

Related posts:
A Riveting Session on Islam and Evolution in London
Opposition to Evolution and Islam Debate at Imperial College?

Here is a picture of a section of the crowd at the debate:

And here are the speakers along with couple organizers:
(from left to right: one of the organizers, Mariam Francois-Cerrah, Fatimah Jackson, Adam Deen, Yasir Qadhi, Usama Hasan, Ehab Abouheif, one of the organizers)

96 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great review!

Just wanted to say though, it was not really Yasir Qadhi who was inflating differences. Usama Hasan claimed in the Q and A that Yasir Qadhi's views were impeding progress and keeping the muslims in a backwards primitive mindset. In reality, if most of the Muslim world demonstrated the same open-mindedness towards scientific inquiry and intellectual rigor that Yasir Qadhi showed, we would be much better off. Instead, it is Harun Yahya nonsense which impedes progress.

Also, if we are going to reconcile Muslim theology/faith with science, we need to be intellectually honest about it and use an academic approach. Thus, I think Yasir Qadhi's critique of Usama Hasan's quote mining and misinterpretations was beneficial. How can you Usama on people to be academic when it comes to science, while at the same time commiting academic blunders when it comes to history of religion, philosophy, and theology? Yasir Qadhi has the following of huge amounts of mainstream Muslims who would be comfortable adopting something scientific when they can see that it does not compromise their faith commitments. Thus, I think his presentation was single-handedly the most influential in increasing scientific acceptance especially amongst devout practicing Muslims.

Jamshed Moidu said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8L-TZ3RhZEo&feature=youtu.be&a

Anonymous said...

Almost every one agreed about evolution except oktar bauna,this is according to Salman Hameed.
Well here is one such person who was among the audience and agrees with Salman hameed (???).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yefnWNBAfQ0

If anything<i belive after this debate,the Muslim community will start to understand the psuedo-science Darwinism better.

Though Yasir Qadhi toreup and exposed the hollowness of Usama hassan theologically,I feel a person like Hamza Andreas would have done a far better job..

Anonymous said...

Astronomer talking about Biological Science !

Adam said...


http://www.facebook.com/pages/God-is-not-a-Delusion/424344170953129

Salman Hameed said...

Dear one of the anony:
I said that almost everyone on the panel accepted evolution (not almost everyone in the audience)...

And Adam/Ali,
You have been spamming the blog with your book announcement for a while now. One or two announcements were fine, but now it has been 10 or 11 times. If I see another announcement, I will place you on the spam filter.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a very worthwhile debate. I'm glad Harun Yahya's position was so starkly diminished in the presence of more reasonable arguments from fellow Muslims. I learned that Usama Hasan will be the guest on a live call-in blogtv internet show this Saturday 9pm GMT January 12th. More info and the blogtv link is in this trailer's description http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QkoytxZelsQ

They often have Muslims call in via Skype so it's a good opportunity to ask Usama things and no doubt he will be talking about the debate.

Chris Doyle said...
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Abdel Kader said...

It seems Salman Hameed has only one objective..To rile and abuse Harun Yahya and his group.The astronomer Salman Hameed mocking a neuro surgeon (Oktar Babuna) of not having enough understanding of biology is one such example.

Today,be it is in London or the remote corners of Africa,it is due to the efforts of Harun Yahya, that educated Muslims are still not being lured into this Darwinism.

Though I myself at times feel uncomfortable with some of the opinions of Harun Yahya on religions matters,you cant keep mocking them off as clowns for you know very well that they are the real threat to Darwinist Muslims

Chris Doyle said...
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Imran said...

Chris,
As far as I know,Salman Hameed was never hypocritical and pretended to be a believer.

He always advocated atheism and thrashed religion whenever and wherever he gets the opportunity.So nothing to get surprised about this.His best friend is another Islam basher and pro-atheist, Professor Pervez Hoodbhoy of Pakistan(Just Google and find who he is,If you are hearing him for the first time)

I feel sorry for you for getting hoodwinked by his Muslim name.

THE TRUTH IS

Salman Hameed is a proud Atheist.PERIOD.

Chris Doyle said...
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liberation said...

The scientific method is speculative by definition. Naturally scientists will differ on evolution like any other issues based on scientific theories, evolution is no exception. Good turnout though. Reminds of the days when I used to attend www.dialoguewithislam.org events.

Asad M said...

For our creationist brothers here’s some food for thought (from a science forum/website):

“What is Evolution?

It does not mean Social Darwinism
It does not mean Amoral
It does not mean Atheism, Communism, Racism, or any other ideology
It does not mean address theological claims
It does not mean random
It does not mean to improve
It does not mean morphing during a lifetime
It does not mean abiogenesis
It does not mean the origins of the universe

Evolution means “change over time”

The theory of biological evolution attempts to explain the facts and connect the data that indicate that life on earth is related through common descent and has been changing for a long time; and humans are no exception.”

If you have evidence to disprove evolution then write it down, get it peer reviewed, and collect your Nobel Prize.

Btw here’s a list of scientific societies which explicitly reject ID

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_scientific_societies_explicitly_rejecting_intelligent_design

Also check out
http://undsci.berkeley.edu/article/id_checklist

But if a person wants to view the vast amount of scientific evidence across multiple fields of science performed by scientists around the world and not "believe" it, you are free to do so.

Naveed said...

Very respectfully, I couldn't agree more with Asad.

If you believe that you have very solid evidence and arguments that evolution is false, then write it down and get it published in a peer reviewed journal. If after reviewing all the evidence, you still disagree with evolution, then that is your choice and you are free to do so. However do consider that if tomorrow the flu virus jumps across species (which has happened) and there is a global pandemic, then the people working on finding a vaccination/solution will be the same evolutionary biologists using tools and techniques solidly grounded in evolution theory that you disagree against. That alone should be food for thought.

Asad M said...

Yes Naveed, the theory of evolution is the backbone of theoretical life sciences; who else has more to lose if Muslim students don't study evolution at the behest of fundamentalists or pseudo-intellectuals like Harun Yahya?

Chris Doyle said...

Dear Asad,

If atheistic evolution is true, then Social Darwinism is true. Morality disappears and atheism, communism and all manner of 'might-is-right' isms replace it. If atheistic evolution is true, then there is no God so all theological claims are false. Did you check out PZ Myers photo of the Qu'ran in the bin?

Without random mutations, atheistic evolution is false. And if you really believe that these has been no evolutionary improvement from a microbe to a man then you really don't understand biology: at all!

Atheistic evolution rules out Lamarckism, yet. But then the evidence for Lamarckism outweighs the evidence for Darwinism.

Atheistic evolution depends upon abiogenesis because if God created the first cell, then atheistic evolution fails. Atheistic evolution depends on the universe making itself because if God created the universe, then atheistic evolution fails.

Atheistic evolution is evolution. It is the kind that is taught in schools, the kind that is used to indoctrinate science students and the kind that is institutionalised in many scientific bodies.

Do not kid yourself that theistic evolution or evolutionary creation will be entertained by the likes of Dawkins, Myers, Shermer, Coyne, Krauss, Hawking, etc These atheists DESPISE theistic evolution and mock its proponents.

Lastly, evolution is "change over time". Really? What a joke. I just changed my socks, is that evolution? I just changed this page, is that evolution? The clock on my wall just changed, is that evolution? Evolution most certainly is NOT just "change over time". If it was, no-one would be talking about it. Change over time is a ridiculous axiom. Quite often, when you offer an explanation that explains absolutely EVERYTHING it explains absolutely NOTHING!

Evolution is nothing less than the creation myth of atheism. If you're an atheist, you have no choice but to believe in it. If you're a muslim, you are deluding yourself if you think it can be reconciled with Islam in a way that works for Dawkins and co... and all of those institutions that reject ID.

One last thing, if the people doing the peer-reviewing are being asked to approve something which, if true, means that the peer reviewers themselves will become a laughing stock for being so badly wrong for years and years and years... do you really think they'll approve it? Of course not. Scientists are human too and subject to the same prejudices, corruption and worldview blindness as the rest of us... if not more so on account of their atheism which is prevalent in academia these days.

As a muslim, I could happily accept common descent if the evidence supported it. But it doesn't. The evidence supports common design, not common descent. As a muslim, I could happily accept that evolutionary creation was all part of God's plan. Or, not. I can take it or leave it. On the evidence. And after 15 years of examining it, I can assure you that the evidence is firmly on the side of Intelligent Design and completely against atheistic evolution/neo-darwinism.

But, if the evidence was on the side of evolutionary creation/theistic evolution just remember that this is something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT to atheistic evolution. They cannot be reconciled. Why? Because, ultimately, evolution is all about atheism and atheism is not about science or evidence. Atheism is all about personal traumas, family issues and sheer ignorance.

Chris Doyle said...
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Salman Hameed said...

It is fascinating to note that Chris and other Harun Yahya fans here directly jump on to evolution-athiesm connection. So Chris, do you think Ehab Abouheif and Fatimah Jackson are atheists? Or may be YOU are so smart, but they are simply duped by the "conspiracy" of those scary evolutionists? [By the way, Ehab addressed most of these issues in his talk].

And let's talk about your favorite bit on randomness. You see randomness and the mention of design in nature as anathema. I hope then, that you also reject any results based on quantum physics - and by extension, anything to do with quantum scale. After all there is randomness at that level. Oh - wait. How about the formation of the Solar system. The collapse of nebulae includes an understanding of thermodynamics - where the motion of particles is - you guessed it - random. I hope you reject thermodynamics as well.

So here is the way to look at it: Your God seems to be limited by your own puny imagination. A God that gets stumped by randomness. The God that was discussed at the Islam and Evolution debate is beyond that. It is a God that can transcend those processes that "appear" random to humans.

And Social Darwinism is/was despicable. But it has nothing to do with finding out the way the world works. This is a classic is/ought mistake. There is infanticide in the animal kingdom. That doesn't mean that we should also practice infanticide. Oh - wait. You may simply deny the existence of any infanticide.

Dude. Science is about the understanding the natural world. Yes - the London event has hurt your feelings. Even theologians at the debate were smart enough to go with scientific consensus. And now we are left with this circus of creationists...*

* Here creationists imply those who believe that all life forms were created as is.

Anonymous said...

No bacterial flowers, fish, ants, birds: no bacterial anything.

Ya Allah, the stupidity in these comments is astounding.

@Chris Doyle - you've been studying evolution for 15 years? Why are you then so clueless?

Salman Hameed said...

Asad (and Naveed),

Indeed. These creationists have no alternative ideas. All they have to say is that evolution is wrong. Evolutionary medicine and computation is not their product. Let me list the things that have come out of creationist* ideas and that have improved the lives of humans:
0.

*creationist here are those who believe that all species were created as is.

Chris Doyle said...
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Naveed said...

Dear Chris,

I actually work in the life sciences, so I'm not sure what the factual basis of your statements are.

Vestigial organs do exist - your appendix is a prime example. You can choose to believe that its not, but then you'll have to reconcile that with the knowledge that the standard operation procedure in any hospital for appendicitis is its removal.

The junk DNA hypothesis was proposed in the early 70s and was later changed following data and methods from the Human Genome Project. I don't understand your point. In both instances, the research was carried out by evolutionary biologists. If you don't believe in evolution - fine - but how can you turn around and pick one piece of scientific evidence over the other.

To think that bacteria would evolve into bacteria plants is to grossly misunderstand what evolutionary theory predicts. You may chose to believe that bacteria and viruses don't evolve, mutate or cross the inter-species barrier and that evolutionary tools such phylogenetic analysis have no use in medicine, but then you're really stuck trying to explain how the flu virus jumps from birds or pigs to humans. I'm curious, if tomorrow the WHO calls you to come help tackle a viral/bacterial pandemic, how and where would you start?

The facts are as follows. You may chose to not believe in evolution or label evolutionists as atheists. That is your completely your choice. But do not for a second assume that you're opinions have any bearing on scientists and medical practitioners who have spent their lifetime trying to combat disease and sickness using the foundation of evolutionary biology. They will continue to treat patients and find cures, and your views will continue to become increasingly irrelevant, and that I believe it what is starting to bug creationists and intelligent design-ists.

Peace.

Imran said...

Asad
Please keep your obsession with peer reviewed to yourself.
Do you think people are not aware of the treatment meted out to creationist scientists by the evolution mafia?

I am very much aware how Micheal Behe and Jonathan wells both of whom had published peer-reviewed materials on evolution were treated by this Mafia..

Though I am not a biologist,I am a practicing Mathematician and have a better understanding of Probability than all of your evolutionary biologists and my opinions about this theory is influenced from this mathematical perspective.

By the way if you think Evolution is such a great idea and can only be properly understood by the likes of Fatima Jackson and Abu whatever,why do you teach this theory at primary school?

Hameed: Dont know why you feel compelled to address me as Harun Yahya fan in my posts since I never mentioned about him though I have no qualms in admitting having read his books.But his group or his personality is not important to this discussion

Salman Hameed said...

Chris,

Couple of things:
a) It seems that you are in High School or something like that. That is fine. I would suggest that you come to Hampshire for undergraduate. We have classes on science and religion and also science in the Muslim world - where you can get a good handle on history of science.

For example, you gave the names of creationists. Almost all of them are form before the 20th century. You capitalizes Newton - and included names as Kepler, Galileo etc. From that perspective, you can also argue that astrology is a real science and so is alchemy. Newton spent a huge amount of time on alchemy and Kepler was obsessed with mystical numbers. But that was then. We now know that astrology and alchemy doesn't work. Today, Newton and Kepler would agree with that as well. Therefore, your list of creationists doesn't make much sense.

The Darwinian synthesis (this brings together the science of genetics to natural selection) happened in the late 1920s. Similarly, the theory of creationism developed in the 20th century (that is where scientific creationism comes from). So if you want to find contributions of creationists, it would only make sense after 20th century - not before.

b) You have a strange definition of evolution - and that is only related to Richard Dawkins. I actually don't agree with his views on religion. But evolution does not equal Dawkins. In fact, the most used biology textbook in the US is by Ken Miller - who is a Catholic and openly talks about his belief. In fact, Usama Hasan in his talk in London used a clip from Miller's talk. Your dichotomy of God OR evolution is in YOUR head - which you are entitled to (as Naveed just said). But lets not impose on others.

c) You seem to have Divine powers as you have proclaimed by belief, those who participated in the conference, and other commentators. You seem to think that you are like God. In your imagination we are all atheists because we accept evolution. This is idiotic (see b above). I think religion is a personal belief - and it is one's choice if one wants to share it in public or not. I was asked this question if I'm a Muslim once before on the blog - and I said yes. And that is the end of it. This dude Imran comes along - and says that Pervez Hoodbhoy is my friend - hence I must be an atheist. Really? This is level of logic we are dealing with? I'm also friends with Imams and a number of deeply religious people. Does that make me a really pious person as well?

Belief is complex and personal. It is a shame that you take it so lightly. I know this is the internet and anyone can write anything behind the computer. But it is shameful that you want to speak for religion (and it is only your brand of religion - a brand that can only hold creationist views) and yet are so callous towards other people's beliefs.

I'm sorry you ever visited this blog. Good day.

Imran said...

Faith is personal but not complex and it doesn't take a genius to figure what your intentions coud be when you promote the kind of videos and links in your blog..

And you are really and equally fiends with Imams and pious people....Oh my bad..I never came across even one material in your whole website from one such Imam or from your pious friends in this forum..I apologize for not having noticed it

Salman Hameed said...

Imran,

Your apology accepted.

Chris Doyle said...
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Abdel Kader said...

Chris Doyle
May Allah Bless you !!!





Naveed said...

Dear Chris,

This is getting a little funny now.

You spend lengthly posts highlighting why in your opinion scientists are myopic specialists and that the peer review system is broken, but then in trying to demonstrate that the appendix isn't a vestigial organ you point to a website with sources studies in peer reviewed journals from scientists? You don't see the dichotomy?

I'll say it again, if you strongly feel that science is broken and scientists are narrow minded atheists, then that is your opinion and you are welcome to it. In this scenario, you can start doing real-world science yourself and show everyone how it is done, or you can continue to spend time on blogs trying to convince others they are wrong. Either ways, your views on the subject are as relevant to the debate as the boy who cried wolf in a land where wolves were long extinct.

Chris Doyle said...
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Naveed said...

Dear Chris,

You're really embarrassing yourself now.

Did you actually read the discussion section of the Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology article that was used as the source in your link or did you just go by the press release and editorial on the newspaper article?

Chris Doyle said...
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Naveed said...

Chris, I wasn't being evasive at all, I was pointing you towards my answer implicitly. Let me be explicit this time around. No

I'm assuming that you know that by their very definition, vestigial organs can have a positive function? And that the reason they are called vestigial is because they have lost their primary function, and thus even though they have some positive function, their net systemic worth (defined in functional and metabolic terms) is negative?

The reason why I asked if you had read the actual paper and its discussion was to point out the section where the authors explicitly say that the study has selection bias, is retrograde and therefore the statistically significant correlations they found should not be considered causative until progressive studies with actual evidence are presented. I hope you understand what that means in the context of the results?

I say this with respect, but your not going to learn about science by reading newspaper editorials. Seriously.

This is my last post on the topic.

Chris Doyle said...
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Sharif said...

I think we should all take a step back here for a minute and separate a few things out for the sake of analysis. Science is, ideally, pursuit of the patterns that exist in the natural world, no more no less. The metaphysical framework on the backdrop of which these patterns are understood and interpreted is a question of philosophy and theology, not science.
The theist and atheist / naturalist are in agreement that patterns exist in nature. The naturalist assumes these patterns to be necessary, self-explanatory, and in need of no further justification. In fact, they are used to justify and ground the explanation of everything else, i.e., appealed to as the final "reason" why things are the way they are.
The theist, specifically the Muslim, holds that God has created all things, including the patterns that science uncovers in nature, and that He is directly in charge of, and sustains on a continual basis, every single atom in the universe. The Qur'an is crystal clear on this point, and constantly refers all "natural" phenomena directly to God's creative act and constant sustaining of and interaction with the created universe. But God acts not randomly and incoherently, but according to patterns He has established. To say that rain falls because God sends it down is true. To say that rain falls because water evaporates then condenses and falls to the earth is also true, but these are our names for the various discrete parts of the pattern according to which God recycles water and produces rain. A huge number of the du'as the Prophet (saas) also taught us seem to have no point but to drive home to us the reality that Allah alone is the only creator, and that He is constantly creating and sustaining everything. Why do we say, after eating, "Praise be to God who has given us this food and drink, and granted it to us as sustenance without any power or might from us," while we are all aware that we have worked, bought the food, cooked it, etc.?
On this reading, then, there is certainly no "randomness" or "chance" or things just "happening" or "coming about" or "developing" on their own. It is all the purposeful creation of Allah, and I don't see how a Muslim can plausibly be anything but a creationist in this very strong, global sense. To believe that anything exists that wasn't the creation of Allah is unanimously considered kufr by Muslim scholars.

Sharif said...

[continued] I really don't see why evolution is treated differently from other patterns that science has uncovered. According to the patterns that science has uncovered, it never happens that wooden staffs turn into serpents, yet every Muslim believes this happened when Musa (as) threw down his staff in front of Pharaoh and his courtiers. It was a miracle, in which God created something in a manner that violated His normal pattern of creation. This is precisely what makes a miracle a miracle, and to hold that God cannot produce miracles of this sort is obviously a negation of the entire Qur'an and a rejection of Islamic belief.
Without getting into the debate brought up by Br. Chris about the evidence supporting ID, it seems clear to me that even if the observable facts are the way current evolutionary theory understands them, a Muslim would simply see this as the order in which God created various things on the earth. And in this case, God's creating Adam and inserting him into this God-created and God-directed order, even if this breaks the pattern otherwise uncovered, would be no different from His breaking the pattern in the case of the miracles performed at the hands of the prophets.
My point is that, not science itself, but the philosophy of scientific naturalism -- which is antithetical to Islam and all theistic belief -- does not countenance the breaking of the pattern under any circumstances. But Muslims are not naturalists to begin with, so why is this such a big deal? Why is the creation of Adam different from the changing of Moses' staff into a snake? Naturalism allows for neither because it denies God. If God exists and controls every atom in existence, this simply changes the whole equation -- rather the interpretation of the facts.
In this vein, I also don't see the need for Muslims to set out to "destroy evolution" as Harun Yahya, etc. do. The facts should, obviously, be rigorously investigated, but the question of whether things just "come about randomly" or are created by God purposefully at every moment is not a scientific question to begin with and will never be decided on the basis of science. I tend to agree with Br. Chris that science overall -- and the patterns it uncovers -- strongly points in the direction of theism (which is the conclusion of Antony Flew, one of the most strident atheist philosophers of the second half of the twentieth century), but this is not specific to the question of evolution.
I apologize if this intervention has been wordy or clumsily expressed.

Chris Doyle said...
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Chris Doyle said...
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Asad M said...

Chris Doyle,

I can understand if you’ve been offended by the likes of Dawkins openly ridiculing religion but Dawkins and other neo-atheists alone do not represent evolution as there are theistic scientists as well.

Again, the theory of evolution has nothing to do with Atheism or Social Darwinism; even Darwin himself had nothing to do with Social Darwinism, which is an ideology that attempts to apply biological evolution theory to society and politics. It was in the late 19th/early 20th century when white supremacists like Nazis who hijacked the principles of evolution(survival of the fittest) to use it in a social context with the idea that the genetically superior races have the right to rule over inferior races, which is obviously farce.

The American “Creationism” phenomenon which started in the early 20th century has nothing to do with either science or religion and a great deal to do with the morality, culture and politics of that time. William Jennings Bryan (who led the prosecution against school teacher Scopes in the 1925 court case in Tennessee) was a left-wing politician with right-wing religious views. He hated ‘Social Darwinism’ used by right-wing politicians to justify the richer members in society crowding out the poorer. But he wrongly connected Social Darwinism to biological evolution, the theory which undermined his literalistic religious beliefs and thus led to his opposing its teaching in schools.

ID (basically a form of creationism in a scientific garb) is not scientific at all because it essentially provides a supernatural explanation to natural phenomena, its ideas cannot be confirmed (or falsified) by experiment and has contributed naught to ongoing scientific research. Science espouses methodological naturalism and supernatural phenomena or explanations are beyond its scope.

A few years ago the Catholic Church in stating that ID is not science and should not be taught as science said: “Science as such, with its methods, can neither demonstrate nor exclude that a superior design has been carried out.”

The problem with intelligent design is that it turns to a "superior cause" -- understood though not necessarily named as God -- to explain supposed shortcomings of evolutionary science. But that's not how science should work, a RCC source said.

"If the model proposed by Darwin is held to be inadequate, one should look for another model. But it is not correct methodology to stray from the field of science pretending to do science," it said.

"Intelligent design does not belong to science and there is no justification for the pretext that it be taught as a scientific theory alongside the Darwinian explanation," it said.

From the church's point of view, Catholic teaching says God created all things from nothing, but doesn't say how, the article said. That leaves open the possibilities of evolutionary mechanisms like random mutation and natural selection.

"God's project of creation can be carried out through secondary causes in the natural course of events, without having to think of miraculous interventions that point in this or that direction," it said.

Asad M said...

As for evolution, the evidence for common descent is overwhelming and comes from diverse scientific sources, all this evidence supports the modern evolutionary synthesis. The theory of evolution isn't what it used to be in Darwin's time, although adaptation through natural selection (Darwin's theory) remains an important part of modern evolutionary theory, the patterns of change at levels higher than the individual organism (that is, at the level of species and groups of species) are now viewed as being more complex. NeoDarwinism or Modern evolutionary synthesis is the latest theory that uses both Darwin's natural selection and genetics to explain evolution (both macro & micro) or change in species over time.

Instead of trumpeting and spamming on this forum about ID why don’t you write to the theistic Roman Catholic Church or the hundreds of scientific societies worldwide or the US Courts that have rejected ID.

Peace.

Chris Doyle said...
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Salman Hameed said...

Well - "Mr Nameed" would first point you to read Al Kindi about knowledge. And you will realize that the blog also has links to sites like Metanexhus, with whom Mr Nameed also disagrees - but finds some useful things. In fact. Mr Nameed would say that you need to grow up - and expand your imagine a bit to imagine a God that is not limited your puny imagination.

Oh - and for the Pale Blue Dot reference - really? So Mr Nameed would say that you should first go and protest at Copernicus (part of Polish clergy) and people like Galileo (a Catholic) and especially Newton (who wrote more on theology than physics) on removing humans from the center of the physical universe. In fact, they are the ones who started this whole thing - they are really responsible for this move to mediocrity. Oh - and Mr. Nameed will also remind you that the centrality of humans in the universe - is actually a pagan idea - coming from people like Aristotle and then later Ptolemy. In fact, Mr Nameed is shocked that theologian and potential Nobel laureate, Chris, would be worshiping ideas of such pagans. Very weird indeed.

On the other hand, Mr. Nameed still have hopes that after high school you will take some courses in history of science, philosophy, actual sciences and good literature to learn about belief, religion and humanity.

Salman Hameed said...

Oh - and Mr. Nameed would also like to point out that you ignored pretty much everything that Asad brought up in his response to you. Now that is weird. Mr Nameed finds that a bit evasive on your end.

Naveed said...

Dear Sharif,

I'm happy to respond to you. Since the topic is evolution and Islam, I don't want you to feel that your comments aren't welcome. I'll try to discuss your comments and in doing so might refer to Chris's posts as examples, but I certainly don't want to give him the opinion that this is an attempt on my part to converse with him. He takes too much liberty in slander (for example insinuating that atheists hate their fathers) for my comfort, and I'm sure that the religion that he proposes to represent has something to say about making unconfirmed allegations.

You're actually right that science is concerned with understanding the real world. When it finds patterns, it labels it as a hypothesis. That hypothesis is tested against all available data sets, and if it survives, it becomes a theory. Without going into the details, the theory of evolution (on both the micro and macro scale) as a predictor of patterns has survived data sets from a number of disparate fields such as fossil records and genetics. This notion of falsifiability (as Asad pointed out) is crucial to a theory.

The second important aspect of the evolutionary theory is that it can be used to provide predictions that are useful in the real world. So for example, anti-bacterial and anti-viral medications need to constant keep changing in order to into account the resistance that bacteria and viruses develop as a result of the medication itself. This can be thought of as an escalated arms race, and leads to super-viruses that are now found in advanced hospitals. The way that these medicines are developed is to track the mutations and naturally selected organisms and tailor the medication according to the evolutionary changes.

So if you're left wondering why scientists are averse to accepting (in their entirety) intelligent design and creationism, its because neither theory is falsifiable, or has predictive power. Ask a creationist and ID proponent to create medication to counter a highly drug resistant bacterial infection, and he would either resort to practising the standard evolution theory model without realizing it, or have no answer.

Now you are right to point out that it is up to you to provide a theistic interpretation to the patterns observed by science. The problem comes when science uncovers patterns that are seemingly unacceptable to mainstream understandings of religion. A common problem is that of common descent. While the evidence for that is overwhelming, creationists and ID proponents simply reject that pattern on any number of basis which are unrelated to the actual scientific evidence. Some examples that they quote are that the peer review system is broken, scientists are too narrow-minded to understand overall trends, or that there is an atheistic agenda which drives science. They do everything, except to interact with specialists in the field. So you will find many such proponents on blogs such as these, but very few interacting with scientists on a daily basis inside the labs where actual work is being carried out. In fact, Mr Babuna (from the Harun Yahya) opted out of being physically present in the London conference where the scientific specialists were present. This generally gives a good idea of who has the most to lose in such interactions.

Naveed said...

Continued ...

Creationists and ID proponents also come in many different flavours. Cheif amongst them are two groups, one that accepts micro but rejects macro evolution and the other that rejects both. From your views, you seem to accept both micro and macro. Therefore you should be careful about accepting Chris's views, especially since his notion of evolution does not accept either (as demonstrated by his post on how antibiotic resistance leads to damaged proteins and decreased fitness).

Finally, it is important to realize that apart from Harun Yahya, there is single, coherent muslim intelligent design response. Every single argument that you will find from creationist and ID proponents, like Chris, will be taken from the christian creationist and ID movement. There are no new insights, no new ideas and these arguments have been beaten down time and again. The only difference is that the muslim response is not shackled by the young earth limitation that christians face. Looking at the christian movement in the Us is therefore crucial (refer to Asad's post). The Supreme Court recently ruled that Id is just repackaged ID. Even the Vatican accepts the standard model of micro and macro evolution (sans the creation and insertion of Adam and Eve).

I'll conclude with a personal anecdote regarding the christian creationist and ID movement. A few years ago our lab published a relatively high profile paper on how sensory systems were tuned to match the corresponding motor systems. The paper showed that the results were only limited for the visual system, not so for secondary sensory systems that had evolved from near-vestigial organs. A week after the paper was published, the paper and an editorial landed on the cover of a creationist website saying that scientists had found evidence of ID quoting the visual system as an example. Obviously, the did not mention the suboptimal secondary system since it did not fit their narrative. This is one of the key reasons why creationsts and ID proponents are loathe to having a discussion on the source material (i.e. paper, results and discussion) and would rather stick to broad newspaper headlines.

Sorry for the lengthy response, but its relevant to your post and your views and helps clarify the views on the other side.

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Sharif said...

Dear Naveed,

I thank you for your lengthy and detailed response. I was not so much addressing the issue of the details of the patterns discovered by science -- any patterns, not just evolution -- but rather the larger philosophical assumptions in terms of which we are interpreting these and other data. What, in your model, is the precise relationship between God and the events that occur in the universe? This is closer to the question I was trying to get answered, especially since the discussion is about not just evolution, but evolution and its relationship to Islam.

Thank you,
Sharif

Naveed said...

Dear Sharif,

The simplest answer I can give to your question is - I don't know. I really am not qualified to provide an explanation for that though I can try to make an educated guess that would reflect my own opinion.

Science will end up discovering a pattern. How it is interpreted would vary by the bias of the person viewing the evidence. Muslims, christians and atheists would have their own take on it, although neither could prove or disprove their version because the scientific evidence for each is the same.

Within the context of evolution, you can have many different theistic interpretations. One would be that God controls every single particle at every instance. Another is that God designed and sparked the universe and has since left it to run its course. The exact nature of relationship, no one has an answer to because it's beyond the realm of science. The only group that even claims to be able to answer this question is the theistic group that claims to have a literalistic interpretation of the Quran.

Now if you take the science within the Quran and interpret it literally, you'll end up with a few inconsistencies (Salman has a few posts on this and he will definitely be able to explain it better). For example, if we discover life on other planets, then that severely challenges the notion of a single creation, in the way theism views it now. Other inconsistencies are the physical nature of the soul, the heart as a decision making organ, and the discrepancy between the infanticide, transgender-ism and cannibalism rife in the animal kingdom and the concept that these traits are immoral theistically because they are unnatural.

In my opinion, religion is a reaffirmation of the moral traits that humanity should aspire too. These moral traits, btw, are not solely because of religion. Many conclusive experiments have shown that complex concepts of morality are practised by animals as well.

I'll again come back to my original hypothesis. That the scientific evidence is what it is. If muslims keep holding on to dogma, and don't seriously study the source and methods of scientific enquiry, then they are going to be severely disadvantaged.

Naveed said...

For those who are not aware, Micheal Behe, author of the Darwin's Black Box and the Edge of Evolution, is a proponent of ID and was the start witness in the Dover ID trial in the US (2005).

During the trial, he was forced to accept that "there are no peer reviewed articles by anyone advocating for intelligent design supported by pertinent experiments or calculations which provide detailed rigorous accounts of how intelligent design of any biological system occurred".

The court subsequently ruled that Intelligent Design was not science and therefore had no place in the public science curriculum. The judge specifically cited the cross examination of Behe is a critical factor in the ruling.
Trial transcript: http://ncse.com/files/pub/legal/kitzmiller/trial_transcripts/2005_1018_day11_am.pdf

Furthermore, peer reviews, along with scientific rebuttals, of his new book, the Edge of Evolution can be found here:
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v447/n7148/full/4471055a.html
http://www.sciencemag.org/content/316/5830/1427.full

Chris Doyle said...
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Salman Hameed said...

Chris,

I had warned you before that you have to be respectful to other people's beliefs here. You are again making callous remarks about other people's beliefs. If you consider yourself as God, and claim to know what everyone believes or not believes - then that is your prerogative. Otherwise, I will boot you out from the site if you attack anyone's religion on this site again. Stick with the arguments. I know that that gives you a short stick, considering that you are stick with Behe's ID arguments. But I guess you'll have to live with it.

Salman Hameed said...

Bye bye Chris. You can take your ID crusade elsewhere.

Asad M said...

where have Chris' comments gone? though some where master-pieces to be saved for posterity :)

Naveed said...

I think he deleted them himself. Some of them really belonged on a twitter hashtag.

Salman Hameed said...

Naveed, Asad,

Yes, he removed his comments himself (note he still missed one :)). [I do have all of them in my e-mail notifications...in case anyone wants to archive for their amusement purposes...].

He came here to promote the Discovery Institute agenda. He might have thought that this was a ripe audience for it - and used all sorts of language to come off as someone concerned only for the well-being of Muslims. But when that didn't work, he packed up and left. May be he doesn't want to be traced to Muslims in blog searches...

Oh well - I'm sure we will get more of the ID folks on the blog at some other time...

Anonymous said...

Salman

Can you please clarify the following from your point of view regarding the literal interpretation of the quran

Now if you take the science within the Quran and interpret it literally, you'll end up with a few inconsistencies (Salman has a few posts on this and he will definitely be able to explain it better).

Salman Hameed said...

Anonymous,

First, please as per politeness, if you are addressing my by name, then you should also write your name.

As per your question, I would actually state it in a different way. I don't think this is a "literal" interpretation of anything. Even a close textual reading is still an interpretation. As per that, there can be interpretations that can be at odds with what we know. For example, there is a mention of seven seas (and seven heavens, etc). Well, if you interpret it to mean that there are 7 seas on Earth, then that will be in contradiction to what we know about the seas and oceans of the Earth. So many interpreters, look at the use of the number 7 in ancient and medieval times, and interpret it to mean "many". So there is no contradiction in the second interpretation, but there is if you go with the first one.

As per the broader question of finding science in the Qur'an, you can look the article that is linked to the top right of the blog: On the futility of finding science in the Quran and other scriptures.

Imran said...

My apologies. The name is Imran.

I am not sure I fully understand you. I sincerely respect your knowledge in the Sciences but I am somewhat confused regarding your understanding of the Quran as I am with the previous post by Naveed.

For example, Naveed states "if we discover life on other planets, then that severely challenges the notion of a single creation, in the way theism views it now. Other inconsistencies are the physical nature of the soul". The Quran does not stipulate the idea of a single creation so life on other planets presents no inconsistency, The physical nature of the soul is not mentioned in the Quran either. Infact, the Quran states that the "soul is a matter with my Lord and you have been given but very little knowledge" 17:85

As for your mention of seven seas, this is mentioned as a parable that Allah strikes in the Quran regarding his majesty where "if all the trees on earth were to be pens and the ocean (converted into ink) aided by a further seven seas after it, the words of Allah would not end. Indeed, Allah is mighty wise" 31:27

As for finding science in the Quran, it is foremost a book of guidance for those who believe in it and not meant to be a science text book. Yet, since it is regarded by Muslims as the word of God, it follows that any explanation of the natural phenomenon contained therein can not be inconsistent with the truth.

Scientific enquiry from my lay understanding seeks to understand the laws that govern the natural world. For a Muslim, these are the laws determined by Allah. This is where science has its limits for even it cannot explain why the laws of physics are the way they are. This has not stopped physicists from trying to grasp that ever so allusive 'theory of everything' but each thesis presents its own set of problems. Theories based on leaps of faith to understand the world where the laws of nature exist simply because they are or because we find ourselves in one of countless ‘multiverses’ in which ours happens to support life.. No need to ask why this might be the case or even demand empirical evidence for such a claim.
For a Muslim, it is Allah who determined the laws of nature by way of his ‘sunnah’ but his power ‘qadr’ allows him to subverse these laws as he pleases which is outside of the enquiry of science. It is in this way for example, a Muslim would explain the miraculous birth of Jesus without the agency of a father or the creation of Adam. As the Quran repeatedly asserts “Allah creates what he wills”. One may argue that this requires a leap of faith and is an argument for ignorance, lacking empirical evidence and ultimately an obstacle to scientific progress. I get sense of much of the same sentiment also being expressed in various posts on this blog without the recognition that scientists can also make such leaps of faith when trying to plug the gaps in their understanding.
As the evolutionary biologist Ken Miller puts it “In this view, God is an explanation for the weak, a way out for those who cannot face the terrible realities revealed by science. The courageous are those who face that reality and accept it. But science itself employs a kind of faith. A faith that the world is understandable and that there is a logic to reality that the human mind can explore and comprehend. It also holds as an article of scientific faith that such exploration is worth the trouble because knowledge is always to be preferred to ignorance. The categorical mistake is to assume God is natural and therefore within the realm of science to investigate and test. By making God an ordinary part of the natural world and failing to find him there, they conclude that he does not exist. But God is not and cannot be part of nature. God is the reason for nature, the explanation for why things are. He is the answer to existence, not part of existence itself”.

Naveed said...

Imran,

There's a little bit of context in my last post. We were discussing these ideas with another poster, who has subsequently deleted his entire thread. Some of the examples I wrote were alluding to his comments and ideas, so I apologize that if they seem out of context.

One of the ideas he was raising was that the concept of centrality of the earth was very important in Islam (his view). The example I gave regarding the discovery of life on other planets was in relation to that.

The other example was related to the decision making capabilities of the heart. In the *Quran, 9:87, it is translated that their hearts were sealed so that did not understand. There are other mentions of the heart in the Quran which says the same. Now if you go by a closed textual reading (as Salman described) then you would arrive at the conclusion that the heart is used to make decisions or is an emotional center. That would contradict with what is scientifically known about the function and workings of the heart.

The physical nature of the soul was a weaker example. The understanding from the Quran is that it is a supernatural entity that defines the moral behaviour of the individual (apologies if I got this wrong, and please correct me I did). Again, that would be in conflict with the existing scientific data on how decisions and behavioural characteristics manifest themselves.

But you are right, you could interpret all of this and say that there are metaphysical forces that run above the material universe and those cannot be understood by science. Science typically goes by the concept of Occam's Razor, wherein the theory that makes the least amount of assumptions is pursued. The problem typically comes about, when a textual interpretation of the Quran on a physical process comes into contradiction with scientific evidence about the same physical process. It is one thing to say that there are metaphysical processes, and another to completely disagree with the scientific evidence based on religious interpretation.

*I usually try not to quote single ayaat because context within the Quran is very important. But I only did it as an example.

Imran said...

Naveed
Thank you for clarifying that as I now understand since your statements were in response to particular claims highlighted in a previous post.

Where it is mentioned in the Quran that "their hearts were sealed" is not referring to the physical organ. In this context, the heart is synonymous for the soul and is a convention of language. For example, if we were to say "his heart is broken" we all understand that we are not referring to the physical organ. So one does not infer from this that the physical heart is an emotional centre, so no such inconsistency exists.

As for the nature of the soul, it is in the realm of the metaphysical and can not be comprehended by the human mind. The Quran does mention that the soul has the propensity for both evil and piety. It can be corrupted or purified. (91:8-10). Its exact nature though, as Muslims we simply don't know.

Again, I'm not sure how this would conflict with the existing scientific data on how decisions and behavioural characteristics manifest themselves. But please explain as I am certainly no scientist and would not like to assume what you are referring to here. You see it comes back to the point that I have raised before that scientific enquiry assumes that every phenomenon can be explained and understood. We as Muslims would maintain that the soul is beyond the realm of science.

Since you refer to the concept of Ocaam’s Razor in Science, it is important to recognise that Islam too has established its own principles ‘usul-tafsir’ that scholars have laid down as a framework to interpret the Quran. These have been debated and discussed by Islamic Scholars for centuries regarding the types of verses that can be taken literally and those that need to be understood metaphorically and the conditions for doing so. Just as we would not expect a layman to be able to interpret a paper on string theory, we should not assume that the Quran is free for everyone to take whatever meaning they see fit. Indeed, this would be a mockery of scripture as it would be of science.

Naveed said...

Imran,

I agree with everything you've said. That's pretty much the problem we face, in reverse, when people label the scientific evidence for the theory of evolution as a hoax or a conspiracy just because of their interpretation of the Quran.

Imran said...

Naveed

So is evolution a theory in your view or is the idea of modification from common descent an indisputable fact?
If you take the latter position to include humans then undoubtedly this presents a serious problem in reconciling with the quran?

Unlike other verses that can be interpreted metaphorically, the quran and authentic Hadith are explicit in the creation of Adam as explained by shaykh Yasir Qadhi which does not allow for an alternative or metaphorical meaning.

Now, the example of the sun where some scholars claimed it was in orbit based on the quran is different. That particular verse "the sun proceeds" (36:38) is not interpreted as being in orbit any longer as the fact that the sun does not orbit can clearly be observed. So the erroneous interpretation is abandoned based on observable fact which is a principle of usul-tafsir.

However, this condition can not be satisfied for macro evolution because of the millions of years required for this to occur. So essentially, it can't be witnessed. But as I have explained, I am not a scientist so please feel free to correct me if any of the above is incorrect.

Richard Dawkins often cites an example in response to the above objection by stating that if you arrive at the site of a crime scene, the evidence is there to infer that a crime has taken place. You do not have to witness the crime to know that it happened.

But is it not fair to claim that the interpretation of that evidence is subject to the point of view of the investigator? An atheist views the glory of life and see's the marvel of random modification with no design. A theist views the same and sees signs of god's design.

So without rejecting the ample evidence I am sure you can provide in terms of genetics, comparative anatomy, palaeontology and so on, what prevents me from viewing all of this in terms of common design?

Why must one be forced to interpret all of this within the prism of common descent? I see no reason for why it can't be viewed in terms of common design by an omnipotent god who is the supreme creator. It therefore follows that elements of his design will display similarities between different species of life.

I am sure you can agree that we can all arrive at different conclusions from the same set of evidence.
Since I cited the example of a crime scene, I leave you to ponder and consider the following:
“evidence is a very tricky thing. It may seem to point very straight to one thing, but if you shift your own point of view a little, you may find it pointing in an equally uncompromising manner to something entirely different”
― Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Naveed said...

Imran,

First off, its really refreshing to have a conversation about evolution and religion without either side resorting to name calling and questioning the others motives. So thank you!

It is important to recognize that during the conference, Yasir Qadri stated that he was not going to argue against the scientific evidence and was only speaking as a theist. So his rejection of common descent was not because he thought that a different narrative could be put on the evidence, it was because he thought that since the Quran was explicit in stating for creation, therefore he as a muslim was not prepared to accept it.

Regarding your comments, the layman definition of theory and the scientific term theory are two very different things (I explained that in an earlier thread). In terms of evolution, the evidence does point very strongly towards the concept of common descent, and makes the creationist argument weaker.

To understand why, we'll have to get a little technical and understand the genetic evidence for common descent.

The information carried by all life forms known to us is done so by structured DNA or chromosomes. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes while chimpanzees have 24 pairs. You can think of chromosomes as pieces of shoe string. At the end of every shoe string is a piece of plastic which prevents the shoe string from fraying. The equivalent piece of plastic in the chromosome is called the telemore and is used to protect the chromosome during events like cell division. Sometimes a phenomenon called chromosomal fusion occurs, wherein two pairs of chromosomes fuse in a way that there are no harmful effects for the life form. Many healthy people carry fused chromosomes.

Now the theory of evolution tells us that humans and chimps evolved from a common ancestor. The discrepancy between the number of chromosomes between chimps and humans can only be explained by the theory if the common ancestor had 24 pairs which fused during evolution for humans but did not fuse for our cousins the chimps. If you compare chimp and human genomes, you will find that human chromosome 2 is the result of chromosomal fusion of two of the chimp chromosomes. Furthermore, the telomeres on human chromosome 2, instead of being at the ends, are now - due to fusion - also found in the middle, where it should not belong. This is extremely important evidence for common descent.

Better explanations of this phenomenon can be found at the following links:
http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/loom/2012/07/19/the-mystery-of-the-missing-chromosome-with-a-special-guest-appearance-from-facebook-creationists/#.UPuNsKFwalo
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oweUN-GaN3M

ps: I just saw the video Salman (thanks!) posted regarding the historical and current neurological understanding of the soul. It's worth going over.

Imran said...

Naveed

A topic such as this is bound to lead to passionate debate which can spill over on both sides.
I have no insight into another's motives but I think it is a reasonable question to ask what a person's religious beliefs are in such a discussion.
If we were discussing cricket, then one may say faith is personal as this would have no bearing on the debate. But with a discussion of this kind, it is unavoidable.
I think it is dishonest to engage in this discussion and then be pervasive about your own religious beliefs.
Ken miller and Richard Dawkins both agree on common descent yet the first is open about his Catholicism while the latter is a devout atheist.

Coming back to the evidence of common descent, I can concede why many regard the genetic similarity between chimps and humans as compelling. The fusion of chromosome 2 in humans is something I am aware of. However, my question is why should common descent be the only explanation for this as again, I see no reason why this can not be viewed in terms of common design.

Also (and please correct me if I'm wrong in the science) the similarity only includes the small 2% of protein-coded genes and not the remaining 98% historically coined as 'Junk DNA' or 'non coding DNA' which is more 'species-specific'. Evolutionists would often claim this to be an evidence against design as why would there be large strings of non functional DNA if there was engineered design for life.

However, the recent Encode project announced that most of our DNA once regarded as junk is actually useful.

Now I am not claiming by any means that this is a smoking gun against evolution as it is robust and sophisticated enough to modify its claims while maintaining the premise of common descent. However, it does question the misleading statistic that we are genetically 98% similar to the chimpanzee when this does not account for non coding DNA. I may go so far as to claim that it is actually quite deceptive.

Imran said...

Continued......

Clearly, there is much for us to still learn and islam does not hinder enquiry. Rather, what I am trying to get at is how the evidence can be interpreted to fit your point of view. I can see how both sides could potentially use recent research that this so called 'junk dna' is actually useful as evidence for themselves. So I am not sure that evolutionists are not equally susceptible to shifting their view of evolution when required just as they accuse their opponents of doing with intelligent design.

No doubt, Casey Luskin from the discovery institute will post articles on how these findings confirm the predictions of Id while evolutionists who accept common descent will rebut this with interpretations of their own dismissing Id as pseudo science. I'm not sure if we are ever going to get past this cycle.

Finally, can you really blame muslims for thinking that this is not yet another means to attack and vilify their religious beliefs. So its not going to be easy to distinguish evolution from atheism when some of its most vocal proponents are so anti-religion.

Let's make no mistake, PZ Myers states Islam is stupid and Richard Dawkins has openly claimed that his aim is to "kill religion". He encourages the use of ridicule and sarcasm to dismiss in his view the "absurdity of religion". His arrogance is evident when he claims that the evidence is on his side and anyone who questions it is dismissed and mocked as a creationist nut. The same tactic of ridicule is also evident in some of the posts on this blog.

However, I take solace in the words of my lord who reminds us again and again that there have always been people who mocked god and his messengers.

O you who believe! do not take for guardians those who take your religion for a mockery and a joke (5:57)

The life of this world is made to seem fair to those who disbelieve, and they mock those who believe (2:212)

And if you should question them, they would certainly say: We were only idly discoursing and sporting. Say: Was it at Allah and His communications and His Apostle that you mocked? (9:65)

Imran said...

continued....
The quran is the first source of evidence in Islam. While I do not expect that to hold any weight for atheists, one would expect it to be a fundamental premise for Muslims to accept so that includes yourself and the likes of Salman Hameed.

The quran is explicit in the creation of Adam and the creation of Hawa from Adam.

O mankind, fear your Lord, who created you from one soul and created from it its mate and dispersed from both of them many men and women. (4:1)

In the absence of common descent being observable, there is little room to interpret these countless verses as symbolic. We believe in the story literally.

As for the idea of reconciling the quranic narrative with human common descent, you may find some dissenting voices like Osama Hasan but his theological arguments were extremely weak quoting selective passages and failing to address other verses that simply don't support such a view. As Yasir Qadhi put it, it was nothing but a fanciful case of "hermeneutical gymnastics".

And why do we assume that our understanding of the quran needs to change? Is our conviction in the words of Allah so weak that we feel that this exercise must occur in the realm of scripture?

And where do we end if I as a Muslim allow myself to do this? What would I say about the birth of Jesus without a father, the splitting of the sea for Moses and so on? Nothing can be taken as literal. Piece by piece, I am being invited to undermine the Quran based on evidence that could equally be viewed in terms of common design and thereby removing the apparent inconsistency with revelation.

One may argue that to deny common descent is ignoring the overwhelming evidence and to view it otherwise in terms of common design is simply explaining it away.

I do not agree but that is exactly the way I feel when you are asking Muslims to reinterpret Adams explicit creation in the quran as symbolic. You are simply explaining it away and one see's no difficulty in doing this with the words of Allah but see's every difficulty with those who view evidence of common descent as common design.

Although this should have no sway in convincing avid atheists, I would expect it to be a compelling argument for Muslims who believe in the quran and the unseen.

Alif. Lam. Mim.This is the Book of Allah: there is no doubt in it. It is a guidance to Godfearing people,who believe in the unseen, establish the prayer and expend (in Our way) out of what We have bestowed on them, who believe in the Book We have sent down to you (i.e. the Qur'an) and in the Books sent down before you, and firmly believe in the Hereafter. (2:1-4).

Anonymous said...

@ Imran

Your comments are most illuminating, I do feel brother Salman is slightly taking an apologetic stance in attempting to reconcile the irreconcilable.

The Qur'an has been emphatic on this issue. Any student of Islamic knowledge can muster numerous tafaasir to support the position as espoused by yourself.

May Allah have Mercy on all our brothers and guide us all to the Truth. Ameen

CoolnessofHind

Naveed said...

Imran,

(Though I highly doubt that that's you're true name).

We disagree here, respectfully. By your example alone, just the fact that Ken Miller and Richard Dawkins, coming from two completely diverse world views, both accept completely the position of common descent, is an example of how personal beliefs are not really relevant in this discussion. Its an discussion about evidence. Not all muslims are created equal, not all atheists are created equal, and Richard Dawkins does not equal evolution. It's an argument that's cliched and been done to death. There are vocal extremists on both camps, atheist and ID, but it doesn't mean that the rest of us have to answer for their views.

Regarding the genetic similarity, yes you're right. The similarity is within the introns and exons (coding region) of the genome, that primarily codes for the proteins which carry out cellular function. This comparison was carried out in protein coding regions because sequencing technologies were expensive. Now that they are orders of magnitude cheaper, full comparisons will probably be made soon. Though pilot studies have shown that dissimilarities in the non-coding regions are also below approximately 2.5%.

The newspaper reporting of science is a big problem. If you read the actual papers, its clear that the similarity is qualified to mean the coding regions. But often, journalists are lazy. Which is why every so often you'll find a sensationalist headline proclaiming a breakthrough cure, which is not at all what the research paper talks about. Ergo, the only people who claim its deceptive are the people who never read the actual source articles and go by broad headlines.

The chromosome 2 problem as actually a very big deal to reconcile with ID. Do go over the link that I sent you in my last post. It's from a lecture by Ken Miller, a roman catholic, where he explains the problem and why common descent and not ID is the only explanation possible.

Sure, ID and common descent will always be at loggerheads. But they don't stand at equal footing. Common descent is based on scientific evidence, whereas ID has been repeatedly shown, by way of legal proceedings, to not be based on any peer reviewed research (see my post on the Dover trial and its transcript).

As per reconciling evidence with the Quran, I really am no authority to point towards a particular understanding. Everyone is welcome to believe in what they chose, it is their right. But muslims will continue to lag behind in the natural sciences, if at every point they feel that their beliefs are threatened, they stop objectively looking at the evidence and start playing defence. Today, its evolution theory, tomorrow it will probably be determinism and cognitive neuroscience.

Anyways, thank you for the discussion. It's already gone on too long. I'm sure anyone reading it will have a very good idea about the arguments on either side, so they can make up their mind.

Anonymous said...

@ Naveed

"But muslims will continue to lag behind in the natural sciences, if at every point they feel that their beliefs are threatened, they stop objectively looking at the evidence and start playing defence. Today, its evolution theory, tomorrow it will probably be determinism and cognitive neuroscience."

Dearest brother, this is a highly ignorant and somewhat stuck up statement to make.

The Islamic beliefs are more solid then the principles you are utilising to make your statement. As a Muslim, it is our belief that we take anything which complies with the Quran, reconcile anything which is ambiguous and dismiss that which explicitly juxtaposes the Quranic paradigm.

You seem to posit scientific evidence as the be-all and end-all of knowledge and the attainment of "facts" when the limitations of the scientific method and empiricism are well-known. However lets not get all schrodinger about this.

The principle as I have mentioned above is clear. You have skirted Imran's contention about explaining other aspects which the Qur'an alludes to (parting of the seas, the miraculous birth of Jesus). What are your convictions brother? Are you prepared to deny these aspects of the Quran also because your limited knowledge, ability and intellect cannot find the evidence for them?

CoolnessofHind

Imran said...

Dear Naveed

I am somewhat surprised as to why you now think my name is not what I say it is, considering you asserted in a previous post that it was refreshing to have a conversation without either side resorting to name calling and questioning the others motives.

By Allah, ‘Imran’ is the name that my Parents chose for me so this should be sufficient evidence for any Muslim to accept, as a Believer does not take an oath in Allah’s name lightly.

In any case, I fail to see why you might think my name has any bearing on the discussion and yet you see personal belief as completely irrelevant in all of this. Nevertheless, in the interest of fruitful discussion, I think it is important to address some of the points that you have raised without resorting to name calling. It is after all, from the teachings of our religion to respond with courtesy and decorum.

“Call people to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good teaching, and argue with them in the most courteous way” (16:125).

On the contrary, I think that personal belief is important in this discussion as it is not simply a question of evidence when the very title of this blog is “The importance of Evolution and Islam”. So you can not escape from the fact that personal belief does have every bearing on this debate when we are discussing the very relationship between evidence and belief.

Even in the works of Miller and Dawkins, their personal beliefs do have a bearing that shapes their world view. Miller regards evolution as doing nothing to weaken the power of God while Dawkins simply rejects the idea of a God, seeing the world as having no intrinsic purpose but cruel, bitter indifference. This stark difference in outlook is not simply based on the evidence but influenced by personal belief.

And by the way, I have gone through the link you posted of Ken Miller’s lecture regarding the apparent fusion of Chromosome 2 in the human genome. However, I don’t believe he said common descent was “the only possible explanation”. He actually states (and I am paraphrasing here) “that you may argue that God designed it that way but I cannot accept that as an explanation because I don’t believe God would be deceptive in tricking us in that way”.

So it would actually be more accurate to say that he regards the reason for this to be common descent as more compelling (based on his personal rationale). Not that there is no other explanation for it. His interpretation of the evidence is actually based on his personal view and we can all choose to either agree with him or disagree. However, rejection of his personal view should not be interpreted as rejection of the evidence. We can all agree with the nature of the human chromosome 2 but differ in what it actually tells us.

Imran said...

Continued....
You see, I have repeated several times the importance of recognising how researchers can arrive at different conclusions based on the same data set. There is this allusion that scientists are like non-human agents interpreting data objectively and not tainted or affected by personal belief or conviction. They “go wherever the evidence takes” them except for the proponents of intelligent design that is, who are guilty of pseudo-science while the true scientists on the side of common descent are the only flag bearers of “scientific truth”. I am not sure that is a productive dichotomy in which to frame this discussion. You certainly seem to be convinced that common descent is the only explanation. There are others however, who are not so convinced and I shall continue to read arguments on both sides to further my understanding on the subject. In doing so, I would appreciate the civility not to be accused of failing to look at the evidence objectively because of a perceived threat to my faith in your view. Looking at the evidence objectively doesn’t mean that I have to look at the evidence from your point of view.

And since we are on the subject of objectivity, why have you accepted this completely subjective premise that we as Muslims will lag behind in the Natural Sciences if we do not accept common descent. So is this your equation?

Acceptance of common descent = Muslim progression in the natural sciences.

That is quite simplistic an idea isn’t it, failing to mention that maybe there are economic and social factors in the Muslim World that hinder us from scientific progress but that is a completely separate discussion.

Finally, my dear brother and I think this question is important and relevant for the sake of transparency and integrity. Why is it so problematic to share your belief so it is clear for everyone to know from what perspective you are coming from? You see, the idea that belief is personal is actually not an Islamic phrase but inherited from Western secular ideology where belief is relegated to the private. However, belief in Islam is both an internal and an outward expression of one’s faith so I am struggling to know why you seem to be so evasive on this issue.

Now it has been repeatedly asserted throughout this Blog (including yourself) that evolution does not mean atheism. I can certainly accept that. However, the underlying impression given is that you as Muslims within the faith want to foster discussion about evolution and what that means for Muslims.

Although I can not claim to know your motives, your evasiveness in expressing your Islamic faith does trouble me somewhat. Nevertheless, it is not in the character of a Muslim to harbour suspicion without evidence. So I regard you as my brother in faith and I would sincerely encourage you to seek knowledge of the Quran as some of the conclusions you have drawn from it are flawed.

Imran said...

Continued.....
However in the spirit of providing compelling evidence, I would point all who may be following this thread to view the following link for an insight into the potential motives of Salman Hameed (the administrator of this blog). Not my words but his own.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_bpURQrG4Q

To summarise, Salman equates Muslims who reject common descent with those people who are convinced that they experienced Alien Abduction. He says no degree of evidence will convince them since they perceive their experience of abduction to be real. Similarly, Muslims will reject evidence of Evolution because they perceive it to be a threat to their faith in which is invested identity, meaning and a sense of community. He goes on to say that it would not be a wise strategy to criticise their beliefs “even though it would make us feel better to do so”. Rather, we need to reduce the threat that evolution poses to their faith.

I have to give credit to the Man. It is quite a clever strategy and then people wonder why Muslims are so willing to harbour conspiracy theories of perceived plots to undermine their belief. And it makes you wonder whether this entire blog is not but an elaborate ploy to execute Salman’s idea’s. We can certainly argue that this was “designed” at least. I allow others to view the link and make up their own minds whether Salman’s words are evident of someone who claims to be a Muslim.

Also, for any of my Brothers and Sisters in Islam who are struggling with the concept of Evolution, please recognise that Evolution does not necessarily mean acceptance of Common Descent. There are aspects of Evolution that pose no problem for a Muslim to believe such as the following:

1. Change over time – that life millions of years ago is not the same as life on earth today
2. Small scale Evolution within a species

So often, evidence is cited for particular elements of evolution as evidence for common descent. Take for example, our understanding of how viruses evolve allowing Science to produce new medication to combat this. It is even an example that Salman Hameed gives in his video to convince Muslims to accept Evolutuion. So you are faced with a dilemma in thinking that rejection of common descent leaves you powerless to combat disease. You see, the mistake here is to equate Evolution with common descent.

Evolution does not = common descent

The two terms are often used synonymously to mean the same thing where evidence is presented for an aspect of evolution to infer common descent. The fact that viruses and bacteria adapt (A) which we would all accept is not evidence that humans originated from common ancestors (B).

Acceptance of A) does not = Acceptance of B).

My Brother Naveed, we may disagree but I sincerely hope you do not share the views of Salman Hameed as expressed in the video that I have posted earlier. I conclude with verses of the Quran (as a reminder of what we believe, a warning and a supplication) for us to all consider as Muslims since the words of men are but mere conjecture and folly in comparison to the words of our Lord, the supreme creator.

“O mankind! Be dutiful to your Lord, Who created you from a single person (Adam), and from him (Adam) He created his wife [Hawwa (Eve), and from them both He created many men and women (4:1)
“And of mankind, there are some who say: "We believe in Allah and the Last Day" while in fact they do not believe. They think to deceive Allah and those who believe, while they only deceive themselves, and perceive it not!” (2:8-9)
"Our Lord! Let not our hearts deviate (from the truth) after You have guided us, and grant us mercy from You. Truly, You are the Bestower." (3: 8)

Salman Hameed said...

Imran,

You finally got it! This is all a huge conspiracy. Several years ago, we all decided that lets start communicating science targeting Muslims. So first we had to hatch up a plan to get PhDs. But we knew that this wouldn't work and be credible. So we decided to do research alongside with it, and get faculty positions on that basis. Then we had to pretend that we actually care about communicating science - so we had to take time out of research and teaching to write for broader audience. Then we had to find all sorts of Muslims who had no problem with human evolution. The plan was all in place. But just before its execution, Imran caught us... :(

And as per the alien abductions, dude, you are looking at the talk backwards. You seem to be implying that there is something inherently wrong with people who believe in alien abductions. They actually truly believe that they were abducted by aliens. And evidence to the contrary would not make a difference. In the same way, those sub-section of Christians who believe that Earth is 6000 years old, believe as strongly in the face of contradictory evidence. And so do those sub-section of Muslims who do not accept common descent. What you have cleverly done (or it may be a conspiracy...) is that you have conflated your position on evolution to "the" Muslim position. You may think that, but there is plenty of counter-evidence (uh-oh - we come back to evidence) that there are a lot of Muslims who are faithful and have no problem with human evolution. You may not like that, but that is not a conspiracy.

By the way, biology textbooks in Iran, Pakistan, Egypt, Turkey, Malaysia - all include common descent. In fact, an appreciation of Allah (SWT) is mentioned as the specific goal of Pakistani and Malaysian textbooks - and yet they include common descent. The conspiracy must run quite deep.

Naveed said...

Imran,

Let me start by apologising. The reason for wondering about your name wasn't a resort to name calling on my part. There was previously a gentleman on this thread with very similar views to yours who was extremely obnoxious and offensive in his delivery. When he was called out on his behaviour, he deleted all his posts. Soon after that, you logged in anonymously with the same ideas and references, which lead me to - possibly mistakenly - believe that you were him. For this I apologise unreservedly.

The gist of what I said was that muslims will struggle in natural sciences until they let go of dogma. Sure, economics and social causes do play a large role, but that still does not explain why rich states such as Saudia Arabia, which have universities such as KAUST with the largest endowment fund in the world, but have not managed to come up with any excellent research in stem cells or biology.

While you're prose is quite civil, the undertone in your comments suggests that somehow the beliefs of Salman and I are tainted for agreeing with the evidence for common descent. And just because our views on common descent don't coincide with yours therefore the insinuation is that the site is "designed"? Have you ran a survey of muslim scientists as to whether they believe in common descent to come to this conclusion? I don't recall Islam giving anyone the right to judge people for their beliefs, regardless of what they are. Which is why I'm going to reiterate, that if you believe that arbitration for beliefs is in the hands of God, then I do not need to submit my beliefs to anyone for fact checking. People are free to view this as evasive, but I'm hoping others will recognise this as an attempt to keep the debate focused on the evidence.

Finally, the evidence has nothing to do with personal views. Its not just Salman and I that think that common descent has strong evidence for it, the entire scientific world is in consensus that the evidence for it is overwhelming. It's exactly why both Ken Miller and Dawkins can put aside their world views to agree with the evidence. Now you could start arguing that consensus on evidence in science is a misnomer, that the peer-reviewed system is broken or that this is a global conspiracy against the muslim faith, but then I really don't have much to add to that debate.

Naveed said...

Imran,

I just looked at the link for Salman's talk. You've grossly misrepresented his position. His gist of his talk was how even in the face of immutable evidence, people are not willing to let go of their contextual beliefs.

I'd ask people to watch the talk and come to their own conclusions.

Anonymous said...

@ Salman (your comments are in quotations,

"You finally got it! This is all a huge conspiracy. Several years ago, we all decided that lets start communicating science targeting Muslims. So first we had to hatch up a plan to get PhDs. But we knew that this wouldn't work and be credible. So we decided to do research alongside with it, and get faculty positions on that basis. Then we had to pretend that we actually care about communicating science - so we had to take time out of research and teaching to write for broader audience. Then we had to find all sorts of Muslims who had no problem with human evolution. The plan was all in place. But just before its execution, Imran caught us... :("

Kind of against your philosophy of being sensitive and not adverserial, dont you think? You sarcasm speaks volumes about you.



"And as per the alien abductions, dude, you are looking at the talk backwards. You seem to be implying that there is something inherently wrong with people who believe in alien abductions. They actually truly believe that they were abducted by aliens. And evidence to the contrary would not make a difference."

Here is "evidence" from your talk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_bpURQrG4Q

A 3:55 you state that abductees are taken to crafts and things are done to them "which we cant really talk about" - sarcasm duly noted

Between 4:00 and 5:00 you explain this is really sleep paralysis and is usually accompanied by "hallucinations"


At 8:04 - "while much of the public mocks these claims... if i were to claim i were abducted by aliens probably I would not be invited to give this talk..."

You seem to run a mock about alien abductees and judging by the comment on your vid, people have been offended:

"Sad from a guy who has not looked at the EVIDENCE for UFOs. And Michael Shermer has already been shown to be a pathological non-scientific skeptic. A true scientific skeptic is experimental, not dogmatitic.
What a sad presentation from a closed mind."


At 17:38 - "it is good to know what is real" - again imply what abductees, what believers, what Muslims believe is not real.

Your whole presentation implies there is something wrong with abductees!




"In the same way, those sub-section of Christians who believe that Earth is 6000 years old, believe as strongly in the face of contradictory evidence. And so do those sub-section of Muslims who do not accept common descent. What you have cleverly done (or it may be a conspiracy...) is that you have conflated your position on evolution to "the" Muslim position. You may think that, but there is plenty of counter-evidence (uh-oh - we come back to evidence) that there are a lot of Muslims who are faithful and have no problem with human evolution. You may not like that, but that is not a conspiracy."

Your studies relate to medics and physicians right? How did you deduce many Muslims (your vid at 10:36) accept evolution and some or "subset" or "sub-section as you like to call it, accept it? And then you have the gall to claim others are "conflating their positions to Muslim position". You fall foul of your own claims by conflating your single-class studies to the braoder Muslim population, who dont give a monkeys about you! (excuse the pun if you please).


"By the way, biology textbooks in Iran, Pakistan, Egypt, Turkey, Malaysia - all include common descent. In fact, an appreciation of Allah (SWT) is mentioned as the specific goal of Pakistani and Malaysian textbooks - and yet they include common descent. The conspiracy must run quite deep."

If I study christianity as a Muslim do I become a Christian? Hmmm...

CoolnessofHind

Imran said...

Salman

I suspect that the constructiveness of this discussion may have run its course, especially when you have simply resorted to type by using ridicule and mockery, rather than engaging in the discussion at hand. It is often used as a tactic to discredit others who don’t agree with you and I hope that any fair minded person can see that I have made every effort to discuss the scientific evidence with Naveed who at least has the courtesy to engage in a civil manner.

Furthermore, your premise that people will refuse to accept evidence if it conflicts with their beliefs can equally be turned around to apply to you.

Maybe, you are so convinced in the belief of common descent in which you have invested identity, meaning and a sense of community with fellow Scientists who share your view, that you are not willing to accept explicit and categorical evidences from the Quran which clearly establish the direct and umediated creation of Adam.
“When your Lord said to the angels: "Truly, I am going to create man from clay".So when I have fashioned him and breathed into him (his) soul created by Me, then you fall down prostrate to him. So the angels prostrated themselves, all of them:Except Iblis (Satan) he was proud and was one of the disbelievers. (Allah) said: "O Iblis (Satan)! What prevents you from prostrating yourself to one whom I have created with Both My Hands”. (38: 71-75).
By the way, its not just me who believes this but remains the consensus of the vast majority of Islamic Scholars both historically and up to the present time.
And I sincerely hope it is not the case that verses of the Quran do not sway you. Or is it the case as Allah mentions in another verse:
“It is the same to them whether you warn them or you warn them not, they will not believe. You can only warn him who follows the Reminder (the Qur'an), and fears the Most Beneficent (Allah) unseen”. (36:10-11).
Returning to the scientific argument, while accepting elements of evolutionary phenomenon displayed in the natural world, evidence for common descent is inferential, circumstantial and certainly not observable or conclusive to the degree of certainty that the Sun does not orbit the earth. You would require this degree of certainty in order to allow yourself to interpret these verses as symbolic. That maybe as unlikely as finding a fossilised rabbit in the Pre-Cambrian Period. For now, I will continue to research arguments on both sides as I am sure that there remains much to learn.
And by the way Dude, I don’t see any problem with Muslims not being able to make a contribution to Science if they do not accept common descent. Maybe it is you who has conflated this position to be the only tenable “Muslim Scientist” position.

Imran said...

Dear Naveed
Your apologies are humbly accepted as we are all humans and prone to making mistakes. After all, that is the way God designed us.
In the end, I have no reason to hide my identity as I think both my position and beliefs are clear, although you have done nothing to explain what yours may be except continuing to remain evasive. Also, dismissing the Quran as mere “dogma” or belief in it as just “contextual” is not what one would expect from a Muslim.
Just like Salman claiming in the video posted earlier that we should not criticise Muslim beliefs “even though it may make us feel better to do so”. So although both you and Salman say that evolution does not mean atheism, you have done little to alleviate the potential that this is the position that you may have decided to adopt yourselves.
You may think it is irrelevant. However, since this Blog is directed at Muslims, I think it is a reasonable question to ask who is addressing us? Are they Muslims or not?
Also sadly, you continue to err in your theological arguments such as “I don’t recall Islam giving anyone the right to judge people for their beliefs, regardless of what they are”.
Actually, Islam teaches a detailed study of creed that establishes what articles of faith must be professed to be regarded as a Muslim. You are not permitted to just believe whatever you like as there are some fundamental and essential articles of faith such as belief in Allah, his Angels, his Books, His messengers, the last day, Divine Will (Qadar) and so on. So I would encourage you to please seek knowledge in these matters.
Whether the belief that Adam was created by Allah without forefathers also constitutes a fundamental article of faith to believe in as a Muslim, most would argue that it is emphatically so. However, I leave that discussion to the Islamic Scholars who are better qualified to make such a judgement.
Inevitably, I conclude with the words of my Lord, the Supreme Creator, the Originator, the Fashioner, the Sustainer, the giver of life who creates as he pleases from nothing. Indeed, we are not in doubt regarding our Lord who in a most eloquent verse describes both the origins and the nature of man which is very apt to this discussion:
“Does not man see that We have created him from Nutfah (semen drops). Yet behold! He (stands forth) as an open opponent. And he puts forth for us a parable, and forgets his own creation. He says: "Who will give life to these bones when they have rotted away and become dust? "Say: (O Muhammad) "He will give life to them who created them for the first time! And He is the All-Knower of every creation!" (36: 77-79).

Naveed said...

Dear Imran,

We both have very different conceptions of what constitutes the behaviour and belief of a muslim, and for me that is ok. If I'm wrong, I'll be judged when I die, and nothing anyone here says or thinks about my faith will change that final outcome.

Until then, I'm more than happy to discuss the scientific evidence, which we have, so there's nothing much to add on that front either.

I'll leave it to the better judgement of whoever is reading these posts to come to their own conclusions.

Sharif said...

Dear All,

It seems like the usefulness of this discussion may be reaching its end, but I did want to make a few points, if I may.

Naveed, you are certainly right that ultimate moral judgment is in the hands of God alone and that it is not our place to pass such judgment on each other. At the same time, Imran is correct to point out that "beliefs" do matter in such a discussion -- not morally, to be sure, but epistemologically, since no one can avoid entertaining certain beliefs about the nature of the world (and, implicitly, the sources of our access to knowledge about it). In that light, I think it is only honest, intellectually speaking, that the larger assumptions presupposed by the position you are urging Muslims to adopt be made clear, so that each may adopt his own stance in full light of the larger implications and commitments entailed thereby.

The contention that "the evidence is there (subtext: and can only be legitimately interpreted from one particular metaphysical angle, namely, that of deterministic naturalism)" and that "science (subtext: our one and only source of reliable knowledge) has spoken and that's that" presupposes -- if even only implicitly -- a closed, materialistic, and deterministic view of the universe that, as I mentioned in a previous post, is fundamentally at odds with the Qur'anic picture of a radically contingent universe whose very instantiation and continuing existence cannot be adequately, or even coherently, accounted for through other than an appeal to a transcendent, all-powerful, and all-knowing Creator -- namely, the God of transcendental monotheism who, from that metaphysical perspective, is not merely an object of private subjective belief but the ineluctable and necessary condition of the very existence of the universe itself. The philosophical merits and demerits of this position as against the philosophy of naturalism is a critical discussion to have, though that would go beyond the scope of this particular blog.

Again, the question of whether things happen EITHER through God's design and creation OR according to "natural law" is a false dichotomy to begin with, since it takes "natural laws" that map consistently occurring patterns in the universe utterly for granted. If anyone needs any convincing that our universe as a whole (and not just a specific "irreducibly complex" biological system) has been designed -- and with unspeakable intelligence at that -- the proof lies primarily in the very laws of nature themselves (even more so than in the exceptions thereto, affirmed as miracles by many theists but by denied by deists or atheists). To believe that the regularities we observe themselves were somehow randomly generated immediately upon the coming into existence of the universe, in just such a manner as to lead eventually to the universe we now inhabit, is statistically so utterly improbable that we may comfortably dismiss it, for all intents and purposes, as impossible. This point has been made by numerous scientists, philosophers and others, purely on the basis of available empirical evidence coupled with the laws of probability, and is not a mere "assertion of faith" made by solely religious people stuck in a time warp. It is precisely on this empirical and philosophical basis, in fact, that Antony Flew came to hold that the burden of proof lies, in fact, on the atheist, not on the theist (reversing his position to the contrary, which he himself had formulated and advocated for most of his life).

Sharif said...

Admittedly, this conclusion can be taken to imply no more than a sort of 18th-century deism, and Flew himself is insistent that his intellectual acknowledgement of the necessity of an intelligent Creator God was neither born of, nor has subsequently elicited from him, any personal, existential, and worshipful response to the reality of such a being (such a response capturing very closely, I think, the nuances of the term "iman" as used in the Qur'an, as opposed to “faith” which, in modern parlance, often denotes the mere intellectual recognition of God’s existence, inevitably judged as primarily affective and therefore irreducibly subjective.) But not only is the deistic idea of an uninvolved God who doesn’t “interfere” in His creation alien to the Qur’anic worldview, it would seem arbitrary from a philosophical point of view to hold a priori that God, once having created the universe, either cannot or chooses not to have anything more to do with it, so to speak. Accordingly, Muslims will naturally (and rightly so) resist philosophical interpretations either of the universe as a whole or of specific sets of empirical data that entail a denial of God’s active and intentional agency in the world. It is philosophical naturalism – not as the operating methodological assumption of the natural sciences seen as a subset of a broader epistemological endeavor, but as a philosophical assumption about the overall nature and scope of reality per se – that is ultimately irreconcilable with Islamic theism and which, I suspect, lies at the basis of such vociferous objection on the part of Muslims not to the innocuous notion of gradual change in organisms over time, but to the accompanying naturalistic baggage that attributes the ultimate causality propelling such changes to randomness, chance, chaos, etc., rather than interpreting them as the manifestation of a deliberate and purposeful Divine plan.

Conscientious Muslims, who feel they have defensible grounds (and not just subjective motives) for holding the Qur’anic revelation to be true, admit – as a principled epistemological stance – revelation next to the empirical sciences, as a source of knowledge (and not merely as an ethical motivator to moral action, as per an interpretation you offered in a previous post). Qur’anic verses will therefore count for them as objective evidence regarding reality that would be consulted in tandem with other possible knowledge sources, such as the natural sciences, when trying to understand a fundamental question such as the origins (and therefore the ultimate nature and purpose, if any) of man. Just as any true science presupposes a consistent and justified methodology, the science of Qur’anic interpretation (regarding matters both of creed and of law) – that is, the earnest task of figuring out what it is that God is actually saying to us and/or wants from us – likewise operates on rigorous principles that Muslims have every right to bring to the table and expect to be duly accounted for in any serious discussion of the compatibility between Islam and any other particular knowledge claim, idea, etc.

Sharif said...

Germane to these interpretive principles is the distinction between certain or definitive (qat’i) and provisional or presumptive (dhanni) knowledge. Definite or certain knowledge would comprise completely unambiguous statements of indubitably authentic revealed data (i.e., the Qur’an and some highly rigorously authenticated hadiths), direct empirical observation, and the fundamental rules of rational thought (such as the laws of identity, non-contradiction, and the excluded middle). [The question of the moral knowledge of right and wrong is a whole different discussion.] Now, a previous poster (I believe Imran) explained how numerous discrete data of revelation indicate in a definitive (qat’i) manner the existence of Adam as a real person and how, from an Islamic epistemological perspective, it would be very difficult to overturn this on the basis of conclusions that, as Imran pointed out, while based on empirical evidence are nevertheless inferential in that they involve an extrapolation to an unknown time and place that we are not able to witness.

This is apart from the fact that scientific theories, by the admission of scientists themselves, can never be fully “qat’I” in the Islamic since to begin with, since they are always best-hypothesis scenarios based on a perpetually limited (even if constantly expanding) set of data, open at any time not only to further modification and refinement, but to outright rejection and replacement upon the discovery of a new layer of hitherto unsuspected facts (Kuhn’s work, obviously, is central here). This fact was driven home to me many years ago in a course on the history and philosophy of science (taught by an avid materialist/atheist) upon considering that the Ptolemaic geocentric model of the universe was empirically adequate for over a millennium, capable not only of explaining existing observed data but also of accurately predicting the future movement of celestial bodies, and continued to be refined (by the addition of eccentricity and an ever increasing number of epicycles) in light of ever more accurate astronomical calculations century after century, only to be completely blown out of the water by the Copernican model in the late fifteenth century. I mean for over a thousand years, no one had any reasonable (empirical or scientific) basis to doubt that such a theory, which matched the data, boasted impressive predictive power, and had stood the test of time, was not an accurate representation of the world as it actually is, but lo and behold, look what happened! It is staggering to think that century after century of what people in those times experienced to be objective progress in understanding the structure of the universe turned out, from our perspective, to be ignorance heaped upon ignorance, hypothetical fallacy upon hypothetical fallacy, which means that essentially NO scientific PROGRESS was being made in their case at all, despite all appearances for them to the contrary (at least on this particular front). They were just completely and utterly wrong from start to finish (Kuhn’s paradigm shift).

Sharif said...

I personally found the implications of this to be staggering. And in light of this, it would seem utterly pretentious for science as a discipline to proclaim the unique right to make truth claims about the world when, by its very nature, it is capable of such complete, utter, and embarrassing fallibility. I can see how, if we assume naturalism, it would make sense to count the current scientific view as “knowledge” – if only by default, since under a naturalistic paradigm we have no other source of knowledge and therefore can never “do any better,” so to speak, than come to a provisional, but always open-ended and ultimately transitory and vulnerable “current consensus” – but from the point of view of a Muslim who believes he has good reasons to endorse the authenticity of the Qur’an as divine revelation, I cannot for the life of me understand why I should be persuaded to exchange the definitiveness (qat’iyya) of what God has revealed to us (regarding our nature and origin) for the presumptive and for all we know transitory “truth” of a paradigm that is less than two centuries old and seems already to be open to so many serious reservations.

Once again, I do not expect a scientist qua scientist to accept the creation of Adam as a scientific statement or theory about how human beings have come about. But it is only on the prior assumption of naturalism that a scientific statement alone can have any epistemological value whatsoever (to the exclusion of statements that, for Muslims, issue from the Originator of the very universe science explores). Surely a Muslim scientist, qua Muslim, can, upon retiring from his lab, articulate for himself and fellow co-religionists an adequate interpretation of the empirical data that, while remaining true to the observable empirical facts, can nevertheless accommodate these satisfactorily within the broader perspective of a purposeful universe created and sustained by an omniscient Creator, one who has revealed certain crucial knowledge to us regarding our origins and purposes.

If your purpose (Naveed) is to convert Muslims to naturalism (or some form of deism) in which revelation has no epistemic value, then the discussion should take place on that level. If, as you have indicated twice, the goal is to encourage Muslims to cultivate and excel in the natural sciences for their own worldly benefit, the question would then revolve around whether or not a robust natural science can be sustained in the midst of a strongly theistic worldview. Given the theoretical consideration that theism itself does not in principle deny the patterns that science studies nor judge their study as somehow impious, seconded by the historical consideration that we Muslims experienced our scientific golden age and our religious golden age simultaneously, I would be inclined to answer “yes.” In fact, I think the best way to encourage science among Muslims, rather than trying to destroy their religious view of the world first, would be to disentangle the disciplined practice of experimental science and its application in the form of technology from the overlay of philosophical naturalism with which it has come to be so tightly entangled in the West over the past few centuries. Wallahu a’alam.


Salamat to all,
Sharif

[P.S.: For a good treatment of these issues, particularly the larger philosophical assumptions concerning science and the relationship of Muslim theology to it (specifically evolution), I would suggest considering: http://www.masud.co.uk/ISLAM/nuh/evolve.htm.]

Anonymous said...

Mashallah brother Sharif

Jazakallah for that very detailed analysis which should give us all food for thought.

I think you have hit the nail on the head in quite rightly bringing to light that science is not the only means to acquiring truth, especially for Muslims.

Yet, it is this very powerful illusion that science is the only possible means to understanding that lies at the heart of viewing the world in purely naturalistic terms which as you say, is completely alien to the Islamic view.

From my point of view, I think it is truly sad that Muslims are affected by a supposition which is completely irreconcilable to our faith.

May Allah guide us all to the truth
Ameen

Anonymous said...

The full video of the conference can now be viewed here: http://www.thedeeninstitute.com/evolution-conference

Apparently there is a post conference discussion forum where people can go more into the theology and science in more depth. I attended the conference and thought it was absolutely amazing. I hope the Deen Institute continue to hold such conferences.

Anonymous said...

The full video of the conference is now on their YouTube channel. This really was an outstanding conference

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PLKEMkEIXOo