Wednesday, March 25, 2009

At McGill for Islam & Evolution Symposium

I will be participating and presenting at the McGill symposium on Islam & Evolution next week (Mar 30-31). This looks like a fantastic gathering as the number of panelists is small and plenty of time is provided for discussion, both on and off the panel. If you are in Montreal and are interested in the topic, this will be an excellent opportunity to hear about Islam and evolution.

Here is the motivation behind the symposium:

How is evolution taught and understood in Islamic societies?

How do Muslim students, parents, and teachers understand evolutionary science in relation to their religious beliefs?

These questions form the basis of the McGill Symposium on Islam and Evolution, where international experts in Islamic and Religious Studies, Science Education, and Biological Evolution will meet to discuss their views on this important topic. The aim of the symposium is to contribute to the broader dialogue and understanding of the relationship between Islam and modern science, an increasingly relevant subject in today’s society.

Also, check out this interview with Anila Asghar (from Johns Hopkins University). She has been working on analyzing the attitudes of Muslim professors and biology teachers toward evolution in several Muslim countries and in Canadian diaspora. This is a fascinating work and I'm looking forward to hearing about it at the symposium. Here is her interview with the McGill Reporter:

1. Q: Is Islam at odds with evolutionary biology?

A: There doesn’t appear to be only one “Muslim position” on evolution. The intellectual and popular responses to evolution reflect a wide spectrum of views ranging from complete rejection to all-embracing acceptance of evolution. While many Muslims do reject evolutionary theory, several are able to reconcile science with their religious beliefs. For example, one of our panelists is Ehab Abouheif, a McGill professor and Canada Research Chair in Evolutionary Developmental Biology. According to Dr. Abouheif, “…my daily scientific activities of performing evolution-centered research do not conflict with my daily spiritual activities as a Muslim…I strongly believe one can practice evolutionary biology without compromising one’s faith as a Muslim.”

2. Q: Do scientists in Islamic countries accept evolution?

A: Apparently so. The Scientific Academies of several Muslim countries (Egypt, Pakistan, Morocco, Palestine, Iran, Indonesia, and Turkey) recently signed onto a statement proclaiming that evolution is an “evidence based fact” which has never been contradicted by scientific evidence. Nevertheless, Muslim scientists tend to reconcile evolutionary theory to their religious beliefs in divergent ways. Our symposium will provide an excellent forum for further conversation. Drs. Taner Edis, Salman Hameed, Minoo Derayey, Uner Turgay, and Saouma BouJaoude will elaborate on the historical and contemporary response to, and the current status of, evolutionary thought among Muslim scholars.

3. Q: Is Islamic creationism the same as the Judeo-Christian-based creationism we see in the West?

A: There are certainly similarities, and indeed American creationist materials are often used by Muslim anti-evolution activists. But there are important differences as well. For example, Muslim creationists usually don’t insist that the Earth is only 6,000 years old as many Young Earth Creationists in North America claim. During the symposium, Josh Rosenau from the U.S. National Center for Science Education will offer a comparison of some popular Islamic creationist materials to those of Western anti-evolutionists.

4. Q: What is taught about evolution in the schools of Islamic countries?

A: Evolution is often part of the science curriculum and represented in the high school textbooks of Muslim nations. We’ve done approximately three years worth of research on such questions, and symposium participants will be reporting on not only the curricula used, but also on the ideas and attitudes toward evolution and the teaching of evolutionary theory held by Muslim students, teachers, and university professors from several Islamic countries and cultures (like Canada, Egypt, Indonesia, Lebanon, Pakistan and Turkey).

Looking forward to hearing about her group's findings. But it better not be snowing up there!


Questions About Faith, Etc. said...

I think the central question still is: Can evolution exist logically and consistently with religion? One is based on well reasoned knowledge and the other is based on faith. Hardly a comparison. At the very least we need a completely new paradigm to see faith through, because the Bible is hopelessly outdated.

Unknown said...

i have a strong feeling there may be intruders from Harun Yahya's camp - very reminiscent of the vatican event.

intruders, with an 's': one doing the talking and the other recording the former being ridiculed and eventually kicked out. and then we'll see posts on HY's many website making the 'surrendered to darwinists' claim yet again.

i say kick them out and confiscate the video/cellphone :)

Salman Hameed said...

I think the central question still is: Can evolution exist logically and consistently with religion?
I would phrase it the other way around: Can religion be consistent with evolution? Particularly on the issues of human origins.

Evolution, on the other hand, lives and dies based on scientific enterprise and its status is independent of religion.

Good point. This is an academic perhaps an incident like this will provide the much needed comic relief (other than Harun Yahya's ideas themselves) :)

Larry Gilman said...


FYI, the link to your Science article (the click-on-the-cover-image link on your blog page) is broken: gets me only a broken-link window.

Love your blog.


Salman Hameed said...


Thanks for letting me know (and for the compliment on the blog). The link has been fixed.


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