Saturday, January 05, 2013

A Riveting session on Islam and Evolution in London

by Salman Hameed

More will follow. But here is a quick update. The seven hour debate/discussion over Islam and evolution turned out to be an unqualified success. There were 800 people in the audience and they all stayed till the end. The quality of the talks, with one notable exception, was outstanding. The exception was a Harun Yahya acolyte, Oktar Babuna. I think this may be a turning point for the discourse over Islam and evolution. There was substance in all the talks - and that is one of the reasons it exposed the shallowness of Harun Yahya position, and ended up, literally, as comic relief towards the end of a long day (more on this in an upcoming post). This doesn't mean that everyone agreed. Far from it. There was an intense debate on human evolution and can that be reconciled with Islam - both personally by Muslims, and as a theological position.

And while I liked Ehab Abouheif and Usama Hasan's talks (as well as Yasir Qadhi's delivery), I'm now a huge fan of biological anthropologist, Fatimah Jackson. She was funny, soft-spoken, authoritative, and thoughtful. The focus of her presentation was human evolution, and she did a fantastic job of explaining what we know about hominids, and then showing how she has been able to reconcile her own Muslim faith with human evolution.

I have to get some hours of sleep before an early morning flight tomorrow morning. Will have more on this later.


Unknown said...

I also attended the event yesterday and it was riveting indeed. However, for somebody who is not at all versed in biology or evolution, it was difficult to understand the depth of the arguments.

Even though I am a creationist Muslim, I feel comfortable in writing off Dr. Babuna for his lack of integrity in debate. However I do wish that Dr. Abuoheif had given more comprehensive answers to his accusations, some of which made a lot of sense to me. Perhaps you can tackle those issues in one of your posts. His 3 arguments which I feel remained unanswered are:

1. The lack of beneficial mutations in human observation makes evolution implausible.

2. There is no proven way of irreducibly complex systems (such as proteins) to form. Dr. Abuoheif gave an example of the possible evolution of an eye but perhaps you can give a more comprehensive example.

3. The missing fossils! It would have helped if Dr. Babuna interacted positively with the panel but he didn't, and so Dr Abuoheif was never asked: If apes and humans are cousins with common ancestors, then surely there must be "uncles" along the family tree who would look like something between humans and apes. And there would have to be lots of them with lots of variations. Have we found all (or any) of them?

Usama Hassan's presentation I feel was very flaky (though not as comical as Dr. Babuna's). On a theological front, I still don't see how we can reconcile between the heaps of evidences in the Quran and Hadith and the scientific explanation of our past. I do not think that Shaykh Yasir Qadhi's theory is the complete answer but for now it remains the best explanation for creationists to believe in. Or at least until Usama Hassan or somebody else comes along with a better effort at reconciling between the unequivocal evidence in Quran and Sunnah and evolution.

Anonymous said...


This is a decent resource to start to examine those and other claims - you will see that there are lots and lots of them.

More specifically your numbered points are addressed in the following sections;

1. CB100 Genetics
2. CI100 Detecting Design
3. CC200 Transitional Fossils

The goos thing about this resource is that it gives many references and links to help you understand things.

Happy reading!


Anonymous said...


1. "The lack of beneficial mutations in human observation makes evolution implausible." We would expect after millions of years of evolution, most proteins are in fact well adapted to their function so that *now* most mutations are deleterious. However, in both experimental and computational studies, we do find beneficial mutations.

2. Abiogenesis is not the same as evolution. Yes, it's a big hole in the naturalistic explanation of life, but there are not the same thing. Evolution requires reproduction, heredity, variation.

3. I don't know much about paleontology and the fossil record but some famous transitional fossils are listed here

But, I agree, Yasir Qadhi gave a passionate talk about his position. I think I'm becoming more convinced that (i) evolution is true and (ii) Islam cannot accept it i.e. they are incompatible.

Anonymous said...

Is there any link to watch the complete debate ?

Anonymous said...

There is no prospective conclusive evidence that humans definitely evolved from lower life forms. Mutations more often than not are deleterious and even 4.5 billion years are not enough to account for the number of "beneficial" mutations needed to evolve a Homo sapien from an ape.

Adam said...

Sounds like an interesting session. I suggest you read 'God is not a Delusion' by Dr Ali. She has nicely covered evolution in her book and highlights that human evolution is not compatible with Islam.

Adam said...

Next time they want a creationist's view, i think they should talk to someone like Dr Ali who can present scientific arguments.

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