Thursday, 18 September 2008

Responding to Usama Hasan's Muslim apes.

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Edited 1/12/10

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/sep/11/religion.darwinbicentenary


In this piece, the otherwise well respected Usama Hasan, founder of the City Circle, argues that Muslims should move on from their “children's madrasa-level understanding” of creation and wholeheartedly adopt the evolutionary theory that man evolved from apes. He believes that there is no conflict between the Quran’s version of creation and this controversial and oft-contested part of the evolutionary theory. He also says that an obstacle in making this theory palatable to the Muslim community, is the publications produced by 'fundamentalist' Muslims like Harun Yahya. Fundamentalist? Why the use of this loaded term? At most, the likes of Usama Hassan can only claim that Harun Yahya's engagement with the scientific discourse was simplistic and unsuccessful at forwarding a case against the theory of evolution. He is hardly worthy of the 'extremist' label so easily metted out these days.

As a Muslim, I don’t see any conflict between science and my Islamic faith, and in this I agree with Usama's objective of reconciling the two. In particular, evolution in its general sense is not problematic for Muslims to accept. However, the contention is that of macro evolution, that species evolved from altogether different species, and that man evolved from Apes. With respect to the somewhat pompous tone of the piece, I felt it was unfounded. Dawkins is hardly the most respected scientist even though he may be amongst the most famous. Not all scientists accept that there is undeniable conclusive evidence for the evolutionary theory.

David Raup of the Field Museum of Natural History said

"We are now about 120 years after Darwin and the knowledge of the fossil record has been greatly expanded. We now have a quarter of a million fossil species but the situation hasn't changed much. The record of evolution is still surprisingly jerky and, ironically, we have even fewer examples of evolutionary transition than we had in Darwin's time".
(Raup D.M., "Conflicts Between Darwin and Paleontology," Field Museum of Natural History Bulletin, Field Museum of Natural History: Chicago IL, January 1979, Vol. 50, No. 1, pp.22-29, pp.24-25)

Further muddying the waters on this issue is Richard Dawkins’ very own evolutionist disciple at Oxford University, Mark Ridley, who writes:

" However, the gradual change of fossil species has never been part of the evidence for evolution. In the chapters on the fossil record in the Origin of Species Darwin showed that the record was useless for testing between evolution and special creation because it has great gaps in it. The same argument still applies. ... In any case, no real evolutionist, whether gradualist or punctuationist, uses the fossil record as evidence in favor of the theory of evolution as opposed to special creation".

Mark Ridley (zoologist, Oxford University), Who doubts evolution? New Scientist, 90:830–1, 25 June 1981

There is also dispute internally amongst scientists about the theory itself. The late Professor S J Gould, from Harvard University, argued that the degree of gradualism championed by Charles Darwin was virtually nonexistent in the fossil record, and that stasis dominates the history of most fossil species. He proposed Punctuated equilibrium, morphological stability and rare bursts of evolutionary change as an alternative.

According to John D. Barrow and Frank J. Tipler in the book The Anthropic Cosmological Principle. If man did evolve from apes, J.D. Barrow and F.J Tipler suggest that there would have to be ten steps in this evolution of Homosapiens. However, the process would take so long that before the process could even come close to what we look like now, the Sun would have disintegrated. Also, they calculated the odds of assembling a single gene are between and 4-180 to 4-360. The implications of this are that there simply has not been sufficient time since the formation of the earth to try a number of nucleotide base combinations that can even remotely compare to these numbers.

Given these few examples, of which many more exist, to present the case for macro evolution as a closed case is rather disingenuous on the part of Usama Hasan.

A consistent quranic evolutionary model has to incorporate the information Allah provides us, namely that Adam was made from clay and that Allah breathed into him his spirit to make him into man. One could argue that when Allah mentions these facts, he is condensing the whole evolutionary process within the verse, i.e. mentioning the start of the evolutionary stage and the end. This then leaves open the possibility of accepting the verses mentioned about creation and the contention that man evolved from apes, as both being true. For example, the clay mentioned could be the substance that brought about simple organisms, then after many years of random mutation and natural selection, apes evolved and further evolution produced homo sapiens. Then, at this evolutionary stage, Allah breathed his spirit creating the final article Adam, the first man as we know it.
However when we explore further evidences closely, we find that there are problems with this model. If we look at the verses

15:28 And lo! Thy Sustainer said unto the angels: "Behold, I am about to create mortal man out of sounding clay, out of dark slime transmuted.

15:29 and when I have formed him fully and breathed into him of My spirit, fall down before him in prostration!

I find it hard to conceive that when Allah says “Behold, I am about to create mortal man out of sounding clay...” to the Angels and Iblis, that at this moment, the entire evolutionary process started for man. The verse itself suggests that the events are happening sequentially.
A further indication is given by Allah about the process in which he created man, in the verse

55:14 He created man from sounding clay like unto pottery.

Allah provides an analogy of pottery so that we can grasp the idea in question. To inject now the theory of evolution for mankind would seem rather contrived.
Usama criticises the idea that God created Adam from clay, much as a potter makes a statue, and then breathed into him to make him a living human. Problem he is that this is not some baseless view; it is described in the Quran. Either Usama rejects the inerrancy of the Quran or he rejects the idea that man evolved from common ancestry or he has the bigger task of finding good reasons to interpret the texts concerning creation in allegorical form. Its not enough to just sideline those verses. He has to put forward an argument to support the verses pertaining to
creation.

I’m all for Muslims engaging with scientific discourse and developing arguments to reconcile alleged scientific theory with Quranic verses, but the arguments need to hold their ground not only with the editor of the Guardian, but also within the Muslim community whose traditions Usama is meant to be drawing on. It is evidence of either an uninformed individual, or a defeated mentality, that Usama chose to focus on the opinion of polemical scientist Dawkins, rather than address the real wealth of theist and non-theist scientists, from top institutions, who find fault with macro-evolution. To lambast the Muslim community with anything else is to add to the confusion, not clarify it.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

i agree on the whole with your sentiments.. good piece!

Eddy said...

the problem with pitting your religion against science is that you are risking terminally wounding your religion. The evidence for evolution is undeniable.

You need to reinterpret your holy book or risk it being made a laughing stock.

What if evolution is true? You are insulting your God by rejecting his method of creation.

Maybe trying to explain evolution to primitive peoples was too difficult a task, so your God chose to explain it simply; You were made from dust.

Ahmed al-Sheikhy said...

The quotes you use by scientists are all nearly 30 years old. Not very convincing.

The Holy Quran is perfectly compatable with evolution.

loveProphet said...

Scientific "facts" change continuously, for example this former "fact" from the 19th century.
James Clerk Maxwell, the greatest physicist of his age said: "Whatever difficulties we may have in the forming a consistent idea of the constitution of the ether, there can be no doubt that the interplanetary and interstellar spaces are not empty, but are occupied by a material substance or body, which is certainly the largest, and probably the most uniform body of which we have any knowledge"

See with how much confidence he stated the consensus of the scientific community?
It is pure foolishness to put unobserved scientific hypotheses over religion. Science does not even lay claim to the truth because of its liability to correction whilst at least religion lays claim to the truth.

Although one can believe macro evolution as a Muslim, the only problem with Islam is the idea of Adam(AS) evolving(which is kufr).

The idea of human evolution is far from settled and it is not right to claim that there is a consensus. All i have to do is bring any one biologist to violate it.
The fact is that every evidence brought forth by the evolutionists can be interpreted in a way to support a non-evolutionist approach as the evidence is ambiguous.

Anonymous said...

This Usama is not well respected but recognised as a dolt with a low intellect amongst the Muslims with knowledge.
Secondly he is no biologist nor has he studied evolutionary biology so he has no clue what he is talking about. We certainly should not adopt the myth that Adam(AS) evolved although it can be believed that other creatures other than humans evolved.

Mushtaq said...

Dear anonymous
What makes you an authority about who is a dolt? Do you have a higher degree of any sort? Usama has a PhD in a science subject, albeit not biology. Are you a biologist? Do you have anything other than ad hominem attacks? No? Well, next time have the balls to put down your name! As for Adam Deen, whenever someone states that they "battle against apologetics" and then quotes out of date evidence then it just makes me laugh.

Adam Deen said...

Mushtaq,

What is important is the argumentation within that quote, not the date . Has the point that is mentioned been proven wrong?

Anonymous said...

Assalaam 'alaykum

I really like Adam Deen's articles, including this one, but I have to disagree with a comment of his, respectfully.

(BUT all props to him for writing excellent articles, we really need less of this simplistic Harun Yahya creationist drivle and I'm happy people like Adam are putting their views in an intellectual manner...finally, a breathe of fresh air!)

I don't hold that macroevolution is a problem for Muslims any more then combustion theory is a problem while accepting that Ibraheem AS was not burned by the fire.

Adam AS arrival to earth was a miracle event and thus not proven or disproven by science.

Before Adam AS, some scholars had stipulated that different types of human beings did exist, in fact, why does the possibility of other beings very similar to Adam AS propose a Islamic theological problem?

Pls see the below links. Its the best ones on the net.

http://www.islamtoday.com/showme2.cfm?cat_id=29&sub_cat_id=792

http://www.islamtoday.com/showme2.cfm?cat_id=29&sub_cat_id=1981


The problem I have with statements of some Muslim writers is that they make non issues, issues.

Why are religious people, esp Muslims alarmed by evolution? Why would this contradict any text in Islaam?

What we Muslims need is a good dose of what science, religion and miracles really are.
One we understan dthe differences, evolution becomes easy to accept.

BTW, I noticed some quotes by some scientists on the article. Who said that the fossil record was the only route to evolution?

The quote of Karl Popper was accurate. Indeed many things scientists deal with is metaphysical in nature, such as the big bang, because these were odd events and not repeatable, and thus outside the realm of science...so I questionw hether science can truly find the origins of the universe etc...maybe somene has some ideas on this?


Abdullah

Mushtaq said...

You have merely selected those scientists whose views seem to coincide with yours. You also provide a nonsensical dichotomous choice to UH as to whether he should accept the Qur'an or evolution: should he also think that the earth is a few thousand years old as opposed to millions? The popularity of the likes of Otkar just show what an abysmal state popular Muslim science is in. Usama Hasan is a step in the right direction.

Mohammed Deen said...

Mushtaq,

The battle is clearly between Haq (truth) and Batil (falsehood), any Muslim with any basic knowledge of Islam and Eman when confronted with the repugnant views of Usama, Ed, Majid et al is shocked and aggrieved. Choose your side carefully my friend, the lines a re being drawn. On one-side you have the true moderate, principled and considerated people of the Qur'an and Sunnah and on the other you have those who propogate, a free-mixing, club-attanding, hijab hating narrative and who spend their waking hours attacking Muslims. Usama Hasan could have a 1000 PHD's but when he tells me that Allah (swt) is not the soverign of the Universe, that non-observance of Hijab is OK and that Darwanism the root of many contemporary wars, conflicts and evils, is OK, then he can go suck a lemon. He is becoming the real laughing stock.

Anonymous said...

Salaam' I am a Muslim and I accept the evolution thoery as it is a scientific thoery has has supportive empirical evidence.

Secondly, no reputable scientist has ever claimed we have evolved from apes, this is a common misconstruction about the thoery of evolution. Not even Darwin claimed we evolved form apes. Us humans are apes (technically) we have a common ancestor.

Adam Deen said...

Mushtaq,

Never mind that you just side stepped my question.

Of course I have selected those scientists whose views seem to coincide with mine - , that is the point of my argument - that there multiple facets to this debate. In case you missed it, my point was that this is not an undeniable, closed case, but rather remains much disputed amongst the vary biologist experts we‘d expect to know best. There are vast amount of questions that need answering, one of which is the lack of supportive fossil records. Again, in case you missed it, I was merely pointing to internal debate within the scientific community, rather than laying down an affirmative response. I, like Usama, am embarked on the case to reconcile religion and science, the difference is, my search is not agenda driven by the forgone conclusions handed to me by my benevolent masters.

“Should we accept the earth is a few thousand years old ? “ Strangely enough - NO, as the Quran does not suggest such an absurdity and wouldn’t since it is revelation from the All Knowing.

Just for the record, I am agnostic on what exactly the outcome of the evolution/Islamic science debate ought to be. In case you missed that too.

frank said...

It is pretty obvious that one can't find a truth in a lie. Or explain the unexplainable. Life is an enigma - big bang, evolution, Adam and all. There is simply no answer to an enigma - so give up now and move on to something else. For my own part I feel that the answers to all things lie in metaphysics, but then - who am I?

Frank

Anonymous said...

adam thank you
I have a detailed study of both this theory and the quranic verses on the topic. The scientific facts does not contradict the verses of the quran. The controversy is only present in the minds of the semi-scholars , the ignorant or the dogmatic and the sort of Usama hasan and the apes-ancestors proud.
After ramadan i may have enough time to elaborate on the clear evidence that allah is the creator who created all beings and who is creating . The code of life is one of his word be and it is. The atheist theory denies the creator. It is only promoted and imposed by the secularists as there is no need for a god anymore. Or at the best he has done his first job and retired after being tired as the bible writers claim SUBHAN ALLAH
Dr magdy
magdyelmahdy@hotmail.com

Anonymous said...

i do not wish to intrude on private grief, but why do muslim propagandists insist that the theory of evolution has man evolving from apes? it merely states that evolution is caused by a combination of random mutation and natural selection. for what it is worth, modern theory, based on evidence, is that man and apes had a common ancestor some 15 million years ago.

the mutations are simply small changes in the dna. in some cases the change is lethal, in others, beneficial. the latter genes will most likely be inherited, the former, not. if the "hox" genes are involved, significant changes of form can occur.

now the only difference between the "creationist" and the "scientist" in the cause of the mutations. are they random, tweaked by god as his chosen tool of creation, or might there be a "third way"? all are possible and indeed all might be involved. science will continue to make progress because it is capable of saying "by jingo, we got that wrong" whereas fundis - of any religion - shackled to the literal truth of ancient texts cannot.

amongst christians the catholics and anglicans and most other protestants have no problem with evolution, having decided that the relevant texts needed to be considered to be metaphors, or even poetic, as the ancient mind would not have been able to understand a scientific explanation. that is sensible. much of the original research into man's evolution was actually performed by a jesuit priest. the same enlightenment is exhibited by most jewish sects, and just about everybody else aside from self-appointed salafis.

however 500 years ago such science would have been consisered to be heresy in the west.. just like with islam today.

you may be interested to note that christian fundis use "monkeys" in their diatribes whereas muslims use "apes". thereby hangs a tale. tom

Anonymous said...

Can you please cite on peer-reviewed journal to prove anything you have written?

And you should have googled a little harder. Popper does not support creationist abuse of his views.

loveProphet said...

To ask for a peer-review paper as if writing in it is the only way a valid idea is expressed is absurd.
What people forget is that whenever those who doubt (macro)evolution(whether it's Michael Behe on protein evolution or whatever) write a peer reviewed article in a journal, they either get attacked by ad hominem or their articles removed and effectively there is academic censure.
Unfortunately the blinded atheists and evolutionists won't accept this and will accept any lame argument to support their dishonest claim that there is no stopping scientists from questioning evolution or writing against it in a peer reviewed journal. There is too much antagonism towards those who doubt macroevolution.
Nevertheless one peer reviewed article is by Lönnig, W.-E. Dynamic genomes, morphological stasis and the origin of irreducible complexity, Dynamical Genetics, Pp. 101-119.
Another false lie and propaganda by the evolutionists is that only Christians or "creationists" doubt evolution(macrevolution). This is blatantly false as even secularists and agnostics have doubted it, as is the case of Michael Denton and Steve Fuller.

All i have to do to disprove the claim of the evolutionists that there is a consensus on macroevolution is bring just one person. Dr Jonathan Wells(a PhD molecular biologist).

Now there is no point in attacking me on macroevolution as i generally don't have a problem with it. I'm just being frank on the issue and being as objective as possible.
Also Usama Hasan's degree in a non-biology subject is useless because its not related to evolutionary theory. I can easily bring a PhD physicist who doubts macro evolution, so what?
As for Popper, no one said he supported creationists. But he certainly believed much of evolutionary biology as unfalsifiable and thus unscientific.
Please look into philosophy of science more instead of making such stupid accusations.

To just show my point that humans have been specially created, i just bring one quote:
, “We, like many others, interpret the anatomical evidence to show that early H[omo] sapiens was significantly and dramatically different from earlier and penecontemporary australopithecines in virtually every element of its skeleton and every remnant of its behavior."
J. Hawks, K. Hunley, L. Sang-Hee, and M. Wolpoff, “Population Bottlenecks and Pleistocene Evolution,” Journal of Molecular Biology and Evolution, Vol. 17(1): 2-22 (2000).

Adam Deen said...

Love prophet

Mashallah , excellent response.
My sentiments exactly.

Please email me your email address.

Thanks for your comment.

Anonymous said...

loveprophet - do you deny that dna is the molecule which defines us creatures?

as different species have (slightly) different dna, if you believe in god than dna is obviously his chosen creation tool. right?

natural selection is obvious and needs no defending.

thus the only remaining issue is whether or not dna changes are random mutations, done by god or some other mechanism - or some combination of these.

as you have no evidence for your view, we must look to more rational solutions. tom

loveProphet said...

Anonymous,

Please learn basic Islamic theology and then come back here as you've made an utter fool of yourself.
The proofs for Islam are logically sound and impossible to by incorrect. Thus it is proven that Allah can create whatever He wishes and what He says has happened.
For example the linguistic miracle of the Qur'an and the mutawatir Ahadith for the miracles of the Prophet(Sallalahu Alaihi Wa Sallam).

Now the problem is not with random mutation but whether it is actually random in the broader sense since Allah Most High knows all things.
To say it is totally random has no proof whilst to say that Allah creates all things has solid proof.
However this is not the place to discuss the matter.

Cheers.

Anonymous said...

Obviously there are two different types of proof involved here, testable common sense (often called "science") and "islamic proof" which convinces nobody else.

we know that random mutations do occur. we know that some chemicals induce particular types of mutation (eg thalidomide) and natural selection can be seen working every day. as for "all causes" of dna changes i do not profess to know. what i would say is that nobody has yet proved any other cause.

when you make such outrageous statements as, "....The proofs for Islam are logically sound and impossible to by incorrect. Thus it is proven that Allah can create whatever He wishes and what He says has happened.....

To say it is totally random has no proof whilst to say that Allah creates all things has solid proof."

impossible to be incorrect? thus it is proven? ..has solid proof?

nonsense, they are belief statements. there are no proofs that would convince anyone else.

as for the "miracle of the language" well, in that case shakespeare by the same token must have been god.

there are good questions to be asked about non-random mutation. unfortunately your prejudice has stopped you asking them. tom

Anonymous said...

fine, but i am not suggesting that shakespeare actually is god but one could also cite milton as a "new genre". or chaucer, who pioneered writing in modern english and might be credited with creating a new language (well, sort of). or Corinthians 13?

best, what about the "sermon on the mount"? this may even be written by god!

the above all translate rather well, the sermon from aramaic (its assumed delivery language) via greek and latin to english. that's a miracle!

the quran is not much at all in english, but you say that it is in arabic. i can only conclude that god meant the quran for arabs.

what other logical conclusion can one draw?

i looked at the suggested site, and to be candid, i am not impressed by that either. arabic is a rather vague language based on roots so that multiple "meanings" are embedded in every word. it is this "vagueness" which leads to multiple different translations of the quran.

the claims for the uniqueness of the quran are more in the nature of a hagiography than criticism (in the literary sense).

lets take one word in the "shortest chapter"..


وَانْحَرْ

"[Wanhar] The word ‘wanhar’ is from the root na, ha and ra (=nahara) which means to sacrifice an animal by cutting or piercing the jugular vein. The word ‘wanhar’ also has the meaning of standing facing Qibla for Salah (prayer). It also means raising hands while reciting Takbir (God is the Greatest).


This word is the most apt word for the meaning of sacrifice as it has multi layered meanings which are most appropriate for the ideas and concepts that are trying to be delivered in this structure. Surely it is only out of God’s Greatness that al-Kawthar is given to the Prophet and it should be received with thanks and sacrifice, which are manifested in Islam via sacrificing animals, prayer and recitation of Gods names (dhikr).

If anyone was to scan the Arabic language for a word that has such expression they would not be able to find one."

you can take any arabic word and perform a similar style of analysis - its inherent in the root structure of the language itself.

as there is no arabic corpus of written literature before the time of mohammded, and as the quran is the central book of the arab culture, naturally it defines the language. therefore it must be "perfect arabic". in truth there were and are many arabic dialects and originally there were (from memory) 5 qurans in 5 dialects, and it was uthman who reduced them to one and had created the "definitive version".

if you think the quran unique in this kind of respect, look at some of the kabala-type analysis of the torah. it has a similar style of argument, because hebrew and arabic are semitic and linguistic cousins based on roots.

this kind of analysis it utterly unconvincing to me. if it is convincing to arab speakers, so be it. its further evidence that the quran was not intended for us decadent indo-european speaking westerners! tom

Osman said...

May Allah reward you with abundance. You have written an excellent article in rebuking Usama's child like idea of this new found 'islamic evolution' of agreeing with Mr Dawkins. From your tone to your use of basic islamic eveidences.
Keep up the Good work
Osman

Anonymous said...

http://seemyparadigm.webs.com/evolution.htm

A good read concerning evolution from a revert to Islam.

Dean Morrison said...

It's not possible to reconcile science with magic. If you prefer to abandon science for a creationist worldview in which man is created from magic clay, then that's up to you, but don't expect to make any scientific progress on that basis.
I realise you are speaking to an audience of religious believers Adam, but if you are going to abandon reason you won't impress anyone else.
Incidentally you misunderstand Stephen Jay Gould and his ideas of punctuated equilibrium. He is still misrepresented by Christian fundamentalists, I'm astonished that you feel the need to borrow ideas from them. Whatever the details Gould was an advocate of evolution and certainly didn't think man was made of magic clay...

Dean Morrison said...

@ loveprophet

Steve Fuller is actually a fundamentalist Christian. He just chooses to hide the fact to provide cover for his creationist views.

Anonymous said...

"However, the contention is that of macro evolution, that species evolved from altogether different species, and that man evolved from Apes."

Yep, you're definitely a creationist (and not a very sophisticated one at that). Must try harder.

Ta.
Mr Cloth

Adam Deen said...

@ Mr Cloth

I would suggest you read the article carefully. The article does not espouse a particular position. It criticizes a position that is adopted without to seriously address the implications of an absolute unguided theory. I even state my position that I'm agnostic on the matter in the comment section.

raies said...

The quran seems to be supporting a gradual process of creation,however it makes it clear that Adam A.S was created directly from the clay and did not evolve from apes.