Do You Believe in Evolution? Yes & No!

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evolutionThere is nothing that anyone can say that will get under the skin of the science-worshipping militant new atheist movement and have them all riled up, like questioning the validity of evolutionary theory. So much anger and aggression by some, and dismissal and mockery by others. Yet they present themselves as the so-called “rational” ones. This type of reaction does nothing but raise more suspicion about the validity of this theory. May be more of these guys need to read some Alain de Botton for some spiritual inspiration so they can relax, and by spiritual I mean seizure activity in the temporal lobes within the hippocampal formation and increased neuronal activity resulting form dopamine and serotonin and possibly oxytocin released in different circuits. Until they experience that from Alain de Botton or whoever else that caters to religion-like systems for atheists, they might want to temporarily put the advice of Bishop Desmond Tutu’s father to him into action: “Don’t raise your voice. Improve your argument.”

Why does evolutionary theory draw up so much emotion from science-worshipping militant new atheists? Is it really about “science” as they say? Are they upset because “religion is backwards and what the Scriptures say is nothing but false descriptions of the World that were only so due to the technological limitations of the people who wrote them”? Is it true that “denial of evolution will result in halting our scientific progress”?

This subject is quite complex and would require a very lengthy exposition, which is not really the purpose here. The reason for writing this piece is the recent event held on January 5, 2013 by The Deen Institute titled “Have Muslims Misunderstood Evolution?”. Surprisingly, although this event was advertised as a “conference”, it actually turned out to be a debate between Muslim scholars on the subject of evolution and whether we should accept its validity. I spoke with a friend who attended it and I saw online the part where Shaykh Yasir Qadhi stood his ground and defended the Islamic position when it comes to the creation of Adam peace be upon him, who we believe was a unique creation and not a descendant from a common ancestral ape as other primates.

Unfortunately, in this part of the debate, Shaykh Yasir after giving such an elegant performance refuting the arguments of Dr. Usama Hasan (based on what Shaykh Yasir said about what Dr. Usama claimed and how he backed it up), he ended his time by giving a blanket approval for anything else that evolutionists will claim about the world. This was an unwise move and its negative consequence was exemplified in the mass confusion many Muslims were left in at the end. In fact, some Muslims were apparently a little embarrassed to admit they still didn’t fully accept the pro-evolution panel’s positions and they just had “faith” that the Quran is True. It’s not a surprise they were embarrassed. How can they not when they’re presented with data, figures, graphs, observational accounts, all of which seemed to fit in perfectly with the evolutionary account that’s used to describe how we humans came about. On the opposite end they had the Muslim scholar saying we shouldn’t have a problem with that account except when it comes to Adam peace be upon him and we just have to believe because the Quran said so. To us, the creation of Adam peace be upon him was a miraculous event.

There is a small problem though. How would such an assertion about the miraculous creation of Adam peace be upon him be perceived by the listeners if the pro-evolution side presented no more than a couple of evolutionary theory-based predictions that were experimentally verified and fit in exactly with the narrative proposed by evolutionists? Because that can be done quite easily, and without fail it will put you in a very uncomfortable position as a Muslim and might shake your faith. In fact, many Muslims have left Islam precisely for this reason. At some point, telling people they just “have to have faith” doesn’t sell anymore. So either an intellectual defence needs to be presented, or just surrender and given in.

Evolutionary theory is not just about science. If it was, it wouldn’t have such implications on belief and religion in general, let alone specific religions such as Islam or Christianity. What’s troubling about the way it’s handled by the various religious groups is the point at which they enter the discussion. Everyone seems to want to talk about the evidence for or against it. No one is interested in the foundation that it’s built upon, and the subsequent logic and coherence of the theory itself. For God’s sake, what makes science “science” is not even addressed. What is evidence? The weakness in how Muslims engage with this subject is in the fact that they enter it based on the terms of evolutionists. Without realizing it, they accept the foundations the theory is built on, and then proceed to point out whatever holes the theory has and what it doesn’t explain. Well, if history is any guide, those holes will be filled at some point as the theory goes through the normal scientific course of being re-worked, and some clever scientists will come eventually to explain those things that haven’t been explained. Then what? Will you finally disregard the Quran at that point?

Science, as a field, is being paraded around as the fact-finding activity that only deals with “objective reality”. As if people, who are subjective by nature, aren’t involved. While this is not an article about the philosophy of science and the various discussions about the scientific method, a little point needs to be made about evidence, because too many people, including the majority of these science-worshipping militant new atheists don’t differentiate between the various types of evidence in science. Two important categories of evidence are “material evidence” and “inferred evidence”.

Material evidence is the hard data. It’s the observed phenomena. It’s the findings anyone would get if they followed the same exact procedure followed by another individual. When I train volunteers and undergraduate students doing research projects in the lab, I go through what to do and what not to do, and literally within a week they’ll generate exactly the same findings that I had. They don’t actually need to know what it all means and even what they’re doing does exactly to generate that same set of data; they just go through the motions. Material evidence presents no problems for Islam.

Inferred evidence is the explanation imposed upon the data. Several criteria of logic, simplicity, coherence and adequacy are kept in mind to come up with the best and most plausible explanation. This explanation is then used to generate hypotheses that will test its validity as an explanation. As more support for the inferred evidence is gathered through different experiments in different settings, it will become more established and accepted by the scientific community. Some findings might jeopardize the validity of the inferred evidence, but that’s where flexibility comes in because the inferred evidence, i.e., the explanation can be reformulated to minimize the amount of data that doesn’t completely fit in. Notice the use of the word “minimize”, which implies the stagnation of a set of data that still doesn’t support the explanation. Scientists call these “outliers” or “random values”, which is really code for “we don’t know what’s going on here”. Inferred evidence is where things begin to get vague, because past experience and world views can play a big role in shaping it.

This leads us to something we haven’t dealt with: the foundations of evolutionary theory. There is one important foundation that stems from an age-old debate on epistemology, i.e., how do we get knowledge. This debate is between rationalism and empiricism. Wars were started, gladiators fought to the death, and little puppies and kittens cried many tears. What the Western intellectual crowd determined for itself was that all that exists is what we can touch, smell, feel, taste, hear, and see. In other words, if I can’t measure it in some sort of way, it doesn’t exist. There’s no such thing as pure reason. To be rational means to make empirically-verifiable statements. This position was really firmly established by Francis Bacon who’s earned the title of “Father of Empiricism”. René Descartes was on the other extreme where he supported such an extreme “rationalist” view that he actually started to reject the existence of things. You might know him from his famous statement “I think therefore I am”.

The Muslim approach was never an either/or in this extremist sense. The problem with such radical assertions made by both camps is their initial unjustifiable assumption that knowledge can only be gained through a single methodology. In other words, if we can imagine a world where only two types of stimuli exist (light and sound) for two perceptive senses (eyes and ears), one side of that debate wants to perceive light and sound using the eyes, while the other wants to perceive light and sound using the ears. The Muslim would just look at both sides and shake their head in wonderment at why neither side wants to employ each one of their senses to perceive the appropriate stimuli for it.

Now, if you begin with an assumption that there is nothing beyond this physical realm, and would like to give a context to the combination of your material and inferred evidence, you cannot escape having to accept evolutionary theory as an account for where things came from. In the very first chapter of “The Blind Watchmaker” titled Explaining the very improbable”, Richard Dawkins spills the beans about what evolutionary theory is meant for:

An atheist before Darwin could have said, following Hume: ‘I have no explanation for complex biological design. All I know is that God isn’t a good explanation, so we must wait and hope that somebody comes up with a better one.’ I can’t help feeling that such a position, though logically sound, would have left one feeling pretty unsatisfied, and that although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.

So what are we dealing with here? Definitely not science in the strict sense of the definition. After studying more science textbooks than I can remember to count, and continuing to use numerous ones today, the major function of evolutionary theory in its current formulation in Western academia is to provide a pacifier for the reader who might have any inclinations to feeling any reverence towards anything metaphysical. The goal is to keep things terrestrial. If one were to take all the assertions such as “this evolved from that to solve the problem of moving from water to land”, and restrict the material to just describing structure and function and pointing out the similarities without inducing relatedness, and classify based on similarity rather than “relatedness”, it wouldn’t all of a sudden be any less scientific.

To push this point about the ideological commitment to atheism this theory supports, any criticism of it that has nothing to do with religion must also be qualified:

(Rough Authoritative Voice) Raise your hands and drop your weapon. Turn around slowly and don’t make any sudden moves. Who are you and why are you here?

(Soft Gentle Voice) I’m an atheist just like you, but I’d like to point out some logical holes in evolutionary theory as it’s currently formulated if that’s alright.

(Rough Authoritative Voice) Show me your atheist card. Alright, you can show me those logical holes, but write your critique in difficult philosophical language using terms that would require having a dictionary for philosophy terms and also write it in not so exciting style, use big words and complex sentence structures, and sell it at a high price.

(Soft Gentle Voice) But why all that?

(Rough Authoritative Voice) Oh no reason. Just making sure it’s as inaccessible as possible and that even I don’t understand it so I can dismiss it as philosophical mumbo jumbo and continue bullying everyone into fallaciously accepting evolutionary theory in its current formulation as factual as gravity.

Although this fictional conversation might seem ridiculous, it’s the sad state of literature today. The overwhelming majority of evolutionary theory critiques that deal with the logic of it, the premises its built on, the incoherences within it before addressing the evidences for or against it are relegated to philosophy journals. What makes it more ridiculous is how anyone writing about it must declare their atheism to be taken seriously. The very first statements of Jerry Fodor & Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini in their book “What Darwin Got Wrong” were:

This is not a book about God; nor about intelligent design; nor about creationism. Neither of us is into any of those. We thought we’d best make that clear from the outset, because our main contention in what follows will be that there is something wrong – quite possibly fatally wrong – with the theory of natural selection; and we are aware that even among those who are not quite sure what it is, allegiance to Darwinism has become a litmus for deciding who does, and who does not, hold a ‘properly scientific’ world view. ‘You must choose between faith in God and faith in Darwin; and if you want to be a secular humanist, you’d better choose the latter’. So we’re told.

We doubt that those options are exhaustive. But we do want, ever so much, to be secular humanists. In fact, we both claim to be outright, card-carrying, signed-up, dyed-in-the-wool, no-holds-barred atheists. We therefore seek thoroughly naturalistic explanations of the facts of evolution, although we expect that they will turn out to be quite complex, as scientific explanations often are.

Hold the door. I’m sorry guys, I had no idea you both are such staunch atheists. I now must recognize you as worthy intellectuals and will take you seriously!

As mentioned way above, this is not a simple topic. I didn’t even get into the problem with using the broad term “evolution” as describing one thing, when in fact, it’s actually an umbrella term that groups multiple facets of biology and behaviour under it. Hence, it’s actually fallacious to group them all together in this manner. The intricate interplay between material evidence, inferred evidence, and contextual narrative built upon this combination, has given rise to what is possibly the most interconnected web of research mankind has every come up with. Today, whole fields of study depend upon evolutionary theory as the bedrock for them to establish their departure points. Pick up a first year undergraduate text book on anthropology and right at the beginning they’ll confess that the whole discipline is built on that assumption. This theory has received so much attention and has been reworked so extensively that it achieved a scale analogous to the Titanic. Interestingly, the Titanic was so magnificent that apparently “Not even God himself could sink this ship.” Well, we all know how that ended .

In spite of all the problems seeping from evolutionary theory, it’s still promoted as an “elegant” and “accurate” account for where we came from and for all this complexity and diversity of life. It seems that its convincing powers have to do more with how it’s presented rather than the actual merit of it. Of course we can’t discount the material evidence that’s interpreted to be in support for it. But that takes us on a whole topic of theory-laden data (see Thomas Kuhn) and how in reality “it’s the theory that determines what we observe” as Einstein put it.

For Muslims, with such a vast tradition, and countless works from our scholars, so many of us having doubts and being confused is only a symptom of not having really learned what’s really important. Our tradition was never a “just have faith regardless of evidence to the contrary” tradition. Imam Ibn Al Jauzi says in his work “Confusing Methods of Iblees (Satan)” (تلبيس إبليس):

The greatest bounty for the human being is the intellect, because it’s the means for knowledge of God the Praised and the way by which we believe in the Messengers. [Since] it couldn’t conclude [on its own] all that is required from the servant, the Messengers were sent and the Scriptures were revealed. So the analogy of religion is the sun, and the analogy of the intellect is the eye; if the eye is sound and it’s opened it will see the sun.

If Muslims spent half the time they spend studying whatever else they focus on for their Western-based education to study their own theology, the alternative contextual narratives based on commitment to atheism wouldn’t phase them. More importantly, our own scholars need to be careful when it comes to subjects such as this. As Imam Fakhr Ad’Deen Ar’Razi would put it: “If the premises are fallacious, there is no need to discuss any further details.” This intellectual bullying by the science-worshipping militant new atheist crowd shouldn’t be paid any attention to once their foundations are shook. But unfortunately, our modern days seem to combine the prominence of magic during the times of Moses peace be upon him and the prominence of materialistic naturalism during the times of Jesus Christ peace be upon him. We’re too taken in by how amazing everything is and our attention is more towards sensory stimulation than rational inquiry.

A final point, I barely scratched the surface of this topic. I could go on and on. I can argue FOR evolution if I want to, but I think! I realize that I skipped over a lot of different points and completely ignored others. I have written a couple of other articles on this subject that deal with the logic of it. But I generally don’t address it much because I haven’t exhausted what I feel is a sufficient amount of material on philosophy of science, history of science, evolution, logic, and other fields relating to these subjects. What has done more damage to Islam and resulted in giving more credence to this atheism-driven account for nature is the fact that those who address it, although well-intentioned, haven’t given it careful study. This has resulted in Muslims either developing crises of faith or even leaving Islam completely, which might’ve never happened if they were presented with a carefully laid out analysis that could put their minds at ease. Yet, had they had a solid grounding in Muslim theology, they may never have had those doubts no matter how poorly this subject was addressed by Muslims.

So, should we believe in evolution as Muslims? Yes & no! If the answer upsets those looking for straight yes or no answers, then we can be equally upset for being expected to answer such a complex multilayered question with a straight yes or no answer.

 

p.s. I realize that this is one of those topics that a lot of people on both sides will want to debate and argue about back and forth. Experience has taught me that whenever I engage with those who want to argue, it just never ends, and it goes on and on and on. I don’t write about these topics in order to start a comment thread war. I’m also not interested in argumentations and debates. I wrote this with a goal to return some sanity to the discourse and expose how it’s being unjustifiably simplified. Many Muslims are confused about this topic so I thought I would shed some light on the underpinnings of it all and why it can be confusing.

25 thoughts on “Do You Believe in Evolution? Yes & No!

  1. “I have received some queries regarding the fact whether *I* believe in animal evolution (viz, macro-evolution) or not. I want to be very explicit on this point: I do not claim to be a biologist, nor do I personally have any view that I champion. I leave this discussion for biologists to have. My point was that, as a theologian, I do not find an affirmation of animal macro-evolution and speciation to be problematic whatsoever. Personally, I do find the evidences very convincing, but because I am not a biologist I refuse to commit to a position on the issue and say that this is a personal preference (not even a committed opinion!).

    My main point was that Muslims cannot believe that humans are a part of this evolutionary tree. We are required to believe that Adam and Hawwa were created directly by Allah (the one by Allah’s shaping of clay and the other through extraction from Adam). As for the rest of the creation – let people believe what they want, our religion does not have a position on it, and hence we should not be religiously concerned with it. And Allah knows best.” Shaykh Yasir Qadhi

    • This is a problematic response especially coming from Shaykh Yasir. For one, he’s a little inconsistent when he says that he leaves this matter to biologists and therefore won’t give a committed opinion, but then says he finds “the evidences very convincing”. Secondly, the very thing he’s holding no position on, i.e., macroevolution, can give a very accurate prediction about how humans came about using a naturalistic account. A paper was published about 10 years ago on this very question using a genetic comparison. So either something is wrong with the theory’s logical premises, and so we cannot accept it on that ground, or we believe in a deceiving God that tells us to believe that Adam and Eve were a unique creation, but will make it seem like they evolved and then let us be confused about what to believe. Thirdly, and this is the most important point, given the very brief exposition of what’s involved in giving a scientific account of the world, and how the world view one has at the start can affect how they see the observations, and the premises of evolutionary theory that cannot be accepted from a theological point of view, Shaykh Yasir cannot say Islam doesn’t have a position on it. I doubt that he actually would accept this theory if he realized that one of its essential premises is that causes exert their effects from within themselves. In other words, don’t bring God into any discussion because Mother Nature is the new God in town, and Natural Selection is how it likes to do things. Shaykh Yasir will be among the first to declare this a type of shirk!

      With all due respect to him, I think he would wise to plead the fifth on this matter because his answers are being reflected on Islam rather than on himself, and I’ve already talked to people who related to me the confusion he’s causing by the inconsistencies in his responses.

  2. Asalamualaikum,
    I have been following your blog for a few weeks now and would just like to make a brief comment. I am a Biology student and am extremely interested in engaging in research. Due to the many pieces of evidences I have been presented with, I feel as though I have no choice but to accept evolution. How can one deny that allele frequencies in populations change over time due to environmental factors? And likewise, after doing much reading, I learned the Qur’an and the Sunnah have nothing to say about the age of the Earth, the different animals that have populated it, etc. so I am allowed to take the stance of modern science about those and accept that the Earth is 13.7 billion years old, the idea of dinosaurs, evolution, etc. except when it comes to one thing. The creation of man. That is ultimately where I draw the line.

    Here is my perspective.on Yasir Qadhi’s statement No one denies that male and female gametes are required to produce a human offspring. Yet Esa (as) was created without a man involved. This does not mean we as muslims must deny the idea of sexual reproduction in humans. Allah (swt) made a unique exception to this natural rule in the creation of Esa (as). Likewise, just because Man was created does not mean we have to deny the theory of evolution. Allah (swt) has made a unique exception.

    Now on the tenents of evolution.. Even as I learned about it in my science classes, I always felt that yes parts of it are absolutely correct, however other parts of it feel like assumptions. Now for the athiest this may be the most plausible explanation in their mind, but it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily true. We have seen this occur in history prior. Once upon a time, scientists had no idea that the Earth was round because they had no way of perceiving this. This was a belief that was held for thousands of years. Until finally new techniques were developed to perceive and understand the shape of the planet.

    The point I am trying to make is that I believe in certain aspects of evolution such as change of allele frequencies over time due to environmental factors. However, I have a hard time believing world wide speciation simply due to this. There are organisms with such unique features, such as social behavior in insects, human consciousness, and lizards that squirt blood from their eyes as well as the extremely complicated processes of gene regulation and other microbiochemical processes that take place every second in our bodies, that I cannot simply pin it up to evolution. Therefore, I have always felt that it was a good explanation on the surface and can explain some things but not others (kind of like what you said with the yes and no approach to accepting evolutionary theory). These are my thoughts from a purely secular stance too. It just seems like we have such limited understand of the world, we tie things up and understand patterns from an extremely limited perspective. Centuries from now, scientists might laugh at us like they now do at those of the past who believed the Earth was flat.

    Also this reminds me. I once saw your status which spoke against those who claimed the Qur’an was a book of science. I just wanted a quick overview of your opinions about this and
    - The mention of embryology in the Qur’an
    - The idea that the Qur’an says the earth is flat.

    I have always been brought up taught that the Qur’an said the Earth is round and this was controversial in the middle ages, when popular belief was that it was flat. Yet everything I see online is mostly from anti-islamic websites which go on to say that it declares the Earth is flat. Would appreciate some perspective from you (as well as others) about this and everything else I have said.

    Keep up the good work brother.

    Walaikumasalam

    • Wa’alykoum As’salam Mahmud,

      You’re right to have a nuanced yes/no approach. But as you see, you had to break it down to different components to explain your position. It’s a bit complex and requires contemplation and having careful analysis. However, before this analysis it’s my view that we have to reject the current formulation of evolutionary theory. If you go far enough into research, and accept it in the way it’s presented now, which is based on an atheistic platform, you’ll have a very difficult time even asserting that Adam peace be upon him was some sort of exception to the rule. I’m not saying reject facts that can be readily measured. I’m also not saying a blanket rejection of everything. I’m also not calling for a theistic evolution model as it stands today. I’m focusing on the formulation and the platform this dogma sits on.

      The issue about the Quran and science is bothersome to me. I’d actually like to copy a reply I just gave to another brother asking about it:

      I think this hyped up business about Quran and Science is the Muslim response to the feeling of inferiority to the West. It’s an attempt to psychologically gain an edge in spite of the apparent material reality. The problem is that science all of a sudden became a method to assert the Truth of the Quran. This of course ignores what’s science and what’s not and what the Arabic actually says, and the difference in how the Quran expresses itself and how science expresses itself. It’s gotten absolutely ridiculous. Although the Quran does make some amazing insinuations about nature, the nature of the language in those circumstances isn’t to the standard of how a scientist would want to describe that phenomena. This leaves such an open door for anti-Muslims to come in and take those verses that were forced to mean one thing by those Muslims promoting Quran and Science pamphlets, and show mistakes. In doing so, they didn’t really show mistakes in the Quran. They showed mistakes in the way those verses were interpreted, which are really mistakes by those well-meaning Muslims in how they understood the verses. I think this whole Quran and Science business has good amuck and needs some serious back scaling. It’s making the Quran a subject for mockery among the science-worshipping militant new atheist crowd, and it’s our own fault.

      As you can guess by now, I’m big on defining things. The term science involves too many factors, some of which are objective and others are subjectives, for one to just bundle them together as some form of Truth. This is not to go to the opposite extreme of completely denying that Allah does mention certain things in the Quran that were only arrived to be known for certainty using our technological (not scientific) advancements.

      I wrote a short piece about this that you might’ve read (Islam & Science: http://mohamedghilan.com/2012/05/06/islam-science/).

      Jazak Allah khair for your input.

  3. salaam. thank you for this article and thank you for articulating so eloquently what I felt about this evolution conference. I think the Deen Institute did mean well by staging such a conference and I find their output (what I have read of it so far) intellectually stimulating. However I wish that is exactly what they had done before this conference. For example, if they had produced a set of lectures or videos discussing critically the philosophical assumptions that underline NeoDarwinism and the mendacious way certain evolutionary biologists use the word evolution, a word that has many different meanings within evolutionary circles. The Deen Institute would have helped a lot more muslims by exposing the thinking behind current evolution theory practitioners. And maybe then as an added extra discussed the evidence both for and against common descent which is the main issue i believe that affects young muslims. i find the whole thing becomes less faith shaking once you see just how much of this evidence is subject to interpretation and cherry picking and yes ‘creationists’ can also be guilty of this but they are not the scientific consesus at the moment and they are ruthlessly questioned whereas it feels like a crime to even think evo theory may have flaws. anyway a clear rational discussion weighing up both sides and discussing what the actual evidence is and what it means before any such conference would have resulted in less confusion in my opinion.

  4. Sh Yasir’s response is not problematic at all.

    1. As a theologian he argues the case that Islam rejects only macroevolution of humans. Theologically, macroevolution of animals is possible. As for what he thinks of the biological evidences, he is quick to point out he is not an expert and he is still undecided, but presently he finds the evidences for animal macroevolution convincing though not enough for him to commit to this position.

    2. The deceptive argument is old rubbish. I posted this on another blog: “the ‘Deceptive God’ argument is a theological argument not a scientific one, and it is embarassingly weak as well. Christians use the same argument when they say why would God deceive people into thinking the evidence showed Christ died? You could say why would God deceive people into thinking Newtonian physics was right? Or deceive people into thinking the earth is flat? God does not deceive people; people are obliged to think, ponder, and arrive at the best conclusions. The deceptive argument is not a logical argument, but the excuse of a lazy mind that is uncomfortable with the nuanced complexity of reality. There are many serious questions to be raised about fundamental aspects of human nature that defy the best attempts at naturalistic explanation and animal comparisons. Read up on the evolutionary explanations for consciuosness, morality, metacognition, language, music, mathematics and you will see for yourself. Explaining these aspects is not as simple as explaining an arm or leg.”

    3. The idea that there can be no true natural causation but only Divine causation is the position of the Ash’ari school of thought and reeks of Hellenistic influence. I can’t imagine Yasir Qadhi would be too impressed by that argument, given that his PhD was on Ibn Taymiyyah’s decisive refutation of Ash’ari thought.

    Harun al-Qayrawani

    • 1. As a theologian he should address not only the apparent possible and not possible from a logical standpoint, and solely determine what to accept or reject based on the Quran and Hadith. He also needs to complement them with a refutation of a theory that is based on the assertion that there is no God or metaphysical realm of any sort. This is not an issue of possible compatibility between the two and we just have to make an exception. It’s literally an all or none, and I think I gave enough in the article, especially with Dawkins’s quote, to show that it’s the atheist response to religion and God. This is why his response in this respect was problematic.

      2. Not so quick with this dismissal of deception. There is a study published in Nature in 2004 that compared the human genome to the chimp genome. The evolutionary theory driven hypothesis stated that if chimps have 24 pairs of chromosomes and humans have 23, either we don’t have a common ancestor, or a fusion event took place between two pairs of chromosomes in the ancestral species and from there we get the split. We have a complete genome sequence for both humans and chimps. We have evolutionary theory-driven prediction that is falsifiable. There are markers at the ends called telomeres, and middle sections of the chromosomes that we can look for, and all we need to find is a set of chromosomes that has markers that are supposed to be at the end, somewhere within the chromosome to indicate a past fusion event. And now all we have to do is scan the genomes and we’ll get our answer. What was found is that chromosome 2 from humans has a region of sub-telomere duplications present within the chromosome that are not found in any of the other chromosomes. Without getting into the details of data interpretations, I can provide you the exact location within the chromosome this duplication is present. It’s a hypothesis that was generated using evolutionary theory asking whether we humans do or don’t fit in within the evolutionary tree and have a common ancestor with chimps. If you accept the original premises of evolutionary theory as Shaykh Yasir basically does, and then claim humans are exception and we just have to have faith, you’ve just fell into a trap that you will not get out of. Either you deny the data, or God set us up to make these observations and made it all look like it fits in perfectly with evolutionary theory, and then told us to reject it and “have faith”. You can’t have your cake and eat it too! This study is just one example that you’ll find yourself in a corner saying “but the Quran said…” and rejecting clear observable data or as evolutionists call it: reality and fact. This is the whole point of stepping outside the whole system and questioning the premises. If the premises are false, this whole study would in turn collapse because how the hypothesis was generated and how the data was interpreted were based on this theory that Shaykh Yasir gave blanket approval for when it comes to the animal world. It won’t change the data, but it will change how they’re viewed. In fact, this study is possibly the best example of Einstein’s quote “it’s the theory that determines what we observe”.

      3. Calling Imam Ibn Taymiyyah’s refutation “decisive” is a bit too strong. Actually, Imam Ibn Taymiyyah ended up accepting some solutions belonging to different schools to philosophical problems in certain cases, including from the mu’tazilites, and in others wrote what he called a refutation, which didn’t just go unchallenged as you seem to insinuate. He also accepted certain Ash’ari formulations. These are scholars that can’t be categorized and labelled in the way many of the unlearned do to them. By the way, using names to discredit propositions as a form of an ad hominum attack or to reject where they came from as a form of a genetic fallacy is not an argument. Also, saying Shaykh Yasir wrote his PhD on this is just an appeal to authority just as bringing up Imam Ibn Taymiyyah’s name into it, which is also a form of fallacious reasoning. In addition, being impressed or not is not a proof for the validity of something.

      • 1. Fallacy of appeal to authority. Just because Dawkins said so, doesn’t make it so. Numerous biologists would disagree with the use of evolution to promote an atheist agenda. At the end of the day, a presumption of solely naturalistic causation is not exclusive to evolutionary science, so any branch of science can be used to argue an atheist agenda, and in fact has, in the example of the notorious God of the gaps fallacy. There certainly is room to critique many foundational concepts of evolutionary science from a philosophical perspective, but it doesn’t chance the fact that YQ’s description of what is theologically acceptable is spot-on.

        2. Straw man fallacy. You just side stepped the entire critique of the deception argument and simply repeated the same fallacious argument with another example. The argument always follows the same structure: 1 evidence is found that convncingly fits a theory 2 if this theory is not true then God deceived is by placing evidence that would lead us to believe its truth 3 therefore the theory must be true. We get the same fallacious argument from Christians about the resurrection. In fact, guess who invented this argument? Iblis, who said {My Lord, it is because you have mislead me} 15:39 when he could not fathom why God would lead him to believe in his superiority by creating him from fire and Adam from clay. so you’re really playing the devil’s advocate here ;) . But seriously, this argument could just as easily have been used to argue the absolute truth of Newtonian physics because it fit the data perfectly. Don’t give in to a lazy mind that craves for all the evidence to simply point in one direction. Also, how do you think that denying the entirety of evolution makes it easier for you to theologically answer this piece of observational data on chromosome merge?

        3. Red herrings, and lots of them. You claimed Yasir Qadhi would be the first to reject this theory if he realized that it entails causes exert their effects within themselves. You evidently either did not realize that was the Ash’ari view (Inkar al-Asbab wat-Taba’i) or you mistakenly thought that Yasir Qadhi was Ash’ari. Otherwise why would Yasir Qadhi care that the theory contradicted Ash’ari aqeedah? Instead of manning up and admitting you made a simple mistake, you suddenly changed the discussion to arguing whether or not the Ash’ari position was historically refuted, and what it means for Yasir Qadhi to not be impressed. LOL. Bro, you should be less defensive, you will learn more that way. I’d be more than happy to discuss the validity or invalidity of Inkar al-Asbab with you, after we have moved on from this point.

        Btw, you should correct the mistake in your article where you attribute Talbees Ibliees to Ibn al-Qayyim. It is the work of Ibn al-Jawzi. Ighathat al-lahfan is Ibn al-Qayyim’s work.

        Harun

      • 1. This is a misuse of the fallacy of appeal to authority. Pointing out that Dawkins, among other atheists, uses evolution to give credence to atheism is not necessarily acceptance of the validity of their use to do so. What the point of using them was to show that it’s not about science as much as it is about providing an alternative explanation to God. In the theistic version of evolution people end up more with a deistic God that a personal one. Moreover, when evolutionary theory, in its current formulation of course, is followed through and different fields are brought into account, one cannot but arrive at the conclusion that religion is a manmade system. Even if we were to accept that religion came through revelation, the acceptance of evolutionary theory in its current formulation will lead one to make sporadic irrational judgements to reject different conclusions simply because of “having faith” and the Quran “said so”, without any rhyme or reason. This spells the end of the intellect as we know it. This is not about putting the intellect over Revelation either. It’s about having consistency and when it comes to Islam, as far as I’ve researched and read, I’ve yet to read from a single scholar that one has to deny what they observe with their own eyes and no to conform to a customary sequence of events simply because the Quran said so.

        2. This single point shows not only you misunderstood what I said, and thus threw the accusation of straw man fallacy, you actually misunderstood the whole article and the title of it didn’t click with you. You actually aren’t even using this fallacy correctly when it comes to Iblees. So let’s correct a few things. I don’t deny evolutionary theory nor do I accept it. I reject the current formulation of it and reject the premises it stands on. I don’t reject material evidence and don’t even completely reject the inferred evidence. I reject the context given to all of it. I said this subject is quite complex and making a blanket acceptance or rejection of it is problematic. You might want to scroll back up and actually read what I wrote. When it comes to Iblees, he used something completely irrelevant to explain away his reason for not prostrating to Adam. A straw man fallacy relies on misrepresentation of an argument and then refuting that misrepresentation. What Iblees did is called an informal fallacy called irrelevant conclusion. You might want to go and review your logical fallacies before you start throwing them around like that. Otherwise, you might hurt yourself! What I did, which you didn’t address, was give a working example of how one would consider God deceptive when they give a blanket approval of evolutionary theory in its current formulation. Actually, you’re actually the one guilty of a straw man fallacy here. You misrepresented what I said by insinuating I reject the entirety of evolution, which can be shown not to be the case by reading only the title of this article, let alone the content of it and the other articles I’ve written about it, and then proceeded to build your case on it. Remarkably, in spite of having committed the straw man fallacy, you still didn’t refute what I said (exclaiming “rubbish!” is not a refutation), and in actually said nothing that has any merit.

        3. You’re actually one of the best red herrings user I’ve come across. I address one issue and you throw another. OK, let’s say it in terms you would understand. Evolutionary theorists speak of nature creating everything that you know. They formulated a theory with an agenda to reject any God doing anything to explain how nature creates everything there is. Call it Ash’ari, Maturidi, Athari, Wahhabi, Salafi, or whatever else. I doubt that two Muslims, no matter what background, would disagree on the disbelief on the one who claims this. Shaykh Yasir Qadhi or otherwise.

        With that, I’m done arguing with you. Go review some basic lessons in logic before you embarrass yourself. It’s not just about knowing the names of these different fallacies, you also have to use them correctly. But before any of that, read what’s written carefully first so you don’t start a whole song and dance based on your own concocted misunderstandings.

        Thanks for pointing out the mistake in author names.

        Was’alam
        Mohamed

      • Wow, well that degenerated quickly.

        1. We agree, just because Dawkins uses evolution to give credence to atheism does not mean it is valid to do so. Good. Let’s move on.

        2. I didn’t need to address your example because it follows the same structure as all arguments that point out convincing evidence and then suggest that we must accept what that evidence points to because otherwise it makes God deceptive. Iblis used the exact same argument (and yes! it is a type of non sequitur!). Christians use the exact same argument too. And let me restate my question in fairness to you, “can you explain how denying the foundational premises of evolution makes it easier for you to theologically address such observational data, i.e. the fusion of chromosomes?

        3.

        -> So you think that no two Muslims would disagree on the Ash’ari doctrine of Inkar al-Asbab wat-Taba’i? (in which case please tell me your understanding of Ibn Taymiyyah’s and Ibn al-Qayyim’s views on the doctrine)?

        -> Or do you think that what you are saying here is not Inkar al-Asbab wat-Taba’i (in which case please tell me your understanding of that doctrine and why it differs from what you are arguing here)? Honest question bruv. Help me to understand what you are saying.

  5. assalamu alaikum

    Excellent post. For many years I have lamented the woeful ignorance and the dearth of knowledge (or even a coherent position) on the subject of evolution as it pertains to Muslims. I’ve given talks to Muslims on campus and even non-Muslim high school students to try to demystify the matter by first defining the terms and bringing out the unstated assumptions upon which evolution is based. I then make an argument for which aspects of evolution can be accepted (both rationally and theologically), and which aspects cannot.

    As much as the atheists I’ve had “discussions” with hate it, the subject has everything to do with epistemology and the philosophy of science, as you’ve pointed out. I spend much of my time in such “discussions” trying to get them to see that, but they cannot (or refuse to) even acknowledge it.

    I think there are two important points that were raised above that I’d like to comment on:

    1) I’ve long held that, theologically, Islam does not inherently reject the possibility of common ancestry (which of course is the major claim of evolutionists), with the possible exception of Adam and Hawwa’–more on the latter in a moment. Common ancestry is a theory that certainly has some supporting evidence; you’d have to be in total denial to state otherwise. An honest, objective person might find many flaws and inconsistencies with this theory (myself included); but that’s not the point. As for the question of Adam and Hawwa’, we do have teachings (in the Quran and hadith) about their special creation. Such teachings do refer to the primordial state of humans, and while this certainly constitutes reality, this reality may not directly translate into this world of ours. In other words, it need not be the case that Adam and Hawwa’ were physically shaped and created as we’d imagine and then physically “transported” in that very same state onto Earth as the first humans. As an example of this, we also have teachings that would suggest that ALL humans were once in existence before our Creator and He called us to bear witness of His Lordship. Of course, we are born into this world and we don’t have explicit recollection of such an event, even if it were our primordial reality. I also believe there may be a few verses in the Quran that could be interpreted as being consistent with common ancestry. Of course, this is wildly speculative, and Allah knows best; it would certainly seem safer to suppose that Adam and Hawwa’ would indeed be exceptions if common ancestry were considered true. Nevertheless, I view this to be very liberating for us Muslims, as we have the freedom to accept or reject the theory of common ancestry on its own merits or lack thereof, rather than be accused by atheists of being bound by prior theological commitments irrespective of any facts.

    The point that I like to highlight to atheists, which I believe is the same point Sh Yasir Qadi was trying to make, is that evolution (in so far as it is a theory of common ancestry) is not the problem for Muslims. The problem is the CONCLUSION that one might incorrectly draw if common ancestry were the case (namely, that all living organisms came about without a Designer, and humans have no higher purpose). Because I believe the proposed mechanism of common descent is inadequate to explain such a phenomena naturalistically, one must rationally infer the agency of a supernatural guide (God) if one were to uphold the theory. As long as we are clear about this inference, there is no problem “accepting evolution”–except that most evolutionists would decry our position as non-naturalistic and thus not representing true evolution!

    I agree that a short explanation stating that evolution may be compatible with Islam can be dangerously confusing or misleading, but at least we’re beginning to raise awareness among Muslims about this issue and the need to understand its nuances.

    2) I find the question of “deception” on the part of God to be fascinating. While I’m not a theologian and thus cannot comment authoritatively, I would not be so quick to dismiss the notion that God might mislead some people with the superficial evidence for evolution. The verses on guidance and misguidance are many, and Muslim theologians have no doubt explored this subject in depth. I believe there is “evidence” available to support either side of the debate, and it comes down to a person’s heart as to what evidence they are able or choose to see!

    Allah knows best.

    • Wa’alykoum As’salam,

      Alhamdulillah some Muslims out there are discussing this issue at a higher level.

      1. You’re absolutely correct to say that Islam doesn’t reject the possibility of a common ancestry. Actually, by and large, when it comes to matters of science, not only do we seem neutral by not having much said about it in the details, we have narrations encouraging it. We’re OK wherever the evidence leads. In fact, there is some speculation, although it’s not widely spread in biology, that it wasn’t a single ancestor, but multiple ones creating a “lawn”, and from each one arose a different tree. Either way, we really have to address what the whole point of this endeavour is about. At any rate, it’s a bit perplexing how so many pro-evolutionists like to speak with such authority about it. What we know about the different forms of life and species out there is a ludicrously tiny portion in comparison to what’s out there waiting to be discovered.

      When it comes to the Islamic side, our teachings don’t suggest, but actually affirm in the Quran that we all existed before coming into this world. But that was when Allah took us in the form of souls and told us to testify. Adam and Even on the other hand, we’re told in explicit terms that they were created as physical bodies, without ancestors to come from. Only other verses from the Quran or an authentic Hadith can allow us to depart from the apparent explicit meaning and begin to speculate about alternate possibilities. Instead, we find more evidence supporting the apparent meaning.

      We really have to be careful with the Quran. Interpretation of it is not dependent upon science. Rather, it’s the Prophet peace be upon him, the statements of the companions, and the Arabic language and its various ancillary sciences that dictate what something can mean. If we’re talking about science, as in the activity that combines the physical phenomena combined with the explanations imposed upon them, one must be very careful when trying to make any claims about what the Quran might be saying. We have a problematic movement currently that is trying to subject the Quran to science, which is never been part of the tools used to interpret the Quran. If we so happen to see factual evidence, and a verse in the Quran seems ambiguous and could have a couple of different meanings that directly speak about that phenomena, may be then we could bring it what science has to say. But even that I’d do with great trepidation.

      2. One has to see how God is presenting Himself in the Quran by taking the entirety of it. God doesn’t mislead people by deceiving them. Whenever that’s mentioned, it’s always by the Freewill of the person who was presented with both options of guidance and misguidance, but choosing misguidance instead. Allah constantly sends Messengers and angels and presents many signs, but at the same time we have Iblees working tirelessly to misguide us. However, Allah does say that had He wanted He would’ve guided everyone, but He chose to let us be and He says when guidance was presented to people who preferred to be blind, He increased them in their blindness. Still yet, He says He will show His signs in the horizons and within themselves so they will know. As you can tell from this rudimentary bit, this is quite the topic.

      I think Muslims have a misunderstanding about what constitutes faith. Our faith is never predicated on deception or denying our intellects. Quite the contrary. The intellect is highly praised in Islam and it’s through it that we are legally responsible according to the Sharia. Ibn Rushd said “Allah will not create us with intellects and then reveal a Sharia that will contradict our intellects”. When we believe, we do it using our intellects.

      Indeed, Allah knows best!

  6. Assalamu alaikum
    I agree with what the previous person said, the way the evidence for evolution is available is quite fascinating ,One can almost say that God is trying to deceive us , But of course the reality is that we are just following conjectures and deceiving ourselves into believing that there is no God and concluding that we created ourselves without any divine intervention, i remember a verse from the Quran – “Were they created by nothing, or were they themselves the creators? Or did they create the Heavens and the earth? Nay, but they have no firm belief” chapter 52 – (verses 35-36). Aptly describes the state of the New age atheist.
    Also What do you make of the Mitochondrial Eve theory, doesnt it somehow prove that every human race on this planet has a common female ancestor ? Or am i completely off the mark ? (Sorry- i gave up biology long back to pursue engineering :P)

    Also Thank you for replying to my Question about Science and Quran, you obviously are in a better position to sift through and find statements that can be without doubt claimed to be proof for ” scientific foreknowledge in the Quran” .The article can be something which i can share with the people who go around shouting from rooftops about science in the Quran, it has indeed gone completely out of hand and someone needs to speak up and put a stop to it.

    P.S ( i like the terms you coined like science worshiping atheist and science-worshiping militant new atheist :P but please don’t over-use it , it gets old after a while ;)
    Thank you brother for your replies May God bless you

  7. Hi Mohamed Ghilan. I am currently an agnostic due to various reasons including Evolution which I have accepted, but there are other reasons why I do not believe anymore such as Muhammed marrying a 9 year old and videos on YouTube. I am 17 years of age and I came across this blog when I was 16, don’t know if you remember me. I am still confused on your position about Evolution, do you accept it? and if not why not?
    Thank You

    • Hi Abdul Halim,

      The point for why I wrote this article, in addition to others, is to show the complexity of this subject, and the the problem in simplifying it using a single umbrella term and then asking for a wholesale type of answer. If you want to know a simple straightforward answer to whether I accept evolution or not, read the title of the article. If you’re confused, read the content of it and the content of others. One of the diseases of this postmodern age is the lack of patience to go through a complex issue and the hastening to make a fallacious attempt at simplifying it just so you get a black or white yes or no answer. I would do that, but I can’t because I think!

      With regards to the YouTube videos you mentioned, I removed the names because I don’t want to advertise for them. But I did check it out. There is no methodology to their work. They just pick on side issues, taken out of context, using an ethnocentric perspective on things asserted as an absolute unit of measure, and then pompously judge Islam. You should be well aware that every single thing they try and attack Islam with is not some amazing new find of theirs that somehow the rest of humanity missed for over 1400 years. I’ve come across much more clever things that would push people to some very uncomfortable corners in their belief. What you have with these individuals is a chaotic approach that no serious person looking for Truth would give the time of day to. Sorry if this will come a bit harsh, but Abdul Halim, you’re being taken for a ride and you don’t even realize it. The Islamic Tradition and intellects that it produced and works available are beyond what you can imagine. I pray that God guides you to undertake serious study rather than getting your education from 5 minutes videos on YouTube posted by amateurs.

      • Mohamed Ghilan I am not ready to make a precise decision but I will do my research, It is not just YouTube videos that I am concerned about there are orentialist who don’t have any bias just to show how bad and evil Islam is such as Tom Holland a prominent historian. I don’t think this type of content is put there to decieve us, it is there to show us the truth. I will do a lot of research in the future and keep in mind I am only 17; I maybe “arrogant” and “naive” at an age like this but I do not dismiss proper research. My College Teacher is also a Muslim who has come to terms with Evolution and has accepted it due to the vast amount of research he has done as he has a PhD in Medicine, He has given me advice but not enough to suffice the other problems that I have with the religion, like the existence of God for example; there is not a single shred of evidence for this all knowing diety, Pray for me if it helps. I know I am a long way away from becoming a Muslim again and I am sorry if it hurts you to see that I have apostated. I see there are a herd of sheep who follow you just to keep their faith in God/Allah thriving no offence intended as I have just seen 3 dislikes. Can you at least debunk these issues that Muslims are concerned about because I do not have as much knowledge as you do about the Qur’an and the hadith; There are many things is the hadith that should not be taken seriously as they are far too illogical as well as this there is something about Muhammed travelling on a donkey to heaven, I mean this is all just ludicrous if you ask me, Please do answer me. It did hurt me to leave the religion, as you are a Neuroscientist you should know about how changes in thought patterns can cause depression, not sure if that is accurate :D

      • I think the issue is you’re mixing Islam with Muslims and conflating the question of the existence of God with the actions of God. Also, and this is rule of thumb that you should keep in the forefront of your mind, just because the orientalist writing about Islam is a non-Muslim, it doesn’t make them objective. Everyone has a bias that comes out in their writing. Moreover, if you’re going to base your decision about being a Muslim or not by restricting yourself to the works of one or two or even ten orientalist scholars, and neglect to go to Muslims who have studied the tradition properly, then you should quit now because the decision is obvious based on the methodology.

        I could debunk a lot of things. But these are all red herrings. There are bigger and more important questions that need to be dealt with. Once those are done, these issues you’re asking to debunk will disappear and won’t need to be debunked. Their presence in your mind is indicative of you not having dealt with bigger questions. Also, rather than going around asking people to debunk this or that, you need to sit down and reflect on what you come across for yourself. I might be wrong, but chances are that you take what seems to make sense from Muslims and ask atheists to debunk it. Then when you find out that Muslims have actually responded to that “debunk” attempt, you just take that response and go back to atheists again and ask them to debunk the new response. At the end, you’ll just keep going back and forth and not come to any conclusion because you haven’t sat down and thought about how you’re going about things here.

        By the way, your statement about lack of evidence for the existence of God has the same value as someone who just boasts about how much evidence there actually is for God. Neither one qualifies what evidence means, and more importantly, neither one addresses how to go about asking that question and what is the appropriate way to answer it.

        I’m sure you’ve checked it out by now, but just in case you haven’t, here is a link to a text I just finished teaching on Muslim theology. I dealt with many issues in going through it. It’s not for you to listen as background listening though. You need to go through this a few times and reflect on what’s being said for itself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BkAfmN9AF0k&list=PLPEzNqC6gh-Fn7gU9pr8Hgy7WeFm9iI6K

  8. Thank you for the discussion Mohamed Ghilan, I will be waiting for more articles like this. It would be fun to see you have a discussion with a prominent Athiest e.g. Richard Dawkins, I mean that would be special as you have the knowledge that many Muslims do not have. Try and get in contact with him as he did with other theists, I mean Richard Dawkins is very funny but I prefer people like Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Lawrence Krauss who are less arrogant and give better explanations.

    • Hamza tzortsiz will debate Lawrence Krauss in a few months time. Dawkins doesn’t have a clue about philosophy

    • You just confirmed why you left Islam. You listen to atheists talk about everything they shouldn’t be talking about and assume their explanations are better because they outwardly make sense to you.

      Anyways, I’ll include you in my prayers.

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