Islam and science: cowed Muslim physicist cancels lecture on evolution

According to yesterday’s Independent, Dr. Usama Hasan, an imam who also happens to be a physicist at Middlesex University and a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, was forced to cancel a lecture on “Islam and the theory of evolution” because of death threats.  The lecture was to be held at Masjid al-Tawhid, a mosque in east London.  Sadly, he not only canceled the talk, but apologized for his heresy:

But according to his sister, police advised him not to attend after becoming concerned for his safety. Instead his father, Suhaib, head of the mosque’s committee of trustees, posted a notice on his behalf expressing regret over his comments. “I seek Allah’s forgiveness for my mistakes and apologise for any offence caused,” the statement read.

One hopes that he construed his “mistake” as giving a lecture where he might have been killed, not as talking favorably about evolution.  Hasan had given a pro-evolution lecture at the mosque in January, but was interrupted by leaflet-bearing fanatics who shouted him down (was there “forced laughter”?) and threatened his life.

Unfortunately, Hasan’s apology—which I’d normally dismiss as intellectual cowardice, but can perhaps be understood if he feared for his life—was not enough.  The mosque’s committee of trustees fired him as imam and vice-chairman of the mosque (which the Independent describes as running one of Britain’s largest sharia courts), and issued a statement characterizing Hasan’s views as a “source of antagonism in the Muslim community”.

This kind of thing is only going to increase as Britain and other countries of western Europe become more Islamicized.  The inimical effect of Islam on science is particularly worrisome in Britian’s odious institution of government-supported faith-based schools.  Watch part of these two videos by Richard Dawkins (the entire four-part series is here) on that topic.  The visit to an Islamic school, starting at 8:00, shows how religious instruction is used to undermine what the students learn in science classes. The upshot: none of the students wind up accepting evolution.

The discussion of Islam and evolution continues for the first minute and a half of the next video:

Granted, Islam is not the only faith that attacks science, and there are Islamic scholars who do accept evolution.  But, as Salman Hameed notes in a piece in Science on Islamic creationism, evolution appears to strike particularly hard at certain parts of Islamic dogma, especially the notion that humans are special.  Hameed gives a graph of acceptance of evolution in six Muslim countries (data gathered between 1996 and 2003).  It’s very low, much lower than in nearly all Western countries, with less than 25% of people accepting evolution except in Kazakhstan:

In a survey of 34 countries by Miller et al. in Science (ref. below), Turkey came dead last in accepting evolution (the U.S. was next to last):

Now this may have nothing to do with Islam, but I doubt it.  Of all the translations that I wanted for Why Evolution is True, the most important to me was Arabic.  Although evolution is formally taught in parts of the Muslim world, as far as I know there is no book in Arabic laying out all the evidence for evolution.  But I faced a lot of problems getting such a translation done, largely because no Arabic publisher wanted to touch it, even in countries like Kuwait.  (After some difficulties and the help of an Egyptian colleague, it may soon be translated in Egypt, although political troubles there may scotch that.)

So how do we fight the threats that Islam, like some other faiths, poses toward accepting science?

Alternative A: Convince the faithful that Islam is perfectly compatible with science.

Alternative B: Work to lessen the grip of Islam (and other faiths) on people’s minds.

Islamic scholars are already busy with the first alternative, but with little effect.  Alternative B, of course, is much harder, and will take much more time.  But think of the ancillary benefits: no more death threats to Dr. Hasan, no more sharia law, no more Muslim women being second-class citizens, no more jihad, no more stonings, no more acid thrown into the faces of Muslim schoolgirls, no more internecine killing between Sunni and Shiite Muslims—none of the pernicious and destructive behavior particularly associated with that faith.

I swear, sometimes I think that fellow atheists who want to foster the acceptance of evolution by making nice with religion are completely blinkered.  Their goal is to get people to accept any kind of evolution—including that driven or guided by gods—even if it conflicts with the notion of non-theistic and materialistic evolution held by scientists.  God made natural selection?  That’s fine.  God guided the process so that the evolution of god-worshiping humans was inevitable?  That’s okay too.  God inserted—as Catholic dogma asserts—a soul in the hominin lineage somewhere between Australopithecus and Homo? We’ll just keep quiet on that one.

And although those accommodationists are atheists, presumably aware of the the many destructive aspects of religion, you won’t hear them talking about that.  Nor will you hear them admit the obvious fact that the main impediment to accepting evolution in this world is not scientific ignorance, but religion.  Every anti-evolutionist I know, with the possible exception of David Berlinski, is motivated at bottom by faith.  Instead, faitheists yammer on about how important it is that Americans accept evolution, because otherwise, you know, we’ll fall way behind India and China. (So what?, I ask. A rising tide lifts all boats.)  They claim without proof that that evolution-acceptance will come only when atheists shut up about the incompatibility between science and religion, and when we get line with those accommodationists who osculate the rump of faith.  They assert that religion will always be with us and it’s useless to fight it—despite the fact that faith has largely disappeared in Europe.

They worry far more about an Alabama schoolchild accepting evolution than about an Afghan girl defaced with acid for daring to attend school at all.  For an atheist, that is a clear case of misplaced priorities, and it sickens me.

h/t: Malgorzata

______________

Hameed, S.  2008.  Bracing for Islamic creationism. Science 322:1637-1638.

Miller, J. D., E. C. Scott, et al. (2006). Public acceptance of evolution. Science 313: 765-766.

83 Comments

  1. henkm
    Posted March 6, 2011 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    Alternative B is, in fact, the only option. We re facing the same problem with christians trying to sneak creationism and/or ID into schools.
    In short: religion is NOT compatible with science (and human environment).
    As to protect innocents, that s a very naive notion: not for a few hundred years will that be possible. That s when sharia will have outlived it s reason for existence. By evolution.

  2. Insightful Ape
    Posted March 6, 2011 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    I am not suprised.
    Literalism regarding the scripture-the belief that it is the unalterable word of the creator of the universe-exists among christians, but it is a relatively radical position (at least outside the US). Among muslims, though, it is the norm. Which means the nonsense that was basically copied and pasted from the bible-the Adam and Eve story, or the flood-is accepted next to universally among muslims, and almost never challenged. Or if it is-even in the UK-death threats follow, I guess.

  3. moseszd
    Posted March 6, 2011 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    What’s interesting is that “A,” roughly the accommodationist position is failing. While “B,” roughly the ‘gnu atheist’ position is being attacked by the supporters of the failing strategy.

    • Microraptor
      Posted March 6, 2011 at 10:23 am | Permalink

      Kinda reminds me of trickle-down economics in that sense.

  4. ennui
    Posted March 6, 2011 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    When you said “Alabama schoolchild,” my mind immediately thought of Tuscaloosa for some reason. =)

    Alternative C would be to fight for universal health coverage and other political reforms that increase the economic security of a country’s citizens. No matter what, it’s a slow, multi-generational process.

    • Diane G.
      Posted March 6, 2011 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

      Alternative C is indeed important to consider.

    • sasqwatch
      Posted March 7, 2011 at 4:52 am | Permalink

      Screw “consider”. Alternative C is important to implement. Good luck though, as we are quite likely to be facing a Romney administration in a few short years (as he distances himself from his crowning achievement: 98% insurance coverage for MA residents).

      http://www.boston.com/news/politics/politicalintelligence/2011/03/romney_addresse_1.html

      So either he will get in with a mandate to destroy anything at the Federal level, or this will be the issue that destroys him and gives us President Huckabee (or Palin). The alternative that a Dem gets in seems too laughable to consider at this point.

      • petray
        Posted March 13, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

        Anybody who thinks that universal health care, etc., will persuade religious people to accept science when it disagrees with their holy book (be it the Bible, the Koran, or whatever) is whistling in the wind. And it doesn’t really matter; what does matter is the issuing of death threats to dissenters. Anybody who does that (or worse, tries to carry them out) should be immediately subject to arrest, trial, and if convicted, prison; followed by deportation if they’re not citizens of the country (and maybe revocation of citizenship and then deportation, if they are).
        Enough of putting up with this kind of barbaric cultural importation.

  5. Posted March 6, 2011 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    In the case of the Muslim world, I think Islam is actually more of a symptom than the disease. To be sure, it’s a devastating, often fatal symptom, and one well worth treating.

    If Islam is pulmonary edema, then the Streptococcus pneumoniae of the analogy would be the primitively patriarchal repressive structure of the society.

    Quite simply, half the population is a burden on society, not pulling their fair share — and, worse, the other half are wasting significant resources in perpetuating the waste.

    All those uneducated women who’ve been terrorized into lives of menial servitude? Countless millions of them should be engineers, doctors, architects, and other kinds of professionals, and most of the rest should be skilled tradespeople — mechanics, HVAC techs, heavy machinery operators, you name it. And just think of all the work that the men go to to prevent the women from succeeding at life, and what the men could instead accomplish without all that wasted effort.

    Solve that problem, and the rest will pretty much fall into place. Islam itself will crumble as a byproduct, just as Christianity has in Europe.

    If you’re still not convinced, have a look at the correlation between Christian fundamentalism and patriarchy right here in the States.

    Of course, it’s an excellent strategy to attack the syndrome from all sides, and I still think merciless ridicule is the best medicine to treat an acute case of religiosity. Muhammad liked to ride flying horses into the sunset, and he was so insecure in his manhood that he had to force a pre-pubescent girl into sexual slavery. And a huge annual public orgy with a space rock? What’s up with that? I’m sure those who grew up in the culture can easily do much better.

    Cheers,

    b&

    • Tyro
      Posted March 6, 2011 at 9:36 am | Permalink

      Isn’t a large part of marginalization and oppression of women due to these religious beliefs? It’s not so clear to me that Islam is only a symptom and not also a cause.

      • Alexander Hellemans
        Posted March 6, 2011 at 9:50 am | Permalink

        Islam is in fact a vector. It has frozen the social development of Islamic society by imposing moral and ethical views (and views on women) held by a specific society during the 8th Century. Christianity is not different. For example, it has prevented the disappearance of homophobic views and laws that existed before Christianity, 2000 years ago. The main effect of religion is social regression, and some ideas can even survive for a long time in secular societies.

    • Marlene Zuk
      Posted March 6, 2011 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

      I see your overall point, I do, but when I read:

      “Quite simply, half the population is a burden on society, not pulling their fair share — and, worse, the other half are wasting significant resources in perpetuating the waste.”

      I immediately assumed you meant that the MEN were the burden, not pulling their fair share. Most of the real, unacknowledged, day to day drudgery work of the world — cleaning, cooking, raising children — is done by women in many parts of the world. I think saying that Muslim women are a burden is not what you meant. Or at least I hope not.

      I absolutely agree that being an architect (or a biology professor!) is important. And I agree about wanting to free women to choose other lots in life besides the one they are forced into. But that’s a different issue.

  6. Posted March 6, 2011 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    No osculation allowed unless it involves kissing my ass until their lips fall off while “making nice” with Quetzalcoatl fundamentalists.

  7. Kevin
    Posted March 6, 2011 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Cue Stangroom to say you’re being “harsh”, and Kazez to say that you don’t have a nuanced enough view of Islamic theology in order to have an opinion on the matter.

  8. Posted March 6, 2011 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    This is completely unacceptable. It is one thing to disagree with something, but death threats!? Not acceptable. And all these idiots who continue to argue that religion and science are perfectly compatible — people like Alexander and Priest and Hannam and Stannard, etc…. — are just feeding the flames of hatred. (Which reminds me that I am concerned that a sceptic like Michael Shermer is shoring up Big Questions by taking their money.) Can they not see this? Can they not see that religion is not the Scottish Kirk (though it’s had its own strains and divisions) or the country church in England, but real, earnest, down to earth life and death religion that can and will kill you if you disagree. It’s intolerable that this sort of stuff be setting up shop in the heart of liberal societies, completely intolerable. Intolerable too that Sharia courts are operating with impunity in Britain as well. What stupid beasts we humans can be!

    • henkm
      Posted March 6, 2011 at 9:51 am | Permalink

      What I do not understand is why those shouters are not dispelled that instant from university and/or school. Let them be ignorant if they so choose, but let them not be given a chance to stop normal education.
      The same is true, though, for evangelical and bible-belt characters. Let them infest their own children (which is bad enough, and as yet not regarded as child-molesting) but have this nonsense stopped anywhere.
      (I ll continue daydreaming for a better world)

  9. Posted March 6, 2011 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Oh dear god.

    In a way though the imam/physics lecturer is part of the problem himself. He says that mosque is his favorite – but it’s a Wahhabi-influenced mosque! That’s no good.

    • Posted March 6, 2011 at 10:32 am | Permalink

      Ah, good point. I had thought of that myself, but then didn’t say it. I think it is a deep problem in Islam that death threats are so common from those who disagree. This is not something that a free society can endure for long. It has already caused a distinct cooling of the sense of freedom in our societies; continued much longer the consequences will be more serious. There must be some way of dealing with the this. Those who do utter death threats should be held accountable in law, at the very least. But if Islam cannot solve this problem, then it will continue to be a danger to all of us.

      • locutus7
        Posted March 6, 2011 at 11:21 am | Permalink

        This is a fight for the very future of civilization: a fight between reason and superstition.

        • Michael Kingsford Gray
          Posted March 6, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

          I see it as closer to a fight between reason & misogynistic power.

  10. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted March 6, 2011 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    OT, but I need the laugh now:

    Nor will you hear them admit the obvious fact that the main impediment to accepting evolution in this world is not scientific ignorance, but religion. Every anti-evolutionist I know, with the possible exception of David Berlinski, is motivated at bottom by faith.

    Yes, in Berlinski’s case it is willful ignorance indeed.

    • SLC
      Posted March 6, 2011 at 11:06 am | Permalink

      Actually, as Richard Dawkins remarked after listening to a lecture by Dr. Berlinski: One who rejects the theory of evolution is either ignorant, stupid, insane, or wicked (but he didn’t want to consider that). Berlinski is neither ignorant, stupid, or insane.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted March 6, 2011 at 11:13 am | Permalink

        Heh, I had forgotten about that. Indeed it seems like Berlinski’s only cause is to fill his pockets. Not that that is unheard of in religion…

        • j. kessler
          Posted March 6, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

          I have watched Berlinski’s tapes. He does not deny evolution, only Darwin’s mechanism, “Natural Selection”.

          • astrosmash
            Posted March 8, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

            Seriously, watch the Miller, Scott VS Behe, Berlinski. Berlinski HAS no argument about anything one way or another. What a slippery git…

    • astrosmash
      Posted March 8, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

      I think outright dishonesty in his case. He claims agnosticism, but I suspect he is a believer of sorts and sees himself “taking one for the Gipper” in order to “demonstrate” to people that there can be a non religious objection to the theory of evolution. He may just be slime, sucking off the withered teat of the Disovery Institute. I hate his snooty yawny Wm F Buckley delivery. What an extraordinary turd. The one debate where Ken Miller utterly humiliates him is one of the most rewatchable moments in Youtube history

  11. Posted March 6, 2011 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    No, faith is still quite strong, much too strong in parts of Europe…

    We are not there yet.

    • Diane G.
      Posted March 6, 2011 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

      Agreed. And as promising as trends look, the Islamist threat may be succeeding in resuscitating latent religiosities…

  12. Tyro
    Posted March 6, 2011 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Incidents like this remind me first of the powerful writings and speeches of Ayaan Hirsi-Ali who has done more than any modern westerner to really dig into the lives of women under Islam and highlight the problems.

    It also reminds me of these “Top 10″ or “Top 20″ lists of Atheists which conspicuously leave her out (and in one case the list writer made a top 10 list of female atheists and left her out of that one as well). There seems to be a widespread reluctance to first acknowledge the damage that Islam has and then to recognize people who are working to oppose it.

    Perhaps in addition to these excellent blog posts, some of us in “the movement” should do some more work to highlight and support those people that are out on the frontlines of the battle against Islam. I imagine that would be a big draw at talks and conventions if for no other reason that the extra level of courage and excitement that they would bring.

    Thanks to Jerry and Ophelia for doing their bits.

    • henkm
      Posted March 6, 2011 at 9:56 am | Permalink

      It s not sure at all that Hirsi Ali is an atheist. She s vehemently anti Islam. By her own experience.
      But it is not the same.
      Moreover: she s now with a very right-winged think-tank.
      That, too, could cause people not to list her with atheists.

      • Posted March 6, 2011 at 10:10 am | Permalink

        I’m sorry, but you don’t know what you’re talking about. Have you read ANY of her accounts, like her book Infidel? There, it’s manifestly clear that she is an atheist, pure and simple. See here, for example.

        • henkm
          Posted March 6, 2011 at 10:16 am | Permalink

          Of course I dont. After all she entered ‘public life’ with my political party.
          Have seen many an interview.
          But no, I havent read any of her books. Since she s left here, I did lose track of her.
          Then again: I simply said: she may not be an atheist. Key word is: may !

          • Tyro
            Posted March 6, 2011 at 10:23 am | Permalink

            You mean like Obama may be a secret Muslim?

            Or is it more like how our world leaders may be reptile overlords?

            If we’ve decided to ignore her words & actions and go for wild speculation, I’m just trying to figure out how far we’ve gone.

            • henkm
              Posted March 6, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

              You may, of course, take everything the wrong way, too.
              I said ‘may’ because I didnt know for sure what her stance was.
              I do know, now.

              And no … her words are very valuable.

      • Tyro
        Posted March 6, 2011 at 10:16 am | Permalink

        She says in her books that she is an atheist and not out of any reaction against Islam. That activist part of her life came later after she had integrated into Dutch society and saw other Muslim immigrants fighting western ideals so strongly.

        As for the “very right-wing think-tank”, she has again addressed this in her books. Judge her by her writing and her actions, not her associations. It is also a very good opportunity to demonstrate that atheists are not some liberal conspiracy and that we aren’t just spouting anti-religious ideas as a think cover for our commie-pinko-liberal agenda. I say that we treat her in the same way that we treat the openly right-wing, pro-military atheists like Hitchens (put her on speaking tours, interview her weekly on tv news, make her the star speaker at conventions) or Bob Price (make her the host of a podcast or radio show).

        If the reasons people don’t support her is claimed to be because of some vague fear of her politics or associates then I think these people are no friends of any atheistic or sceptical movement.

        • henkm
          Posted March 6, 2011 at 10:22 am | Permalink

          Sorry, but like people getting paid by the Templeton Foundation, they are Suspicious.
          Period.
          However, in her case, I even suggested her first party to use her knowledge of islam and to counter the growing problem of being ‘political’ correct.

          • Tyro
            Posted March 6, 2011 at 10:34 am | Permalink

            Michael Shermer is a fellow of the Templeton Foundation and he’s so marginalized that he’s only accepted as a writer for Skeptic Magazine, a tv contributor, and a headliner to atheistic & sceptic conventions. Is that the sort of marginalization that you’re talking about? I think I could live with her getting that degree of shunning.

            Hirsi-Ali actually works for the American Enterprise Institute. I agree that this group has some dodgy members but given that no liberal group has stepped up to support her, I think they deserve credit not scorn.

            In many ways, I think that the way people who speak out against “multi-culturalism” by the left in Europe is shameful and has essentially ceded this area of criticism to the extreme right. You tell me – which prominent left or liberal group in Europe is speaking out against the influence of Islam in Europe or even America? The discussion has been dominated by racist, right-wing loons and it’s voices like Hirsi-Ali who stand a chance of showing that reasonable, intelligent lefties can also find reasons to criticize Islam. This is even more reason to support her.

            • henkm
              Posted March 6, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

              Totally in agreement.
              All those left-sided groups are just too politically correct for their own good. It s a shame, for I belong(ed) there, too.

            • windy
              Posted March 8, 2011 at 9:21 am | Permalink

              “given that no liberal group has stepped up to support her”

              Good point. I also agree that the reaction to her association with right-wing groups seems out of proportion contrasted with the respect given to Hitchens.

      • stvs
        Posted March 6, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

        It s not sure at all that Hirsi Ali is an atheist

        Ali has an FFRF Emperor award, same as JC will.

        http://www.ffrf.org/news/releases/truth-tellers-hirsi-ali-uygur-are-ffrfs-emperor-awardees/

        • henkm
          Posted March 6, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

          Thanks for pointing that out to me. That site is now with my favourites.
          Shows one is never too old to learn.

  13. Vincent Vega
    Posted March 6, 2011 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Nit-picking on.

    It’s ‘Afghan girl’, not ‘Afghani girl’.

    Nit-picking off.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted March 6, 2011 at 9:54 am | Permalink

      Fixed, thx!

  14. Al
    Posted March 6, 2011 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    Faith is still strong not everywhere in Europe. It’s strong in places like Britain where previous government allowed a multitude of hard-line Muslim immigrants from third-world countries to come and settle here without assimilation. That’s why religion is in ascendancy – it’s fuelled by new arrivals.

  15. Capercaillie
    Posted March 6, 2011 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_views_on_evolution

    Historically, it seems that this whole denialism and opposition to science is in sync with christian creationism – i.e. on the rise again during the last century. Harun Yahya etc is just as bad as Dr Dino.

    • Insightful Ape
      Posted March 6, 2011 at 10:07 am | Permalink

      Minus one thing.
      Islamists don’t claim the world is 6000 years old. (Or that the distance between New York and San Francisco is 8 yards).
      But the rest is the same.

  16. Anonymous
    Posted March 6, 2011 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    Moderates are having a tough time staying afloat these days, as their views encounter more hostility. Here’s one recent example.

    http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2011/03/04/tarek-fatah-the-death-threats-that-dont-count/

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

    • Microraptor
      Posted March 6, 2011 at 10:44 am | Permalink

      Muslim extremists have enough authority to completely shut down police investigations in Toronto?

      That’s pretty scary.

  17. Microraptor
    Posted March 6, 2011 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    One difference I’ve noticed: Christian fundamentalists will tell you you’re going to hell for what you say about their religions, but Muslim fundamentalists will try to send you there.

    • henkm
      Posted March 6, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

      True, but that s the 600 years (or so) difference in being showing.

      • Microraptor
        Posted March 6, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

        Actually, I think it might be more of a case that predominantly Christian countries switched over to secular forms of government where they didn’t put up with the fundamentalist shenanigans, while sectarian rule is still commonplace in countries with Muslim majorities.

        • henkm
          Posted March 7, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

          Actually, I think it s more a matter of education. First there was the reformation. That meant that educational systems went their different ways, whereas before they had a united front. And no alternative material in the (few) schools.
          As time went on, more and more people went to school and become literate. (this as opposed to, for instance, the Middle East).
          Then again, and what follows is my opinion, i.e. not backed by any scientific research, but I feel/think that many a catholic, or protestant, for that matter, are fundamentalist at heart and would just LOVE to see old times return. So that they can punish the infidels properly. Also in my opinion the present pope is one of them.

          • Microraptor
            Posted March 7, 2011 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

            I can totally picture the current pope sitting at his desk, reading the newspaper and wishing he still had a functioning Inquisition to sic on Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris.

            • Bina
              Posted March 7, 2011 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

              Now, THAT is Funny!

            • henkm
              Posted March 10, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

              Dont give such ideas, please. Or do you think he isnt reading this?

              • Microraptor
                Posted March 10, 2011 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

                That’s hardly an idea he’s incapable of coming up with on his own.

    • steve oberski
      Posted March 6, 2011 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

      And in pursuit of their goals they end up making existence a living hell for far too many people.

      • Microraptor
        Posted March 6, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

        Both of them do that.

  18. Jeff D
    Posted March 6, 2011 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    I just finished reading and posting a comment about Nicholas Kristof’s latest column in the New York Times,

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/06/opinion/06kristof.html?hp

    where he paraphrases an economic historian’s new book, which argues that the primary reason for the economic backwardness and high illteracy rates in majority-Muslim areas of the planet for the past 900 years is not Islamic religious doctrine per se, but certain outmoded Islamic legal doctrines.

    Kristof does his usual best to sit on the fence and to avoid criticizing “religion-in-general” or Islam in general, but a crucial part of his conclusion seems forced:

    The Muslim Brotherhood has often used the slogan, “Islam is the solution.” And to the West, the unstated feeling upon looking across the bleak Middle East landscape has often been: “Islam is the problem.” Professor Kuran’s research suggests that, at least looking forward, the more correct view is: Islam isn’t the problem and it isn’t the solution, it’s simply a religion — meaning that the break is over, there are no excuses, and it’s time to move forward again.

    Saying that Islam is “simply a religion” is a little like saying that end-stage renal failure or pancreatic cancer is “simply a disesase.” True enough, as far as it goes, but a multitude of pathologies and toxins can be hidden behind that one word “simply.”

    • Anonymous
      Posted March 6, 2011 at 11:18 am | Permalink

      Kristof seems to be taking a pounding for it.

      “Sorry to those I’ve offended with my Islam column title–but it’s what is on people’s minds & we have new evidence.”

  19. stvs
    Posted March 6, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Of all the translations that I wanted for Why Evolution is True, the most important to me was Arabic.  Although evolution is formally taught in parts of the Muslim world, as far as I know there is no book in Arabic laying out all the evidence for evolution.  But I faced a lot of problems getting such a translation done, largely because no Arabic publisher wanted to touch it

    Surely one big lesson of the past two months is to use the web to bypass the censors. A downloadable Arabic translation of Why Evolution is True could have a much wider distribution than anything printed on dead trees and sold out of Antoine’s on Hamra.

    I don’t know what your contract with CUP says, but there are several self-publishing models you could adopt: sell downloads and provide options of PDF/AZW/EPUB, along with a print one copy per order model, which is being widely adopted.

    If the Arabic distribution is very important to you, then you might just accept the fact that DRM is guaranteed to fail (especially in the Muslim world!) and post a free bittorrent yourself in non-DRM PDF/MOBI/EPUB. That will bypass any censor in the world. A quick search reveals that that train already left the station for the original English version, so you may consider asking someone to post a DMCA complaint on your behalf.

    Alternative A:Convince the faithful that Islam is perfectly compatible with science.
    Alternative B: Work to lessen the grip of Islam (and other faiths) on people’s minds.”

    Both, but not all at once, and not the same for all countries or groups. For the narrower objective of mitigating Muslim hostility to evolution, it wouldn’t hurt to point to the same supposedly pro-science Quranic passage that evolution-accepting Muslims do:

    … Who taught (to write) with the pen Taught man what he knew not. Sura 96:3—5

    As for the revolting death-threat incident in the UK, I hope that the rule of law used to its full power. It’s also worth pointing out the different approaches to immigration between Europe and the US. There are good reasons why extremism like this is harder to spread in the US, so long as everyone is treated the same under the law.

    • Posted March 6, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

      I definitely think that books and materials like Why Evolution Is True must be made available, possibly free of charge, to Arabic-speaking people in Middle Eastern countries if we want naturalist views to spread there and to overcome dangerous religious dogma. I think WEIT is the most concise, cogent, and powerfully argued book for evolution that I’ve read, and I would love to see it made available to everyone!

      In the previous message (19) STVS notes: “Surely one big lesson of the past two months is to use the web to bypass the censors. A downloadable Arabic translation of Why Evolution is True could have a much wider distribution than anything printed on dead trees and sold out of Antoine’s on Hamra. I don’t know what your contract with CUP says, but there are several self-publishing models you could adopt: sell downloads and provide options of PDF/AZW/EPUB, along with a print one copy per order model, which is being widely adopted.”

      I often think about a publishing model for atheist materials that would incorporate some kind of charity aspect, something on the order of a Protestant Reformation for atheists, where at least a portion of some books is routinely made available free of charge to the masses; kind of like how the Reformation put the “word of god” into the hands of common folks who could then interpret its meaning and applications for themselves. And we all know how that model proved effective. As atheists and humanists (which includes most of us I hope) who see the triumph of reason in human endeavors as essential to our future well-being and survival, the free-flow of essential tools and information to achieve that goal (understanding evolution being one) ought to eclipse our capitalist impulses at some point. If just one or two key chapters of WEIT, and The God Delusion, and The End of Faith could be downloaded free of charge and printed at home for easy mass distribution by individuals, wouldn’t that do much to bolster our cause without much affecting the profit motive for writing such materials? I would like to an arrangement like this adopted routinely by publishers of atheist and scientific materials. I can’t afford to purchase 1,000 of Coyne’s and Dawkins’ books, but I would gladly print up 1,000 copies and pass them out at churches everywhere, giving them to the people who need to read them the most, and who yet are the mostly unlikely candidates to actually purchase one. I feel that an approach of this scale is especially needed in the Arabic-speaking world. Your thoughts.

      • stvs
        Posted March 6, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

        This already exists. Grep “atheist books” under Vuze or some other bittorrent client. They’re all there.

    • Posted March 6, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

      Re: digital distribution – I was going to suggest this too.

      Can’t get the book published in Egypt? Get it translated and publish it yourself. You can either sell it as an ebook, make it available (via your website or torrent) free of charge, or some combination of the above. If you go for the ebook method, make it cheap ($2.99 or something) and you’ll probably make a lot of money.

      You should also have an ebook of the English version if you don’t already – there’s an audience (and money) out there just waiting to be…exploited (not a good word, but it fits).

  20. Michael Kingsford Gray
    Posted March 6, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    Such is the fruit that is harvested by accommodationists.
    But wait for their “special pleading” fallacies.

  21. Susan Robinson
    Posted March 6, 2011 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

    I just checked out Why Evolution is True from our public library here in Modesto California. To my dismay and anger, some creationist idiot has made comments all through the book. Luckily they are in pencil and I am going to erase them all before returning the book, and I am going to tell the librarian about it.

  22. Dominic
    Posted March 7, 2011 at 2:28 am | Permalink

    Have you considered getting WEIT published in Arabic as an e-book? Easier to do & no one can see what you are reading. Where there is such violent ant-evolutionary belief we have to start by subtle suversion perhaps?

  23. Escherichia coli
    Posted March 7, 2011 at 5:13 am | Permalink

    Hi, don’t know if this has been mentioned yet, but the year of publication for the first reference should be 2008 instead of 2011. Reading through the article right now.

  24. Posted March 7, 2011 at 5:14 am | Permalink

    Here’s an edited version of a comment I posted here earlier, which was on the page briefly but disappeared.

    Dr. Coyne, I am sure that as a scientist you hold empirical data in high respect. Your closing statement here,

    They worry far more about an Alabama schoolchild accepting evolution than about an Afghan girl defaced with acid for daring to attend school at all. For an atheist, that is a clear case of misplaced priorities, and it sickens me.

    can be shown empirically to be false. Real Christians in real churches commit millions upon millions of dollars and millions of vocational and volunteer hours toward alleviating situations like this, not to mention helping meet other desperate needs in areas like clean water, sanitation, health, education, and social justice worldwide. The actual time and money Christians devote toward the evolution issue is far, far less by comparison.

    Thank you for your commitment to real data in the pursuit of knowledge. I am confident that you have the courage to accept it even if it challenges your prior understanding of reality.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted March 7, 2011 at 5:21 am | Permalink

      Umm. . . did you even READ my post before making your drive-by comment with its snide ending? Do you know whom I’m talking about with that statement? Let me tell you, though it’s clearly delineated in the post: atheist accommodationists (“faitheists”).

      Please read the posts before you make knee-jerk remarks about Christian charities.

      I am in fact perfectly aware of Christian’s charitable work, and have posted about it on this site. Unfortunately, that’s not what I was referring to above.

      And, I suppose, those “Christians” who don’t alleviate those miseries aren’t “real” Christians in “real” churches.

      • Posted March 7, 2011 at 5:31 am | Permalink

        I’ll accept the correction and offer my apologies: you were talking about “faitheists.” Thank you.

        I’m not sure I see the relevance of your last sentence. Individual Christians have different individual priorities, which is as it should be; and it’s not up to you are me to decide individuals’ sincerity. I was referring to the overall priorities that Christianity displays as a whole.

        • Posted March 7, 2011 at 5:32 am | Permalink

          you or me, that is

        • Tyro
          Posted March 7, 2011 at 6:39 am | Permalink

          it’s not up to you are me to decide individuals’ sincerity.

          I think that was JC’s point. He was reacting to your comment about “real Christians” donating time or money. Many Christians come by here and will blithely dismiss other Christians as being “not real” if they don’t follow their view of what Christians should say, think and do.

          I think you may not have been trying to say this but rather to observe that they were real life or actual Christians (as opposed to virtual or statistical), rather than implying others were fake or not-true Christians.

          Regardless, we (and JC) know that some Christians do donate their time & money to help the less fortunate, some donate to spread the word of Christ and perform some incidental charity to make the connection, others donate out of a sense of obligation (tithing) only to have their money enrich the church. We all know this.

          Just as we know that Muslims donate their time & money!

          The question is about balance and as JC is observing here, the negatives of faith are severe and dangerous and some simple cross-cultural studies show that atheists and their secular governments also donate time and money so if we attack the harm of religion we aren’t in immediate danger of cutting off the source of volunteerism and charity!

          Or do you think Christians only donate out of a sense of religious obligation?

      • Posted March 7, 2011 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

        Jerry, your statement at the end of your post isn’t even mildly reasonable or fair even when directed at your intended target, “atheist accommodationists”. Instead, it’s more evidence of gnus being gnasty.

        I mean, really — on the standard you seem to be proposing, anyone who devotes the majority of their time to anything other than an immediate life-and-death issue — say, someone who works on speciation, for instance — could be accused of “caring more” about their job than about said life-and-death issue.

        (PS Of course, this is not a statement in support of Tom Gilson, with whom I’ve had pretty epic arguments in the past on his blog http://www.thinkingchristian.net . Google e.g. Nazis, ID, etc. there.)

  25. chupa
    Posted March 7, 2011 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    One of the biggest roadblocks to evolution, and science understanding in general, is that nearly everyone out here is illiterate. I have been living in and working in the Middle East since 2004, and while some countries are worse than others, it is still a widespread issue everywhere. You simply can not find a book store anywhere, and when you do, it only sells religious books.

    It is probably the most depressing part of the world I have ever been in.

    • henkm
      Posted March 7, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      Again, that s all in accordance with keeping the masses ‘stupid’. For controlling purposes (only).
      I have been to Cairo and Khartoum. The former I only spend a few hours, but the latter I stayed for, roughly, 36 hours. What a devastating sight of an otherwise beautiful city. So, nowhere near your 7 years, but can easily admit the feel of depression to be fully about.

  26. stvs
    Posted March 7, 2011 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    Here’s the actual mobile phone footage of Dr. Usama Hasan presenting evolution at his mosque. It shows a full range of responses, from people who refuse to listen to anything that contradicts a divine creation of Adam (especially if it means that Adam comes from apes!), to people encouraging respectful, open-minded dialogue.  You can see on both sides the heavy reliance on authority and scholarship, rather than facts and evidence, as well as the anti-evolution “response” from Abuz Zubair, who calls explicitly for the execution of anyone who teaches evolution, along with a weasel disclaimer. Amazingly, a Google news search for “Abuz Zubair arrest death threat” turns up zilch. What does UK law say about these threats?

    This and many other relevant videos are posted at the blog post Evolution = Kufr Akbar, with kufr == unbelief. More background on Islamic opposition to evolution is in (U. Chicago’s!) Nuh Ha Mim Keller’s letter Islam and Evolution: a letter to Suleman Ali.

    And a couple of interesting points from the Independent: ‘The campaign is part of a growing movement by a small but vocal group of largely Saudi-influenced orthodox Muslims who use evolution as a way of discrediting imams whom they deem to be overly progressive or “western orientated”. … a small number of orthodox scholars, mainly from Saudi Arabia – where many clerics still preach that the Sun revolves around the Earth – have ruled against evolution, declaring that belief in the concept goes against the Koran’s statement that Adam and Eve were the first humans.’

    This Saudi influence unsurprising, and underlines the importance of distribution methods that circumvent censorship tools employed by the Saudi government.

    Finally, a historical question. The Independent article says, “More than a millennium before Darwin, Muslim scientists had posited ideas about species survival and generational change that bore striking similarities to Darwin’s eventual theory.” Is there any validity whatsoever in this claim? If so, citation, please.

    • Tyro
      Posted March 7, 2011 at 10:06 am | Permalink

      There are many, many ideas about the origin of species and the diversity of life on earth, the question is what we consider to be “striking similarities”. Let’s imagine a tribal story where a heavenly cow comes to a barren earth and ruptures, bringing forth plants and fish which then burst and bring forth new species. If you squint hard and are dogmatically bound to this story you might say that modern species arose from earlier, more primitive ones and that it even posits a single common ancestor to all life which, to the right person, might be a striking similarity to evolution.

      But is this really very similar? Before Darwin, evolution-esque ideas were widespread and Christian preachers latched onto them and actually thought this either supported their theology or would glorify God. The problem they found with evolution isn’t that a species changes into another (which theists, even Creationists, don’t care about), it’s the ideas that species arose without divine intervention, that humans evolved from primitive apes, and that the process involved both randomness and a necessary level of suffering. Show me a primitive theory which incorporated these ideas and I might agree that it bore striking similarities, otherwise I think it’s missing all the key elements.

    • stvs
      Posted March 7, 2011 at 10:39 am | Permalink

      any validity whatsoever in this claim? If so, citation, please.

      Yes, here: Abū Rayḥān al-Bīrūnī. “Biruni attempted to give a naturalistic explanation as to why the struggles described in the Mahabharata “had to take place.” He explains it using natural processes that include biological ideas related to evolution, which has led several scholars to compare his ideas to Darwinism and natural selection. One of these ideas corresponds to “the central idea of Malthus on the disproportion between the increase in the rates of reproduction and means of subsistence,” as in the following statement:

      The life of the world depends upon the sowing and procreating. Both processes increase in the course of time, and this increase is unlimited, whilst the world is limited.

      Jan Z. Wilczynski (December 1959), “On the Presumed Darwinism of Alberuni Eight Hundred Years before Darwin“, Isis 50 (4): 459–466 [459–60], doi:10.1086/348801.

    • windy
      Posted March 8, 2011 at 9:40 am | Permalink

      Usama Hasan calls on Muslims to believe that Prophet Adam (alayhi as-salam) evolved from apes, rather than being the Creation of Allah with His Own Two Hands

      If Allah has two hands, he’s obviously a primate!

  27. Posted March 7, 2011 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    “This kind of thing is only going to increase as Britain and other countries of western Europe become more Islamicized.”

    2.5% approx – Approx half of the number of LGBT. Don’t believe all the hysteria the Daily Fail puts out.

  28. Skeptical Spectacle
    Posted March 8, 2011 at 12:55 am | Permalink

    So, to be clear, you frown upon an individual who values their place amongst social peers in the environment of their choosing more than being right? I am certain that being technically correct will yield excellent results, you know, when he’s been completely ostracized by his community.

    Religion is all but gone in europe and then right next door, on the same continent, we have the highest concentration of Muslims on the planet. Or had you overlooked the fact that these two societies rub shoulders and that one reasonable explanation for the ability of Europe to remain secular is that they are in such close proximity to religious nations?

  29. Posted June 10, 2011 at 6:15 am | Permalink

    If theology is true then it has the right to be absolute as scientific knowledge changes with time so the scientific views of the creator would also change with time. This should explain that on the basis of science we cannot form a permanent opinion about existence or non-existence of the creator.Darwin & Einstein have misled the world resultantly human beings have adopted the atheistic attitude.If you want to know how? Following published articles on http://www.indjst.org(August & Sep 2010 issues), would clarify.
    1.Theory of Origin & Phenomenon of Life
    2. Energy Theory of Matter & Cosmology
    3. Ultimate Proof of Energy Theory of Matter & Cosmology
    4. Foundation of Theory of Everything: Non-living & Living Things
    The articles in question precisely shows where the science had been wrong.
    This is what prof.S.W.Hawking had to say about the article 4.
    Dear Prof Shafiq

    Your present paper has definitely clarified what your theory actually explains. It is amazing that how all physicists including myself were confused for a century. Me and my colleges here read your paper with interest and had a nice discussion on it. We find it so interesting that we are all shocked at what you have proved. It has already changed the course of modern physics. You are definitely
    the best scientist of this century. You will face a lot of opposition now as you have challenged all existing scientific theories, which will make a lot of physicists lose jobs. Now all physics has to be rewritten, and almost all work done on relativity has to be discarded.

    With Regards

    S. W. Hawking
    Cambridge
    United Kingdom
    Read the articles and decide yourself whether evolution could be true.


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  1. [...] don’t have to look further than the fact that Muslims too have a poor grasp of scientific reality in their denial of evolution. Statistics like these tell you almost everything you need to know about people who claim to [...]

  2. [...] post by Top Stories – Google Blog Search and software by Elliott Back This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. [...]

  3. [...] here to read the rest: Islam and science: cowed Muslim physicist cancels lecture on … Related Reading: Space Prison, The Survivors (The science fiction thriller classic!)The science [...]

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  5. [...] Jerry Coyne at Why Evolution is True reviews a lot of the other data on Islam and evolution. Coyne is trenchant in his hostility to religion generally and Islam specifically, to put it mildly. I don’t identify as a New Atheist, and I don’t agree with the overall model with which Coyne is operating. That is, that there’s a necessary connection between anti-evolutionism and Islam. Many of the Muslims who I have known personally do think there is such a connection (and please, I’m not going to be too excited if someone in the comments demands that I go meet some Muslims and reeducate myself. I got off the phone with my mom, a Muslim, a few hours ago). But there are other Muslims who reject this view. That being said, we need to be frank about the real distribution of beliefs and attitudes. [...]

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