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    Default A Muslim journey through Creationism and Evolution

    Related Threads: * Introduction to Islam * Muslim call to Christians * Redirected Arguments


    The following is an account of my own journey through creationism and the Theory of Evolution (ToE)

    My journey starts back in my primary school days, when, during a lesson, the teacher commented about a certain junior science book, "Look how stupid these people are! Perhaps their parents were monkeys, but mine certainly were not!" That was how I was inducted into that debate. And that was a phrase I was to repeat time and time again, through most of high school, to any peer who dared to give the ToE even the slightest consideration.

    This phrase was also my "redeeming" remark at a high school extra-mural activity. When I was in grade 11, ours was one of the first non-white schools to ever join a white debating league. Other than that "honour", it was not a very affirming venture, as the whites out-dressed us (with their blazers and all), out-vocabbed us, out-accented us, and ultimately, out-competed us. There I was, engaging in informal chit-chat with a white chick (who was officially declared "best debater of the night") after I had been pronounced "most promising debater". I felt somewhat shy and intimidated by this blue-eyed, blonde-haired girl, averting my gaze and instead casting it down on to the dog-eared pages on which my "promising" rebuttal was written, when she remarked, "Is it not amazing that while we stand here as strangers, we all come from common ancestors that were not even the same species as us." To which I triumphantly replied, "Perhaps your parents were monkeys, but mine certainly were not!" The eloquent "debater of the night" was at a loss for words, and after a stuttering frenzy, all she could say was, "I don't know." I am not sure exactly what her thoughts were, but in retrospect, I do not think that she was particularly impressed.

    Anyway, some further high school reading on evolution, as well as the discovery that so many (professional/academic) people supported the ToE, led me to a slightly more compromising position: I was still a pretty hardcore creationist, but evolution might just be the method by which God created humans.

    I later did some very basic university studies in biology (and physics), and it appeared that the ToE was a neat way to explain the development of life and diversity from the onset of life to the present. I also spent some years teaching Life Sciences at a faith based Islamic high school. I periodically screened biology video clips in class which showed how various aspects of (and phenomenon within) nature demonstrated the Greatness and Mercy of God (also being consistent with the Quranic narrative on this topic). These clips were produced by Harun Yahya's foundation (Adnan Oktar), and strongly advocated creationism. However, while I was probably still a creationist, I felt too uncomfortable to play any clips that completely condemned the ToE. The ToE eventually became an essential part of the grade 11 syllabus. Biology teachers at faith-based schools were in opposition to this. Some conspired to teach creationism instead, while others would teach it as a "false theory of those who rejected God". This really troubled me, and I redoubled my efforts at learning about the ToE, as well as what veteran classical and contemporary Islamic scholars had to say about this matter (which was not very much). I also immersed myself in science and philosophy literature that deconstructed and criticised the ToE.

    My research led me to a 1995 "academic letter" by a contemporary Islamic scholar/philosopher, who is well respected in the Muslim world. He explained, from a philosophical and Islamic theological perspective, that the ToE may have some applicability, but that because of the way in which God created Adam, the ToE was not likely to be applicable to human beings. Quranic verses suggest that God took very special care in Adam's creation, and it did not seem befitting that millenia of random mutations and natural selections would fashion Adam. As a result, he opined that Muslims could either reject the ToE or accept it on the condition that it excludes Adam. I decided to play it safe. When teaching my students the grade 11 level of the ToE, I put it to them that they could either adopt it as their prefered understanding of the origin of life (excluding humanity from the process), or reject it entirely in favour of creationism (which was still fairly popular with the parents of learners). Personalities such as Richard Dawkins did the ToE no favours either in terms of selling it to religious communities. He promotes himself as an evolutionary biologist, but is publicly more actively anti-God than he is pro-evolution. As a result, many lay religious people are inclined to, without much thought, reject this "anti-God" theory. The biggest creationism influence on Islam, no doubt, comes from organised creationism within Christianity. The Christian Institute for Creation Research was formally approached by the Turkish government in the 1980s for guidance on this topic, which gave the Turk, Harun Yahya, exactly what he was looking for.

    By then, I had personally come to adopt the "all life evolved, other than humans" theory. I set about trying to understand the nature of this exception, and to grapple with a possible logical and scientifically sound explanation for having both of these methods co-exist, i.e. ToE for non-humans, and creationism for Adam. After leaving the teaching profession, I started working on my own "small hypothesis", which I refined post by post, right here on MBB! I also posted some of my later, more refined, explanations on various Islamic forums internationally. I was wholly surprised when small numbers of Islamic scholars and also Muslim scientists made contact with me regarding this "small hypothesis". Some were very supportive and even excited, while others were quite scathing in their criticism (though none were directly confrontational), but this afforded me the opportunity to further refine the mini-theory, and repost it to the forums.

    All the while, I had been engaging in dialogue about this hypothesis with a devout Muslim friend who lectures in microbiology at a local university. "Why exclude humans?" my friend asked, and "What is you? (what is your essence?)" These types of questions led me to do further research into classical Islamic philosophical explanations on the nature of the human. The "why exclude humans" question had also earlier been posed to me on MBB. As to the "what is you" question, Islamic scholars would answer, "The soul." The body is nothing but a vehicle, an earthly, mammalian, primate vehicle. Its honour is contingent on its relationship with the soul. This explains the dual nature of the human being: part earth (animal, material, carnal) and part divine spirit (the soul, purest essence).

    Although there are some who say otherwise, the dominant Islamic view is that Adam was created from Earth's clay brought to Paradise, and then the soul entered him. Is it then unthinkable that God raised Homo Sapien Sapien (evolved from the soil of the Earth) to Paradise to receive his precisionly crafted soul (and conscience)? Remember that mainstream Muslims are by no means scriptural literalists; we accept that allegory exists within the Quran. Is this a reasonable metaphor? My body is an animalian mechanism. It is of this earth, and will return to it. It is composed of Carbon-based compounds just like all other life on Earth. It is a vehicle for my soul. I had gone 180 degrees. God likely created the human vehicle through the process of evolution. God effected and selected mutations according to His Will, through (seemingly) "natural" processes and systems created by Him.

    I am not a scientist, and I do not understand these things on the level of scholars. I do not have absolute certainty in this matter, but I am inclined to accept that evolution produced the diversity of life on earth, including the vehicle of Homo Sapien Sapien. This view does not contradict what is in the Islamic texts, but does contradict the padding that some scholars have given to what is stated in Islamic texts.

    (Note that trying to reconcile scripture with the science of the day is not a requirement for the believer, especially if it is not something that is easily observable and which unambiguously and manifestly stares you in the face, proclaiming its absolute reality. For most ordinary people, the ToE falls outside the realm of what is obviously true, or a manifest reality. There are Islamic scholars, from the classical period to the present day, who painstakingly attempted to demonstrate to critics that the Quran (or Islam) was consistent with contemporary science, only for science to update itself, modifying the original understanding. What then becomes of the linked "Islamic" interpretation? Religion presents essential realities, while science seeks to discern manifest realities)
    Last edited by wayfarer; 27-02-2016 at 12:20 PM.

  2. #2

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    Below is a video of a phenomenal, landmark conference which took place in 2012, entitled "Have Muslims misunderstood Evolution?". Four prominent Muslim scientists (including Research Chair in Evolutionary Biology at McGill University and also a Professor of Biological Anthropology) and traditional Islamic scholars make presentations about Islam and Evolution. Many students and scholars of Science and of Islam were present in the audience. This event was the first of its kind on this level. The video is well worth the watch for anyone interested in how a faith tradition attempts to deal with science that to some seems to contradict traditional views.

    Last edited by wayfarer; 28-08-2014 at 12:40 PM.

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    Super Grandmaster falcon786's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wayfarer View Post
    Personalities such as Richard Dawkins did the ToE no favours either in terms of selling it to religious communities. He promotes himself as an evolutionary biologist, but is publicly more actively anti-God than he is pro-evolution. As a result, many lay religious people are enclined to, without much thought, reject this "anti-God" theory.
    Dawkins is not the only one guilty of this,unfortunately many ex-christian atheists just lump Islam as being in the exact same boat as christianity and try to use evolution to disprove the existence of GOD or the relevance of religion.I have experienced it on this forum also,fortunately there are many actual scientific minded individuals and atheists on here who can easily see that evolution does not justify belief in GOD or lack of it,it just explains mechanisms and methods in which organisms of the earth developed to the current state and its very very useful in predicting results of biological actions so that it helps us move forward.

    Even if evolution is somehow proved to be incorrect the fact that it is useful as a model to predict scientific outcomes means it would still be useful to take humanity further,so studying evolution is not a waste of time by any means.A good example of this is Isaac newtons laws of nature were basically overridden by Einsteins theory of relativity,however we still use them to this day to calculate the velocity of a car rather than use relativity because of the predictable results in most scenarios which give us the needed accuracy in results.

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    Quote Originally Posted by falcon786 View Post
    Dawkins is not the only one guilty of this,unfortunately many ex-christian atheists just lump Islam as being in the exact same boat as christianity and try to use evolution to disprove the existence of GOD or the relevance of religion.I have experienced it on this forum also,fortunately there are many actual scientific minded individuals and atheists on here who can easily see that evolution does not justify belief in GOD or lack of it,it just explains mechanisms and methods in which organisms of the earth developed to the current state and its very very useful in predicting results of biological actions so that it helps us move forward.
    Well said. If someone is trying to use evolution to demonstrate that deities don't exist then that individual has failed to understand what science is about.

    We get far too many people, and I agree I have seen some on this forum that do it, trying to use science to disprove the existence of a deity. Science can only be used to challenge claims made concerning the physical.


    Even if evolution is somehow proved to be incorrect the fact that it is useful as a model to predict scientific outcomes means it would still be useful to take humanity further,so studying evolution is not a waste of time by any means.A good example of this is Isaac newtons laws of nature were basically overridden by Einsteins theory of relativity,however we still use them to this day to calculate the velocity of a car rather than use relativity because of the predictable results in most scenarios which give us the needed accuracy in results.
    I imagine we will see the theory of evolution change in some interesting ways over the next few decades. There are some interesting things happening that may have some impact.

    As to whether or not evolution hangs around if it is falsified I'm not sure. Perhaps it will be falsified in such a manner that it is rendered entirely useless and chucked out altogether. That would be amazing and if it happens I hope to live long enough to see it.
    "The problem with internet quotes is that you can't always depend on their accuracy" -Abraham Lincoln, 1864

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    Quote Originally Posted by wayfarer View Post
    The following is an account of my own journey through creationism and evolution (ToE)

    My journey starts back in my primary school days, when, during a lesson, the teacher commented about a certain junior science book, "Look how stupid these people are! Perhaps their parents were monkeys, but mine certainly were not!" That was how I was inducted into that debate. And that was a phrase I was to repeat time and time again, through most of high school, to any peer who dared to give the ToE even the slightest consideration.

    This phrase was also my "redeeming" remark at a high school extra-mural activity. When I was in grade 11, ours was one of the first non-white schools to ever join a white debating league. Other than that "honour", it was not a very affirming venture, as the whites out-dressed us (with their blazers and all), out-vocabbed us, out-accented us, and ultimately, out-competed us. There I was, engaging in informal chit-chat with a white chick (who was officially declared "best debater of the night") after I had been pronounced "most promising debater". I felt somewhat shy and intimidated by this blue-eyed, blond-haired girl, averting my gaze and instead casting it down on to the dog-eared pages on which my "promising" rebuttal was written, when she remarked, "Is it not amazing that while we stand here as strangers, we all come from ancestors that were not even the same species as us." To which I triumphantly replied, "Perhaps your parents were monkeys, but mine certainly were not!" This eloquent "debater of the night" was at a loss for words, and after a stuttering frenzy, all she could say was, "I don't know." I am not sure what exactly her thoughts were, but in retrospect, I do not think that she was particularly impressed.

    Anyway, some further high school reading on evolution, as well as the discovery that so many people supported the ToE, led me to a slightly more compromising position: I was still a pretty hardcore creationist, but evolution might just be the method by which God created humans.

    I later did some very basic university studies in biology (and physics), and it appeared that the ToE was a neat way to explain the development of life and diversity from the onset of life to the present. I also spent some years teaching Life Sciences at a faith based Islamic high school. I periodically screened biology video clips in class which showed how various aspects of (and phenomenon within) nature demonstrated the Greatness and Mercy of God (also being consistent with the Quranic narrative on this topic). These clips were produced by Harun Yahya's foundation (Adnan Oktar). However, while I was probably still a creationist, I felt too uncomfortable to play any clips that completely condemned the ToE. The ToE eventually became an essential part of the grade 11 syllabus. Biology teachers at faith-based schools were in opposition to this. Some conspired to teach creationism instead, while others would teach it as a "false theory of those who rejected God". This really troubled me, and I redoubled my efforts at learning about the ToE, as well as what veteran classical and contemporary Islamic scholars had to say about this matter (which was not very much). I also immersed myself in science and philosophy literature that deconstructed and criticised the ToE.

    My research led me to a 1995 "academic letter" by a contemporary Islamic scholar/philosopher, who is well respected in the Muslim world. He explained, from a philosophical and Islamic theological perspective, that the ToE may have some applicability, but that because of the way in which God created Adam, the ToE was not likely to be applicable to human beings. Quranic verses suggest that God took very special care in Adam's creation, and it did not seem befitting that millenia of random mutations and natural selections would fashion Adam. As a result, he opined that Muslims could either reject the ToE or accept it on the condition that it excludes Adam. I decided to play it safe. When teaching my students the grade 11 level of the ToE, I put it to them that they could either adopt it as their prefered understanding of the origin of life (excluding humanity from the process), or reject it entirely in favour of creationism (which was still fairly popular with the parents of learners). Personalities such as Richard Dawkins did the ToE no favours either in terms of selling it to religious communities. He promotes himself as an evolutionary biologist, but is publicly more actively anti-God than he is pro-evolution. As a result, many lay religious people are enclined to, without much thought, reject this "anti-God" theory. The biggest creationism influence on Islam, no doubt, comes from the organised creationism within Christianity. The Christian Institute for Creation Research was formally approached by the Turkish government in the 1980s for guidance on this topic, which gave the Turk, Harun Yahya, exactly what he was looking for.

    Personally, I had come to adopt the "all life evolved, other than humans" theory. I set about trying to understand the nature of this exception, and to grapple with a possible logical and scientifically sound explanation for having both of these methods co-exist, i.e. ToE for non-humans, and creationism for Adam. After leaving the teaching profession, I started working on my own "small hypothesis", which I refined post by post, right here on MBB! I also posted some of my later, more refined, explanations on various Islamic forums internationally. I was wholly surprised when small numbers of Islamic scholars and also Muslim scientists made contact with me regarding this "small hypothesis". Some were very supported and even excited, while others were quite scathing in their criticism (though none were directly confrontational), but this afforded me the opportunity to further refine the mini-theory, and repost it to the forums.

    All the while, I had been engaging in dialogue about this hypothesis with a devout Muslim friend who lectures in microbiology at a local university. "Why exclude humans?" my friend asked, and "What is you? (what is your essence?)" These types of questions led me to do further research into classical Islamic philosophical explanations on the nature of the human. The "why exclude humans" question had also earlier been posed to me on MBB. As to the "what is you" question, Islamic scholars would answer, "The soul." The body is nothing but a vehicle, an earthly, mammalian, primate vehicle. Its honour is contingent on its relationship with the soul. This explains the dual nature of the human being: part earth (animal, material, carnal) and part divine spirit (the soul, purest essence).

    Although there are some who say otherwise, the dominant Islamic view is that Adam was created from Earth's clay brought to Paradise, and then the soul entered him. Is it then unthinkable that God raised Homo Sapien Sapien (evolved from the soil of the Earth) to Paradise to receive his precisionly crafted soul (and conscience)? Remember that mainstream Muslims are by no means scriptural literalists; we accept that allegory exists within the Quran. Is this a reasonable metaphor? My body is an animalian mechanism. It is of this earth, and will return to it. It is composed of Carbon-based compounds just like all other life on Earth. It is a vehicle for my soul. I had gone 180 degrees. God likely created the human vehicle through the process of evolution. God effected and selected mutations according to His Will, through "natural" processes and systems created by Him.

    I am not a scientist, and I do not understand these things on the level of scholars. I do not have absolute certainty in this matter, but I am enclined to accept that evolution produced the diversity of life on earth, including the vehicle of Homo Sapien Sapien.
    Can I replicate this? Would like to post in on my blog. Its awesome.

    Almost all us that accept evolution today (and who are over 20) started out this journey as creationists. Myself included. Congrats dude. Your mind and thoughts evolved.
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    Quote Originally Posted by wayfarer View Post
    ...
    Have you apologized to children you misled with the creationist stuff?
    By reading this post, you relinquish to me all rights to your immortal soul for all eternity.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jab View Post
    Have you apologized to children you misled with the creationist stuff?
    I did not mislead anyone with creationism. All I said was that neither creationism nor evolution contradicts the Quran, and that the then-present dominant scholarly position was that man did not evolve. My non-expert opinion is that evolution is a historical reality for all life. I still do not have absolute certainty and perfect knowledge in this, and that is why, despite the fact that I disagree with it, I do respect positions held by individuals such as Swa.

  8. #8

    Default Related Quranic references

    I do not think that the Quran explicitly confirms or denies either creationism or evolution, but there are some verses that may be relevant here.

    Lets start with the following verse:

    "Have not the unbelievers then beheld that the heavens and the earth were a mass all sewn up, and then We unstitched them and of water fashioned every living thing? Will they not believe?" (Quran 21:30).

    Now lets look at the creation of life, and what could possibly be mitotic division in asexual reproduction. Note the genderless description of this original life:

    "O humans! Be pious (careful of your duty) to your Lord, Who created you from a single entity, and from it He created its mate, and from them He has spread a multitude of men and women." (Quran 4:1)

    The next verse speaks about life producing life ("We created your mates from yourselves")

    "And of His signs: He has created for you from yourselves mates with whom you find rest , and He ordained between you love and mercy . In this, there are signs for people who ponder." (Quran 30:21)

    A reiteration of the role of water:

    "God has created every animal out of water . Of them (is a category which) walks upon its belly, (another which) walks upon two legs, and (a third which) walks upon four. God creates what He wills. God is Able to do everything (he wants)." (Quran 24:45)

    In addition to water, clay/soil/dust is involved in the origination of creation, and reproduction resulting from "mean" water (gametes in a liquid substrate?):

    "(It is He) who has created all things well. And He originated the creation of man out of clay, then He fashioned his progeny of an extraction of mean water" (Quran 32:7-8)

    The verse below is traditionally thought to be in reference to embryonic development. Some scholars are starting to think that there might be more to it:

    "Seeing that it is He that has created you in diverse stages." (Quran 71:14)

    Below is another related verse:

    "And God has caused you to grow out of the earth in [gradual] growth" (Quran 71:17)

    "O mankind, what has deceived you concerning your Lord, the Generous, Who created you, proportioned you, and balanced you? In whatever form He willed has He assembled you." (Quran 82:6-8)

    There are many more relevant verses, such as those describing the stages of life. Feel free to research this topic for yourself.
    Last edited by wayfarer; 28-08-2014 at 12:41 PM.

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    Jeepers I actually took some exerts from that initial post to see if it had been copied and pasted from somewhere else. Your writing is stupendous!

    Thanks for the awesome post.

    I haven't found that Muslims on this forum have a religious problem with evolution but this will hopefully demonstrate to those who do, that the conflict exists only in their minds and there is no need for it. This is proof that your faith and science can indeed peacefully coexist.

    We need one of these for the Christians on the forum, who are far far worse with their rejection of evolution and the creation of this "us vs. them" mentality.
    "The problem with internet quotes is that you can't always depend on their accuracy" -Abraham Lincoln, 1864

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    Quote Originally Posted by porchrat View Post
    Jeepers I actually took some exerts from that initial post to see if it had been copied and pasted from somewhere else. Your writing is stupendous!

    .
    +1 Wayfarer you really have a gift

    Great post
    Some times the internet is so slow, it would be faster to just fly to Google's headquarters and ask them this $h1t in person.!

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    Quote Originally Posted by porchrat View Post
    We need one of these for the Christians on the forum, who are far far worse with their rejection of evolution and the creation of this "us vs. them" mentality.
    Not all Christians.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Picard View Post
    Not all Christians.
    True, but between the vocal Christians and the vocal Muslims (on this forum), the Christians are winning the golden crocoduck.
    Quote Originally Posted by Zolani99 View Post
    The atheists won't be forced to bow their heads, they can just imagine themselves burning in hell.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Picard View Post
    Not all Christians.
    Agreed not all Christians. I'm talking about the vocal ignorant minority.
    "The problem with internet quotes is that you can't always depend on their accuracy" -Abraham Lincoln, 1864

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    Fascinating post. Most excellent, thank you.

    All I have is one question - If you had been born in, say, India, would you have perhaps written this in defense of some form of Hinduism and its relation to evolution?

    I (and many others) greatly appreciate your thoughts and efforts on this topic (especially your willingness to engage), but ultimately, I cannot help but see it as you spending many years attempting to fit in a religious theory of reality, with an observable reality that is in many ways at complete odds with the religion.

    I went through a similar (albeit much more low-key) experience with Catholicism, and when I finally (after many years) realized that there was no need for the religious component, the universe suddenly made so much more sense (as did my sudden understanding of the staggering breadth of my ignorance).
    Last edited by copacetic; 10-07-2013 at 01:48 PM.

    If you do in fact have a learning disability, I apologise...

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    Quote Originally Posted by copacetic View Post
    Fascinating post. Most excellent, thank you.

    All I have is one question - If you had been born in, say, India, would you have perhaps written this in defense of some form of Hinduism and it's relation to evolution?

    I (and many others) greatly appreciate your thoughts and efforts on this topic (especially your willingness to engage), but ultimately, I cannot help but see it as you spending many years attempting to fit in a religious theory of reality, with an observable reality that is in many ways at complete odds with the religion.

    I went through a similar (albeit much more low-key) experience with Catholicism, and when I finally (after many years) realized that there was no need for the religious component, the universe suddenly made so much more sense (as did my sudden understanding of the staggering breadth of my ignorance).
    Oh good point. It is another example of how religious beliefs can hold back scientific progress and understanding. Didn't spot that.

    I don't think acceptance of evolution is a big problem with Hindus. If I recall correctly the vast majority of them accept it as the most likely explanation. Though I'm sure there are some folks that don't.
    "The problem with internet quotes is that you can't always depend on their accuracy" -Abraham Lincoln, 1864

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