Religions and evolution

It is extremely difficult to tie down the attitude of religion to evolution - primarily because there are so many religions and so many interpretations within each one. "The word of god" is highly ambiguous and has led to thousands of years of intra-religious conflict - god lacks the ability to write clearly.

It can be frustrating for non-believers when told: "their interpretation is wrong, ours is right" - after all, what yardstick are we supposed to use to judge one against the other? Many of those who support IS are neither stupid nor religiously ignorant, they have their own "scholars" to interpret the Qur'an. Why should we believe those who say their interpretation is wrong?

Over the last 150 years many religious people have come to terms with evolution: "yes, evolution is a fact - but god started the whole process." This page is about those who have either not come to terms with it, those who fail to understand it, or those who have wrapped themselves in knots about it.

Evolution poses a problem for those who put their faith in the "truth" of their holy books. They either have to admit that their books are at least partly wrong, in which case they have to explain how they tell the "true" parts from the "untrue, more mythological" parts, or they find an interpretation that tries to fit with evolution: "well, actually, we thought of it first - it's in our holy book if you interpret it properly."

It is almost as if religions have become totally paranoid about this topic, preferring to believe there is a conspiracy within the world of science to discredit religion. Most scientists are pretty intelligent so why would they do this? Who would be behind such a conspiracy? What would be their motive? Is it not permitted to examine the claims of religions using logic, rational thought and the scientific method?

We welcome well argued comments.

Islam

The example below is plucked from hundreds of web sites which talk about the Muslim attitude to evolution. Our personal experience from talking to Muslims is that this is fairly representative.

The key points that emerge from the article are:

  1. God is "he" - this we have never understood - god is surely not a sexual or reproductive being, it is an "it" but, given a choice, why could it not be "she"? This might go some way to countering the patriarchal attitudes that many religions hold to women.
  2. The quoting of holy books is never an argument because such books are accepted only by those who have the same world view as the author. Homer's "Illiad" cannot be used as evidence for the existence of Zeus, nor Tolkien's "Lord of The Ring" as evidence for the existence of Hobbits.
  3. The idea that "angels" take away "souls" during sleep and restore them on awakening is fun and raises all sorts of child-like questions which we will leave you to consider. (What is a "soul"? Where do they come from? How are they made? Where are they stored overnight? Where do they end up? Are they recycled? Is there a finite number of them? Do angels have souls? Does god have a soul? How many souls will fit on the head of a pin?)
  4. The second quotation from the Qur'an seems to describe the process of evolution - from single cell animals to fish to mammals. The Arabian desert is certainly rich in fossils of marine creatures in limestone so could god have been a Darwinian?

    Fossil tooth of a theropod dinosaur found in Saudi Arabia.
    The animal lived about 145 million years ago and could grow to a length of up to 10m.
  5. There is a common belief that "Muslim scientists" advanced the cause of science during "the golden age". The reality is somewhat different. Thinkers in the parts of the world conquered by Islam after the 7th century certainly translated the works of the ancient Greeks and built on what they found. The "flowering of science" under Islam did not last long - from the 14th century onwards it was suppressed as soon as the spirit of enquiry and free thinking posed a threat to the preaching of religion. See here for a detailed article on this topic. To be fair, this is no different to what was happening under Christianity at the time - Galileo was imprisoned for life for proposing a heliocentric solar system.

    How many Muslims working in Muslim countries have received the Nobel prize for science? How many Muslim scientists are members of The Royal Society or the National Academy of Sciences? How many scientific papers are published in Muslim countries compared with others? How many patents are issued annually in Muslim countries compared with others? Where has the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, and the use of the scientific method, gone in the Muslim world of the 21st Century?

  6. The article quotes "a TV series on the educational channel in October of 1998" as sufficient justification to dismiss the works of Darwin. "The commentator ... laughed" - so he must have been right!
  7. In common with fundamentalists of all religions, it deliberately fails to understand the evolution of Homo Sapiens. We are not descended from apes and monkeys and five minute's investigation would have told them so. It is a classic example of "fake news" or "alternative facts" - the author has simply swallowed the myth.
  8. Missing from this article is another common myth spread by Muslims opposed to evolution: "age dating methods are a fake". They claim that carbon dating is part of the conspiracy of science against religion (and they use pseudo-science and the word of "scholars" to "disprove" it) and geological evidence (from layers in which fossil remains are found) is no more than things laid down by god to "test" us. The theropod tooth found in Saudi Arabia is either not a tooth or was created by god just over 6,000 years ago.

This is taken, unedited, from the "Science Is Islam" web site:

For the Muslim there is no need for separation between religion and science. It is understood from the Quran, revealed over 1,400 years ago, that there is both; "Creation" and "Evolution." And in both instances, it is only Allah who is "Able to do all things." In fact, it was the Muslim scientists, more than 1,000 years ago, who set the stage for the advancement of learning, technology and disciplines in science that we know today.

Allah has explained how He created everything in the universe and brought all life out of water. He created humans from earth (not monkeys) and there is no need to attempt fabrications of "links" to the animal world in Islam.

The Christian Bible says that Adam & Eve were both created here on Earth, less than 10,000 years ago. The Quran says that Adam & Eve were created in Heaven, and NOT on Earth. When they disobeyed God, He expelled them from Heaven, down to Earth.

Muslims believe that souls are assigned to humans 40 days after the human inception. The Quran says that angels retrieve human souls on two occasions. One occasion is when humans die. The other occasion is every time humans fall asleep. When humans wakeup, the angels release those souls back to them:

"It is Allah that takes the souls (of men) at death; and those that did not die, during their sleep: those on whom He has passed the decree of death, He keeps back, but the rest He sends (to their bodies) for a term appointed. Verily in this are Signs for those who reflect." [Noble Quran 39:42]

"And Allah has Created every animal from water; of them are some creeping on their bellies; some walk on two legs; and some on four. Allah Creates what He wills: for sure Allah has Power over all things." [Noble Quran 24:45]

The Quran has set a precedent 14 centuries before modern science, explaining in simple and direct terms about his "creation" of animals and their various functions and then assures us it is He who has the Power over everything. This statement includes the fact Allah can if He Wills, reshape and alter his creation as He Chooses. There is clear evidence within many species of alteration and changes within the species. However, there is no concrete evidence to support a cross over in development from one type to another, such as reptiles turning into birds or alligators turning into cows. The statements made in Quran are quite clear when Allah tells us of having brought forth other life forms and then destroying or replacing them with others. This again, does not imply evolution in the sense of one type becoming or changing into another.

Allah tells us He is Al-Bari, (The Shaper or Evolver) but once again, this does not mean He has a need to bring about each individual life form all from one kind. Actually, while reading the Quran you learn He has brought many types and shapes and sizes as He Wills. Changes within species occur even as quickly as one or two seasons, not even taking a whole year, much less millions as was supposed by Darwin.

Speaking of Charles Darwin, he was only an amateur naturalist and had only observed the finches (birds) on the Galapagos Islands for the first time in the mid 1850s. He noticed that on each island the birds had different shaped beaks according to the type of food available on their particular island. For this reason, he assumed, the birds had progressed over millions of years and only the hardiest of the species had survived the climate and vegetation changes. However, this is totally inaccurate and was dismissed as a mere humor in a TV series on the educational channel in October of 1998. According to the scientists discoveries in that very same year, the effects of the weather phenomenon known as El Nino, the climate on these same exact islands had drastically changed in a single year within a number of months. And to their surprise, the eggs of the finches on each island hatched open producing birds with beaks already altered to accommodate the changes of their environment.

The commentator even said this shoots Darwin's theory completely down and he laughed.

There is no DNA research pointing to a connection between apes and humans as was supposed by the scientists and those who had financed them over the years. In fact, the barnyard pig is closer to humans in many aspects, than a monkey or a gorilla. Consider the fact, doctors use the skin from pigs to replace needed tissue on burn victims and the famous movie actor, John Wayne had a pig's heart valve installed in his own heart in a 1977 operation to save his life. It worked, too - until his smoking caused him to die of cancer.

The rational approach to the whole subject is rather simple. Just as He is able to Create the universe and bring forth life, it is simple also for Him to produce as many different types of forms of life as He Wills. No problem for Him, after all - He is the Creator and He is the Shaper. And most important, He can change anything as He Wills - even today.

 

 
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