So far, a lot of the discussion has focused on the controversy between Christianity and evolution in the United States. What if we looked at the relationship between evolution and a different religion in a different region of the world—say Islam in the Middle East? Zapaer Alip, the author of the article below, writes about the McGill Center for Islam and Science and its mission to explore religion and science in Muslim communities.
Though “there is no contradiction between Islam and evolution,” as Professor Dajani from the McGill Center stated, most Muslims continue to refute evolution. One of the reasons for this issue is the language barrier Arabic-speaking communities are burdened with. It took a century for any Arabic translation of Darwin’s book to be published. One hundred years is a long time to not have any translation of a major scientific theory available in a country. So when being introduced to the theory of evolution, it makes sense that Muslims would join the opinion of refuting Christians—that the idea of evolution should be discarded because it contradicts long-held religious beliefs and scripture. Evolution was a completely new idea, and Christianity was a familiar concept that held similar foundations to Islam. Without accurate language translations and modern scientific development, Muslim people stuck to the familiar.
Muslim communities are definitely behind in the scientific community, but Alip discusses the different aspects of science based on culture. Islamic countries rely on Western society for scientific advances, but one cannot fix this issue by simply transferring Western science into Muslim communities. Alip believes that cultures, and religions, can have unique effects on science. Science is the study of the physical/natural world through observation and experiment, so should culture really have an effect on it? Observations can be tainted by perspectives and biases based on one’s upbringing, so maybe culture does influence the study of science—especially if you look at fanatic religious groups and how they can impact societies.
The following news article from MSNBC reports of tactics from ISIS to limit teaching certain subjects in Iraqi schools—including evolution.
The hostile Islamic group banned the teaching of evolution and endorses “religious sciences” instead—even though most Iraqi schools did not teach evolution in the first place (hinting at the already underdeveloped scientific knowledge in Muslim countries). The MSNBC report strengthens the McGill article’s argument that predominantly Muslim countries are not up to date with modern thought and ideas. How do zealous religious groups hinder the progress of countries in the scientific world? Do you think it’s possible that religion can advance or “spark an ambition” for scientific knowledge and discovery in evolution like Alip alludes to? Does culture play an important role in assessing scientific progress—and specifically, the acceptance of evolution—in different countries? Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan have some of the lowers acceptance rates of evolution—25-30% (http://ncse.com/news/2013/05/polling-muslims-evolution-0014838). Do you think these low rates are caused because of the Islamic religion, the underdevelopment of science, or both?