Reformist Muslim

Exploring possibilities for the future of Islam and other thoughts

Location: London, United Kingdom

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Harun Yahya: An Invitation To Ignorance

Meticulously footnoted and written in scientific jargon, the works of Harun Yahya are becoming increasingly popular all across the Muslim World. The pen-name of a Turkish gentleman by the name of Adnan Oktar, Harun Yahya books (as well as cds, dvds and videos) seem to have filled a need for urban, relatively well educated Muslims trying to confirm their faith through reason. The reason I am writing this piece is that despite the fact that his science is flawed, Mr Yahya seems to be succeeding in promoting his flawed message.

One of Yahya's favourite tactics is to use quotations from Western scientists to show that rather than simply making things up, he in true conspiracy theory style is putting the pieces together which the 'evolutionists' have tried their best to hide.

Given the closeness of Yahya's opinions with that of the intelligent design movement in America, it is not surprising that in a presentation I went to, particular emphasis was placed on Michael Behe's controversial book, Darwin's Black Box. However as Prof Kenneth Miller points out, the stunning aspect of this is that Behe moves away from a lot of creationist theory and actually accepts the idea of a 'common ancestor' as the best way of explaining the development of life on Earth.

Behe's central argument in favour if intelligent design is that there are certain elements of the cell in particular which are so irreducibly complex, that they could not function if you removed one element. As these individual pieces do not have any obvious uses apart from as part of their particular structure, they could not have come about through evolution.

One example that both Behe and Yahya use is that of the bacteria flagellum. Apart from the seeming absurdity of trying to challenge evolution by focusing on something so small, the thesis does not take into account the fact that when evolving from something simple to complex new pieces may evolve which are seemingly integral to the functioning of the body but in fact are simply enhancements.

A good example of this is the eye. It used to be held up by creationists as an example of something which could not possibly have evolved. Yet computer modeling has shown how the transformation from simple focal cells to a fully developed eye could have taken place in a relatively short period of time.

The point about the above arguments is not to try and demonstrate that God doesn't exist. Prof Miller for instance, despite being one of Evolution's staunchest public defenders is a practicing catholic. Rather, I would suggest that religion is not something rational but by definition an 'act of faith' and trying to juxtapose the two only leads to some very serious problems.

Firstly there is the danger of unwarranted trample by those that buy the Yahya argument. This is not helpful when it comes to tolerance and acceptance of other cultures and societies. Secondly, it can also inculcate a skepticism of science and technology which can only be harmful when one looks to the development of many Muslim majority states.

For more on what Darwin's theory of evolution and its implications, I'll refer you to this excellent website maintained by PBS in America. As far as books go, Richard Dawkins' The Blind Watchmaker is probably the best place to start.


Blogger DA said...

People oughtta actually STUDY the Qu'ran, and reflect on it (as it orders Muslims to do). The seeds of evolutionary theory are in there. If we cling to deomnstratably untrue positions on one thing, why should people believe us on the important stuff?

1:43 am, December 14, 2005  
Blogger AH said...

"Rather, I would suggest that religion is not something rational but by definition an 'act of faith' and trying to juxtapose the two only leads to some very serious problems."

Yep, except the problem is, for the modern faithful, that it seems they have to believe that their worldview is undergirded by rationality and "scientific analysis". Hence, all this "intelligent design" nonsense that, unsurprisingly, appeals to a similar kind of mentality across religions.

Basically, and somewhat simplistically, it seems to me that religion never recovered from the assault of science on some of its fundamental assumptions (circa Enlightenment), and that it is desperately struggling to maintain a coherent worldview that is not just "faith-based". Adherents--many of them, at any rate--recoil at the idea that their worldview is premised just on the personal idea--and not the objective fact--that God, heaven and hell, and related concepts, exist.

Does that mean religion's authority over the lives of people will fade? Hardly. If history shows anything, it is that underestimating the force of the religious instinct is just silly; people have a universal, powerful desire for seeking for something beyond. My suspicion is that we probably lack the means to articulate this desire in terms consonant with a modern understanding of hte world.

7:37 am, December 14, 2005  
Anonymous Sakib said...

Ignorance breeds prejudice. And I think you've been ignorant in posting this blog attiring your support for the theory of evolution while in the Qur'an it clearly states that Allah created the human beings from mud(clay).
And also it is Allah who has created all the other species.

7:16 am, June 10, 2006  

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