Muslim academics and students are turning against Darwin's theory

Muslims in many countries are increasingly rejecting Darwin’s theory of evolution, under the influence of conservative elements in Islam, a science conference was told yesterday.

Nidhal Guessoum, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, told the conference, being held in Egypt by the British Council, that in too many places students and academics believed they had to make a “binary choice” between evolution and creationism, rather than understanding that one could believe both in God and in Darwin’s theory.

Dr Guessoum, who is a Sunni Muslim, said that in countries such as Tunisia, Egypt, Turkey, Pakistan and Malaysia, only 15 per cent of those surveyed believed Darwin’s theory to be “true” or “probably true”. This stand was equally prevalent among students and teachers, from high school to university. Most alarmingly, he claimed, science teachers were misrepresenting the facts and theories of evolution by mixing it with religious ideologies.

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Steven F. Sage - 11/18/2009

Referring to evolution as “Darwin’s Theory” honors an eminent 19th century British biologist, but does a linguistic disservice to science. For one thing, Darwin did not work in a vacuum. Modern biological understanding owes much to his predecessors and contemporaries, e.g., Alfred Wallace. And Darwin’s successors continued to confirm and advance that understanding by their systematic efforts. The resulting immense cooperative endeavor is obviated by the term “Darwin’s Theory”. This reduces the proven basis for biological science to dubious ruminations by a lone bearded crank. Such terminology pleases religious zealots, Christian as well as Muslim. But we might as well refer to Earth’s orbit around the Sun as “Copernicus’ Theory”, or electricity as “Faraday’s Theory”. So, are serious media outlets pandering to the fundamentalists? Or is “Darwin’s Theory” just an instance of sloppy editing?

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