Amongst the believers

By Razib Khan | May 31, 2011 10:17 pm

I don’t post Creationist related stuff often, but Harun Yahya always brings out the funny in people. So check this out, In France, a Muslim offensive against evolution. First, some standard dullness:

Dressed in a traditional black robe decorated with rhinestones and a white veil that she wears “only” when she comes to the mosque, Maroua admits that she has always wondered about “the dinosaurs and the origin of man…but at school, it cannot be refuted: we’re taught that man descended from monkeys. At home and in the Koran, [we’re taught] that we descended from Adam and Eve, and that God created all living beings.”

Ali Sadun Engin, Yahya’s representative in the current tour of French mosques, seems to have convinced the young girl. “I find his explanations logical,” she says. The proof for creationism is demonstrated with some perfunctory presentations of fossils, including bear, crocodile, and tortoise skulls, and can be summarized in a few brief sentences: “If fish left the water to walk, if dinosaurs were transformed into birds, then we should discover fossils of these beings in transition. However this is not the case. Science thus shows one sole truth: creation as we know it from the Koran.”….

But it starts to get really weird:

The discussion on the origins of life appears to hit its target in the audience, a mixture of “mainline” believers and devout fundamentalists. Amadou Bah, a 26-year-old student of finance, is happy to have these “clarifications.” “Like all Muslims, I am a believer in the theory of creation, but I didn’t have arguments to defend it,” she says.

“At school, we believed the teachers, but here their theses are disproved: they don’t have the truth,” adds Yanina Gelassi, a 19-year-old student veiled in black. Nouri Hamid, 28, a doctoral student in genetics, is not “totally in agreement that there is a complete lack [of evidence] for the evolution of species,” but he also declares that “science has never demonstrated the connection between homo sapiens and man.”

Similarly, the “concordist” approach to the Koran, defended by the conference speakers, is popular among young Muslims. This concept states that the recent scientific discoveries only confirm the scientific content of the sacred book. “This proves to us that, despite all of the research, God has said and written everything down in the Koran nearly 1,400 years ago,” says Najoua Oubaya, a 21-year-old saleswoman.

“These discussions are good for the people because they prove that the West has discovered nothing, and that Islam is superior, even scientifically,” explained Nidhal Guessoum, a Muslim astrophysicist, in Le Monde in 2009. The author of Réconcilier l’Islam et la science moderne: l’esprit d’Averroès (Reconciling Islam and Modern Science: The Spirit of Averroes)….

I assume that the original was in French. There really is a Nouri Hamid who is a doctoral candidate at a French University. Either the translation is really really bad, or Nouri Hamid is really not well educated in biology if he doesn’t understand the connection between “homo sapiens” and man (if people who know French are inclined to ask Nouri if he was misquoted/mistranslated, his email is

And of course Islam discovered all of science before the West. That’s why Muslims societies are so technologically and intellectually advanced, and Westerners clamor to migrate to the Muslim world to avail themselves of all its brilliant glamor. Everyone knows that the greatest scientist of all, Ishaq ibn Newton, accepted tawhid, and rejected the worship of Isa as God.

MORE ABOUT: Creationism
  • yikes

    Nouri Hamid might have originally been misquoted, but the translation looks straightforward. It’s here, on page 11:

  • varcher

    Both the “west” and the islam had their big book burning phases. When you are an absolutist religion, the saying “there is only one book worth reading” generates… a climate not very sympathetic to discovering things.

    Of course, the big problem with the west was that it was dominated by Romans early on. Romans were statists; they believed that things were good enough (for them), and progress could only lead to change, change would upset the oligarchic roman order, They quickly incorporated military tech, and as quickly stamped everything out.

    The Greeks were leading inventors and engineers. When Rome took over, the engineering died out; steam engines were relegated to toys, devices like the Antikhitera astronomical clock were made into booty. Strong mediterranean cultures were stamped out and their achievements systematically erased.

    It’s true that, while the Catholic Church was ascendant, and busy burning books, the pre-islamic/early-islamic world became the only progressive area in the near-east/mediterranean world.

    But then, as the islam world became mired in the same “religion as politics” that lead to static despotisms as the catholic world had been centuries ago, the catholic world finally shattered its shackles, science was re-invented, and we (the “west”) got an early start.

    Some people seem to still think we’re in the year 1011, when the islamic culture was at is ascendant, and the west was still trying to figure out how to remove the shackle of catholic temporal control.

  • Razib Khan

    #2, you sound like you are an 8 year old reading from the first book of whig history :-) the romans were not that bad at engineering. arches, roads, glass, and concrete?

  • toto

    Er… Just to be clear, that Nidhal Guessoum guy does not hold the views he is talking about. Rather, he is describing a viewpoint (“koran explains everything!”) in order to criticize it at length.

    See the original interview.

  • Darkseid

    yeah, but according to most liberal commenters, Christianity is equally bad and all religions manifest themselves exactly equally in every way. no one is better at anything than anyone else and everyone is the best at everything.

  • miko

    ” all religions manifest themselves exactly equally in every way”

    I’d be interested in hearing who has ever said this from anywhere on the political spectrum.

  • Lene Johansen

    I was not familiar with the “theory of creation”…. #facepalm

  • leviticus

    I’ve had friends teach biology in the ME, they told me that the chapters dealing with evolution in the textbooks were torn out. This was in private, English language schools. State regulations demanded it.

    And for commentator #2, blame it all on the Mongols, everybody does. Everybody, that is, except for Westerners who feel compelled to defend Mongol accomplishments and counter centuries of “unreasonable” criticism in the West.

    If it wouldn’t be for the Mongol devastation nations like Iran and Russia would be representative, liberal democracies, probably with lunar colonies.

  • Darkseid

    miko – yeah, that’s called sarcasm. need to get that autism checked;)

  • miko

    Sorry Darkseid, I get misconstrued the same way…I think there needs to be a font. On the other hand, that was a totally believable level of mouth-breather paranoia for the internets. See discussions on gnxp about what some folks seem to think “egalitarianism” means.

    In the mean time, I’ll be sending off my ms to Nature proving the “link” between Homo sapiens and man. Talk about low-hanging fruit!!

  • Darkseid

    no problems… i really was trying to make a point though, so i’m not letting libs off the hook. they love to use false equivalencies to keep their world vision pure…..”degree matters” is not a familiar phrase to them, i guess. i’m not conservative – just something i’ve noticed. whenever there’s a group that’s obviously exceptionally bad at something, worse than the rest, it makes no matter. white people, Israel and Christianity are equally bad if not worse. Bill Maher has some great clips where he goes on record about this.

  • Tom Bri

    Miko…genius. A font for sarcasm. We need this. A true boon for the internet; all those humorless trolls will have no excuse. Of course, Arabic has had a font for sarcasm for over a thousand years. It’s right there in the Koran.

  • Ian

    @2, Me thinks you need to read a little more history of science – what about starting with James Hannam or SL Jaki, perhaps even Duhem?

  • Solitha

    I thought comic sans was the ones for sarcasm 😉

    @Darkseid… I guess degree doesn’t matter when talking about liberals? Or was that a bit of a hypocritical statement you made there?

    It’s actually been found that libs tend to see more shades of gray than conservatives, I believe. I know this to be true on a personal level, but obviously I can’t really speak for any large scale.

  • Darkseid

    Yeah, I guess the problem doesn’t exist since it’s been addressed on Mahers show many times. Truth hurts

  • omar

    Harun Yahya is the idiot who put a picture of a fishing lure in his “book” refuting evolution. He and his movement seem to have gotten married to some elements of Turkish Islamist nationalism and one of their babies is a regular writer in the WSJ (Mustafa Akyol) who seems to be welcome in the WSJ because he promises to manufacture “business-friendly” creationist Muslims (
    It must be age, but I sometimes feel like Freud must have felt when he spoke of “the black tide of mud”.

  • french reader

    just to say that toto is right, Nidhal Guesshoum in “le monde” interview states very clearly that the theory of evolution is correct, and that he tries to explain and convince other muslims of it and that it is compatible with the coran. He says people like to think that creationism is right because it makes them feel like the west hasn’t invented anything.

    Technically the quotes of him in the article are correct, but they misrepresent the view of M Guesshoum. I can’t tell for the other quotes because i don’t have the source in french.

    Imho, that sort of inferiority complex and the search for something to cling on, something to be proud of to counterbalance it is very common among non westerners, just look at the black americans and all their theories that ancient egyptians were black or that jesus was black etc…

    i’ve had similar conversations with east asians and south asians and jews also by the way, who desperately try to convince me (or perhaps themselves) that their country/civilization (or country/civilization of origin) really was superior to the west in everything, or at least something.

    Somehow the west got on top, then they tell you about all sorts of whacky conspiracy theories for how that happened.

  • Cris

    The “first book of whig history”?! Now that is some hilarious stuff. Razib may have missed his comedian calling. Touche!

  • OneMelayu

    #17. I agree with your opinion of the inferiority complex and clinging on to ideas to counterbalance the west. In my observation, Islam has migrated to Southeast Asia for more than 500 years, and the locals have adopted and mixed a lot of eastern/buddhist/hindu beliefs and philosophies SO long as they do not coincide with the tawhid (concept of one-ness).

    When the Dutch/British arrived and science was taught in school, the concept of evolution was accepted as being compatible with local beliefs. The point here is that nobody was made to do/think what they did not want by violent invasion or war. It was not until very recently (post independence, post Islamic revolution in Iran, post 9-11) did Islam in Malaysia and Indonesia become more intense.

    I never understood why after 500 years the practice started to change drastically. I think it is the inferiority complex problem. And the fact that after independence the locals were divided, some still glorify the west (the british, the white people, former colonist), and others who wanted to counterbalance with cling on to a notion that is their own ie opposite of the western ideas.

  • Justin

    Ultimately, Darwinian selection for science does occur in my opinion. Those societies that do not develop a strong science and engineering base will remain underdeveloped and dependent on other regions for their technical and high tech goods.

    Denial of evolution seems to be an emotionally comforting belief for fundamentalists. To the extent that literalist interpretations hold sway, it is unlikely that those societies will achieve a significant level of development.

    The real question, albeit troubling, is whether denialist approaches may prove problematic enough to result in the unfortunate combination of WMD and fundamentalist/literalist ruling elites. In that case, the fear is that MAD models of deterrence break down and a WMD exchange may occur.

    So, we’re subject to and at risk from the Darwinian selection of these countries’ ruling elites. Hopefully, good luck will prevail.

  • omar

    A psychiatrist friend from Pakistan sums up the problem: when we see psychotics, we see some people in whom all the component parts of the brain seem to work fine. Yet they are holding on to a worldview that is completely out of sync with actually existing reality (as far as we know it). The best explanation is that they feel that reality challenges some fundamental aspect of their worldview. They have two choices. To give up their fundamental worldview, or they reject what the best of humanity sees as reality. They give up the second. Its too painful to give up their fundamental worldview. its in some ways a rational decision.

  • tommy

    “The Greeks were leading inventors and engineers. When Rome took over, the engineering died out”

    Oh, sure!

    From the Wikipedia article, “Roman Architecture Revolution”:

    The development of Roman architecture, however, did not remain limited to these new forms and materials. Parallel, an unrelated process of architectural innovation continued unabated which, although less conspicuous, proved their usefulness for solving structural problems and found their way permanently into Western architecture, such as the lintel arch, the independent corbel and the metal-tie.

    From the Wikipedia article, “Concrete”:

    Modern tests show that opus caementicium [a Roman development] had as much compressive strength as modern Portland-cement concrete (ca. 200 kg/cm2). However, due to the absence of steel reinforcement, its tensile strength was far lower and its mode of application was also different[…]


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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