Field of Science

Muslim attitudes towards evolution

As if sent from heaven, the newest issue of Science has an article by Salman Hameed about current acceptance of evolution in Muslim countries. (Subscription is required, but if you don't have that and want to read it, I'd be happy to send you a copy.)

The science article has this figure with data gathered from 1996 to 2003, which clearly shows that acceptance of evolution is low in these Muslim countries.

Bracing for Islamic Creationism Science, 2008, 322, 1637 - 1638.

Contrast it with this figure of 33 western countries and Turkey:

Public Acceptance of Evolution, Science 2006, 313, 765-766.
(Again, I have the pdf...)

Salman Hameed writes:
The message about evolution in the Islamic world needs to be framed in a way that emphasizes practical applications and show that it is the bedrock of modern biology--thereby capitalizing on the existing proscience attitude (13). The national academies of Muslim countries will need to tailor the specifics of the message according to the political and cultural realities of their respective countries. Religion in the Muslim world plays a much larger role in the social and cultural landscape, and thus, our discussions with the general public need to take that into account. As scientists, we should present, without compromise, the best available science. Evolutionary ideas about human origins may face serious obstacles, but a peaceful religious accommodation is also possible. However, efforts that link evolution with atheism will cut short the dialogue, and a vast majority of Muslims will reject evolution. (My emphasis.)

To some extent I agree with him on this point. Present the science, stop talking about religion. However, is evolution vs. creationism the war, or just one battle, as Richard Dawkins have phrased it? Dawkins is of the opinion that the real war is between secularism/naturalism and religion. In that fight, evolution is just one front that can win converts. I happen to agree with both: Let the battle over evolution be fought first. Then we'll see how that changes the landscape on religion.

Update Dec. 13th: Salman Hameed gives an interview in New Scientist: How to stop creationism gaining a hold in Islam.
This dialogue will be cut short immediately if you bring in atheism. If evolution is presented as a choice between evolution and religion, people are going to pick religion. No question.

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