Islam and Science
Errors in the Qur'an and Arab Education

#islam #religion #science

The Qur'an is mostly concerned with making statements about God and its followers and detractors, and does not comment frequently on matters that can be directly or indirectly approached scientifically. As the Qur'an was written several hundred years after the Bible, it is of course makes far fewer blunders. But nonetheless, despite the fact that humanity had developed its knowledge of astronomy, the Qur'an makes many of the exact same errors that Christianity makes: especially with regards to the Earth being centralized at the center of the cosmos.


1. Astronomy Mistakes

#islam

36:40 warns us that the sun and moon both float in orbits; however, rather than spread confusion and error, the Qur'an could have explained to people the truth that the moon orbits the Earth, and the Earth orbits the sun. It comes nowhere near making such statements. But in the verse just mentioned... it does console all those who believe we on Earth are looking up at a sun and a moon in orbit around us, and tells us they can't overtake each other, and the daytime will not be overtaken by permanent night. Well, it seems the Qur'an has done as much as the Bible to harm our understanding of astronomy.

2. Biology Mistakes

#greece

Multiple verses in the Qur'an state that all life comes in pairs, even though there are many asexual species who do not pair. "And of every thing We have created pairs" (51:49)

The Qur'an contains many clear statements that mankind was made from clay. These can be found in Qur'an 3:49 (a bird is made by clay by the power of God), 6:2, 7:12, 15:26, 17:61, 38:71,76. But that's not the whole story. In Qur'an 15:26 there are some strange additions; mankind was made in clay "that gives forth sound, of black mud fashioned in shape", or from a different translation, "from dry clay and black moulded loam" (Dawood). Clearly, this is not the wet Monmorillonite clay that may have played an important part in the history of the earth in helping in the formation of the first organic molecules. Unfortunately this "scientifically" correct statement in the Qur'an falls foul of technicalities: the role clay played in the ancient evolution of life was merely that of a catalyst, and life does not come "from" clay at all. And... the formation of life from organic chemicals involved so many steps over such a period of time, that almost any statement about creating life "from" something could be said to be true.

Coincidentally some of our most ancient religions and philosophies have held that mankind was 'made' from clay. Although there some serious caveats to mention before the poor reader starts going all medieval: (1) they do not mean the precise substance as described by science, (2) life doesn't come "from" clay, some types of clay merely acted as a catalyst, and (3) we merely translate (quite a few) ancient words as 'clay' which were themselves used to describe a variety of materials. Nonetheless it is still nice that by luck some pre-science beliefs do actually hit on correct-sounding statements, even if for the wrong reasons. Finally, the use of clay as a building material of the gods makes sense in terms of human experience because after all, clay is what us Humans created models and figurines out of.

When the authors of the Qur'an spoke of mankind being made of clay there were simply repeating a common cultural guess which although close to an element of truth, was in its detail incorrect. Furthermore those verses in the Qur'an that say we are created from clay, actually contradict others. Qur'an 23:14 and 96:1-2 say that mankind is created from a clot of blood; and has bones form before flesh (when in reality, flesh comes first during foetal development). None of that is correct or in the correct order. Many verses such as 16:4, 36:77, 76:2 and 80:19 say instead that mankind is created from a "small seed", or a "drop of seed", or a drop of 'mingled' or 'mixed' drops of sexual discharge. These statements are untrue in detail and, of course, completely forget the female egg. The Qur'an also announces, rather strangely, a verse which few have ever convincingly made sense of:

So let man see from what he is created! He is created from a water gushing forth, proceeding from between the backbone and the ribs.

Qur'an 86:5-7

3. Geology Mistakes

A few verses in the Qur'an say mountains are firm and immovable (Qur'an 15:19), but many more merely say they are "firm". 88:19 says they are "fixed firm". The authors of the Qur'an did not appreciate some of the slow-moving forces of nature such as plate tectonics.

By Vexen Crabtree 2012 Nov 28
(Last Modified: 2015 Apr 28)
http://www.vexen.co.uk/religion/islam_science.html
Parent page: Islam: A Critical Look at Contemporary Issues

References: (What's this?)

Book Cover

The Bible (NIV). The NIV is the best translation for accuracy whilst maintaining readability. Multiple authors, a compendium of multiple previously published books. I prefer to take quotes from the NIV but where I quote the Bible en masse I must quote from the KJV because it is not copyrighted, whilst the NIV is. Book Review.

The Koran. Penguin Classics edition. Originally published 1956. Current version published by Penguin Group Ltd, London, UK. Translation by N. J. Dawood. Quotes taken from 1999 edition.

Budge, E. A. Wallis. (1857-1934)
(1921) The Babylonian Legends of the Creation.

Crabtree, Vexen
(2006) "Islam: A Critical Look at Contemporary Issues" (2006). Accessed 2017 Feb 17.

Leeming, David
(2004, Ed.) Jealous Gods & Chosen People: The Mythology of the Middle East. Hardback book. Published by Oxford University Press.

Russell, Bertrand. (1872-1970)
(1946) History of Western Philosophy. Paperback book. 2000 edition. Published by Routledge, London, UK.

Sagan, Carl
(1995) Cosmos. Paperback book. Originally published 1981 by McDonald & Co. Current version published by Abacus.

Footnotes

  1. Leeming (2004) p42-43, citing Samuel Noah Kramer Sumerian Mythology (1961).^
  2. Budge (1921) digital location 50-51, in the section entitled "Variant Forms of the Babylonian Legend of the Creation".^
  3. British Museum Cuneiform Tablet with Atrahasis Epic, 17th Century BCE, piece description accessed at britishmuseum.org/.../cuneiform_the_atrahasis_epic.aspx on 2013 Jan 01.^
  4. Sagan (1995) p199.^
  5. Russell (1946) p273.^

© 2017 Vexen Crabtree. All rights reserved.