Thursday, November 5, 2009

Teaching Human Evolution In Pakistan Can Be Dangerous

Kenneth Chang of New York Times has written an interesting summary on the teaching and acceptance of evolution across Muslim countries and among Muslim immigrants in many western nations.

Atomic physicist Pervez. A Hoodbhoy went through a dramatic moment while lecturing at a university in Pakistan:

Pervez A. Hoodbhoy, a prominent atomic physicist at Quaid-e-Azam University in Pakistan, said that when he gave lectures covering the sweep of cosmological history from the Big Bang to the evolution of life on Earth, the audience listened without objection to most of it. “Everything is O.K. until the apes stand up,” Dr. Hoodbhoy said.

Mentioning human evolution led to near riots, and he had to be escorted out. “That’s the one thing that will never be possible to bridge,” he said. “Your lineage is what determines your worth.”

Its scary that this took place not at some isolated madrassa but at a national university. Overall acceptance of evolution - especially human evolution - is low in Muslim countries. The technological advancement engulfing these countries is not necessarily paralleled by a more scientific mindset among citizenry. Religious beliefs are playing a large role in driving a wedge between the two. Turkey is a great example. Just 2-3 decades ago creationism was not a factor affecting science education in Turkey. Today, the influence of Islamic parties is greater in society, evolution teaching is diluted at the school level and creationist textbooks are influencing biology syllabus.

The article does not mention Muslims in India but I doubt if attitudes towards evolution are significantly different among Indian Muslims.

And I wonder what the break up would be according to educational level and how it compared to Hindus.


  1. >>The article does not mention Muslims in India but I doubt if attitudes towards evolution are significantly different among Indian Muslims.

    There is this guy P.A. Wahid, a professor from Kerela Agriculture University who now and then pushes creationism, in the "open page" section of the hindu

  2. thanks for the links. yeah that sums up the ignorance quite well :)

  3. I came across the same link from another blog.
    I think the point highlighted in the article, missed out on your blog, is that

    How the situation has worsened over the last few years and was really not that bad few decades ago.
    Secondly, the difference between what is called "Young Earth" and "Old Earth" creationanism, the former being a Western import into the Islamic world.
    So the aversion to evolution (minus the discussion about humans) and denial of staggered life development wasnt there in Islamic countries in the past

  4. Hi suvrat ,

    Like your posts,Nice observation.

    How many Indians do you think support evolution ?

    Even many Hindu's I know, find it difficult to accept evolution.

    They either have skipped it in school or go like "what evolution"?

    I am talking of Engineers and Science graduates.

  5. Khalil- you are right. the article does go into more details than my post on the differing attitudes and differences between Christian creationism and Islamic creationism. regarding how attitudes have changed I suspect most people in Muslim countries never did believe in evolution and still don't and the example of Turkey illustrates how even a secular moderate society can undergo radical attitudinal changes in a couple of decades.

    Jynn- appreciate your thoughts. It would be interesting to get a survey of attitudes towards evolution in India. I too have had mixed responses when I ask about evolution. I hear people say that Hindu mythology of the continuity of life and animals morphing into humans may predispose Hindus towards accepting evolution, but superficially saying yes to evolution is not the same as accepting NO role from a creator.

    The surveys will have to be designed to tease out these distinctions in belief systems.

  6. Dr. Kher,

    You may find this interesting (incase you haven't seen it already):

    Worldviews and Opinions of Scientists in India

    I would also love to see some survey about belief in evolution in Indian public! I know that some ISKON followers dont approve of it, but at the same time they like to point out to Dashavataras as evidence of discovery of evolution before Darwin (and how it was discovered before anyone else in the world did!!!!)

    Here is some comedic gold at the end of this post: But if only Darwin had come to India instead of going to Galapagos

  7. thanks for the links KK. I have seen that survey before and wrote a post on it.

    as for the Darwin coming to India Undoubtedly he would have
    acknowledged that Indians got there first as always :)...pygmies before man ....that's just hilarious..