My Muslim friend on evolution: “What’s evolution?”

Many who’ve read my blog might be surprised to discover that I live with two ultra religious Muslims. One hails from Afghanistan and is pursuing his undergraduate studies, and the other comes from Algeria, where he received a M.S. in engineering. Between my vegan cooking, the Mediterranean cuisine, and the Central Asian fares, our house is constantly filled with the best aromas. We get along really well, despite the fact that I find Islam to be a very dangerous religion. So far, in this blog’s short lifetime, I’ve covered that topic twice (here and here). To be fair, they might not be aware that I’m atheist. They’ve never seen this blog as far as I know. And they see my bookshelf, filled with books on religion, atheism, and even a book or two by the Dalai Lama. Mostly, however, I read about international politics (which was my graduate studies focus). They probably believe I’m merely a well-read guy with some sort of belief in supernatural agency. Indeed, the most I’ve ever told them is “I’m not a religious guy, nor do I seek religion.” I’m not hiding my atheism; I just enjoy the discussion about Islam too much to taint it with a discussion about my beliefs.

The other day I watched a video from the BBC television show, The Big Questions, titled “Is It Time For All Religions To Accept Evolution.” In it, a Muslim man argues that Islam accepts evolution as a valid scientific theory, as applied to non-human animals only. That is, evolution explains how the diversity of species came to be, but it does not explain how humans came to be. Last night I asked my Algerian roommate about this. I did not expect his answer.

“What do you mean by evolution?” he asked.

“You know, Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution?”

“I don’t know what that is,” he insisted.

I give him a quick rundown of what evolution is.

“I’ve never heard of evolution. But I will ask [his spiritual leaders at the mosque he attends].” Then he went on to explain the creation myth of Adam and Eve. “When god created Adam, he realized he had created the perfect creature. Because humans are perfect they don’t evolve. I don’t know about animals. They are not perfect like us, so they may need to evolve to survive.”

I was very surprised by this entire conversation. This is a man with a Masters degree in Engineering. He’s an intelligent man. He’s been in the US for years, yet somehow he has never heard of the theory of evolution. I can only assume that his upbringing in Algeria, which enjoys a 99% supermajority Muslim population, failed to provide him with an adequate understanding of elementary biology. This is worse than Texas! He was not taught that evolution is wrong. He was straight up never taught about evolution.

This is unsettling to me. To make matters worse, he had no idea that scientific data suggests the earth is older than 6,000 years (much, much older). But he was unfazed by the new information I was presenting him. He finally said “Don’t ask how you were created. Ask why you were created.”

In other words, don’t seek answers about the physical world. Seek answers about the spiritual world (which can never be measured, let alone observed).

I’ll finish this by stating that none of this is his fault. He was raised in a society that values the Hajj and its mustati more than scientists and university professors. No, this is the fault of Islam itself and the violence-laden Quran. Islam stunts the intellectual growth of its adherents.

About Rayan Zehn

I'm a political scientist.
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7 Responses to My Muslim friend on evolution: “What’s evolution?”

  1. Unsettling. Yes. But even in cultures that are saturated in religion and the whole information web, with a huge educational system (I’m in the U.S.), large numbers of people, even otherwise intelligent people, somehow miss the basics. On the other hand, those who need so badly to have those “spiritual answers” in an imagined Super-Nature may never learn to appreciate the wonder and beauty of the natural world all around them. Faith can be the greatest distraction.

  2. fojap says:

    My last steady boyfriend’s family came from Algeria. He was born and raised in France and thought of himself as French. However, one thing I did find myself being cleared up about a few things regarding Algeria. I’m writing this off the top of my head, so double check anything, and if anyone has better information please correct me. But for Westerners who read in the paper about Islamists and so on, Algeria can be a little confusing.

    Algeria had a war of Independence from France back in the late fifties early sixties. It was horribly brutal. The French practiced torture and so on. The war was an anti-Colonial war and many people who identified with the French, including people whose roots were in Algeria like my boyfriend’s educated parents, left, frequently moving to France. This included many Algerians who were not Muslim which is how Algeria gets it’s 99% Muslim.

    Since the civil war, Algeria has had a very anti-Western bent, but it comes as result of the history of the Civil war, not due to religion. Like many anti-Colonial movement of the era, the Algerian movement had strong Marxist influences.

    Many educated Algerian left with the French who administered the educational system and this caused something of a vacuum in the educational sphere. Teachers were brought in from other Islamic countries and the country, which once had a French-style educational system, suddenly had an educational system based on conservative Islam.

    More recently, since the late nineties if my memory is correct, Algeria has been plagued by a Civil War between the current government and Islamists. My ex-boyfriend, as a French Socialist Atheist, thought both sides were awful. A few years ago, I came across an article in the New York Times about education in Algeria, I was able to pull it up:

  3. Ignostic Atheist says:

    We’ll have to up and send missionaries to Algeria I ‘spose, what with evolution being faith based and all. Spread the good news of genetic diversity.

  4. Pingback: According to the Quran, Allah tricked everyone into joining a fake religion (Christianity) | The Atheist Papers

  5. FLN says:

    Hi everyone in here. Guys let me tell you this. I’m an Algerian born and bred. Your student friend from Algeria who was telling you that he’s never heard about theory of evolution or Charles darwin is a pathetic liar, because we had this at some stage in the educational system even if it’s not in details. And I also agree with Fojab statement that Algeria and North African countries in general used to have a relatively moderate Islam (Maliki) compare it to countries like Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, and a more westernised life style than Middle East, but the shortage of Arabic teachers in 60′ and 70′ urged government to import some teachers from Middle East and egypt where big chunk of them were from Muslim brotherhood doctrine, and that was big mistake and a poison for next generations. But as in any Muslim country those kind of theories (evolution) is demonised because it goes against religion.

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