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.