Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
The National Museum of Natural History, located on the National Mall just across from the Smithsonian castle, is America’s most visited museum for good reason, it has an elephant in the room. Its 126 million specimens and cultural artifacts are a treasure trove for anyone interested in nature, science or anthropology, and kids absolutely love the place. The visitors begin their visit in the domed rotunda marveling at the museum’s official greeter — an 8-ton African elephant named Henry.
These 126 million specimens and cultural artifacts in the Smithsonian museum and many more in other museums of natural history, are a strong reason for the open minded, to look at achievements of Charles Darwin with respect, if not awe.
The proverbial ‘elephant in the room’ for the two billion Christians and a billion and a half Muslims is, what bearing the theory of Charles Darwin has on their religion, how they understand the central tenets of their religion and how they interpret their respective scriptures.
On cursory evaluation, it is easy to find many a Christian and many a Muslim, denying the theory and many of the facts of evolution. One may think that both religions are equally challenged by the new discoveries in various fields of biology.
But, if Charles Darwin be true, in linking all life forms to each other, it turns out to be an epiphany for the Muslims, but, a catastrophe for the Christians.
In the words of Sir Francis Bacon’s advice, please, “Read not to contradict … but to weigh and consider.”
One may actually find more learned Christians accepting the theory of evolution than well informed Muslims, who understand the merits of the theory of evolution.
As a matter of fact, Pope John Paul II acknowledged the truth of Darwinian evolution in 1996 and for a two third majority of the Catholic Christians, the conflict between evolution and their religion was apparently resolved. But not so fast! As you will see in this article this is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end of the real conflict, it is only the beginning of the final end of the Christian dogma.
I believe that the theory of evolution should be understood as three different issues. Firstly, the common ancestry of all animals and plants, secondly, the mechanisms for evolution and thirdly whether evolution is completely blind or guided in some sense. The truth of some facts in evolution do not imply the truth of every thing under the umbrella of evolution.
Many a “Muslim Scholars,” offer superficial explanations to their devout and naive followers, like saying that Darwin’s formulation is only a “theory,” not a “fact,” whereas whatever the Holy Quran says about human beings is a “fact.”
So, first of all, let me lay a few undeniable facts about common lineage of all life forms on our planet earth from molecular biology.
Encyclopedia Britannica states on this issue:
The field of molecular biology provides the most detailed and convincing evidence available for biological evolution. In its unveiling of the nature of DNA and the workings of organisms at the level of enzymes and other protein molecules, it has shown that these molecules hold information about an organism’s ancestry. This has made it possible to reconstruct evolutionary events that were previously unknown and to confirm and adjust the view of events already known. The precision with which these events can be reconstructed is one reason the evidence from molecular biology is so compelling. Another reason is that molecular evolution has shown all living organisms, from bacteria to humans, to be related by descent from common ancestors.
A remarkable uniformity exists in the molecular components of organisms—in the nature of the components as well as in the ways in which they are assembled and used. In all bacteria, plants, animals, and humans, the DNA comprises a different sequence of the same four component nucleotides, and all the various proteins are synthesized from different combinations and sequences of the same 20 amino acids, although several hundred other amino acids do exist.
Please watch a short video before reading ahead:
Now that we have learnt some details about molecular biology, let us review a few words about the Christian theology.
According to a Christian theological doctrine, Original Sin, also called ancestral sin, is humanity’s state of sin resulting from the fall of man, stemming from Adam’s rebellion in Eden. This condition has been characterized in many ways, ranging from something as insignificant as a slight deficiency, or a tendency toward sin yet without collective guilt, referred to as a “sin nature”, to something as drastic as total depravity or automatic guilt of all humans through collective guilt.
The concept of Original Sin was first alluded to in the 2nd century by Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons in his controversy with certain dualist Gnostics. Other church fathers such as Augustine also developed the doctrine, seeing it as based on the New Testament teaching of Paul the Apostle (Romans 5:12–21 and 1 Corinthians 15:22) and the Old Testament verse of Psalm 51:5.8] Tertullian, Cyprian, Ambrose and Ambrosiaster considered that humanity shares in Adam’s sin, transmitted by human generation. Augustine’s formulation of Original Sin was popular among Protestant reformers, such as Martin Luther and John Calvin, who equated original sin with concupiscence, affirming that it persisted even after baptism and completely destroyed freedom.
If all humans inhabiting the planet earth today are not direct descendants of Adam and Eve, who lived approximately 6000 years ago, then suddenly the very basic doctrines of Christianity, Original Sin and vicarious Atonement, Jesus dying on the cross for our sins, change into fiction. All of us do not have the genes of “Original Sin” and are not in need of Jesus’ atonement.
According to the theory of evolution humans have existed for at least more than 150,000 years, in other words Adam and Eve, who were merely 6000 years ago, are not the great grand parents of all the humans inhabiting planet earth today.
I had originally written about this issue, in the Religion and Science section of the Summer 2008 volume of the Muslim Sunrise, the oldest Muslim publication of North America. Please read it on page 21 of the PDF file: Evaluating Original Sin against scientific discoveries.
Neanderthals went extinct no earlier than about 33,000 years ago, and probably more recently than that. No Neanderthal fossils more recent than 30,000 years ago have been found; among the most recent are those found in the Vindija Cave in Croatia, which are between 33,000 and 32,000 years old. However, evidence at a site in Gibraltar suggestive of fire use by Neanderthals raises the possibility that they might have survived there until as recently as 24,000 years ago. Cro-Magnon (early-modern-human) skeletal remains showing certain “Neanderthal traits” have been found in Lagar Velho (Portugal) and dated to 24,500 years ago, suggesting that there was an extensive admixture of the Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal populations in that region.
Here is a documentary from PBS Nova: Decoding Neanderthals, which you can watch at your leisure:
Even if the sin of Adam and Eve was passed onto their off springs, it has no bearing for all of humanity as we do not all come from them. Many of us are coming from Neanderthals and other proto-human species, without Adam and Eve of 6000 years ago being part of our genealogy.
If humans have come from apes and Neanderthals, Christianity dies a sudden death and Islam only has to reinterpret some of the verses of the Holy Quran, which were not well understood by the past commentators, given the constraints of their times, no fault of the All-Knowing God.
Adam and Eve being the first human couple, is not a pillar of Islamic faith, by any stretch of imagination. But, it is an essential for the Christian faith.
In this sense, Charles Darwin, was God-sent to guide people away from the Christian dogma, to rationality and the Truth.
If you are a staunch Christian and I am not making good sense to you, then may be, just may be, you are strongly indoctrinated in the Christian dogma. You may need to work a little harder on the issues and do some more reading. May I take the liberty, to suggest to you a book, by the Founder President of Cornell University, one of the top eight universities in USA, Andrew Dickson White (1832-1918), A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, published in 1896. It is available in Archive.org.
By this presentation, I believe, I have brought the weight of the whole field of biology, of all the natural history museums in the world, to bear on the dogma of Christianity, not on the message of compassion and One God, brought by Jesus, may peace be on him, but on the Pauline version of Christianity, which drifted away from the original message.
I first made this argument in summer 2008 volume of the Muslim Sunrise, the oldest Muslim publication of North America: Evaluating Original Sin against scientific discoveries.
Additional readings to consolidate the above claims
The Science-Religion Crisis at Christian Colleges
Verdict of Science: Islam, Christianity or Atheism?
Clone a Neanderthal baby for the Sake of Science and Religion
The Root Cause of Conflict Between Religion and Science: Wrong Theology!
Exposing Creationism of Zakir Naik, Tahir ul Qadari, Yusuf Estes and Harun Yahya
Debate: Does the Universe have a purpose?
Madagascar: An Exhibit for Islam against Christianity!
Darwinian Evolution: Islam or Christianity?
A Cordial invitation to Sir David Attenborough to be a Theist
Scientific American ignoring the Elephant in the Room: Darwinian Evolution: Islam or Christianity?
Fundamentalists Think Science Is Atheism
We are saving the above Nova video and the other video in the Muslim Times as well:
Categories: Biology, Catholicism, Catholics, Highlight, Original Sin, Religion & Science, Religion and Science, Video
Some Christians would, of course, want to argue otherwise and I want to kick start their case, by linking an article on their behalf.
How Are Christianity and Evolution Compatible?
By Denis Alexander
Does the fact of evolution raise challenging theological questions for Christian faith? Of course. For example, when did humans first become responsible to God for their actions? How should Christians understand the doctrine of the Fall in the light of evolution? And what about the problem of pain and suffering? No-one pretends that such questions have simple answers, and I have written a book that tackles them in some detail (Creation or Evolution – Do We Have to Choose? Oxford: Monarch, 2008). Understanding evolution is a help rather than a hindrance on that last question. There are necessary costs in the existence of carbon-based life and all living things, including us, play our part in sharing the burden of those costs. Biological existence, with all its rich diversity, is a costly existence.
To read the whole article, click here
To read at least one comment, supporting medieval understanding and in support of creationism, allegedly from the Holy Quran, please click here.
Please note that this famous naturalist whom you are talking about did NOT have the title “Sir”. He is plain Charles (Robert) Darwin.
There was a Sir Charles (Galton) Darwin, who was his grandson and a physicist, who died in 1962.
Thanks for the correction. But, he is certainly, one of the most influential persons of UK, so, too bad that he has not been knighted.
Shows us the games people play and they seldom endorse, whom they find controversial in popular opinion, at any given time.
An abridged version of this controversy of Evolution from Islamic point of view will go a long way in establishing the truth.
The evolutionary proess isnot applicable to life forms on this planet Earth.Webeleive that Allah created all the life forms Whereas this process is very much applicable to many other things like Civilisation, Knowledge and Discovery and Religion.
Religion hasgone through the evolutionary process and matured with ISLAM just like Civilisation.
so… morality evolved from non-moral beings?
Excepting any revelation from the Transcendent God, who is beyond time, space and matter.
It’s difficult for me to grasp, so God waited until we evolved to humans from the Apes to reveal morality to us? Why did He wait?
But maybe I’m missing something.
Dear Luca, you are not missing anything. It were Apes who were missing the ability of being rationale and ability to identify the true message of God.Humans have this ability and they are superior than all other living beings therefore they can easily understand the message of Almighty God.
Quoting a Catholic Website: Original Sin
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Psalm 51:5
Many people today deny the reality of original sin. Modern thinkers claim that evolution disproves it. Some object to the idea of inheriting sin from our parents, while others simply deny sin itself. Some Christians claim that the Bible never teaches it and so on. However G.K. Chesterton while still an Anglican wrote in his book, Othrodoxy, that original sin is the most obvious of all Christian doctrines.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), the doctrine of original sin is in some sense the reverse side of the doctrine of Redemption (CCC 389). In Genesis 2-3, God created man in His Image and established our first parents – Adam and Eve – in His friendship. This friendship included Sanctifying grace – the gift of holiness and eternal life. Adam, however, freely chose to live apart from God by trusting instead in the knowledge of good and evil – wanting to be like gods. Adam rejected God through disobedience and lost this friendship for himself and us. This loss is original sin (Gen 3:22ff; CCC 396-399).
The concept of original sin is not exclusively Catholic. Even though some Evangelical Protestants may shutter at the term, they readily acknowledge the fall of mankind and accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. Now without original sin, there would be no need for a Savior. The story of Adam and Eve found in the Book of Genesis is inherited from our Hebrew heritage (Gen. 3). Even the ancient Greek pagans had an inkling idea of original sin and imperfectly expressed it in the tale of “Pandora’s Box.”
Now the doctrine of original sin cannot be proven by natural reason, but it is easily witnessed by its symptoms: the need for police, the collapse of great civilizations, suicide, suffering and so on. Another symptom is war. People have always and will always kill each other in mass quantity. The more advanced, civilized cultures merely execute war more efficiently. War is not exclusively reserved for nations. Street gangs, families or a single terrorist can rage war. But war is exclusively a human endeavor. Monkeys, though nimble with their fingers, do not make bombs, guns or even knives. Man on the other hand has fashioned the most primitive weapons out of stone before he could record history. In recent years, man has successfully sent robots to explore distant planets but still lives under the threat of nuclear holocaust. Even though man is intelligent and capable of doing great works, war quickly reminds us of our fallen state – a state sometimes appearing to be beneath animals. Without the doctrine of original sin, this paradox of humanity is an even deeper mystery.
Modern thinkers may claim that evolution disproves original sin, even though evolution is still only a theory. Even if evolution were proven to be fact, fossils can tell us little about our first parents and their spiritual souls. Also recent research in human mitochondrial DNA tends to indicate that the human race descended from a single woman – perhaps scientific evidence for Eve. (Mitochondrial DNA is genetic material inherited only from the mother and not from the father, unlike nuclear DNA.) Now evolution does not disprove original sin, but on the contrary – sin seems to disprove evolution. Evolution does not explain man’s sinful setback. If man evolved from animals, then man also shares a common digression missing among animals.
Some may object to the idea of inheriting sin; however, these people forget about human solidarity – the human race as one big family. Even though we are responsible for our actions due to human free will, our deeds still affect other people and vice versa. If I drive while drunk, my action can deprive someone else of their life.
The refutation of my thesis above from a Catholic website of my thesis is in fact a wonderful endorsement of what I am saying.
Read the last paragraph quoted above and it simply denies biological evolution as a theory. In other words if evolution is true Original Sin is false. I would like to say that common ancestry of all life forms on our planet is as true and as well proven as gravity and it is demonstrated in the links given in my article above.
If common ancestry is true Original Sin is wrong, plain and simple!
Sin is just human thinking that is not pure divine thinking. Part of evolution. Part of the human condition not dependent on Christian or Islamic thought. Thought evolves. So then should interpretations of sin in both religions. Besides the broad general tenets the Islam and the Christianity of the 7th century are mostly irrelevant.
Some smaller points. We don’t really understand the time frames written in the bible. 6,000 years was a calculation done by people who thought the Sun revolved around the earth. A calculation based on inheritance of Arabic mathematics.
Science today suggests we shouldn’t kill each other yet Islam ingrains the killing of others in its liturgy. Plenty of evidence to support that medieval idea that hasn’t evolved in 1300 years.
“Adam and Eve being the first human couple, is not a pillar of Islamic faith, by any stretch of imagination. But, it is an essential for the Christian faith.”
Um, no, it is certainly not (except perhaps for Sola Scriptura Protestants).
Christians taking the Book of Genesis literally is a phenomenon that is barely a couple hundred of years old. It is a heretical innovation, and a young one at that.
Church teaches that death came through sin of Adam. If Adam lived 6000 years ago and there were many men and women in world before Adam a.s. and they were dying then for whose sin they were dying before Adam?
I doubt if it was the Muslims who taught that Sun rotates around the earth. It was a church teaching.
The Quran taught that the Sun and The Moon are all floating in their orbits. In fact it taught that all heavenly bodies are global and they are travelling in their orbits.
Quran also taught that Sun was moving towards it appointed place. (Quran chapter 36).
The scientists at that time did not believe that Sun was moving.
The Quran is not a book of Science. Yet it is clearly written in the Quran that all living things are made from water.
Present day science is far advanced. So is present day mathematics which used the Arabic numerals i.e. the decimal system and algebra.
In a book, Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose? Denis Alexander makes a futile attempt at harmonizing Original Sin with biological evolution. Any one interested in his defense can read the book.
In the following article Karl Giberson, Ph.D; Professor, Stonehill College, agrees with my thesis:
Fundamentalists Think Science Is Atheism
Karl Giberson has actually written a whole book, which came out in May of 2015, in support of my thesis:
Saving the Original Sinner: How Christians Have Used the Bible’s First Man to Oppress, Inspire, and Make Sense of the World
Terms Muslims if used as referring to the descriptions in the Qur’an identify something. However term Christians in general can not define anything unless qualified such as as Catholic 9trinitarian originated from Arabic Nasa Tathlith) or Protestants ( Monotheistic originated from either Hanif Romans or disguised Muslims due to persecution of Catholic kings after European Muslim Imaarat fell).
Evolution as is generally presented in educational textbooks as gradual genetic changes in the species is an outright lie completely against the observed evidences.
Terms Muslims if used as referring to the descriptions in the Qur’an identify something. However term Christians in general can not define anything unless qualified such as as Catholic trinitarian originated from Arabic Nasa Tathlith) or Protestants ( Monotheistic originated from either Hanif Romans or disguised Muslims due to persecution of Catholic kings after European Muslim Imaarat fell).
Evolution as is generally presented in educational textbooks as gradual genetic changes in the species is an outright lie completely against the observed evidences.
It’s sad that you have chosen to interpret the Adam and Eve story in a particular way in order to promote Islam over Christianity, when I thought this site was all about universal brotherhood. Like Islam, Christianity has many strands, and most do not take the Adam and Eve story literally but as dramatising the fact of our common humanity, to express the truth that our flaws are inherent in our human nature, yet we do not need to be controlled by them.
Thank you for your comments. I see your point. Allow me to say a few words in my defense.
Most Muslims also do not believe or allow precise discussion of evolution in their religious forums either. A very large majority of the Muslims, even those who believe in evolution, are not ready to interpret the Adam and Eve story. I guess as you pointed ‘our flaws are inherent in our human nature.’ We are not ready to leave the comfort of old established ideas even if they are wrong. We particularly shy away from the new interpretations of the holy scriptures.
This article is against the original sin and many Christians are walking away from that idea also or at least reinterpreting it.
I worded the article strongly as otherwise the point would have been lost on the reader.
In view of your comment, I have changed a short paragraph in my article to a more detailed paragraph, which reads as follows now:
And finally universal brotherhood means loving each and every human and fighting for their religious freedom and human rights. It does not mean promoting all the wrong ideas. Peace and love!
oh man, you give lip service to Muslim creationism which is no different from Christians. “If humans have come from apes and Neanderthals, Christianity dies a sudden death and Islam only has to reinterpret some of the verses of the Holy Quran, which were not well understood by the past commentators, given the constraints of their times, no fault of the All-Knowing God.”
this simply not enough. In Persian, we call it طفره رفتن evasion. Guided evolution which seems this out wants to promote is also no different from Christain intelligence design.
No. The Quran and Ahadith explicitly teach a unique complete creation of Adam alayhi salaam as a first human being not going through stages. That is how the Sahaba and early generations understood it. Theory of evolution is a highly biased racist theory promoted to support Western world view. It’s founders were racist and many of it’s early promoters thought of many humans as animals. The Nazis and communist both adopted the theory of evolution as their official state view to Justify many of their perverted and evil actions. Muslims don’t buy into this. May Allah protect us