Pharyngula

I’ve run into this particular phenomenon many times: the True Believer in some musty ancient mythology tells me that his superstition is true, because it accurately described some relatively modern discovery in science long before secular scientists worked it out. It’s always some appallingly stupid interpretation of a vaguely useless piece of text that wouldn’t have made any sense until it was retrofitted to modern science. My particular field of developmental biology has been particularly afflicted with this nonsense, thanks to one man, Dr. Keith L. Moore, of the University of Toronto. He’s the author or co-author on several widely used textbooks in anatomy and embryology — and they are good and useful books! — but he’s also an idiot. He has published ridiculous claims that the Qur’an contains inexplicably detailed descriptions of the stages of human development, implying some sort of divine source of information.

I’ve mentioned this before. For instance, the old book claims that at one point the embryo looks like a piece of chewed gum, or mudghah, and Moore announces, “by golly, it does, sorta”, throwing away all the knowledge we have about the structure and appearance of the actual embryo, which is not a chewed lump. I’ve actually seen these kooks show pictures of a piece of gum and an embryo and declare that they are similar. It’s insane. It’s pareidolia run amuck and swamping out actual scientific information for the sake of propping up useless superstitions.

Here’s Moore himself, endorsing the divinity of Allah on the basis of mudghah.

You may not have heard of him before, but I regularly get email from Muslims telling me that as a developmental biologist, I ought to follow Islam because of its insights into embryology, which don’t exist. Thanks, Dr Moore, you dumbass.

Well, now the Muslim cranks have another coup, having persuaded some other dumbasses to publish an appallingly bad paper in the International Journal of Cardiology, a credible peer-reviewed journal. Or, at least, formerly credible.

The paper is disgracefully bad. It’s basically a compendium of an assortment of references to anatomy and health from the Qur’an, endorsing them as accurate sources of information. For instance, the Qur’an prescribes three techniques for healing, “honey, cupping, and cauterization,” and gosh, we now know that “Honey contains the therapeutic contents sugars, vitamins, anti-microbials, among other things”!

Are you impressed yet?

Since this is a cardiology journal, the article also finds it necessary to waste the readers’ time with blather about blood and arteries. Here’s an example of the Prophet’s profound knowledge of the circulatory system.

Another great vessel mentioned in the Qur’an is the Al-Aatín or aorta “We would certainly have seized his right hand and cut off his Al-Watín,” [20]. Al-Watín has been translated into different, yet similar words, including “aorta”, “life-artery”, and simply “artery”. This verse is taken to mean that if the Prophet Mohammed was lying about the teachings of God, then God would have grabbed the Prophet Mohammad’s arm and cut a vital artery, certainly killing Mohammad. This verse confirms that 1. Blood was indeed viewed as a vehicle for life and 2. The artery directly leading from the heart is vital to survival. By analyzing the different translations and exegesis of Al-Watín, it can be safely assumed that it is the aorta that the author of the Qur’an is referring to in this verse.

Hmmm. So a warlike society that had many soldiers running about chopping into people with swords was aware that cutting major arteries would lead to rapid blood loss and death. I have no idea how they could have figured that out without an omniscient god whispering the explanation into the ears of priests.

The holy book also talks about heart disease, something else a readership of cardiologists would find interesting. Does this sound like well-informed medicine to you?

The Qur’an shares with the Hadeeth a metaphorical description of the heart as a possessor of emotional faculties, thus giving the heart many characteristics that modern science attributes to the brain. As is popularly stated in Islamic culture, every action is dependent upon intentions, and “…what counts is [to God] the intention of your hearts…”. These actions, whether “good” or “bad” determine the health of the heart, namely if it is a sound or diseased heart. A diseased heart is one filled with qualities such as doubt, hypocrisy, and ignorance among many others. Possessors of such qualities have a “hardened,” diseased heart. Other malaise qualities contributing to a diseased heart includes blasphemy, rejection of truth, deviation, sin, corruption, aggressiveness, negligence, fear, anger, and jealousy, among others.

The authors of the Qur’an and of this paper seem to have confused poetic metaphor with science.

Yeah, the article also repeats Moore’s nonsense about embryology. There’s much, much more: read the original paper for yourself, or this excellent critique that also points out all the conveniently omitted parts where the Qur’an gets everything completely wrong.

How did this crap manage to get published? Once again, we have a disgraceful failure of peer-review to weed out obvious religious propaganda, allowing an Islamic tract to appear under the guise of a scientific article. Just the fact that the references consist almost entirely of citations to pages of the Qur’an ought to have triggered some concern. I’d like to know what went wrong in the reviewing process that allowed garbage like this to make it onto the pages of the International Journal of Cardiology. Write to the editor and demand an accounting; also make them squirm in embarrassment and appreciate the damage that has been done to their credibility.

And remember: ancient holy books are sources of lies and misinformation, not science.


Loukas M, et al, The heart and cardiovascular system in the Qur’an and Hadeeth, Int J Cardiol (2009), doi:10.1016/j. ijcard.2009.05.011

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