Muslims are often Creationists

One of the things that frustrates me about the modern Left is that many secularists tend to pull their punches when it comes to non-white or non-Christian groups. While white Protestant charismatics are sneered at as "holy rollers," black Protestant charismatics are "inspirational" and "spiritual." While white Protestant men oppress their wives, Muslim men are oppressed.

This is not to say that there are no issues in regards to racism and prejucide when it comes to the groups I highlight above. But, at the end of the day superstition is superstition, no? And shouldn't we expect the best of all peoples? There are real & genuine questions of universality and the relevance of the Enlightenment here. Myself, I lean toward universality of values, but I'm a pragmatist. In any case, below is a repost from last year where I discuss a survey that suggests that Muslim doctors in the United States are mostly Creationists.

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I promise I'll start focusing on genetics again soon (I'm really getting into epistasis FYI). But back to Islam. One thing that I like to say is that you need to characterize the distribution of Muslims (ie; radicals, moderates, liberals) in the context of how they map on to Christians when making analogies or comparisons (for instance, the moderate Christian and moderate Muslim identity).

So I thought I would extract the following data from The Future of Religion by Rodney Stark and William Bainbridge:

"Evolution could not possibly be true"

Southern Baptist - 72%

Nazarene - 80%

Assembly of God - 91%

7th Day Adventist - 35%

Roman Catholic -28%

Here is the survey of doctors beliefs about evolution:

Q: Do you agree more with the evolution or more with intelligent design?

A: More with Intelligent Design.

Muslim - 73%

Hindu - 23%

Q: What are your views on the origin and development of human beings?

A: God created humans exactly as they appear now.

Muslim - 43%

Hindu - 11%

Q: What are your views on Evolution?

A: Reject it.

Muslim - 40%

Hindu - 6%

Catholic - 6%

Comments: I used Hindus as a comparison point because most Hindus are either immigrants or the children of immigrants, and, from a "traditional" culture known for its conservatism. I suspect most of the Muslim doctors are either South Asian or Arab, not black or white American converts. There is a substantial intersection in the cultural origin of Muslim and Hindu doctors (the South Asians), but you see signs here that as regards attitudes toward evolutionary science, Muslims do tend to be rather conservative (many liberal atheists like PZ Meyers would use stronger language when describing religionists who reject evolution, but I will demur).

I want to frame this in comparison to the Christian groups in the USA. Muslim doctors are well educated, and middle class, but I think one can guess that at least on the evolution question they tend to slot into the region of the spectrum where conservative Protestants and fundamentalists normally are placed in in the United States. Assuming that Muslim American doctors are mostly "moderate" (my experience), I think one can place American Muslims on the conservative end of the religious spectrum, and this is not just due to their immigrant background, seeing as how Hindus (and Buddhists, who are often immigrant) tend toward more open religious views (this is a character I think of Hinduism in general).

I was prompted to this post by someone jumping on Scott at Sepia Mutiny for implying that Muslims are generally not too modern or assimilated. But objections to this generalization I think obscure the reality that if non-Muslims (think conservative Christians) espoused a set of views that Muslims normally espouse, there is, shall I say, less reluctance to ascribe lack of modernity or sophistication to said group. There are some modern, assimilated and liberal Muslims. I am not one who says there is something essential in the character of Islam that dictates a specific set of beliefs which are congruent with conservative Protestantism (and further to the religious Right), but, let's get real, the center of gravity in American Islam (for one) on the character of "religious conservatism" is not where that of American Christianity is. This makes "conservative Muslims" on a relative intragroup scale a different beast than "conservative Christians" (just as conservative Congregationalists are different from conservative Baptists).

Caution: The sample size was small and the questions between the two surveys were analogous, not identical. But at least there's some data here....

Update: I want to clarify a few things. Ikram asks "Is 'intelligent design' a well understood term in Muslim context?" Well, most people don't understand 'intelligent design,' whether Christian, Muslim or Jewish. I recently talked to a phylogeneticist who was clearly confusing 'intelligent design' with Young Earth Creationism. I suspect most evolutionary biologists don't really think much about the nuanced differences between 'intelligent design' as promoted by William Demski and Michael Behe and the older schools of Youth Earth Creationism.

In most people's minds 'intelligent design' is just a new semantic placeholder to address the question: is man descended from monkeys? Most people who espouse anti-evolutionist views do not ever show to me that they have ever really thought much about irreducible complexity or Demski's use of information theory, they are just props for their beliefs which reject the man-is-a-monkey hypothesis.

In other words, surveying attitudes toward 'intelligent design' is simply a gauge for a general sentiment that might be used as an indicator for 'modernity of religious outlook.' In hindsight using Hindus as a comparison group is probably a bad choice in the context of is-man-a-monkey question hanging in the background in light of some unrelated facts.

My opinion is that a straightfoward interpretation of the scriptural monotheisms seems to imply some sort of special creation of humanity. The fact that liberal Protestants and Roman Catholics have modified their worldview in light of science is indicative to me of a general attitude of maintaining a truce with the modern intellectual environment, that is, grappling with the modern world on its own terms. The rejection of such by fundamentalists is in my opinion a rejection, or at least a refusal to grapple with, modern intellectual developments. To me the lack familiarity with the details of Creationism or Intelligent Design on the part of Muslims is irrelevant because most fundamentalist Christians aren't familiar with the general concepts either, beyond a reflexive my-uncle-ain't-no-monkey sentiment (Intelligent Design doesn't even reject common descent necessarily, something many popular adherents seem to not grasp).


More like this

High SES muslims tend to have a more literal view of the Quran than low SES muslims. (more true for Sunnis than Shias)

High SES hindus tend to have a less literal view of hinduism than low SES hindus. Though worth noting that there is also a greater tendency among high SES hindus to also tend to be into various forms of superstitious quackery like, doing yoga, astrology, numerology, uber-veganism, belief in future technological singularity, alternative medicine, and Feng Shui.

This makes it seem like the hindus are less conservative than muslims, but that is not necessarily true.
For instance the Salafi muslims are breaking apart from the muslim tradition in South Asia, whereas the hindus who are vegetarians, do yoga, are in many aspects just perpetuating hindu tradition.

From what I've read of Islamic theology, it seems like Islam has a much stronger idea of inspiration of scripture than most Christian denominations do. In general I'd say:

- "Liberal" Protestants believe that truth may be found by reading scripture, even though certain parts of the scriptures may not in themselves be true. Some even go so far as to simply say that some sections of the scriptures were "true at the time" but may not be true or relevant anymore.

- "Bible Protestants" believe that the "plain meaning" of scripture is literally true -- but still have an escape hatch in that the question of "plain meaning" can be interpreted vastly differently by different people.

- Catholics believe that the authors of scripture were preserved from error as regards to their essential message, but that not all sections of scripture are true at all levels (literal, allegorical, escatalogical, etc.)

However, all but the most "fundamentalist" groups within Christianity view scriptures as being a collection of writing wherein the human authors chose the words used, while divine power protected them from error or provided them with inspriration. My understanding is that mainstream Islam teaches that the Koran was essentially dictated to Mohammad by the angel Gabriel -- and so each word and phrase is divinely intended. (Thus the necessity of studying it in Arabic rather than translation.)

If my understanding of this is correct, I can certainly see why it would be harder for Muslim's to feel comfortable taking the creation account as allegorical than it has been for Christians -- and as we know even many Christians have a hard time doing that.

I know very little about Hinduism, but I wonder if it has an even greater tendency towards allegorical treatment its holy writings than Christianity, thus allowing a quicker move away from creationism even for those recently coming from a very traditional culture.

I truly wasn't expecting only 35% of 7th day adventists completely ruling out evolution . It always seemed to me that they were one of the most likely to be young earth creationists, among various christian groups . I remember reading quite a few adventist "creation science" tomes while younger. I'm very surprised !

By ogunsiron (not verified) on 11 Jul 2006 #permalink

The fact is, most people aren't well educated enough in the meaning of the term "evolution". Tracing human phylogeny to a common ancestor as apes contradicts Islamic teaching, but the process of evolution does not.

It always seemed to me that they were one of the most likely to be young earth creationists, among various christian groups

these are doctors. as a matter of fact though much of YEC derives from 7th day adventist thinking....

I am also very surprised by the 7th day adventist response. I have had no real contact with them in the past 15 years, but I attended 7th day schools from 4th grade through college. They were pretty thourough in their young earth creationist indoctrination. Most of the pre-medical students I knew in college (along with the chemists and engineers) argued vigorously with me when I suggested that they were wrong...

There was a small underground pro-evolution movement amongst the physics department faculty though.