A few days ago I spent some time thinking aloud about Islam, and how the oppression associated with Islam seen in some parts of the world is more a function of the politics and power struggles of where it’s taken root, and less about the inherent qualities of the religion itself.*
As an addendum to that point, I want to share something I found the other day on BBC. It was written a couple of weeks ago, but it fits right in with the topic, and drives home the argument that where you are born, how you are brought up, and how well you are educated has a profound effect on the way you understand the world around you in the context of whatever religion you have.
It also shows exactly how scientifically illiterate some people can be and still function in today’s society.
In one corner is Inayat Bunglawala, who is the chairman of the UK-based Muslim outreach program called “Muslims 4UK”. I’m not sure if he holds any rank in the theological world of Islam or not. (I’m inclined to think he doesn’t or else it would have specified.)
In the other corner is Reverend Greg Haslam, of the Westminster Chapel in London. He’s a young Earth creationist so he takes a literal interpretation of the bible. He also appears to have some basic awareness of science, but apparently not enough to make sense of it. Sorry to say it, but it hits the level of cringe-worthy in the article.
Their discussion revolves around some of the “controversial” topics in science; I have that in quotes because they’re only considered controversial by individuals who are not too familiar with science, which sadly has grown over the decades to include not only fundamentalist Christians but the majority of the American public. Below is their exchange on the Big Bang, which is a good example of the perspective of both individuals:
Greg: Let’s talk about one abused idea – the Big Bang, a concept which seeks to explain the origin of the universe, claiming that billions of years ago all the matter and energy in the universe was condensed into a particle no bigger than a pin-head.
No one knows where it came from, but its heat and density were unimaginably great. Then for some unknown reason it exploded, then expanded and cooled so that helium and hydrogen gas could be formed. Our solar system appeared and the rest is palaeontology.
Dead things don’t re-create and re-order themselves to become living entities again.
Every explosion we’ve ever observed results in chaos, never order. Why would physical laws break down for the formation of the universe in the “Big Bang” and its aftermath? No scientist can yet tell us.
The scientist Michael Denton (Australian molecular biologist) should have the last word (from his book Evolution – A Theory in Crisis).
He says: “Evolutionary theory is still, as it was in Darwin’s time, a highly speculative hypothesis entirely without direct factual support and very far from that self-evident axiom some of its more aggressive advocates would have us believe.”
As with many other creationists, Greg doesn’t have enough of a grasp of science to realize that it’s not the theories that are the problem, rather his understanding of them. This isn’t to say that either one is absolutely complete; both are imperfect and have their own problems. However, he ignores the actual issues with both theories and instead basis his objections on nothing more than a couple of grammar-school level misrepresentations. Again, whether this is deliberate or not, I’m not sure.
Inayat takes some time to educate Greg on … pretty much everything related to science:
Inayat: Aside from the fact that science teaches us that the Big Bang was an expansion, not an explosion, it is worth noting that explosions can indeed produce some order amidst their other effects.
Supernovae produce heavy elements such as iron, and the shock waves from them compress interstellar gases, which begins the formation of new stars. Powerful explosions can compress carbon into diamond crystals, which have an evidently more ordered arrangement.
Michael Denton wrote that book back in 1985. It’s arguments have not found wide support amongst scientists.
Here is one response to Denton from writer Mark I Vuletic on the Talk Origins website – where you will find responses to many of your questions.
“Evolutionists – even those who agree with Theodosius Dobzhansky that ‘nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution’ – would be surprised by Denton’s suggestion that they hold macroevolution to be a ‘self-evident axiom’.”
Elsewhere, he goes on to say that none of this necessarily says that a god doesn’t exist, only that one can accept methodological naturalism as a useful tool in describing natural events while maintaining a belief in a divine being that (in their view) provided the will for it all to take shape. I don’t necessarily agree with this but I’m happy to take this point of view over one that so vehemently rejects the collected scientific knowledge of the last 300 years in favor of an ancient book that was never intended to replace it.
* Of course that doesn’t necessarily mean it disappears when removed from its point of origin. I just took some time after writing this post to read a little about Inayat and his background. Apparently back in 2005 he was one of seven people selected for the Home Office in Britain to tackle extremism in young Muslims, but has also been plagued with controversy over allegedly anti-Semitic statements along with others praising Osama bin Laden as a “freedom fighter”.