What religion has to do with Darwin’s seminal findings?

A. H. Jaffor Ullah

Published on  Darwin Day (February 12, 2006)

Charles Darwin’s biggest contribution to humankind was to explain how evolutionary forces acted on simple organism (prokaryote) to make them complex (eukaryote).  The same forces have finally led to the evolution of modern man from apes.  Darwin never did talk about Christianity while describing his scientific theory of evolution.  However, you may find some folks amongst us who would like to take the onus on them for no good reason to uphold religion (Islam specially) whenever they pen something.  This idiosyncrasy is abnormal, to say the least. 

Darwin was a person of his time as we are the product of our time in this age of Skylab, DNA, Proteomics, In Vitro fertilization, Stem Cell, etc.  In nineteenth century, Europe was trying to break away from the bondage of Christianity.  Thanks to a number of writers, thinkers, scientists, whose cumulative work had led to a renaissance in mid 19th century; they formed the base on which humankind had built the modern world.  Thanks to the development of antibiotic, which saved billions of life.  Biochemists and nutritionists have worked diligently in the dawn of the 20th century to alert us on the role of vitamins and minerals.  We are taking them to keep ourselves healthy.  A rapid growth in immunology in 20th century had led to the development of vaccines against some dreaded disease (cholera, smallpox, polio, tuberculosis, etc.).  These are the hallmarks of modern life sciences.  Sadly or happily, religion did not play any role to save the humankind from the afflictions of these dreadful maladies.  Darwin should get some credit for all these rapid growth in life sciences.  I read in an article that stated that not a single facet of life sciences was untouched by Darwin’s findings.  In fact, a tremendous growth in molecular medicine (insulin, EPO, clot-busting enzymes, and a plethora of inhibitors of enzyme activity to treat AID, lower bad cholesterol, etc.) of the last quarter century would have not been possible without Darwin’s explanation of evolution of life forms. 

Many writers from our subcontinent, who are now placed in academia in the West, grapples to this date with an inner conflict because they received a healthy dose of religion in their childhood.  Our society and home environment are to be blamed for this ambivalence.  These folks would like to put their feet in two boats, which is a sure way to lose balance.  Being a modern person with ample gray matter in their cranium they would love to tell us that Darwin was a great thinker but at the same time they would like to sell snake oil to the readers.   

The readers in this forum will find such a writer.  These folks simply have to write something good about Islam.  Without any factual basis they will write that Islam was a great religion, which produced great thinkers in medieval time.  Of course, they will not forget to mention the name of Al Beruni and other al-chemists who lived and worked during the time of Khalifa Harun Al-Rashid (763-809 AD) of Baghdad.  Yes, Arabs did flourish in science and math in eighth and ninth century before plunging into a state of darkness after the early demise of Mutazila.  Thanks to Mutazila movement that allowed questioning anything.  But that freedom to question anything on earth or heaven did change as Islamic society in the Middle East buried the airy Mutazila movement nipping it at the bud.  

Being a modernist with a tinge of Islamism, our Islam-Pasand (lover) newbie would extol the virtue of Islam.  Therefore, he or she would love to talk about Darwin but at the same time would remind us the past and faded glory of Islam.  May I ask, what is the connection here, hello!  

I know that I would never get an answer from this kind of person who would love to inject religion while we discuss evolution or any science topic.  Is there any way we could keep our rapt attention on the subject matter, which is Darwin at this time?  If he or she would like to spread the good name of Islam, then, please do it at another time and at another forum.  The readers who would flock on February 12, 2006 to Mukto-mona’s site to read articles on Darwin would be very anxious to peruse articles on the sage.  However, why burden them with the extra information on how great the religion of Islam was during the reign of Harun Al-Rashid?  Wrong timing – one would hasten to add!   

When forum-goers decide to talk about Islam and related topics, let them discuss the issues day-and-night ad infinitum.  Mentioning Darwin in the forum dedicated to Islam would break the sanctity of such a forum.  The same thing is true for sites dedicated to uphold the spirit of Darwinism.  Why do we have to inject Islam into discussion dedicated to Darwin?  The sage himself (Charles Darwin) did not say anything about the book of Genesis while discussing his findings on speciation in finches.  Mixing religion and science is like mixing oil and water.  They simply won’t mix; they will only form a colloidal mixture, which could be separated easily by fractional distillation. 

An intelligent human being ought not discuss religion while talking about science.  This is my humble suggestion to our writers from South Asia.



Dr. A.H. Jaffor Ullah, an enzyme researcher and columnist, pens this essay from the campus town of Cornell in Ithaca, NY.