Jordanian Teacher Indoctrinates Muslims in Darwinism
An observant Muslim teacher in a hijab tries to help her biology students become “free thinkers” – how? By teaching them Darwinian evolution.
In Nature, Rana Dajani appears in a photo with her head covering on to explain “Why I teach evolution to Muslim students.” For most of her students, this is the first time they have seen an observant Muslim “citing Charles Darwin as a scientist who contributed to our understanding of the emergence and diversification of life on Earth.” Why does she do it? Her motivations are admirable: promoting free thinking.
I teach evolution to university students in Jordan. Almost all of them are hostile to the idea at first. Their schoolteachers are likely to have ignored or glossed over it. Still, most students are willing to discuss evolution, and by the end of the course, the majority accept the idea. If Muslim students can challenge ideas on such a controversial academic topic, then they can also approach other aspects of their lives by questioning — and not just blindly accepting — the status quo. These tools and attitudes are crucial to the development of their personalities and to becoming responsible citizens.
She lets wary Muslim students know that she is not teaching against Islam. Muslim scholars, she says, agreed with the principle that science and the Prophet were not in conflict. Bad attitudes were brought in by Christian creationists:
Muslim scholars such as Hussein al-Jisr and Ahmad Medhat in the 1880s supported evolution. Before Darwin, al-Jahiz and others proposed rudimentary evolutionary theories in the ninth century. I point out that the apparent controversy over evolution and Islam arose only in the twentieth century, when Darwin’s ideas became associated with colonialism, imperialism, the West, atheism, materialism and racism. Muslim religious scholars gradually took a stand against evolution, which the public adopted. The scholars used Christian creationist arguments to support their stance, transferring the Western war between science and religion to Islam.
Yet her version of evolution leaves very little active role for any conceivable Creator to play. One might call it “Muslim deism” —
Some of my students argue that to accept evolution means denying the existence of God. I say that evolution does not discuss the origins of the Universe. No one yet understands this beginning. To me, the beginning was God. After the beginning, the rules of logic and science led to the development of the Universe and beyond….
My take, as a Muslim scientist, is that the Koran asks humans to observe and contemplate the world while celebrating the pursuit of knowledge. It does not validate scientific findings. Science allows us to question and discover how the world works and the Koran provides the moral guidelines for doing so. If an apparent contradiction arises between a scientific finding and an interpretation of the Koran, then we can turn to both science itself (which is evolving) and the interpretation of the Koran (which is not impartial, because it is a human exercise) to account for the discrepancy. This is an ongoing and fluid process, and is part and parcel of the purpose of life for Muslims.
Dajani says she does not try to force these teachings on any of the students, even if they deny human evolution. She doesn’t want to be guilty of “doing what the people who decry evolution are doing: forcing an opinion on them.” She just wants them to be able to “develop a rational methodology for assessing the natural world and to come up with their own opinions, hypotheses and theories and not to copy others.”
This is actually a good idea. But like a half-truth, it leaves out something important that makes all the difference: giving students both the strengths and weaknesses of Darwinian evolution. Students need to know about Darwin. You can’t make sense of the Holocaust, the world wars and their genocides, and the devaluation of human life without it. But if Dajani is giving a whitewashed version of the Bearded Buddha as an option to their religion, she is merely replacing one false prophet with another. Switching dogmas is not helping them become free thinkers at all. Dajani’s strategy sounds like a middle eastern version of David Sloan Wilson’s “Evolution for Everyone” propaganda campaign (see 12/21/05). She becomes Teacher as Facilitator, cultivating a new crop of inductees into the Cult of [naked] Emperor Charlie. (Notice also how she perpetuates Islamic stereotypes against the West; that is wildly inappropriate in biology classes.)
It’s not creationists who are indoctrinators. From intelligent design advocates to staunch Biblical creationist leaders, not one of the Darwin skeptics I know wants anyone to think uncritically. That’s why they go to great lengths to present both sides, appealing to evidence and logic, to call upon the audience’s reason and thinking powers. That’s why at CEH we give the Darwinists their best shot before commenting on their claims. It’s the Darwin Party that routinely tries to shut out debate. It’s the Darwin Party that routinely engages in propaganda tactics instead of appealing to rational consideration of the evidence. Read Darwin Day in America, where John West exhaustively recounts, with numerous citations and references, the outrageous intolerance of Darwinians in case after case through multiple facets of our culture for over a century. It should make any “free thinker” angry! Dajani deprives her students of critical thinking skills by failing to present the “fair and balanced” approach Darwin himself advocated.
Dajani should not bring the Koran or Genesis into her biology classes. There’s no need to, because the identity of the Creator is a downstream question from the initial question, “Is the universe and life designed or not designed?” All she has to say is, “Students, we are going to learn about Darwinian evolution, because it’s an important historical subject and biological theory you need to know about to be an educated person. In this class, I will give you the best evidences and arguments for evolution, and the best evidences and arguments against it. I will not grade you on your conclusions, but only on your ability to think critically about evidence and make sound arguments to reach your conclusions.” That’s it. Leave it at that. If she wants free and independent thinkers, that’s how to do it. Who could be against that approach? I’ll tell you who: the Darwin Party. They will go on jihad against anything that criticizes their Prophet and his holy book, The Origin.