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Jan 29 2012

Islamic science has come to this pitiful end

The words of the Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu ‘aleihi was-sallam) have been tested scientifically, and found hilarious. In work carried out under the direction of Dr. Jamaal Haamid, students at Qassim University examined a saying by the prophet, and have published it in a freely available pdf, The Hadeeth on the Fly, which you can download if you desire. Or you could just read this post, which summarizes entirely the complete content of the short paper, which is pretty much unpublishable and unbelievable anyway.

Here are the holy words.


(Notice that I include the original Arabic so there can be no confusion!)

If a housefly falls in the drink of anyone of you, he should dip it (in the drink), for the one of its wings has a disease and the other has the cure of the disease.

I do find that rather disturbing: so in Arabia, if a fly touches your water, you’re supposed to catch it, dunk it in deeper and slosh it around, to prevent disease? Arabian flies buzz around with pathogens segregated to just one wing, while the other one is healthy? How do they do that?

OK, setting aside the sanitary habits of Arabians and the mechanism by which this holy aphorism could be true, our intrepid students do carry out the obvious experiment: they drop a fly in a flask of sterile water, and then they pluck out the fly and immerse it completely in a second flask of sterile water. But then it all goes horribly wrong.

Here is the result of experiment #1.


Plate 2- Cultured water sample taken from a flask containing sterilized water and where a fly fell (without submersion). Growth of pathogenic (disease causing) bacterial colonies of the E. coli type were identified after taking samples from the water in the flask for culture.
Plate 1- Cultured water sample from the same flask following the complete dipping of the fly. An entire disappearance of the bacterial growth seen in Petri-dish 2 is clear. The new bacteria growing in plate 1 was identified as Actinomyces, the one from which useful antibiotics can be extracted. This explains the complete inhibition of growth in plate 2

Plate 2 on the right is the one from water merely touched by a fly. There is no explanation for how the plate was produced, or how the bacteria were identified; the strange brown sludge suggests poor technique, though, and I’ve cultured E. coli myself — and that hideous thick fecal-colored glop looks nothing like E. coli.

Plate 1 on the left, made from water in which the fly was fully immersed, looks nasty too. It’s a poor photograph, but that looks like a thick lawn of colonies everywhere. How do they know it’s Actinomyces? I have no idea, they don’t say. It’s also a mistake to simply declare it beneficial — Actinomyces are opportunistic pathogens.

Experiment #2 was a different fly, two flasks of water, same result.

Experiment #3 was a third fly, two flasks of water, same result.

Having done the experiment to death, our brave students retired at the third repetition, wrote it up with no methods, no discussion, no literature cited (except for their holy book, of course), and no reliable, believable data. They also didn’t do the other obvious experiment, of snipping off the wings and examining the bacterial flora living on the left vs. right, but then, maybe they’re leaving that for the advanced students.

Any 10 year olds looking for a quick and easy science fair project, there it is. I’m sure you can replicate this experiment trivially — but please, talk to a real microbiologist first and learn how to streak a plate. You might also learn something about a control plate, which our U of Qassim students didn’t bother to do.

Of course, this work wasn’t carried out by 10 year olds. It was done by university students in a “Med 497″ (a medical course?) in a department of medical microbiology. I strongly urge anyone visiting Saudi Arabia to avoid getting sick. They might try to treat you by swishing a fly around in your coffee.

(Also on Sb)

150 comments

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  1. 1
    janiceintoronto

    So would a “fly in the ointment” remark be appropriate here?

  2. 2
    eigenperson

    Careful — apparently, in the UK, any 10-year-olds doing this experiment might be expelled from school for hate speech and/or Islamophobia if the results don’t fit the Koran.

    Anyway, I agree that plate 1 appears to be completely covered by bacterial growth, and what on earth is that gunk on plate 2? It doesn’t even look like normal colonies.

    Maybe the key to this riddle is that instead of autoclaving the equipment beforehand, they sterilized everything by Koran-approved methods (i.e. rubbing flies all over it)?

  3. 3
    chigau (違う)

    Did they not even try to take decent photos?

  4. 4
    ambassadorfromverdammt

    Only one dilution? No wonder it doesn’t work. It’s way too weak. You need 20 or 30.

  5. 5
    Algernon

    This doesn’t seem very beneficial to me :/

  6. 6
    rayfowler

    Why is it always the diseased wing that infects the water if the fly is not swished around? Seems to me that you’d get a petri dish full of miracle cures 50% of the time.

  7. 7
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    …this is incredibly insidious; anyone unfamiliar with biology lab procedure could easily mistake this for good research.

  8. 8
    Aratina Cage

    Is there some kind of connection between Muhammad and the character Renfield that I’m unaware of? This injunction to dip flies is rather peculiar.

  9. 9
    ibyea

    Having worked with a few bacterias with someone in the biochem club, I have got to say, I have never seen a bacteria culture done that way. I don’t think they are supposed to be gunks covering like that…

  10. 10
    feralboy12

    Even if their methods were sound, I come away thinking that what it would “prove” is that if you wash a fly in water, he has fewer germs on him to wash off a second time.
    What a breakthrough.
    Killed By Fish

  11. 11
    Algernon

    So basically what I’m getting out of this is that if a fly landed in my drink, I may get bloody diarrhea AND my jaw may swell up and get nasty lesions. How nice.

    Good thing I’m not a petri dish.

  12. 12
    Ichthyic

    Good thing I’m not a petri dish.

    the billions of cells of independent life living on and in you would beg to differ.

    well, if they could, anyway.

  13. 13
    Algernon

    It looks like they tested it with Mountain Dew on plate 2, BTW.

    Since I’m not a biologist I got curious and googled E. Coli cultures.

    That is a big difference, but this is the kind of thing that really convinces some people. I’d be terrified of a Dr. that though they could treat one infection with another infection though.

    I mean, aside from the religious stuff, that is the kind of treatment that homeopathy is based on except homeopathy at dilutes the second thing until it basically is non-existent.

    If this caught on though it would be a *great* way to start a pandemic.

  14. 14
    Algernon

    the billions of cells of independent life living on and in you would beg to differ.

    Ok. I guess what I should have said is that I’m glad I’m a reaaaaallly contaminated petri dish :P

  15. 15
    Ichthyic

    They might try to treat you by swishing a fly around in your coffee.

    well, that would only work if you got sick from the very same fly arriving in your coffee to begin with, right?

    I’m sure some enterprising Islamic theologist will tell us the story is really all just an analogy for something else, anyway.

  16. 16
    Ichthyic

    I guess what I should have said is that I’m glad I’m a reaaaaallly contaminated petri dish :P

    as are we all.

    :)

  17. 17
    LykeX

    FYI, I get an error message on the pdf.

  18. 18
    Ichthyic

    rabian flies buzz around with pathogens segregated to just one wing, while the other one is healthy? How do they do that?

    no, it’s far better than that!

    it’s not just that the other wing is healthy, it’s that the other wing contains the exact CURE to whatever diseases are carried on the opposite wing.

    all we need to do to solve all human disease is to find just the right fly wing…

    or is it left fly wing?

  19. 19
    LykeX

    I’m sure some enterprising Islamic theologist will tell us the story is really all just an analogy for something else, anyway.

    And some would then violently disagree. Here are some who seem to argue that it should be taken literally and that it has been taken so in the past.

  20. 20
    a3kr0n

    I want to see them do the experiment proving fresh water doesn’t mix with salt water next. This could get interesting.

  21. 21
    chigau (違う)

    What about beer?

  22. 22
    Owlmirror

    I’d be terrified of a Dr. that though they could treat one infection with another infection though.

    Isn’t that how vaccines got started?

    I’ve just been listening to a podcast by Carl Zimmer, which went into the use of [viral] phage therapy against certain bacterial infections.

    Basically, it’s infecting you with the virus that attacks the bacteria, and — or so it is understood — only the bacteria. He points out that the dangerous bacteria are prokaryotes, while we are eukaryotes, so it’s unlikely that bacteriophages will mutate to attack us.

    More presumably in Carl Zimmer’s book, Planet of Viruses.

  23. 23
    ambulocetacean

    Fucking pathetic.

    Did Mohammed (bees be upon him) ever get around to explaining why it was that Jehova-Allah designed flies to be crawling with icky diseases that he also designed?

  24. 24
    Owlmirror

    PZ left off the first part of the URL [http://] to the PDF, but two attempts to post a corrected URL simply fail to go through.

    You can just copy the URL and paste only the part after “pharyngula/”

  25. 25
    Owlmirror

    Maybe the site is on the ban list, so comments that contain it go into moderation?

  26. 26
    LykeX

    Thanks Owlmirror. Should have seen that, but I wasn’t paying attention.

  27. 27
    dancollins

    I’d be terrified of a Dr. that though they could treat one infection with another infection though.

    Well then, some scientists might be terrifying.

  28. 28
    Sili

    Why is the second dipping labelled “1″ and vice versa? Is this some sorta Christian thing?

  29. 29
    madscientist

    The correct conclusion of course should have been “the self-proclaimed prophet Mohammed was talking out of his ass”, but that could have earned the authors an execution. This is reminiscent of Lysenko (poo be upon him); you couldn’t do any real genetics work in the Soviet Union for quite a few years because you’d be killed if you published results that disagreed with Lysenko.

    I’d done far better cultures when I was 10 and except for the odd experiment gone bad I’d sterilized the plates long before they resembled any of the photos above. The colonies of bacteria look much nicer when the plate isn’t overwhelmed and if you wanted to raise huge number of a particular bacteria you don’t attempt to do that on a plate.

  30. 30
    jaybee

    Additionally, how about some blinding: have one person contaminating the water with either one fly wing or two fly wings, then have a 2nd person independently culture and evaluate the results.

  31. 31
    Ingdigo Jump

    So if Brundle just ran through the teleporter a second time we would have had a happy ending?

  32. 32
    Duckbilled Platypus

    In related research, Islamic historians have recently concluded that countless Arabic leaders have unknowingly survived murder attempts using infected water because the assassins have dipped the drink with the wrong fly wing, for several centuries on end.

    Additional research has been announced to investigate the hypothesis that the only person to have died from fly wing disease is Muhammad, and that it was a Jew who mixed the drinks.

  33. 33
    frankb

    I guess what I should have said is that I’m glad I’m a reaaaaallly contaminated petri dish :P

    Pathogens have to fight it out with normal skin flora and normal intestinal flora and often lose. When normal flora gets disrupted, pathogens and opportunists can take advantage. It’s a good thing we are dirty.

  34. 34
    scottplumer

    And of course they had non-Muslim students do the experiment to avoid bias, as well as do the study blind. But, now that it’s been published, PZ, have your students perform the experiment to test their claims. If they’re gonna play in the big leagues, they’d better know the rules.

  35. 35
    abbadd0n

    This is a Test.

  36. 36
    piero

    I’m no microbiologist, but it appears to me that dish n°2 was accidentally touched by the most full-of-shit experimenter.

    We may never know the culprit’s identity, though: the shit content of people willing to do this experiment tends to vary in a range of one part per trillon.

  37. 37
    Gregory Greenwood

    Aratina Cage @ 8;

    Is there some kind of connection between Muhammad and the character Renfield that I’m unaware of? This injunction to dip flies is rather peculiar.

    They are both slaves to fictional bloodthirsty monsters that have warped their minds, but at least Renfield exhibits some signs of possessing a conscience before the end.

    Mohammad, not so much…

  38. 38
    gravityisjustatheory

    Owlmirror says:
    29 January 2012 at 4:52 pm

    I’d be terrified of a Dr. that though they could treat one infection with another infection though.

    Isn’t that how vaccines got started?

    They started with a doctor noticing that people who caught cowpox didn’t catch smallpox, and then experimenting to see if this worked when it was done deliberately.

    (Which in turn was a development from doctors noticing that people who caught and survived the mild, 1%-fatality form of smallpox became immune to the stronger 30%-fatality form).

    So I suppose you are technically right, but it was a case of “… thought, based on observed data that was confirmed by experiment”, rather than “thought, based on scripture and ‘confirmed’ by blatently worthless ‘experiments’”.

  39. 39
    robro

    @ Ichthyic #18 — Oh, definitely the right wing. Because the “right” is the godly side, while the left is sinister. Thus Republicans take the right wing, while atheists, liberals, socialists, secular humanists, et al are the sinister left. I’m sure you knew that.

  40. 40
    Glen Davidson

    No doubt the fly was designed to have the cure in one wing.

    Considering what an unthinking cur the “Designer” obviously was, though (designed things as if they evolved), it’s best not to trust said “design.”

    Glen Davidson

  41. 41
    shockwaveplasma

    I suspect they should dip the fly in the water the size of a swimming pool, and then it would work for sure as Islamic Homeopathic fly spray.

  42. 42
    Aratina Cage

    They are both slaves to fictional bloodthirsty monsters that have warped their minds… –Gregory Greenwood

    Your mind is a wonderful thing. :) What you said, it’s so obvious now.

  43. 43
    Glen Davidson

    What do you suppose the odds are that they tried both wings of flies until they got different results, then chose one as the “disease” and the other as the “cure”?

    After all, you don’t know which wing is the cure. So you can’t really predict beforehand which one is which–you choose afterward, is my guess.

    As good as creation science/ID, no doubt, although even the DI would know better than to do something so obviously bogus.

    Glen Davidson

  44. 44
    duphrane

    It’s amazing how the fly always chooses to land disease side down in your drink.

  45. 45
    David

    This is just woefully bad. As someone with a microbiology degree I think the most rational response is for me to scream and shout that these people are making a mockery of my subject and demand they cease all activities that offend microbes everywhere and never show these pictures in public again!

    Or I could just say I endorse PZ’s scientific criticisms of this experiment. Yeah, let’s go with that one.

    I’ll add that I’m pretty shocked that they were able to get two separate cultures growing in isolation from each other from the same source. These kids should buy some lotto tickets. There is no way that the culture on plate 2 is E. coli. Plate 1 could be but how about a biochemical assay? A PCR screen? Anything.

  46. 46
    stephangoodwin

    I have seen Micrococcus and Corynebacterium grow up like that gunk on that plate. Human contaminants. Like, when you pick a fly out of a solution with a non-sterile tool or your hand?

  47. 47
    Anthony K

    I’d be terrified of a Dr. that though they could treat one infection with another infection though

    Owlmirror mentioned Planet of Viruses. I’ve not read that one, but Carl Zimmer talks about Helmenthic therapy in Parasite Rex.

    It would seem that cleanliness may be next to godliness, if godliness means “asthmatic with colitis”.

  48. 48
    Ichthyic

    So if Brundle just ran through the teleporter a second time we would have had a happy ending?

    I do believe that was his original plan.

    well, before he got hungry, anyway.

  49. 49
    shazibrahim

    This actually brings back memories:
    As a kid, my dad used to proclaim this simple “fact” a little differently: “If a fly ever falls into your soup”, he’d say, “Do not just pull it out. Dunk it in fully, because the top of the wings contain the antidote to the poisons on the bottom.”
    Even at age 12 this struck me as a load of crap.
    When I showed him books that disproved his assumptions, he accused me of “trying too hard to go against the prophet” and took the belt to my bottom.
    Ahh, good times, when Islam and Truth meet. To this day, (30 years later) my dad still spouts the same garbage.

  50. 50
    microraptor

    Petri dish two looks like what my microbiology professor was talking about when he talked about “results that will be decontaminated with several gallons of bleach and a flamethrower.”

  51. 51
    Algernon

    Helminthic therapy link is interesting. There are a lot of auto immune problems in my family, and there is also a lot of OCD. I wonder if the connection is more than psychological.

  52. 52
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    There is no way of knowing but I wonder how many people have died over the centuries because they got infected dunking the fly into their food and drinks.

    I also wonder have often people like shazibrahim were punished for daring to question such a dubious “truth”.

  53. 53
    evilDoug

    I would have thought a prophet would have said the disease was on the fly’s feet, those being closest to Shaitan, while the cure was on the wings, those being closest to Allah. But I am a bit wanting on the theology front.

    Are they suggesting that the flies each had only two culturable species? That would certainly make them quite remarkably sanitary, as flies (or any animate or inanimate object not fresh out of an autoclave or recently blasted with a goodly dose of gamma radiation or a flit about in some ethylene oxide) go.

  54. 54
    Hercules Grytpype-Thynne

    It’s amazing how the fly always chooses to land disease side down in your drink.

    It’s a binary antidote. Either wing can sicken you, but the combination cures both diseases.

  55. 55
    A. R

    Some of the worst science I’ve ever seen. My field is viral hemorrhagic fevers and I could probably do a better culture than that thing. No controls, methods are inconsistent, multiple variables, preconceived notions. This all sounds like the type of research 5th grade students would do. Scratch that actually, it’s rather cruel to fifth graders. This is creationist level shit.

  56. 56
    A. R

    And to think that only a few centuries ago, they were doing cutting edge work in maths and astronomy.

  57. 57
    littlejohn

    And yet, in my research, I’ve found hair of the dog often to be beneficial.

  58. 58
    Ichthyic

    Helminthic therapy link is interesting.

    I really think you should apply just a wee bit more scepticism here.

    Current research and available therapy are targeted at, or available for, the treatment of Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), multiple sclerosis, asthma, eczema, dermatitis, hay fever and food allergies.

    uh huh.

    and I’m sure the use in all those instances is justified by causative, double-blind, controlled studies?

    Yeah, I thought not.

  59. 59
    IncredulousMark

    Oh, cut them some slack. If they had reported results that contradicted the koran, they’d probably be beheaded.

  60. 60
    kosk11348

    More proof that religion and science are totally compatible.

  61. 61
    Ichthyic

    Oh, cut them some slack. If they had reported results that contradicted the koran, they’d probably be beheaded.

    no, I won’t.

    Why?

    If we take it at face value, this was a pathetic attempt at doing science; it’s not even “sham” science, so it was done extremely poorly, regardless of how the results are interpreted.

    If the students had a choice in topics, then why choose something where the conclusions MUST be influenced by the culture they live in? There are millions of topics they could have chosen from.

    OTOH, if this was for some reason “forced” on them as a topic by the instructor of the course, then that too, was the instructor’s poor choice.

    nope.

    no slack at all should be given here. Not a single, solitary, millimeter.

    not even if you meant it sarcastically.

    ;)

  62. 62
    Algernon

    Heh, I said interesting, but not “yay, let’s go eat dirt!”

    I do wonder though if obsession about cleanliness causes us to do things that hurt the body, for instance taking antibiotics when they are not needed.

  63. 63
    A. R

    Ichthyic @ 58: The mention of “food allergies” in that list tripped my Bullshit Detector/Baloney Detection Kit. Most of the time when a sketchy therapy claims to cure food allergies, you’re looking at a steaming pile of male bovid excrement.

  64. 64
    Ichthyic

    I do wonder though if obsession about cleanliness causes us to do things that hurt the body, for instance taking antibiotics when they are not needed.

    maybe, but then you’re talking psychology again.

    there are probably good examples where thinking in terms of cleanliness likely does open one up to more infection than it reduces.

    my scepticism in the case of the nematode treatment is automatically triggered when I see such wide and disparate symptoms supposedly treated by the application of them.

    This, of course, is the problem with something like Wiki; it doesn’t really differentiate well, unless someone who is a real expert goes and fleshes out all the relevant facts in the case.

    I don’t see that here.

  65. 65
    Ichthyic

    “yay, let’s go eat dirt!”

    oddly enough, that might actually work in certain circumstances, like say trying to replace gut flora after a catastrophic event.

    and, lo and behold, there is indeed a paper on it!

    http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/9/8/03-0033_article.htm

    lol

  66. 66
    DLC

    These guys should meet the Jesusite fanatic who was posing as a science teacher and who burned a cross symbol on his students.

  67. 67
    Algernon

    See… it *is* interesting, or at least I think it is!

    I knew someone who ate soil. She had done it from childhood on, and only liked soil from the area where she was raised. She craved it so much some times that she would dig some up when she visited her family. That’s psychological too, but it’s interesting to me also because she had diverticulitis and insisted the soil helped (this perception has no scientific merit of course)

    I… can’t even imagine intentionally eating dirt. It kind of makes me feel ill to think despite the fact that I *know* that we eat all kinds of nasty sounding things in small quantities all of the time.

    I am actually more skeptical of any theory that overly endorses parasites for personal reasons. As a child I was prone to infestation from a couple types of parasites. Gross I know. I don’t know why. I wasn’t particularly dirty, but I did have a tendency to bite my nails.

    These did not seem to make me more healthy. They made me uncomfortable and ill. My mother didn’t favor treatment as she was of the opinion I “manifested” these things with my negative obsessions and thoughts about illness.

    I was not particularly healthy though as a result, which is what one would expect if it were beneficial. Anecdote, but I share it only to say that I’m more than skeptical about these things and I have the healed scars from abscesses to prove it :P

  68. 68
    Ichthyic

    I don’t know why. I wasn’t particularly dirty, but I did have a tendency to bite my nails.

    then you do know why.

    how many kids always wash their hands after playing in the dirt or the local playground?

    none.

    what did you think was under those nails you were biting…

    ;)

  69. 69
    Algernon

    Under my nails!? Impossible!!! lol

    still didn’t cure my asthma though.

  70. 70
    A. R

    Algernon: Your friend has Pica (consumption of non-nutritive items) a condition sometimes seen in patients with intestinal disorders (though more often disorders of the small intestine). It is often caused by iron deficiency,making it a physio-psychological disorder. Though some cases are purely psychological.

  71. 71
    jessie

    That’s sad. Really, really sad.

  72. 72
    scottjordan

    A few years ago I was making a cup of coffee, while swatting at a strange green fly. I had just poured the boiling water into my cup when the insect fell in. I fished it out, finished making my coffee and drank it like nothing happened.

    Why am I still alive, Muhammad? <:/

  73. 73
    Amphiox

    Just a look at the two plates shows that it’s pretty obvious that there is more bacterial growth on plate 1 (the colonies are confluent, while on plate 2 they are still distinct).

    And if we take these results at face value we get this:

    1. E. coli is generally NOT a disease causing organism. The vast majority of E. coli strains are commensal and are in fact part of the normal gut flora that is beneficial to health. And there is no indication that they identified the strain to determine if it is one of the rare disease causing ones.

    2. While actinomyces does produce antibiotics, none of the antibiotics typically produced by them are considered first-line therapy for E. coli infection.

    3. We can be generous and reverse the “polarity” of these results, but we get the same problem. E. coli doesn’t produce anything that is typically used to treated opportunistic actinomyces infection.

    In other words, their results demonstrate that 1. the bacteria on one fly wing DOESN’T cause disease, and 2. even if it did, the other fly wind DOESN’T contain anything that cures it.

    So, in short, they have very successfully FALSIFIED the Koran.

  74. 74
    Vasha

    As far as one infection fighting another, think of the “fever cure” for syphilis. Dr. Julius Wagner-Jauregg found that if someone with syphilis became infected with malaria, the spirochetes disappeared — most likely because they couldn’t tolerate the high fevers induced by malaria. So: deliberately infect with malaria, wait till syphilis is cured, then treat malaria with quinine. Although this apparently worked pretty well, it never became widely popular, and was happily abandoned with the discovery of antibiotics.

    (Apologies for possibly posting this comment twice under different usernames — my first attempt at logging in doesn’t seem to have been successful. I’m the commenter usually known as Vasha.)

  75. 75
    Irène Delse, on dry land among seabirds

    Where even to begin? This is some sad make-believe pseudo-research. No blinding, poor sterile techniques, and a mountainously improbable hypothesis in the first place. And no matter how they embarrass themselves, what do you bet that there’ll be complaints about those darn Western unbelievers making fun of Islamic wisdom out of “cultural biases”?

    Of course, any humanities scholar worth their salt would immediately see what’s going on in this hadith*: it’s a standard parable about the way God in His wisdom made the world hospitable for us even in little things, “putting the cure close to the poison”, as a classic aphorism says. This was a nearly universal pre-scientific notion in the Ancient world as well as in Medieval Europe. It goes hand in hand with another old and widely spread belief, sympathetic magic (“one wing makes sick, another cures”, “take a hair of the dog that bit you”, “like cures like”). Nowadays, it survives in things like homeopathy… and Ray Comfort using the banana “that fits perfectly in the hand” (!) as a “proof” that God designed the world for us.

    Oh, and it’s a minor thing in comparison, but the title of the hadith this study pretends to test is badly translated. “Hadeeth on the Fly”, really? Meaning “created as needed”? That would be rich. It should be “Hadith of the fly”, or “Hadith on Flies” (I’ve seen both as translations in reputable publications.)

    I do wonder if Dr. Jamaal Haamid (doctor of what, by the way, medicine? microbiology? or Islamic scripture?) is an isolated crank or if this kind of stuff is standard practice in Saudi universities.

    * I’m using the standard English spelling here, even though “hadeeth” is used by some to better render the pronunciation.

  76. 76
    Chris Booth

    The people who did this are liars.

    Liars.

    They distorted the pretense of science to act as an empirical support of their superstition and to empower their superstition-club.

    They are abusing their “medical” authority. They are lying and their lies will be imposed on others. These lies will spread through Islam, and will be imposed on others outside Qassim University, outside Saudi Arabia, outside of Islam. I live in Brooklyn, and medical clinics run by Muslim doctors are all over the place.

    These people mutilate children, and now we see that they will infect others, including children, putting pestilence above truth. This is not just weird and an abstract oddity. Nor is it the only lunacy in their pharmacopoeia. This is rabid malevolence; this was willfully mis-done and mis-represesented “science”. These people are and/or will be health-care providers. Stupid, ignorant, superstitious, septic, lying, egotistical, self-righteous health-care providers. Murderous health-care providers. This story sickens me.

    This will not be an isolated Saudi abscess. I volunteer teaching ESL in New York City. I have had Muslim students and acquaintances tell me that Quantum Mechanics is in the Quran, that salt water and fresh water don’t mix, that there are djinn in the room that they can see and hear that I can’t because I am not a believer, that cupping and bleeding are medical techniques beyond those known in the West, that honey has some magical super healing power (I never did get the details on that one), and other blithering nonsense. (I showed my class the WMAP survey image, and one Muslim man challenged me and asked me in an accusatory tone why the image had been made in the shape of an egg–I assume that he thought that it was some sort of polytheist plot to insinuate that an egg is the source of the universe; I am not sure which polytheistic religion, I doubt he knows about the Kalevala, which is the egg-related creation myth I think of right off.) I have also had Muslims deny evolution and the Moon landings to me. I pointed out that, among many other things, the Soviet Union and China would never have allowed the U.S. to claim to have landed on the moon if it hadn’t happened; there was a retired Soviet physics professor in the class on that day, and she said they had observed the moon landings, and knew them to be true. As to the Quran having Quantum Mechanics: another retired Soviet physicist was in the class on that occasion, and the look of scorn and his contemptuous and dismissive laugh–and his simple statement of “No it doesn’t”–shut the proponent of that garbage right up; it was a moment of poetic justice. My point being that this poisonous thinking is NOT confined to some vague place “over there”. I have encountered the arguments above in New York City in the 21st Century; this is not some remote Creationist backwater far from 21-Century life. Among the Chinese community, I have known chi-kung practitioners, acupuncturists, and Chinese medicine doctors, but even their nonsense is not as mindless and rabid. One Chinese doctor once sheepishly told me that even if his stuff didn’t work, at least it doesn’t do harm, or carry with it the side effects of science-based medicine; while I don’t agree with that last, at least he had a consciousness that he might not be right. A benevolently applied placebo at least can give a person some comfort. But the people who will do this kind of “study”, following bad procedures, presenting false results, and pushing it as truth on which to base health care are virulent, and want to be epidemic.

  77. 77
    amoeba

    Seems like ‘Holy-crap’ to me.

  78. 78
    prithvishiv

    Waiter, there’s a fly in my soup.

    Just dip the other wing sir, should be healthier than broccoli.

  79. 79
    nmcc

    But surely we knew the Prophet Muhammad (fuck him) was talking balls without having to go to the trouble of doing any kind of experiment? I mean…how does a fly land in your drink and only dunk one wing? How would you know which wing it was even if a fly always, helpfully in the circumstances, landed on its side? How could you be sure the sideways landing fly always landed on the poisonous side? And so on.

  80. 80
    yellowsubmarine

    Good grief.

    I’ve only taken microbiology 101, but even I can tell that crap aint it. Unless it’s a really really terrible picture. To be totally sure, I guess I’d have to smell it. Never going to forget the aweful smell of E. Coli. Now if we could just transmit smell over the internet… blech.

  81. 81
    McCthulhu, now with -25% less fat.

    Science: If you’re trying to make it fit your religion, you’re doing it wrong. And you’ve also completely missed the point.

    And really, a pre-schooler could listen to this hypothesis and immediately conclude it sounds fucking stupid, especially if they grow up in rural areas and see what flies do when around horse puckey (a term that accurately fits what this experiment is). That adults are even bothering shows how delusional people get when drunk on Imaginary Friend Juice™. The results also show how desperate and disingenuous the religious get to maintain their delusions.

  82. 82
    mariofernandez

    3, 2, 1….but, but, but how did the prophet know about germs and such a 1000 years before the invention of the electron microscope? OR what happens is that as the world started to be more sinful, allah made the animals carry more filth as a punishment to us than when the profet was alive, so you can’t compare it with a fly belonging to this century. OR you can’t just choose any fly! This only applies to a fly that has been divinely steered into your water. ;)

  83. 83
    maxamillion

    Chris Booth @76

    But the people who will do this kind of “study”, following bad procedures, presenting false results, and pushing it as truth on which to base health care are virulent, and want to be epidemic.

    Thanks for the enlightening post

    How do you feel about “Nano-particles in Camels’ urine may help treat cancer”? http://www.saudigazette.com.sa/index.cfm?method=home.regcon&contentID=2009071143333

    I remember reading this years ago and just could not believe my eyes.

    Dr. Faten Abdel-Rahman Khorshid is responsible for one of the Kingdom’s greatest national achievements in the field of science for her work which began with the urine of camels and concluded in a potential cure for cancer.

    Dr. Khorshid added that she is not a medial doctor but a scientist and her job involves the preparation and testing of a drug in the lab and supervising the manufacture, testing and application of the drug.

    Sweet jesus, mary mother of god, tell me I am not having a nightmare!

    her research has earned her team the gold medal for innovation in the Kingdom in 2008, and the medicine was also chosen as one of the six best innovations out of 600 entrants at the International Innovation and Technology Exhibition (ITEX) 2009, held in Malaysia in May. – SG

    What on earth were the other 5 stellar innovations?

    This crap is why Muslim’s are way behind the curve.

  84. 84
    Louis

    Before we disappear in a cloud of scepticism over the sources of potential Cures for Cancer* (TM Patent Pending) or what have you, the places we get biologically active natural products** from can occasionally be very weird and wonderful. I had one colleague who was extracting natural products from the bacteria that grew on a specific species of deer’s shit. Hours of stirring suspensions of deer shit in his fume hood….he was popular!

    Louis

    *Because, ya know, cancer is totes one disease with a magic bullet cure and all. {Eyeroll}

    **As in the organic chemistry type of natural products not the Tarquin and Cressida wholefoods shop “natural” products.

  85. 85
    richarddawkins

    I find it impossible to exaggerate how deeply I despise these people. Does that make me Islamophobic? Well so be it. Distorting scientific truth in the name of religion is a crime worth being phobic about.

  86. 86
    rogerallen

    http://scienceislam.com/ for more scientific miracles

  87. 87
    csmiller

    Chris Booth said

    [a Muslim student said] that honey has some magical super healing power (I never did get the details on that one)

    Actually, honey does have anti-microbial effects; it makes good poultices. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honey#In_medicine

  88. 88
    jackrawlinson

    Ah, come on PZ; you know how this stuff works. This is clearly supposed to be some sort of deep, gnomic Islamic wisdom encapsulated in parable form. You’re not supposed to take it literally, like the bits about dressing women modestly and killing the infidel.

  89. 89
    Nick Gotts

    I would have thought a prophet would have said the disease was on the fly’s feet, those being closest to Shaitan, while the cure was on the wings, those being closest to Allah. But I am a bit wanting on the theology front. – evilDoug

    Maybe Arabian flies fly on their sides?

  90. 90
    Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc

    http://scienceislam.com/ for more scientific miracles

    Er right, contradiction much?

  91. 91
    nmcc

    Actually, come to think of it, these dopey muslims missed a trick here. Had they been assured by the Prophet Muhammed (fuck him, again; sideways this time) that the mere THOUGHT of dunking the non-offending wing in your drink was enough to dispel the evil deposited therein, muslims could have claimed the invention of homoepathy.

  92. 92
    nmcc

    Yikes!! ‘O’ and ‘e’ round the wrong way in above comment. I think!

  93. 93
    Rev. BigDumbChimp

    scientific miracles

    uh, yeah

  94. 94
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    Holy crap (literally).

    I majored in history but I did take some science courses in high school and college and my reaction was a combination of laughter and throwing up a little in the back of my throat. I can just imagine what the people with a real education think abou this (actually, I don’t have to imagine, I can just read the OP and the comments).

    I’d be terrified of a Dr. that though they could treat one infection with another infection though.

    Well, why not? I mean, I have no problem with a doctor treating a deep cut in my hand by shoving a sharpened piece of steel through it (albeit attached to a special thread). So if a cut can be treated with a puncture, why not treat an infection with an infection (other than the fact that I would now have two infections raging out of control through my body rather than just one)?

    it’s not just that the other wing is healthy, it’s that the other wing contains the exact CURE to whatever diseases are carried on the opposite wing.

    “Waiter, what is this fly doing in my soup?”

    “Infecting and disinfecting you.”

    Nope, not the same joke. Sorry.

    Why is the second dipping labelled “1″ and vice versa? Is this some sorta Christian thing?

    No, that would be “1+1+1=1″

    It’s amazing how the fly always chooses to land disease side down in your drink.

    Tie the fly to the back of a cat.

    To this day, (30 years later) my dad still spouts the same garbage.

    And does his doctor prescribe lots of antibiotics for you father?

    but, but, but how did the prophet know about germs and such a 1000 years before the invention of the electron microscope?

    Proof that he was not just a man, but a supernatural freak.

  95. 95
    davem

    I think that you’re all being too sceptical here. It’s obvious, really: Fly gets disease in one wing, and fly’s immune system starts producing antibodies, which get pumped into both wings. However, antibodies are not strong enough, and fly falls into water on his bad side, when the bad wing fails to flap hard enough. It thus deposits nasty things into water. Other wing only has the antibodies. I can’t see any flaw in this logic. Praise he to Mohammed, PBUH.

  96. 96
    julietdefarge

    Quick, somebody find a hadeeth that can be construed as applying to the development of nuclear weapons.

  97. 97
    eamick

    I just hope that Actinomyces culture wasn't A. israelii; if so, they have a lot of explaining to do. ;)

  98. 98
    birgerjohansson

    Infection goes in by one wing, cure coes in by the other. Never a miscommunication

  99. 99
    Don Quijote

    @davem: The flaw is that your logic relies on that big little word “if

    PutBaconUnderHim

  100. 100
    birgerjohansson

    “As far as one infection fighting another, think of the “fever cure” for syphilis. Dr. Julius Wagner-Jauregg found that if someone with syphilis became infected with malaria, the spirochetes disappeared — most likely because they couldn’t tolerate the high fevers induced by malaria.”

    -I am told this is the evolutionary basis for fever.
    — — — — — — —
    “I doubt he knows about the Kalevala, which is the egg-related creation myth I think of right off.)”

    Kudos to Chris Booth for knowing about the Kalevala.

    That said, interpretations of the Karelian/ Finn Sami myths used to overlook the shamanistic background. For instance the land assumed to be a kind of ancestral home for the sami (in older Finn interpretations) is actually the land of death, which shamans might glimpse briefly when in trance.
    — — — — —
    “It is often caused by iron deficiency,making it a physio-psychological disorder”

    -Which brings me back to Renfield jokes… I like my iron-deficency cure to be liquid, red and body-temperature. And the musselmans have no crucifixes. I’m off to Saudi like a bat out of hell!

  101. 101
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    And the musselmans have no crucifixes.

    But they do have great applesauce. Oddly, the stuff is made in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, one of the most fundinfested places I’ve ever been.

  102. 102
    chigau (違う)

    You don’t know which wing has the disease.
    You know that one wing has the cure.
    By dipping the whole fly you ensure you have the cure.
    See? Logic®™

  103. 103
    Marcus Ranum

    I do find that rather disturbing: so in Arabia, if a fly touches your water, you’re supposed to catch it, dunk it in deeper and slosh it around, to prevent disease?

    A Scotsman, a Frenchman, and and American are drinking in a pub. A large fly blunders into the head of the Frenchman’s beer and gets stuck; with a graceful gesture the swain of Charlemagne flicks the fly out of the foam and hides the maneuver by taking a deep happy gulp. A second later another fly crashlands in the American’s beer and he waves the waiter over, “Excuse me, friend, but this fly just landed in my beer. Could you draw me another? Thanks!” When his new beer arrives he tips the waiter and gratefully slugs some down. When a fly inevitably lands in the Scotsman’s drink he grabs it and starts shaking it over the glass, yelling, “Spit it back, ye fookin’ bug!”

    And then there’s the joke my grandpa told, that got him sent home from school with a note during the depression. A temperance speaker came to talk to the class about the evils of alcohol and apparently had a slick demonstration: he took a shot-glass of gin and dropped a bug into it. The bug immediately died. Then he asked the class, “What does this show you about alcohol?” whereupon grandpa raised his hand and said, “if you drink gin, you won’t get bugs?”

  104. 104
    Anthony K

    I was not particularly healthy though as a result, which is what one would expect if it were beneficial. Anecdote, but I share it only to say that I’m more than skeptical about these things and I have the healed scars from abscesses to prove it :P

    Sorry Algernon, I shared the wrong book. I should have shared Paul Ewald’s book Plague Time. That one covers chronic illnesses in correlation with seemingly minor infections.

    A second later another fly crashlands in the American’s beer and he waves the waiter over, “Excuse me, friend, but this fly just landed in my beer. Could you draw me another? Thanks!”

    Nice joke, Marcus, but your stereotypical American isn’t very American. First of all, unless I’m mistaken, North Americans don’t talk about ‘drawing’ a draft beer, unless they’re pedantic bartenders. We usually say one ‘pours’ a beer.

    And secondly, well, lemme just fix it:

    [Snapping fingers and yelling loudly enough that everyone in the place can hear.] “Excuse me. Excuse me! Waiter! There’s a fly in my beer! I demand another beer and a full refund! This place is disgusting. My wife and I paid good money for this trip, and this is how you treat us? Bring me your manager; I want to talk to him about how he runs this barn. Honestly, what’s wrong with this country? First there was no Wal-Mart, then the tour bus was ten minutes late, and now this. I knew we should have gone to McDonald’s. And how come nobody speaks American here?”

  105. 105
    pearl

    I don’t think you can determine that’s not E. coli by the way it looks. It will appear different depending upon the kind of agar used. It does look like it might have a bit of a metallic sheen (which E. Coli frequently has).
    That said, the whole “experiment” is crap.

  106. 106
    Marcus Ranum

    @Brownian -
    You’re completely right. I wasn’t even sure if I should “tell” that joke because it’s really all about stereotypes – I don’t think there’s really too much “national character” to stereotype, but the joke benefits in the telling from a thick Scots accent if you can bring it. Ideally the punch line is delivered in a sort of Glaswegian growling yell…

    I first heard that joke from a very erudite and elegant (i.e: stereotypical) Frenchman, when we were all a bit drunk. And he delivered it perfectly, including wonderful stereotypical body-language and gestures – so when it ended with him yelling and shaking the “fly” over his glass, it was near-lethally funny. :)

  107. 107
    LykeX

    I don’t think you can determine that’s not E. coli by the way it looks. It will appear different depending upon the kind of agar used

    You might have a point there. Of course, this only emphasizes the lack of information regarding materials, procedures and method of identification.

  108. 108
    Glen Davidson

    The wings are probably the least germy part of the fly, in fact. Dunking the whole filthy thing would be about the worst thing.

    I have to wonder at their faith that they couldn’t, say, eat both fly wings. You could probably get away with it. I mean, kids eat flies from time to time, the whole icky thing. Oh right, both wings–uh huh, that’s it.

    The whole matter so badly stinks of “faith,” as in if they were interested in actually getting somewhere they’d have really done something with the wings. Exactly what is specific to one wing, then, that would cure whatever’s diseased in the other wing? Or, a real researcher could find out whatever antibiotic peptides flies produce in their bodies that clearly are able to fight some powerful bacteria and other pathogens.

    No, don’t try to isolate anything, or even control the amount the “fallen fly” affects the water, just hope that your crude “methods” can be interpreted in hindsight to fit the religious belief.

    It’s the “aha” sort of science that creationists perform. Aha, it works, we’ll claim it. No evidence that the Actinomyces (if that’s what it is) came from any wing. Don’t test your god, not really, just do something that gives the results you want.

    Glen Davidson

  109. 109
    chigau (違う)

    OK, what about this?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five-second_rule

  110. 110
    A. R

    I would be interested to know what type of agar they were using, their identification technique, and why the bloody hell they even believe this shit.

  111. 111
    A. R

    Actually, this hadith, and the whole salt water thing rather makes me think that Mo (FHWADES) just liked making shit up and ordering people to believe it.

  112. 112
    Dick the Damned

    Arabian flies buzz around with pathogens segregated to just one wing, while the other one is healthy? How do they do that?

    Jumpin’ Jeezus, don’t you know anything, PZ? When the fly shits, it uses its left wing to wipe its ass.

  113. 113
    Anthony K

    OK, what about this?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five-second_rule

    I never understood the five second rule. What does time have to do with anything, when whether or not the floor is clean and the characteristics of the dropped food much more important? Sticky and liquid substances are a definite no, regardless of the cleanliness of the floor, while even the dry side of toast might get a bit of surgery if part of it touches the wasteland under the fridge kick-plate.

    Once, I watched an adult man drop down into a push-up position to suck a dollop of berry jam off of off a lawn. I did feel dirty after seeing that, even though I’m sure the grass was more or less pretty clean, for grass.

  114. 114
    Feats of Cats

    Obviously this is crap science, but depending on the agar, plate 2 could be E. coli, though obviously badly plated. I spent a couple years doing microbiology identification work for a dairy company, and E. coli was by far the most common pathogen I found. It is gram negative, and on the TSA, blood, and macconkey agar plates I used, it was gross and slimy very similar to the picture. Not even remotely the grossest or slimiest or smelliest, but consistent with what I stared at for two years.

    I don’t remember ever coming across Actinomyces, but Wikipedia says it’s anaerobic so it might look weird because it’s growing underneath the agar.

    Still terrible science and no way were those the only bacteria that showed up. Most likely they identified some from the original culture and replated the bacteria they thought best proved their case.

  115. 115
    pelamun, the Linguist of Doom

    @richarddawkins:

    of course this doesn’t make you an Islamophobe, why should it?

    I would also like to have some citations for eigenperson’s claims that doing this experiment could get you expelled from school.

  116. 116
    Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts

    Islamic science has come to this pitiful end

    Considering its pitiful beginnings, it has not come far.

  117. 117
    Ingdigo Jump

    @You_Monster

    I thought it had an actual good start out of the gate but then a sad pettering out.

  118. 118
    chigau (違う)

    Brownian, you go to the most interesting parties.

  119. 119
    Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts

    I thought it had an actual good start out of the gate

    Hmm? I must have missed something…

  120. 120
    oeditor

    There’s something strange at the end of that pdf. It says “The Same results were obtained with another type of disease-causing bacteria of the Salmonellas sp + proteus sp. Type.”
    Surely, that should be “another type of fly”. Otherwise the implication is that the flies were doctored, first with E Coli then subsequent ones with Salmonella or Proteus.
    If they did that without telling us, Allah alone knows what they put on the other wings!

  121. 121
    Ingdigo Jump

    Hmm? I must have missed something…

    The Arabic/Muslim world had a brief golden age of science and math when the Christian world was spinning wheels.

  122. 122
    Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts

    The Arabic/Muslim world had a brief golden age of science and math when the Christian world was spinning wheels.

    Ah, I see what you were saying. When I was thinking “Islamic science”, I was considering the apologetic strain. There is nothing Islamic about the actual contributions to math and science that the Arab nations made.

  123. 123
    oeditor

    Looking a bit further, I see this tale has been around since 2008 and a specious explanation has been claimed for it: it’s yeast growing in the fly, specific to whatever bugs its got, wot dun it, guv.
    This is attested to by Dr. Muhammad M. Al-Samahy, chief of hadeeth department in Al-Azhar University, Cairo no less. Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?
    http://aa.trinimuslims.com/archive/index.php?t-4338.html

  124. 124
    pelamun, the Linguist of Doom

    what about the commonly heard argument that compared to tribal customs of the time, Islam improved the position of women in society? I’m no expert on 6th c. Arabia, but maybe someone here is?

  125. 125
    rabbitscribe

    Forgive me if this has already been noted. As neutrally as possible: if this experiment were performed properly with a control and then widely reproduced, it would be by levels of magnitude the strongest evidence in favor of any supernatural truth-claim ever (remember, it’s said to work for any flyborn contagious disease). Hundreds of millions would convert to Islam, including me. Science predicts with a very, very high level of certainty that the wings of flys shouldn’t behave that way. If they do, the existence of a force outside of nature that wants it that way is a perfectly plausible explanation. If knowledge of the phenomena originated with a 7th-century writer and is unknown outside of his circle of followers (another miracle- somebody else should have stumbled across this) that writer’s credibility as a Prophet is bolstered immeasurably. I can assure any Muslim who believes the above experimental results that, if you’re right, the trajectory of human history could be radically altered with the expenditure of maybe $10,000.00. Just get the experiment performed properly across a variety of contagions and publish.

  126. 126
    duphrane

    @ Brownian & Marcus Ranum:

    I think those are actually both pretty accurate depictions of Americans abroad. The typical vacationer will complain about everything that he doesn’t get, and some well-traveled Americans are on good behavior but can’t shake the custom of tipping 20% everywhere. Unfortunately I suspect that there are more of the former than the latter.

  127. 127
    PZ Myers

    Wait…we’re NOT supposed to tip? Have I been giving offense all these years now?

  128. 128
    Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts

    If you have too much trouble breaking the habit, PZ, I’ll hold on to your cash for you. Anything to help you resist temptation…

  129. 129
    Nick Gotts

    rabbitscribe@125,

    Very good point. I’ll join you. If this experiment is performed adequately, with proper controls, by a non-Muslim team (this shouldn’t matter according to the hadith, right?), and comes up with the results predicted by the Quran, I’ll convert to Islam, stat.

  130. 130
    duphrane

    PZ, you’re definitely supposed to tip. But you’ll find that most countries pay higher wages to waiters, so tips tend to be lower outside the U.S. Knowing this, I still tend to tip “too much” outside the country anyway. In countries with a low price level, especially, it’s really not even like tipping more than 20% is going to be any problem for most Americans, especially the ones with enough money to travel.

  131. 131
    Algernon

    I’m one of those that tips too much probably, but it’s too hard to figure out all the various customs and I can’t really imagine anyone *minds* with the exception of people whom it’s supposed to be insulting to tip. AFAIK this doesn’t extend to waitstaff. Where I get confused is who to tip, when, and how much in hotels.

  132. 132
    duphrane

    I’ve certainly never heard anyone complain that we tip too much, but I did learn that it’s a stereotype about us. And it is, indeed, too tough to figure out how much to tip everyone, and I’d usually rather be thought a spendthrift than a cheapskate, so I err on the high side. And tipping in hotels is confusing enough in the US, much less abroad.

  133. 133
    Anthony K

    Where I get confused is who to tip, when, and how much in hotels.

    It’s really simple: in countries where right-hand driving is the rule, only tip those whose job titles end in consonants, when the job title is translated into French and then written in Katakana, or into Ainu and written using French orthography. It is the opposite in countries where left-hand driving is the rule, except you have to translate into Taa and then write in crayon, after which you tip all personnel whose titles you wrote without using midnight blue.

    The amount you tip should approximate \frac{7\pi-2}{100} , unless that person served you pie, at which point additional consideration should be given to the nature of the filling.

    I’ve found that most hospitality staff worldwide are generally aware and appreciative of this rule, as judged by how often they’ll smile politely and back away when I’ve had cause to explain it.

  134. 134
    pelamun, the Linguist of Doom

    oh in certain East Asian countries tipping can be seen as offensive, but probably they would just have been puzzled by you trying to pay more than they were owed.

    In Beijing one time they kept giving us back the change which we wanted to leave behind as we were splitting with seven people. However I’m told in more touristy areas in China tipping has now become common and is in fact expected from the tourists.

    In Japan you also rarely ever tip, since a service charge is always included. In the samurai culture, money was seen as dirty, so you avoid talking about money in polite society, and if you give money, you never put the money in the receiving person’s hands, it either goes directly into the cashier machine (or in a little tablet thingy by the cashier), or you hand the money over in a money envelope (in a restaurant, you’d also never pay at the table, quel horreur, you pay at the cashier at the exit). Taxi drivers might be the only exception, you have no choice but to put the money directly onto their hands…

    You ever hear that Asian tourists are unpopular with waiters? Here’s your answer.

  135. 135
    pelamun, the Linguist of Doom

    sorry “unpopular with waiters in the US

  136. 136
    pelamun, the Linguist of Doom

    in Germany there is this rule not to tip the owner (of a restaurant, or barber shop), when they served you personally, and also a “poor student” exception.

    Though it might be better to make this explicit so they don’t misunderstand your meaning…

  137. 137
    Jerry

    pelamun said:
    what about the commonly heard argument that compared to tribal customs of the time, Islam improved the position of women in society? I’m no expert on 6th c. Arabia, but maybe someone here is?

    I’m not an expert on history, but I think it’s a pity that Islam (and so many other religions & cultures) have not improved the position of women _since_ the 6th century. That’s conservatism for you.

  138. 138
    rabbitscribe

    KG@129:

    It’s not even about calling them out, really. Just raising consciousness as to how far apart the two mind-sets are. If the truth-claim in the hadeeth accurately represents reality, you don’t do three half-arsed experiments and go for sushi! You pull out all the stops, cash in all your chips, and, if necessary, crawl on broken glass from Mecca to Medina to get the word out. Your discovery changes everything- absolutely everything- related to knowledge and the acquisition thereof. But they just don’t seem to get that.

  139. 139
    Ichthyic

    If this experiment is performed adequately, with proper controls, by a non-Muslim team (this shouldn’t matter according to the hadith, right?), and comes up with the results predicted by the Quran, I’ll convert to Islam, stat.

    not that this all isn’t just very silly, mind you, but following the logic…

    why “convert”?

    you just said that the results should be obtainable by non-muslims.

    If so, then there is no reason to convert.

  140. 140
    Anthony K

    It’s not even about calling them out, really. Just raising consciousness as to how far apart the two mind-sets are. If the truth-claim in the hadeeth accurately represents reality, you don’t do three half-arsed experiments and go for sushi! You pull out all the stops, cash in all your chips, and, if necessary, crawl on broken glass from Mecca to Medina to get the word out. Your discovery changes everything- absolutely everything- related to knowledge and the acquisition thereof. But they just don’t seem to get that.

    Of course that’s what we would think, rabbitscribe, but remember: there’s already ample evidence to the believer. Tide goes in, tide goes out, etc. The truth is apparent to those who can see. So, this experiment isn’t that momentous to their minds. It’s just another confirmation of what they already know to be true.

    It’s more akin to David Scott’s dropping of a hammer and a feather on the moon to confirm that yup, in a near vacuum they fall at the same rate, than it is to Galileo’s game-changing ideas about gravity.

  141. 141
    Nick Gotts

    Ichthyic,
    Suppose this turned out to be true. How, other than by supernatural intervention, could it be true, and how could it have got into a hadith even if it was? Of course, it could be the trickster god Loki having a laugh, but some god or other would certainly have to be involved, and given which religion it comes from, that’s the obvious choice. Of course, I only make this promise in the absolute (subjective) certainty that it will never leave me in the position of having to either convert to Islam, or break my word!

  142. 142
    Nick Gotts

    There is nothing Islamic about the actual contributions to math and science that the Arab nations made. – you_monster

    True: many of those involved were not Muslims – and for that matter, even more were not Arabs. Jim al-Khalili, in his book Pathfinders, suggests the term “Arabic science”, i.e. science carried on in the medium of Arabic.

  143. 143
    ikesolem

    Scientists who lived in autocratic religious states were only able to do work by giving a token nod to the power structures of their day, or they’d end up like Galileo.

    Thus, the work of Gregor Mendel cannot be characterized as “Christian science” – he conducted experiments and wrote down his observations. Likewise, Arabic science is indeed probably a better word than “Islamic science” – just as Gregor Mendel’s work is best characterized as “in the tradition of European science.”

  144. 144
    scottportman

    OK, this is fun. We’ve had our laughs, and will continue to laugh about this.

    A few things to point out. Bukhari was a collector of “hadith” or sayings of the prophet. He was also, if memory serves me correctly, a cat-person – and many of the sayings attributed to Mohammed about cats come from these second-hand sources. This is not a verse from the Quran and vast numbers of reasonably bright western educated Muslims would think this whole experiment is as ridiculous and foolish as we do.

    I only feel obligated to point this out, because millions of Muslims live their lives just like millions of Christians – they abstractly believe in religion, but don’t always know much about it, and either ignore or snicker at the more bizarre excesses like this. Any of you know any Muslim lab techs in your local hospital? I’ll bet they would be embarrassed by this or laugh about it. I’m an atheist – I think there is benefit to pointing out the illogic of religion in general because ultimately the world would be a better place if there was space for skeptics in Saudi Arabia, but it bothers me slightly to see this sort of stupidity imputed to all the followers of any religion. I know quite a few Muslim medical professionals and they would just roll their eyes at this sort of thing. If you were to confront them with this as evidence that Islam is insane, they would likely tell you that you are insane to think this is Islam. You would have to approach them in a different way to make any headway in either getting them to question their faith, or expanding their tolerance for atheism.

    That’s not a popular thing to say on this blog, but there it is.

  145. 145
    mariofernandez

    I’m sure I missed something but, wouldn’t it make sense to mix both samples to see if the e.coli is killed/neutralized? I’m aware of the failures pointed out by you experts, my point is that if you really had a cure in your hands, you would want to test it asap.

  146. 146
    LykeX

    That’s not a popular thing to say on this blog, but there it is.

    Man, I hate it when people say shit like that.
    Whether it’s popular or not is irrelevant. Say what you have to say and leave it at that.

    it bothers me slightly to see this sort of stupidity imputed to all the followers of any religion

    I must have missed that bit. Could you point me to the person who did that? I’m not certain nobody said that (there have been a lot of posts here), but it sounds out of character for this forum to make such a blanket statement.

    I know quite a few Muslim medical professionals and they would just roll their eyes at this sort of thing. If you were to confront them with this as evidence that Islam is insane, they would likely tell you that you are insane to think this is Islam

    So they think taking the hadeeth as an important part of Islamic tradition is insane?

    I’m not qualified to speak on the historical validity of the hadeeth. All I can say is that orthodox Islamic thought appears to accept it and that at least some Muslims take it very literally.
    The fact that some educated Muslims have been forced to reject orthodoxy, only demonstrates the problems of the religion.

    It’s the same as when liberal christians have to interpret the hell out of the bible or even throw away parts of it, in order to maintain a faith that isn’t obviously barbaric and vicious. It only proves just how fucked up the bible really is.

  147. 147
    Rich Stage

    If you think the Koran is true,
    then do what real scientists do:
    Observe and then test.
    Don’t just make a guess,
    don’t count on what your “prophet” knew.

  148. 148
    A. R

    Actually, it’s rather interesting how similar the more liberal elements of the Abrahamic religions are, they treat their holy books as metaphor, ignore vast stretches, and attempt to make their religion 21st century-acceptable. In fact, once you strip away the fundamentalist and orthodox elements, their basically all the same. And all quite prone to deconversion.

  149. 149
    Chris Booth

    A sacred Hadeeth tells us flies are unholy,
    One side is high cure, and the other side lowly–
         So Islamic health care,
         Is a wing and a prayer…
    And hope against hope its a common E. coli.

  150. 150
    stupidfunnyironicnamenoonecaresabout

    Arabians are horses, Arabs are people.

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