I get email

I am infested with the fleas of a thousand camels. One unfortunate side-effect of this trip to Ireland and the UK is that I have publicly engaged with Muslim creationists — there’s a bit of a dearth of them in Morris, Minnesota, and the few Muslims I have met there are there for the university, and are educated and intelligent — but now I’m on their radar, and my inbox has a new, exotic stench to it. Here is a sample.

Dear Dr. Myers,

In your recent exchange with Hamza you asserted that Quran contain no specifics when it comes to science. I will let you be the judge:
[The disbelievers are] like darknesses within an unfathomable sea which is covered by waves, above which are waves, above which are clouds – layers of darknesses, one above another. When one stretches out his hand, he can hardly see it. And he to whom Allah has not granted light – for him there is no light. [24:40]

In the underlined statements, this verse explicitly refers to two physical features of oceans:
“mawjun min fawqihi mawj” – which literally means “waves, above which are waves”
and “dhulumâtun ba’duha fawqa bad” – which literally means “darknesses, one above the other”

The first phrase affirms that the oceans contain a layer of internal waves beneath the surface waves, just as the surface waves lie beneath the clouds. The second phrase further describes these consecutive layers as progressive layers of darknesses.

Internal waves in the ocean were first discovered by John Scott Russell in the 18th century. These waves are completely invisible and imperceptible at the surface, but deep down in the ocean they are massive, with amplitudes ranging up to 100 metres and width of 1km. This explains the first Qur’anic phrase in the verse.

In terms of the description of darkness, the darkness of the Ocean is first perceptible at 200m below surface level and by the time you reach 1km there is no light at all. However, why does the Qur’an connect this description of darkness with internal waves in the ocean? What have internal waves got to do with the darkness of ocean? Modern science didn’t have a good answer for this… until:

“The key insight described in this research is that pairs of these boundaries behave like giant interferometers: When encountering boundaries between layers that have different density gradients, internal waves undergo the same kinds of reflections and strengthening or weakening effects as light waves in an optical interferometer. As a result, these layers selectively transmit or block waves of specific wavelengths.”

This explains how the progressive darkness in the ocean is linked to the internal waves. Evidently, there is no way any human being could have known this 1400 years ago. The Qur’an is the revelation of the All-Knowing Creator and Sustainer of the Universe.

[First, let’s get something clear: the two sentences cited are not about the physical and hydrodynamic properties of oceans; it is about the ignorance of unbelievers, and the writer has used a simile to poetically intensify the magnitude of the subject. OK? It really is a dead giveaway that someone isn’t reading a poem right when they obliviously ignore the actual theme of the passage to go haring off after a word and digging up oceanography press releases when they read “seas”. When people read Homer, do they see “wine dark sea” and go nuts trying to determine the optical properties of the Mediterranean? (Well, yeah, they do…and they’re missing the point.)

Secondly, the cited science reference (what? You think I wouldn’t read it?) isn’t about why the sea is dark: we know why that is, it’s about light scattering and being absorbed by particles suspended in it. What the paper describes is a method to study the arrangement of layers in the ocean using measurements of subtle shifts in wavelengths caused by boundary effects. So not only did you misread your own damned book, you’re misreading the scientific source you’re citing to bolster your claim.–pzm]

Here is another verse from the Qur’an:

So whoever Allah wants to guide – He expands his breast to [contain] Islam; and whoever He wants to misguide – He makes his breast tight and constricted as though he were climbing into the sky. Thus does Allah place defilement upon those who do not believe. [6:125]

How did a Bedouin 1400 years ago desert know how we breathe? I will let you infer what this says about pressure.

[How stupid are Bedouins? So stupid that they didn’t notice that their chests expand and contract when they breathe.

And again: it’s a freaking metaphor for accepting an idea, not a survey of respiratory physiology.]

In the end you are rejecting since you want evidence on your terms (emperical, falsifiable, etc.). The Qur’an respond to this as well.

And they say, “We will not believe you until you break open for us from the ground a spring.

Or [until] you have a garden of palm tress and grapes and make rivers gush forth within them in force [and abundance]

Or you make the heaven fall upon us in fragments as you have claimed or you bring Allah and the angels before [us]

Or you have a house of gold or you ascend into the sky. And [even then], we will not believe in your ascension until you bring down to us a book we may read.” Say, “Exalted is my Lord! Was I ever but a human messenger?”

I’m supposed to be surprised that a fraudulent old prophet writes down in his phony holy book an admonition to not expect evidence to back up his claims? “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain! I am the Great and Powerful Oz!”–pzm]

For your own sake, I ask you to think about Islam, and do not allow your reputation or money be the barrier to accepting the truth.

If you could but see when they are made to stand before the Fire and will say, “Oh, would that we could be returned [to life on earth] and not deny the signs of our Lord and be among the believers.”

But what they concealed before has [now] appeared to them. And even if they were returned, they would return to that which they were forbidden; and indeed, they are liars.[6:27-28]

[So predictable: if the claims are implausible and the story is incredible, close with a threat of Hell. That’ll clinch it. Not. –pzm]


Those are not specifics about science, revealing the presence of divine revelation in the mind of Mohammed. Those are poetical allusions which have been mined by deranged apologists for evidence (odd, isn’t it, that the believers scrabble so desperately for something their holy book dismisses) that their prophet was something special. The feebleness of their post hoc rationalizes persuade me otherwise.

Hey, why not emphasize instead the lovely language of the book? Oh, that’s right: because nobody doubts that the human mind is capable of generating art.