I rejected them, so they’re coming to get me

The other daaaay, I was asked to do a YouTube debate with an Islamic group, and I told them no, with this email.

I dislike debates, and find them to be nothing but rhetorical games. If you’d care to send me a written summary of your best argument that “the Quran is a scientific miracle”, I’ll consider addressing it. I have a few conditions: you should define what you mean by “scientific miracle”, and I would prefer that any examples you use discuss it from the perspective of biology, since that is my area of expertise.

They replied. This has gotten worse.

Yes you bring up a good point. The Quran and science argument has evolved
significantly since your discussion with Hamza Tzortis. A great deal of care
was given to refutations provided by skeptics.

We can send you a pdf of the new arguments, perhaps you can look them over.

We are planning to do an event at Univ of Minnesota at Morris via Muslim Student Association,
in which we talk about Quran and science. Once you reviewed the material, perhaps you can
provide some feedback/discussion during the question and answer period?

First, do I really believe their argument has evolved in any substantial way, or that they actually deal honestly with skeptical arguments? No, I do not. The fact that they’re trying to argue that Quran is a scientific treatise rather than a social, political, historical, and cultural document is revealing. Still, I’d be happy to look over their “new” arguments.

Second, I am not happy that they are trying to corrupt our Muslim students. When I first came to UMM, there was a fairly loud contingent of Christian creationists openly trying to undermine biology classes, specifically, and I do not welcome the idea of our Muslim students taking over that role. They’re smarter than that. But yes, I would definitely attend their event and point out the flaws in using the Quran as if it’s a science textbook.


  1. rorschach says

    Good old Hamza. My only claim to fame is that I once rescued Dawkins from Hamza’s cashed up and well equipped film crew outside an Irish hotel back in 2011. Of course they never let go, they are well funded and truth is none of their concerns. Biblical embryology is. Complete fuck toasts. We do not owe them any debate, they are lunatics.

  2. stroppy says

    The Quran and science argument has evolved significantly since your discussion with Hamza Tzortis. A great deal of care was given to refutations provided by skeptics.

    Care schmare. So far I see no indication there that there is any awareness that arguments from analogy, poetic flights, and rhetoric are epic fails in terms of science and its processes and implications. Nor does there seem to be any understanding or even awareness that arguments based on faith, by definition belief without evidence, are just confirmation bias and not scientifically serious. For that matter I don’t see even a glimmer of awareness of what constitutes sound, rigorous evidence; which I’d expect to see front and center if they had it to offer.

    Well, down one path at least, you’ve certainly got your work cut out for you.

  3. fledanow says

    I had a housemate recently who kept trying to convince me of the scientific wisdom in the Quran. He quoted a famous (in his world) physician/Islamic scholar (the only man who has throughly studied ALL the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim holy books, apparently. sigh) who explained that the Quran was so wise when it declared dogs unclean, as they carry the rabies virus in their saliva. I said you could say that of all mammals, including people, once infected. I haven’t found any definitive literature identifying dogs as carriers. Bats, yes. The Quran’s wisdom doesn’t extend to bats.

  4. says

    The Quran and science argument has evolved
    significantly since your discussion with Hamza Tzortis.

    Well, they are half correct there.

    Their arguments haven’t evolved, they’ve just updated it to contain newer tech jargon. I’d be interested in seeing what the specific changes they’ve made are though.

  5. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Well, if you really want to piss them off, tell them both the New Testament and the Quran are just Jewish Fan Fiction.

  6. Meurig ap Gweirydd says

    Show me an ancient holey book that includes monotremes and marsupials, or even lemurs for something closer to home, and I’ll consider it, otherwise it’s nothing more than the invention of some extremely greedy and untruthful men.

  7. Meeker Morgan says

    When Muhammad was getting started did he bring people over to his side by claiming to be scientific?

    What we have here is a Muslim apologist taking a page from the Christian apologists and attempting to steal some of the prestige of science. Basically the familiar “science proves the Bible” routine suitably modified for Islam.

    Somehow such an argument implies the primacy of science over faith, but you’re not supposed too think that much.

  8. DanDare says

    What about the holy text gets bolstered by any of its science claims being right any way? The science claims are absurd but the energy spent is a misdirection any way. Its the old “if 9 things in this book are true then the 10th thing must also be true”.

  9. Porivil Sorrens says

    Ironically enough, that’s not too much of a silly juxtaposition as it might be with a Christian source. A good chunk of what we’d now consider evolutionary theory has been accepted by Islamic scholarship for centuries.

    There’s not quite the same opposition to it as there is in Christian history, since figures like al-Jahiz were writing about natural selection and survival of the fittest way back in the 9th century.

    Obviously not defending the Quran, Islamic Philosophy was a big focus of my degree studies so I thought that was a neat tidbit.

  10. Porivil Sorrens says

    Also, @7, this is not true. The concept of Kalaam – scientific and philosophical arguments in favor of the quran – has been a part of Islamic culture literally for milennia.

    In a good part of early Islamic culture, there want a hard “science/religion” divide, so it was fairly common to get things like surgical treatises being treated as theological documents.

  11. says

    Kalaam was part of Islamic culture for centuries but fell out of favour for a while. It is making a comeback but never really included the “Science in the Qur’an” argument. The arguments were purely philosophical/theological. A careful reading of the so-called “scientific” verses shows they can readily be interpreted in light of the limited understanding of the natural world at the time. Even a cursory examination of the modern arguments for science in the Qur’an shows they are a combination of badly misrepresented science and forced and unsustainable interpretation of the religious text. I have debunked some of this nonsense at Muslim run conferences where at the same time Muslim “scientists” with PhDs no less present novel interpretations of science in the Qur’an that are so bad you wonder what they have been doing since they got their degrees. I am interested in what this new and refined approach is they are claiming. If they send you a file please post a link.

  12. waydude says

    This sounds like they want you to give them refutations to their arguments so they can use them only as study material to refute them not an honest exchange of ideas.

    But I don’t trust anyone anymore, especially creationists

  13. unclefrogy says

    one of the reasons any faith I ever had got lost was this compulsion to change demonstrated reality into the descriptions in holy texts to either deny reality or alter the description to match the holy texts.
    their is no reason to do that as far as I can see because the “holy texts” are about the human being and his place into the “creation” or how to live a good and noble life, it need not have any more reality in it then The Lord of The Rings or works of the Bard of Stratford, to contain truth of a human kind. That attitude on my part completely push me out of belief helped mightily by believers every much as sincere and earnest as these ignoramuses here referred to.
    uncle frogy

  14. leerudolph says

    Show me an ancient holey book that includes monotremes and marsupials, or even lemurs for something closer to home

    Didn’t Madame Blavatsky forge write some ancient Tibetan holy books that explained all about Lemuria?

  15. quidam says

    The litmus test would be: Name a scientific advance that came from scriptural revelation – not a post factum rationalization of an ambiguous scriptural phrase to match a scientific discovery obtained by research and investigation.

  16. A Sloth named Sparkles says

    The least you CAN do is bring Aron Ra to the debate.
    He’s currently on Patheos doing a blog about reading the Quran.
    An atheist of his caliber could provide some ammunition countering Hamza.

  17. birgerjohansson says

    I use to watch ex-muslims at Youtube.
    I once put together a 14-page Swedish-language text with self-contradictions and factual errors in the Quran, but I never used it, as I realised there is very little interest. The nominal muslims perform the rituals without giving it much thought, the True Believers will never be swayed, and the ones who have had enough do not need further confirmation religion is bunk.
    And if I published the sections of hadith where Muhammed talks about rape of female captives I will proably give ammunition to racists who make no difference between ordinary muslims and their awful prophet.
    Anyway, I recommend the part of the Quran -Sura 18:83- where we learn the sun sets in a pool of muddy water. And in Sunan Abu Dawud 4002 we “learn” more about the movement of the sun.
    And Sahih Muslim vol.1 hadith 300 says the sun settles under the throne of Allah after sunset, awaiting the command to rise again.

  18. birgerjohansson says

    Livestock as defined by the quran: Camels, goats, sheep, cows/oxen
    Cattle/livestock not mentioned by Muhammed in sura 6:142-144 :
    Alpaca, addax, eland, gayal, llama, sika deer, scimitar oryx, water buffalo, yak, zebu etc.

    [Semi-domestic ones like reindeer, or non-ruminant ones like pig, rabbit and guinea pig are not listed here]

    Were the Earth and heavens joined together or split apart?
    Quran sura 21:30: Split apart Q sura 41:11: Joined together
    How many angels participated in the battle of Badr? Q sura 8:9 : 1000 angels Q sura 3:123-124: 3000 angels

    How long is judgement day? Q 32:5:1000 years. Q 70:4: 50 000 years

    Muhammed’s attitude to black people/black slaves:

    Sahih al Bukhari 7142 ”you must listen to and obey your ruler, even if he is a black slave with a head like a raisin”

    see Sunan-an-Nasa’i 4625

    An arab slave is worth two black slaves [this in a chapter with the title “Selling animals for other animals of different amounts” ]

    Ibn Ishaq “Sirat Risulallah” translated as, “The Life Of Muhammad” by A. Guillaume, page 243
    “Whoever wants to see Satan let him take a look at Nabtal b. al-Harith!”

    ( He was a study black man with long flowing hair, inflamed eyes, and dark ruddy cheeks. It was he who said: “Muhammad is all ears: if anyone tells him anything he believes it.” (also, see the quran, 9:61

    Quran sura 66: 5 (child marriage) concerns wives that have not menstruated yet
    Sahih Bukhari 1: 6: 301 Women are ungrateful
    Sahih Bukhari 3: 48: 826 Women are stupid
    Sahih Bukhari 6: 60: 282 Women should cover themselves up
    Sahih Bukhari 7: 62: 113 Women are crooked

  19. birgerjohansson says

    OK here we go:
    Sura 7:54 The universe was created in 6 Days
    Sura 41:12 The universe was created in 8 Days
    3:59 Adam created from dust
    15:26 Man created from clay and black mud
    21:30 Everything living created from water
    16:4 man created from small life-germ/seed

    96:2 man created from clot of blood

    28:38 Pharao builds the tower of Babylon…..wrong continent!
    5.115 & 5:75 Mr M. Thinks christians worship the Virgin Mary as part of the Trinity.
    9:30 mr M thinks the Jews worship the prophet Uzair (Ezra) the same way the Christians worship Jesus.

    21:89-90 & 19:27-29 Mr M. confuses Miriam the relative of Aaron with the virgin Mary even though it was more than a millennium between them.

    88:20 Flat Earth. (see original arabic) “laid out flat” is the common translation.
    2:29 Earth was created first
    79:27-30 heaven was created first

    54:1 The moon was split

    This is just a sample…

  20. birgerjohansson says

    34:10-11 David lived in the bronze age; Goliath could not have had a coat of (iron) mail.

    22:65 & 34:9 Zod is literally holding up the dome of heaven. heaven is a solid object/a solid substance.

    37:6-10 , 67:5, 72:9 Shooting stars are weapons the angels throw after djinn (spirits) that have sneaked up to heaven to overhear the angels making plans.

    31:10 “He (Zod) created the heavens (plural) without pillars that you see” -the dome of heaven is a solid object, and the absence of pillars holding it up is a miracle.

    27:18 ants are talking among themselves

    24:43 meteolological processes are directly created by Zod. He creates hailstorms and is responsible for Lightning.

    62:142-144: These are the only livestock according to the Quran: Camels, sheep, goats and cows/oxen. I leave the many many others as an excercise for the reader.

    6:38 All animals live in communities (no, they bloody don’t)

    75:9 The sun and the moon will be joined at the end of the world (no, they won’t).

    Hadith: Sahih Bukhari 2:24:555 Zod hates those who ask too many quastions about religion. They have been inspired by Satan.

  21. birgerjohansson says

    Sahih Bukhari Vol 4, Book 54, Hadith Number 537 The Prophet said”If a house fly falls in the drink of anyone of you, he should dip it (in the drink), for one of its wings has a disease and the other has the cure for the disease.”

  22. birgerjohansson says

    This one is great: Sura 4:82 -If the Quran was not from Zod, it would contain many errors /contradictions

    Sahih Bukhari 7: 71 :591 Black cumin is healing for all diseases.
    Sahih Bukhari 4 :55: 641 Newborn children cry because Satan is touching them

    Sahih Bukhari 4 :54 :509 Yawning is from Satan; If anyone should say “Ha” during yawning, Satan will laugh at him.

    Bukhari 5:58:236, 7:62:64, 8:73:151 & Sahih Muslim 8:3310, 8:3311 & Sunan Abu Dawud 2116) -Hadith about a missing Quranic verse.
    -Muhammed says women must breastfeed unrelated males for social interactions with them to be permitted, since breastfeeding them will make them as close relatives. Muhammed’s wife Aisha claimed a goat had eaten the scroll with this verse after Muhammed’s death (a very convenient goat raid, from the perspective of the women)
    (Sahih Muslim: 8:34:24& Vol. 17 hadith 26)

    (Sunan ibn Majah -1944)

    Sahih Muslim vol. 40 hadith 6809 says Allah ”created Adam in his own form with his own length” -60 cubiths, ca. 27 meters.

    Cattle/livestock not mentioned by Muhammed in sura 6:142-144 :Alpaca, addax, eland, gayal, llama, sika deer, scimitar oryx, water buffalo, yak, zebu etc.

    More hadith
    Sahih Bukhari 1: 6: 301 Women are ungrateful
    Sahih Bukhari 3: 48: 826 Women are stupid
    Sahih Bukhari 6: 60: 282 Women should cover themselves up
    Sahih Bukhari 7: 62: 113 Women are crooked

    ….you get the idea.

  23. birgerjohansson says

    Addendum: Most muslims are nice people.
    And very few of them have read the original sources; all quranic suras, hadith etc.
    In fact, most of them cannot read the original 1400-year-old version of arabic.
    And the imams are certainly not going to tell them about the…”odd”…passages.
    This is a job for us filthy unbelievers.

  24. Chimelementa says

    Excuse me, I have a question. Some Muslims have started to use a different interpretation of ‘then we clothed the bones with flesh’ and I want to know if they are correct.

    They claim that the ‘bones clothing with flesh’ refers to the muscles being attached to flesh(I know that interpreting clothed as attached is odd, but that is not the kind of refutation I am looking for.) They then claim that muscles attach to bones soon after chondrification begins. They claim that although the myotendinous junctions are already forming before the cartilage ‘bones’ begin to form, tendon attachment to the ‘bones’ in entheses only forms after the cartilaginous bone models have begun to form.

    Is it true that muscles only attach to the cartilage bones after chondrification has started?