Islamic apologist triumphs by revising history!

You could have guessed that this would be coming. I had a discussion/debate with some Muslim creationists a few months ago; they tried to convince me that somehow the Qu’ran is free of error and that the trivial bit of embryology in their holy book was just fine, that Mohammed got everything right. They did not convince me. As I said repeatedly, the two sentences in the Qu’ran that describe the sequence of events in human development was so shallow and vague to be useless, and that their idea that development begins with bones that are subsequently covered with flesh is incorrect. You know, this bit:

We created man from an essence of clay, then We placed him as a drop of fluid in a safe place. Then We made that drop of fluid into a clinging form, and then We made that form into a lump of flesh, and We made that lump into bones, and We clothed those bones with flesh, and later We made him into other forms. Glory be to God the best of creators.

Do we really need to go around and around on this subject? The Qu’ran is not a biology textbook. It has a few terse and biologically inadequate lines early human embryology, yet some Muslims try to claim the book was presciently aware of the conclusions of modern science. It wasn’t. The author was simply dimly aware of ideas that were common in the 8th century. If you think your faith is dependent on the deep factual nature of those few sentences, your faith is in trouble.

Well looky here, though. One of the guys in that discussion, Nadir Ahmed, came out with a video today that puts words in my mouth and tries to distort my position. It’s titled “PZ Myers set the record straight – NO scientific error in the Quran”.

Somehow, my agreeing that Mohammed was as correct about embryology as Galen is an admission that the Qu’ran is scientifically accurate. And even more, that I was wrong before, and have now wised up enough to agree with Islamic creationist position! Mr Ahmed says:

They now need to revise their position. They need to be honest with people, and they need to say PZ Myer no longer holds this position, that the Qu’ran is in error with science with regards to flesh and bones being created at the same time. But something tells me that those people who spun this information, they’re not going to do that.

That is incorrect. I will still say the the Qu’ran is in error scientifically. I left a comment saying so.

You are incorrect. The Qu’ran is wrong, as was Galen and Aristotle.
The story in the verse is simply warmed over Galen/Aristotle, diluted to the point of meaninglessness.

I still hold the position that Qu’ran is in error, so it’s rather dishonest of you to claim I’ve changed my mind.

If you’d like to quote me as saying “The Qu’ran contains scientific inaccuracies,” feel free to do so. If you want to “quote” me as saying “I no longer believe the Qu’ran is wrong about human development”, well, you’re just a damned liar.

So Ahmed emailed me asking for a clarification.

Hi PZ –
I just read your comment on my video.
I have temporarily removed it till I
can get some clarification from you.

You mentioned you still believe there
is a error in the Quran, but you never
explained what is that error.

Can you please let us know?

My reply:

My views have not changed since I wrote this:
The qu’ran is simply a vague echo of ideas that were common during Mohammed’s lifetime, and they are even fuzzier and less specific than something directly from Aristotle or Galen. The only thing different is that now you’re claiming that the chronology, the sequence of “We made” statements, is not a chronology at all. If anyone has changed their mind, it’s you trying to modify your interpretation of the Qu’ran to fit modern conceptions.

I should have added, though, that if he wants to argue that there is no chronology implied in the verse, that my comment in the previous video that the idea of a progression of changes in human development was one positive interpretation, well then, I was wrong about that. Apparently the Qu’ran argues that embryos were poofed into existence with bones fully clothed in muscle, which is also wrong.

Ahmed wrote back:

Thank you for the clarification. Let’s work together to fix this.

I will concede to your point that we should not modify our interpretations to
fit modern conceptions. Therefore I will not claim this verse predicts modern
scientific fact… and inform others.

I will concede to your point that the verse is to vague and ambiguous to even
make such a claim. That being said, it is also to vague and ambiguous to
claim error with documented scientific fact.

Sounds good to you?

I’d rather not have my name used in Islamic propaganda.

No. I’d rather you simply did not use my name to promote the accuracy of a medieval book. The Qu’ran is lacking in any insight that you might use to justify any divine input into its words.

I gave him the last word.

Of course, your name can only be used to discredit the medieval book, as it has all over the internet.
This will conflict with your polemical aspirations. The problem here is that you wear 2 hats –
one as a scientist and one as a Atheist polemicist.

I have conceded a lot to you, more so than my Muslim apologist job allows me to.
My concessions will allow devout believers to start to envisioning a human origin of the Quran.

Now, I need to push back a little. The video posted does not promote Islamic apologetics –
I conceded your borrowing views to be very possible, and I did not defend the miracle claim.

I will repost the video, and I will delete your comment because I do not want to trigger a back and forth debate with you
on this contradiction – a verse deemed to be too vague and ambiguous to describe modern scientific fact,
is now being used to absolutely contradict modern science. Please also keep in mind, for any scientific error claim, we are demanding
peer reviewed scientific literature to back up the scientific claim, failure to do so, will be viewed as pseudoscience.

This will catch the eyes of others – keep in mind, if you walk in a mosque and ask why the Quran
contradicts science, the Imam will snugly reply those people try to find vague and ambiguous verses
and try to create a controversy. Now those Imams have firm confirmation.

I can’t quite imagine myself walking into a mosque to demand scientific answers — as I’ve said a few times now, they won’t be able to provide them. I’ll also point out that my original commentary on Islamic embryology was not in a mosque, but outside a hotel in Dublin (where they did have Guinness on tap, which I suppose does make it a kind of holy place), and that the only people trying to create controversy were the iERA evangelists who were confronting me. I was just answering their questions.

I am now wondering how many of the “quotes” from Dr Keith L. Moore that professed a respect for the science in the Qu’ran were made up or distorted by the apologists, since they’ll even tell me to my face that I made concessions to the Qu’ran that I simply did not and do not do. I now have firm confirmation that Islamic creationists will freely lie, after all.


  1. birgerjohansson says

    While the koran has a poor record on embryology, it is a fountain of knowledge about geography. För instance, if you walk far enough to the west, you find the spring into which the sun sets.
    It is also a guide to other religions, like, did you know the jews venerate Ezra the same way the Christians do Jesus?
    And Christians have a trinity: God, Jesus and the virgin Mary.

  2. birgerjohansson says

    Addendum: Finding fun errors in the Bible is a low-hanging fruit. Finding errors in the koran is so easy it is not even funny anymore. And I have not even got to the part where Pharaoh builds the tower of Babylon.

  3. nomdeplume says

    “My concessions will allow devout believers to start to envisioning a human origin of the Quran” seems a strangely revealing thing for an apologist to say. But isn’t it sad that people believe any book is not of “human origin”?

  4. says

    I actually took the trouble to read the special edition of Keith Moore’s embryology text with “Islamic additions”. The quotes are not from Keith Moore The book was published with special permission of the publisher for use in Saudi Arabia but manged to migrate to other parts of the Muslim world. The quotes are from the additions which were written by Abdul Majeed al-Zindani. Zindani studied at Ain Shams University in Egypt, initially studying biology and chemistry before switching to Islamic studies but never completed a degree. He is the founder and head of the Commission on Scientific Signs in the Quran and Sunnah, based in Saudi Arabia. He later went on to found and head the Iman University in Yemen. Not a bad effort although some of the shonky degree mills run out of motel rooms in the USA suggest he’s not alone in this achievement . Zindani’s Islamic additions are distributed throughout the embryology text as separate commentaries. In many cases they contradict the actual embryology text they sit beside. Zindani’s full ignorance of the topic is on display when he suggests that the 23 Carnegie Stages of embryonic development are far too complicated to understand and proposes reducing them to four based on his interpretation of what the Qur’an has to say on the topic. I guess thats what happens when you let a failed undergraduate student write your textbooks. Most Muslim scientists I know indulge in a large amount of head-banging and face-palming when they encounter the science in the Qur’an nonsense. They have a hard enough time promoting scientific literacy without having to cut through that rubbish.

  5. says

    This is a common problem with any holy book. It’s a work of its time, and science marches on while the people of the holy book insist that it is flawless and perfect…and the more time passes the worse it is for the book.

  6. sockjockwarlock says

    The only reason Muslim apologists exists, differently from other apologists, is that they’re doing this to defend against discrimination & racism towards Muslims while ‘reclaiming’ whatever Islamic knowledge lost due to Western colonialism. It does not excuse any inaccurate bullshit spewed by these apologists, nor do they represent the overall majority of Muslims.
    If Muslims do need protection from racism, they may need to give support to rational Muslims in Congress and other institutions, such as Ilhan Omar. They’re at least more grounded with their constituents than what the apologists can offer.

  7. orcadius says

    If an apologist of any camp needs to intentionally misrepresent the views of dissenting voices in order to bring others to the Really, Really REAL Truth, how true could it possibly be?

    Or, to put it another way, how high does the mountain of bullshit be to reach heaven?

  8. birgerjohansson says

    I am of the opinion that the ex-muslims are important in making mainstream muslims push for a reformed interpretation of the religion, skipping the old demand that scriptures must be interpreted literally.
    (the ex-muslims are cheerfully publishing the contradictions and more obvious absurdies in the koran and hadith, and make it impossible for the imams to sweep the mess under the carpet).
    -A modernised islam 2.0 will deny oxygen to both islamic radicals and the anti-muslim nuts (and is probably a necessary intermediary step to secularism).

  9. says


    Let’s say for the sake of argument that the reformation is christianity 2.0.
    Then we will also need christianity 3.0. Because both 1.0 and 2.0 have tons of bugs.

    The question is, does anything remain if one were to remove all the bugs?

  10. blf says

    The question is, does anything remain [of xianity, etc.] if one were to remove all the bugs?

    Mindless hordes ?

  11. birgerjohansson says

    We cannot completely eradicate non-rational belief systems.
    I would say the bland form of christianity we see in -för instance- Scandinavia and Britain- is harmless. Think of it as a commensal organism we can live with as distinct from the toxic brew that motivated Cotton Mather and his ilk.
    The theology of those modern churches are still full of rubbish. No matter, there wiĺl always be some people attracted to non-rational belief systems wether astrology or wicca.
    This is non-destructive if they are absorbed by reliably non-cultish groups. The meme version of “harm reduction”.
    Moving on to islam… There are groups like the Alevi in Asia Minor or wossname in Oman that seem more prone to live and let live. So with time, mainstream islam can be altered, too, if there is incentive to change (and the more tolerant muslims accepted in western societies).
    The core of islam does not make sense and will not make sense in the future. No matter, as long as it does not get in the way, and as long as it permits people to leave.

  12. sockjockwarlock says


    Doubtful ex-Muslims could help. The ones I’ve came across online are filled with way too many baggage against their former religion and defenestrated themselves way too far right of the Overton window. As of now, the only good role models of Ex-Muslims who understood both the irrationality of the fundies and racism against Muslims or anyone brown are either Eiynah of Nice Mangoes or Heina Dadabhoy.

  13. rietpluim says

    Misquotes and personal attacks from a religious apologist. What a surprise.

  14. DanDare says

    There may be forms of religion that modern society can live with, but they are not benign. The lack of sceptical skill, or sometimes anti sceptical attitudes, is always a danger. Look at Trumpism and Qanon.