The Koran As A Miracle?

May 5, 2021 Category: Religion

A FOUNT OF SCIENTIFIC INSIGHT?

Once we read about the talking baby Jesus (3:46 and 19:29-34), we know we’re dealing with highly superstitious authorship.  But are we to take the Koran at its word, and REALLY treat it as an explanation for everything worth knowing?

Serious attempts to explain the natural world go back to the early 6th century B.C. with the Ionian philosopher, Anaximander of Miletus.  His (now lost) “On Nature” inaugurated the reductionist approach to understanding the world (for him, all things reduced to “apeiron”) endemic to all scientific inquiry.  Meanwhile, Democritus of Teos proposed the first atomic theory of the material world in the late 5th century.  Where was the Abrahamic deity then?  It seems belief in him was not required to glean insights into how the cosmos worked.

Significant fruit was not yielded until two millennia later, when Nicolas Copernicus privileged empirical observation over received wisdom (thereby demolishing geocentrism once and for all) with his “De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium” (in the early 16th century). {16}  Francis Bacon then pioneered the principles of the scientific method in his “Novum Organum”; while Johannes Kepler posited that there were universal laws of nature awaiting discovery (via our innate capacities for induction) with his “Harmonices Mundi” (both in the early 17th century). {17}  One can’t help but wonder: What was god waiting for? {18}

Islam’s holy book bears the mark of its terrestrial origins.  The “Recitations” were clearly composed by authors who understood almost nothing about the natural world.  The purported study of nature (“taffakur”) alluded to in the Koran means little other than an exhortation to familiarize oneself with the proclamations of the Koran.  This hardly constitutes a bona fide “study of nature”.  In a sense, the Koran could be thought of as “The Illiterate Bedouin’s Guide to the Universe”.  Or, alternately, as a field-guide for highly-superstitious Arabians in the Dark Ages.

Finding defective explanations of the natural world in the Koran is like fishing with dynamite.  The embarrassment of riches is, well, rather embarrassing.  Let’s look at the top ten:

  1. 25:53, 27:61, and 55:19-20 give a myopic description of the world’s seas (there are only two of them: one salt, one fresh). {24}  We are notified that god “has set the two oceans in motion, converging together”, between which is a “barrier”—using the same term that refers to the Hijaz. {25}
  2. 36:36 and 51:49 say that all living things are made in pairs. {19}
  3. God created homo sapiens from mud / clay (6:2, 7:12, 15:26-28/33, 17:61, 23:12, 32:7, 37:11, 38:71, and 55:14).  As if that were not bad enough, this contradicts 3:59, 22:5, 35:11, and 40:67, where it is states that homo sapiens were created from dust.
  4. The Earth is flat, and is located the center of the cosmos (discussed forthwith).
  5. Embryos form from a blood clot [“alaq”] (22:5, 23:14, and 96:2), and the bones of the fetus form before the flesh (2:259 and 23:14). {20}
  6. Honey bees were commanded to eat from fruit; and carry honey in their bellies (16:68-69).
  7. Semen comes from a place between the backbone and ribs (86:5-7). {35}
  8. Cows produce milk from the contents of their stomachs–that is: from a mixture of blood and digested food (16:66 and 23:21).
  9. 37:6-10 and 67:5 notify us that shooting stars are god’s way of warding off genies (who are presumably lurking in the sky).  Thus shooting stars are ACTUAL stars; and god hurls them at nefarious beings to prevent them from eavesdropping on the denizens of heaven. {21}
  10. Wind causes rain by impregnating the sky with water (15:22 and 30:48).

Let’s dwell for a moment on this last item.  In addition to 15:22 and 30:48, 24:43 indicates that the authors did not understand where rain came from.  These verses refer to an endless store of water in the heavens (emerging as if by magic from within the clouds) rather than a perpetual cycle of evaporation and condensation (which forms the clouds themselves) and precipitation.  Today, many children can provide a far better explanation of rain (and snow) than what is found in the Koran.  (SNOW?  What’s that?  The Koran’s protagonist was apparently unaware of it.  No mention of ice either.)  Of course, the aforesaid cycle that causes rain was already understood in rudimentary naturalistic terms at least since Aristotle wrote about it (rather crudely) in the 4th century B.C.  Assuming we are to take the Koran at its word, a thousand years later, the Creator of the Universe seems to have had difficulty explaining to mankind why, exactly, it rains.

So we have fraudulent geography (hydrology and oceanography), fraudulent botany, fraudulent bio-chemistry, fraudulent astronomy (geo-centricity), fraudulent embryology, fraudulent entomology, fraudulent anatomy / physiology, fraudulent astronomy, and fraudulent meteorology.  Or perhaps, rather than “fraudulent” (which insinuates perfidy), we might be charitable and say “farcical” (which insinuates ignorance).

Is this cherry picking?  Have I selected the handful of errors in a vast sea of scientific erudition?  No.  In fact, the above flubs account for VIRTUALLY ALL of the statements made about the natural world.  The blunders go on and on.  78:7 offers us an ersatz lesson in geology—claiming that god uses the mountains as stakes (as in: tent stakes) to hold the Earth down.  (What is it being held down AGAINST?)  16:15, 21:31, and 31:10 explain that god uses the mountains to “stabilize” the Earth…when, in fact, mountains often exist as a direct result of the INSTABILITY OF the Earth.  Mountains, we are notified, never shift (79:32).  According to this view, mountains are anchors that keep the Earth from shaking.  This is, of course, absurd.

There are three basic kinds of mountains.  First: Those that form from subduction–as with “fold” and “block” mountains.  This occurs due to the shifting of the Earth’s crust along fault lines.  (Funny how the authors of the Koran had nothing to say about plate tectonics.)  Second: Those that form from volcanic activity, whereby igneous matter is pushed through the crust up onto the surface.  Third: Those that form from denudation–as with migration of receding glaciers (which gouge out valleys).  In every case, mountains exist due to things MOVING; which–it might be noted–is the opposite of things being held in place.  Orogenesis has never occurred by a mountain being PLACED UPON anything–let alone being put there to keep everything stationary. {26}

Meanwhile, the only medical insight the Creator of the Universe can bring to mankind’s attention is the healing power of HONEY (16:69).  But beware, it only works for MEN.  Of all the importunate memos on medicine he could have mentioned that would have conferred tremendous benefit, the Creator of the Universe could only think of…honey?

39:6 tells us that there are eight kinds of cattle (or four kinds if we allow for the two sexes, depending on how one reads 6:142-143).  How so?  There are sheep, goats, camels, and oxen, we’re told.  In reality, there are ten genera of “bovinae”, of which there are over three dozen different animals, ONE of which is “cattle”.  The Koran’s authors’ comment on this matter reveals precisely the provincial view that we’d expect from desert-wanders during the Dark Ages.

Hence we should add to the long list of the Koran’s counterfeit science: bogus geology, bogus medicine, and bogus zoology.  There’s a reason that no university’s geological, medical, or zoological department uses the Koran in its curriculum.  Hint: It’s the same reason that bona fide scholars in world history, anthropology, archeology, biology, cosmology, astro-physics, economics, and philosophy don’t include the Koran in their syllabi either.  Islam’s holy book is utterly derelict in every one of these areas.

We might ALSO include:

  • bogus psychology (one can both love and fear something; i.e. god)
  • bogus spirituality (a healthy Faith is one based on fear)
  • bogus epistemology (a conception of “ilm” based entirely on familiarity with the Sunnah)
  • bogus ethics (divine command theory; conflating piety with morality)
  • bogus neuroscience (the mind persists after brain-death)
  • bogus sociology (tribalism is amendable to peace)
  • bogus political theory (theocracy can be civil)

Add to ALL this a comic obliviousness to aerodynamics (16:79 and 67:19 marvel at how birds can fly), and we have a book that not only fails to edify, but positively misleads on every conceivable topic.  It should not be a problem for Muslims to notice ALL of these glaring defects in their holy book; and openly acknowledge them.  Having now listed gross errors in so many fields, perhaps the task will be slightly easier.

Today, only the scientifically illiterate can read such passages without a chuckle.  Yet the scientifically barren nature of the Koran is rarely acknowledged…even by PIA who deign to be forthcoming.  When we read passages like 28:32, in which the test of god’s power is for Moses to insert his hand under his garments and then withdraw it to find that it emerges WHITE, we know that we’re dealing with authors who had a somewhat blinkered view of nature.

Such flagrant mistakes are easily elided when the ULTIMATE explanation for, well, EVERYTHING can be boiled down to “Because that’s what god wills.”  This explains why birds fly (16:79) and why boats float (17:66 and 31:31); to heck with aerodynamics and the laws of buoyancy.

We might also note the botched math of 4:11-12. (As it turns out, god doesn’t know how to add fractions).  In 18:22, god can’t even count.  (Indeed, the protagonist of the Koran cannot seem to figure out how many people were sleeping in a cave.)  One would think that if nothing else, basic arithmetic might be an omniscient being’s strong suit.  Alas.  What more might we expect from a book that posits talking ants (27:18-19)?

Another indication that the Koran is fallible is the fact that, throughout the book, there are numerous historical flubs.  Here are a dozen of the most glaring:

  • 2:31 claims that the Creator of the Universe taught Adam the names of all things, indicating that at one point, there was a single language.  Such a global language never existed.  (This trope was probably a regurgitation of the comment in chapter 11 of Genesis.)  More to the point, even if we were to suppose that such an omni-language may have somehow been in use at some point in the Bronze Age (amongst, say, the Sumerians or early Canaanites), it was certainly not the neo-Syriac language that came to be known as Classical Arabic during the Middle Ages.
  • 2:213 claims that at one point, all mankind was of one religion.  This has, of course, never been the case.
  • 7:137 notifies us that the grand structures of ancient Egypt were all completely destroyed.
  • In 12:41 and 20:71, Joseph says that one of his fellow prisoners (in Egypt) was to be crucified.  That was in the 2nd millennium B.C.  Crucifixion was not used until a thousand years later, when it was pioneered by the Carthaginians and Macedonians.
  • 16:8 notifies us that god created horses, mules, and donkeys for the purpose of being ridden by homo sapiens.  Homo sapiens have existed for well over a hundred thousand years.  Horses were first domesticated in the late 4th millennium B.C.  Hence: For the first 95% of human history, horses were not being used for the purpose for which they were created.  No memo was given.
  • 18:89-98 informs us that the overtly pagan Alexander the Great was really a Muslim. Another irony is that the Sunnah denounces homosexuality even as it lionizes Alexander the Great, who was gay.  (We might also note Mohammed’s documented fondness for young boys.)  This comes as no surprise, as the authors of the Koran were not even aware of Alexander’s given name–referring to him simply as “the one with horns”.
  • In 19:27-28, the authors confuse Miriam (the mother of Jesus of Nazareth) with Miriam (the sister of the patriarchs, Moses and Aaron, who lived over twelve centuries earlier).  This mistake is confirmed by 3:33-35 and 66:12, which specifies Jesus’ mother as the daughter of “Imran” (an Arabization of “Amram”, the father of Moses, Aaron, and Miriam-the-prophetess).  Thus: Rather than being the father of Moses, Aaron, and Miriam-the-prophetess (in the early 13th century B.C.), Amram is rendered the maternal grandfather of Jesus of Nazareth (in the late 1st century B.C.)
  • 20:85/95 recounts that a Samaritan led the Israelites astray while Moses was at Mount Sinai [alt. Horeb]—an event that would have occurred no later than the 13th century B.C.  Yet the Samaritans as a distinct ethnic group did not come into existence until the 7th century B.C.
  • The Biblical villain, “Haman” (alternately rendered “Ahaseurus” in Judaic lore) was a Persian vizier from the 5th century B.C.  (He was a minister for Xerxes, as noted in the Book of Esther).  Yet the Koran casts him as a vizier for the Egyptian Pharaoh during the 13th century B.C. (28:5-38, 29:39, and 40:24-36).  Presumably, this modification was espoused to accord with the treatment of the Pharaoh as the primary nemesis in Biblical times.
  • According to 34:10, David used a coat of iron chain-mail as armor.  That would have been in the late 11th century B.C.  Yet chain-mail was not used until Classical Antiquity–primarily by the Persians, Macedonians, and Etruscans.
  • In 57:25, the Koran’s protagonist boasts that he sent mankind iron–for which “there were many uses”.  But it was the Chinese who first made use of cast iron.  It is rather odd that the Abrahamic deity opted to originally give this precious gift–which he so proudly touted to his Arab audience–to a people who were not even Abrahamic, and who were located almost seven thousand kilometers away from where he sent his prophets.  In any case, the fact that iron came from meteorites had been known since the second millennium B.C.  Indeed, Egyptian hieroglyphs from the Bronze Age refer to iron as “that which is from the heavens”. {22}
  • The Koran states that it sent a prophet to every nation (16:36, 17:5, and 35:24).  Clearly, this did not occur; otherwise, the Native Americans, Norsemen, and Chinese (to take just three examples) would have been aware of Abrahamic lore.  The simple explanation for this blunder is obvious.  So far as the authors of the “Recitations” were aware, the entire world (the “oikoumene”) was limited to the Middle East.  The scope of “every nation” ranged from just west of the Nile Delta to the Hindu Kush. {23}

Funny enough, these are precisely the kind of mistakes one would expect to find were nescient Bedouins from the Dark Ages to decide to cobble together a compendium of folklore.  The presence of such historically erroneous passages indicates that the “Recitations” were of eminently human provenance.  Would the Creator of the Universe made so many elementary flubs in a book the existence of which was meant to be THE BEST explanation for, well, everything of importance?

In Surah 55, just after the passage asserting that man was created from clay (55:14), we encounter an archaic view of world geography.  In 55:17 we are told of “the two easts” and “the two wests” when being notified that the Abrahamic deity is Lord of the entire world. Even taken figuratively, such passages are extremely misleading–especially for those who don’t know any better (i.e. the original target audience of the “Recitations”).  This is especially so once we consider that much of the audience likely took these passages as THE BEST possible explanation of natural phenomena.

Some apologists retort that the Koran was not meant for this sort of explanation.  But the Koran itself would beg to differ.  The book is quite emphatic about being a clear, detailed explanation for everything–at least, everything that is of importance.  Indeed, the book is ADAMANT that it–and it alone–is all that you’ll ever need to procure an adequate understanding of the universe.

As mankind would eventually discover, this was far from the case.

We might ask: Is an expectation of basic scientific acuity asking too much of the Koran?  Well, not if we assume that it was composed by the Creator of the Universe.  Here, we are merely holding the book to the standard to which it explicitly insists it be held.

To suppose that we’ve learned nothing significant about the natural world since the early 7th century is horrifying to contemplate.  The fact of the matter is that the Koran explains NOTHING of importance…even decently well.  (Even on spiritual matters, it has virtually nothing sage to say.)

A retort to this plaintive observation might be: “Well, the fate of one’s eternal soul is extremely important.”  Indeed, there is THAT.  But this is only important insofar as one believes in “souls” and an “afterlife” to begin with.  Such importance is question-begging.

Let’s take this inquiry a step further: Why would god have left ANY things the way he left them in the Koran?  Would he not have foreseen that the lack of clarification on ALL important matters would lead to profound misunderstandings (and consequently, gigantic problems)?  Would he not have known about the confusion that would ensue when he just “left it at that” upon completing his dictations to MoM in 632…regarding misogyny, slavery, authoritarianism, etc.?  On any given topic, we need only see what was NOT said, and wonder if it made much sense to just “leave it at that”…knowing how people proceeded.

Furthermore, we must wonder, regarding any given matter of import: Was this severe lack of clarity INTENTIONAL?  Surely, it wasn’t inadvertent, coming from a super-being of infinite wisdom.

There can be little doubt that BOTH fundamentalist AND Progressive Muslims (i.e. everyone from the most conservative to the most liberal extremes within the Ummah) would agree in one way or another that the myriad misunderstandings (WHATEVER, exactly, they are claimed to be) have led to a massive amount of egregious injustice (however that might be defined by each party).  Any Muslim would agree that faulty interpretations of Koranic verse have proliferated, and been responsible for needless tribulation amongst votaries since the days of the first caliph.  (They simply disagree on what those mis-interpretations might be.)

There is obviously no point to such confusion.  So what’s going on here?  If god REALLY MEANT what any given Muslim CLAIMS he meant (be that Muslim a hidebound fundamentalist or the most liberal-minded reformist), he surely could have been far more clear about it; thereby precluding the prodigious amount of quibbling over “interpretation” that ensued over the next 14 centuries (and continues to this day).  We can only assume god—being prescient—saw all those problems coming while we was fashioning his precise articulation.

Note that the present essay is testament to this quandary.  Let’s assume for a moment that this entire critique is completely off-base.  Thus: Everything I have surmised is erroneous.  That fact ITSELF would demonstrate that the Koran is far from “mubeen” [clear].  Barring a devious scheme of protracted duplicity on my part, how else could I be so colossally mistaken about so much?

We might wonder: Was leaving things unclear a sort of divine STRATEGY?  That seems rather bizarre, as it was evidently undertaken at the expense of allowing an obscene amount of (otherwise pointless) ignorance, suffering, and lethal conflict to transpire as a result.  Was doing so supposed to pose as some kind of “test” to supplicants?  That would be a strange way of corroborating someone’s fealty / piety.  For the repercussions of failing the test seem un-necessarily cruel.

The point here is not to dwell on a raft of technical mistakes (including geo-centrism and the rather embarrassing depiction of the world as flat).  Rather, the point is that there is nothing in the Koran—not a single thing—that would indicate that it was authored by anyone other than extremely ignorant Bedouins of the 7th thru 9th centuries.

The fact is that not only does the Koran get a myriad of things WRONG; it hardly gets anything at all RIGHT.  That is to say: there is very little history, very little valid geography, no valid science, and not even a good health tip to be found anywhere in the entire book.  This is after the authors ATTEMPTED to comment on each of these things, and fumbled on every one.

Here’s the problem for those of us who insist on taking the Koran at its word: NONE of the contents of the Koran is anachronism.  (In other words: There is nothing in the Koran that would not have come from the time in which the book was composed).  Every statement contained within the book is something we would expect to find if we were to read a book authored by scientifically illiterate Bedouins in the Dark Ages.  

To reiterate: The authors were only aware of two seas (one salt water, one fresh water), they thought the Earth was flat, and they were under the impression that natural phenomena could only be explained by animistic supernatural forces–be it evil genies, angels, or god’s will.  It’s not that the Koran fails to explain EVERYTHING (as it claims it does); it’s that it actually explains ALMOST NOTHING.

Note that the Koran repeatedly says that the universe was created in six days (or in some combination of 2-, 4-, and 6-day long periods, depending on how one reads the salient passages).  7:54, 10:3, 11:7, 25:59, 32:4, 57:4, and 50:38 specify six days…while 41:9-12 gives (presumably overlapping) periods of 2, 4, and 2 days.  The rational for this is (as it is with Genesis) that the statement doesn’t mean LITERAL “days”.  Alas, this ad hoc rationalization doesn’t work.  Unlike Genesis, the problem in the Koran is that elsewhere it DEFINES what “days” are to the Abrahamic deity (22:47 and 32:5). 1,000 years.  Thus, the universe was created in 6,000 years.  (Yet another oops.)  But, then again, 70:4 notifies us that a day for god is 50,000 years.  Gee-wiz.

This is what a book looks like when it is written by highly superstitious men in the Dark Ages.  Of course, the bit about a 6,000-year-old cosmos should not come as a surprise, as it is mostly just a regurgitation of Genesis…with the slight adjustment that the blame for eating from the tree of knowledge is not placed primarily on Eve (7:19-24 and 20:115-121).  The only “miraculous” thing about the Koran is the fact that so many people are (STILL) under the outlandish impression that anything about it is miraculous.

But, then again, perhaps this widespread misperception is not so surprising after all.  For the vast majority of Muslims (including many Progressive Muslims) seem to be blissfully unaware of EITHER the myriad contradictions OR the myriad scientific inaccuracies with which their holy book is riddled.  Others are simply in denial.  (I hasten to add that this End Note is not an exhaustive list of the Koran’s smorgasbord of glaring technical mistakes.  There are many more.  I mention a few others in the Afterword.)

Such lack of awareness is rather stultifying.  It makes one wonder how many Muslims have bothered to ACTUALLY READ the Koran cover to cover (assuming an appreciable degree of reading comprehension).  But, then again, that such a large portion of the Ummah seems not to have the faintest clue what is actually in their holy book is not so confounding once one sees that even those who dedicate themselves to the (patently asinine) endeavor of memorizing (by rote) Koranic verse in a language they don’t understand (i.e. CA) only end up mouthing a sequence of sounds the meaning of which they have little–if any–genuine apprehension. {27}

So what of the prognostications of Mohammed himself (as the Last Messenger; and Seal of the Abrahamic prophets)?  When it came to prophecy, did he have a good track record?

See for yourself.  In Bukhari’s Hadith (9/88/237), he predicts that eventually, wealth will be so abundant that wealthy people will no longer be able to find anyone to accept alms [“zakat”]; as poverty will be eradicated wherever Islam is spread.  On the contrary, most of the most impoverished communities in the world are where Islam is most prevalent.  When would the Day of Judgement come?  In Muslim’s Hadith (written long after the fact), we read that MoM “looked at a young boy and said, ‘If this boy lives, he will not grow very old until the Last Hour comes to you.”  So much for that.  He then contradicted himself by affording a bit more time, declaring: “I take an oath and say that no soul upon the Earth will survive past the next hundred years” (vol. 41, no. 7052).

Meanwhile, it must be noted that certain things are conspicuously absent from a book that insists that it is the ultimate source of insight on all matters, everywhere, for all time (including every place on Earth in the 21st century).  If we take the book’s grandiose claims about itself seriously, then glaring problems arise.

First and foremost, when the Koran declares that it has been composed in “your own language” (the tongue of Mohammed of Mecca; putatively Classical Arabic, but actually Syriac), it says it was so composed “so with it you [the messenger] may give the message [tidings] to the righteous and warn those who are insolent.”  In other words, we are told that the Koran is composed in the lingua franca of medieval Arabs SO THAT the message can be conveyed to everyone.  (“We have made this scripture easy to understand in your own tongue.”)

Clearly this was dealing with a very delimited purview–circumscribed by a provincialism endemic to a comically parochial worldview.  Even if we are to suppose that Classical Arabic WAS MoM’s tongue (which it wasn’t), this makes no sense once we consider that all of “nas” (mankind) cannot understand Classical Arabic.

Further problems arise.  16:89 stipulates that the Koran explains ALL THINGS.  Really?  ALL things?  The injustice of slavery?  Of rape?  A woman’s opinion means just as much as a man’s?  Evolutionary theory?  The germ theory of disease?  The macro-economic law of supply and demand?  The basic principles of civil society?  Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope.  Such explanations would certainly have come in handy in the Dark Ages (and precluded a massive amount of pointless suffering and death).  Alas, ensuring that nobody ate the meat of an animal that died due to falling on its head was evidently a far more important to attend to (see my essay, “Of Pork, Pictures, And Pedophilia”).

The fact of the matter is: The Koran not only fails to explain ALL important things, it explains almost NO important things.  Nothing on democracy.  Nothing on human rights.  Nothing on antibiotics.  Not even anything on how to build a better boat…or, perhaps, new ideas on improving agriculture.  Nada.  YET…as far as the authors of the Koran were concerned, their book contained within its hallowed pages all the explanations mankind would ever need.  Period.  

No sane Muslim believes this.  THAT means that all sane Muslims are disregarding one of the major claims of their holy book–whether they admit it or not.

Bear in mind, the Koran’s protagonist is clear that he “did not leave anything out of this book” (6:38). (!)

To ensure that mankind would be well-informed, the Koran’s authors also included the claim that all fruit is made as male and female (13:3).  (No word yet on sightings of bananas mating.)

Are there ANY pearls of wisdom in the book?  According to the Koran’s authors, there are two types of water: sweet and salty.  Never mind that there is only one kind of water: di-hydrogen monoxide (commonly referred to as “ma’an” in Arabic)…some of which has salt in it, some of which does not.  Using Koranic logic, we might engage in ANY binary aquatic taxonomy.  We could say that there are two kinds of water: potable and dirty…or hot and cold…or stagnant and flowing…or with a baby in it and without a baby in it.  In mentioning the forms water can take, might god have mentioned the four phases of matter: solid, liquid, gas, and plasma?  Alas, if you want a tutorial on elementary physics from the Koran, you’re out of luck.  But worry not; for the Koran explains that, in the beginning, the heavens started as SMOKE (42:11).

In sum: Whenever the authors of the Koran weigh in on an important topic in the natural sciences, they get it wrong every time.  It is actually quite remarkable: the Koran somehow manages to literally get NOTHING right…about ANYTHING having to do with the natural world.  (As a point of reference: Even L. Ron Hubbard’s “Dianetics” at least managed to get SOME things right.)

But here’s the thing.  It’s not that these are all flubbed attempts at “science”.  Indeed, they aren’t even attempts at science.  For, in the Koran, science per se isn’t even acknowledged as a concept.  Rather, all these flubs are nothing more than erroneous statements about the natural world–made by people who didn’t know any better.

Thus, it’s not that the Koran puts forth bad science; it’s that it doesn’t even deign to do science at all.  Why not?  Because–for the book’s authors–anything we’d now refer to as “science” didn’t even exist as something anyone might try to do.  People just made statements about things…based on who-knows-what…and hawked it all as “truths”.  The idea was that the stuff being said (by certain people) should be believed (believe, that is, based on whatever criteria the audience happened to employ).

One might say that the Koran proffers botched science in the same way that a fortune teller (or witch-doctor / sooth-sayer) proffers botched science.  Such a person isn’t even TRYING to do science; so how could he be failing at it?  The Koran is fraudulent “science” in the same way that an astrology chart is fraudulent astro-physics.  It’s not.  It’s just hogwash.  The mere notion of astro-physics does not even enter into the picture.

If I proclaim that pigs can fly, it’s not because I was doing science ineptly; it’s because I wasn’t even concerned with science.  Indeed, I’m just “saying stuff” that I—for whatever reason—think is true (or, perhaps, just want others to BELIEVE is true, even if I don’t).  It is by others doing science that I can be shown to be full of shit.

It might be noted that such glaring nescience was nothing new in the Abrahamic tradition.

In sum: ANY ONE of these errant statements reveals the book to not be the disquisition of an omniscient super-being—or even of someone who has rudimentary understanding of how the natural world works.

When it comes to the Koran’s plethora of technical mistakes, apologists work diligently to interpret their own sacred text in a way that gets it to comport with current knowledge.  This is a common stratagem–which confuses interpretation with translation.  The contention is that, if a statement in the Koran contradicts established science (as so many do), then the fault automatically lies in the interpretation, not in that which is being interpreted.

One way to rebut such ploys is to see if people whom we ARE certain held erroneous views employed the same idiom (and even articulated it in similar ways).  

Who else exhibited errant beliefs that ended up in the Islam’s holy book?  The authors of the Torah supposed that the Earth was created prior to the heavens, as demonstrated by the opening passage of Genesis–which notifies us that daylight was made prior to the heavens (i.e. the sun).  We find the same backwards cosmogony in the Koran (2:29, 41:9-12, and 79:27-30).

Per the “Enuma Elish”, Assyrians / Babylonians supposed that there were two primordial bodies of water: one fresh (represented by “Abzu” / “Apsu”) and one salt (represented by “Tiamat”).  The Koran expresses the same view of the world in 25:53, 27:61, and 55:19-20.

We might also look at dogmas about biopoiesis.  The belief that homo sapiens were created from mud / clay is found in the Torah (Genesis 2:7); but the belief goes back to the Sumerians, who believed that their godhead, Enlil, created man from blood and clay.  In Greek myth, Prometheus created man from clay (ref. Hesiod’s “Theogony” and “Erga Kai Hemrai”).  The Koran countenances this erroneous abiogenesis in ten places (6:2, 7:12, 15:26-28, 15:33, 17:61, 23:12, 32:7, 37:11, 38:71, and 55:14).  But that’s not the end of it.

The ancient Chinese believed that their god, “Ny-wa” / “Nugua” created homo sapiens from dirt / dust (ref. the “Chu Ci” from the 3rd century B.C.)  The Koran echoes this idea in 3:59, 22:5, 35:11, and 40:67. {28}

The Babylonians believed that man was made from a dollop of blood; as attested by the account of Marduk’s creation of man in the “Enuma Elish”.  The Koran echoes this idea in its version of embryology (“alaqah”) in 23:12-14 and 96:2.

In the Koran, there is no mention of anything resembling what we now know about epigenesis: two gametes (ovum and sperm) merging to yield a zygote, then dividing into morula before forming the blastula, which in turn develops into a gastrula, subsequently leading to a fetus…all according to the protein-folding processes dictated by genetic codes partially inherited from the mother and partially inherited from the father.  In the Koran, instead of accounts of proteins and DNA, we are treated to statements about “nutfah” and “despised fluids”; i.e. exactly the sort of material we would expect from the Dark Ages.  Indeed, 23:12-14 simply notifies us that a blood clot (“alaqah”) eventually turns into a wet, mushy glob (“mudghah” is typically translated as a chewed-up-like substance).  As we now know, blood does not form in the embryo until at least the third week.  (The idea that the embryo begins as a clot of blood is also found in 22:5 as well as in the first passage to be revealed: Surah 96.)

To make matters worse, the Koran reverses the sequence of flesh- [“lahm”] and bone-formation (2:259 and 23:14).  Where might the authors have gotten the impression that bones form prior to flesh during embryogenesis?  The mistake echoes Galen–who, it turns out, was widely disseminated in the region at the time.  (At any rate, clothing the bones in flesh seems to INTUITIVELY makes sense.)

Interestingly, early Islamic scholars derived their thoughts on embryology NOT from the Koran (which offered no insight into the matter), but rather from the “Kitab al-Hayawan” [Book of Animals], which was largely based on Aristotle’s (Greek) “On the Generation of Animals”.  Like the Koran, this book was originally composed in Syriac (c. 800)…and only later translated into Classical Arabic.  (The earliest known citation of the “Kitab al-Hayawan” was by the Arab polymath, Al-Kindi, in the early 9th century.)

The Koran also presents a comically puerile, anthropocentric teleology–as with we are notified that god created horses and donkeys for us to ride (16:8).  Thinking of all things as created for a specific purpose, and that purpose being FOR HUMANS, is as old as time.

The dogmas found in Islam’s holy book were almost all extant dogmas, circulating around the Middle East at the time.  These tid-bits of hokum were adopted by the book’s authors as conventional wisdom; and often articulated in precisely the same way.  Thus Mohammedans were merely repeating what they understood to be true…which turns out to be what others had previously understood to be true…almost all of which was patently false.  Be that as it may, cherished lore is cherished lore; and pre-modern minds were inclined to take certain dogmas seriously.

Where might the authors of the “Recitations” gotten all these zany ideas?  We should be reminded that no belief arises ex nihilo.  Dogmas are not conjured in a vacuum–even those claiming “revelations” suddenly zapped into someone’s head via paranormal means.  (I do a survey of such cases in my essay: “The History Of Exalted Figures”.)

The regurgitation of superstition is something we find throughout the world…throughout the course of recorded history.  Such is the nature of memes–and entire memeplexes–over long periods of time.  And it is especially the case when those memes are based in a sanctified dogmatic system; and the memeplex is consecrated.  When dogmas are codified / sanctified, the result is often INSTITUTIONALIZED dogmatism (that is: religion).

The Koran resembles a work of science in the same way that a gnat resembles a space shuttle.  Should we opt to conduct a discussion of things that can fly and attack with stealth, would it make sense to treat those two things in the same manner?  To caricature the former as the latter would be, to put it mildly, silly.  Yet we see such an outlandish parity regularly posited by Islamic apologists when it comes to the Koran’s alleged scientific credence.

Of the thousands of verses in the Koran, there is NOT ONE that indicates divine authorship.  In fact, virtually every verse in the book broadcasts the fallibility of its author(s).  So to pretend that Islam’s holy book offered some crucial insight into the workings of the cosmos is simply naive.  In most cases, its authors merely rebranded extant dogmas–adding a new twist here and there–then passed it off as a groundbreaking revelation.  Unsurprisingly, it worked like a charm.

It seems that every time the authors of the Koran attempt to say something about the natural world, they screw it up.  A book festooned with so many glaring mistakes—on such elementary matters—should certainly give one pause.  A book that has NOTHING BUT glaring mistakes should make it clear that its authors were anything but sagacious.  It makes sense, then, to pose the question: Is this slew of erroneous statements not enough to demonstrate the scientific delinquency of those who first disseminated the “Recitations”?

To reiterate: It’s not so much that the Koran gets so much wrong; it’s that it gets almost nothing right.  As a source of information about the natural world, it is worse than useless; it is extremely misleading. {36}

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 - 2010-2019 - masonscott.org
Developed by Malagueta/Br
Note to readers: Those reading these long-form essays will be much better-off using a larger screen (not a hand-held device) for displaying the text. Due to the length of most pieces on our site, a lap-top, desk-top, or large tablet is strongly recommended.

 

Download as PDF
x