By FT and FoF
This is an almost unedited record of an email exchange between a Fresh Teen (FT) and a Friend of the Family (FoF) spread over ten days (February 13-23, 2009). FT is educated in the leading convent school in Pakistan (established 1876). Her parents are both physicians with doctorates from England.
Friday, February 13, 2009
FoF: All the very best for the birthday tomorrow. Are you 14?
Saturday, February 14, 2009
No, im 13. a fresh teen.
FoF: I read it first as frash been! Congratulations anyway for crossing the milestone. Now the hard slog begins.
FT: frash been!!!!!!???????
Why is it a hard slog???
FoF: French beans in local language became distorted into frash been. Hard slog, because it is a long ways to go and your hair will turn white and your teeth will fall out by the time you are through!!
FT: well thats good to know!!!!!
FoF: Forewarned is forearmed as they say. Hope you have said your prayers – you can pray for everlasting teeth!
Sunday, February 15, 2009
FT: yeah……i have said my prayers…..but for some strange reason i forgot to pray for everlasting teeth!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
FoF: In that case your teeth will not last forever!!
FT: well thats a real tragedy!!!!
FoF: Indeed. And quite a tragic tragedy because you could have avoided it by being more careful with your prayers.
Monday, February 16, 2009
FT: ummmmm…………….i dont think many people normally pray for everlasting teeth!!!!!
FoF: It is a mistake. They should. By the way fresh teen also reminded me of teen ka dabba or the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz.
FT: wouldnt ”teen ka dabba” be tin box??? shouldnt it be “teen ka BANDA”……???
FoF: How about teen ka bandar?
FT: yes……..im sure that would be perfect………………tin monkey!!! *confused*
FoF: I am also a bit confused now. Let’s start from the beginning – you are a fresh teen. So tin is fine but why do you want to evolve into a monkey? I thought evolution worked the other way. By the way, do you believe in evolution or in the Adam and Eve alternative?
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
FT: adam and eve…………..duh!!!!!!! im nt evolving it into anything….your doing that!!!!
FoF: If you believe in the theory of evolution, you must be evolving all the time. We evolved from bandars and it seems are evolving back into bandars again.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
FT: i do NOT believe in evolution!!!!!!!
FoF: That is a serious matter. This is the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th of his classic ‘On the Origin of Species.’ Almost the entire scientific community believes in evolution now. This needs more discussion. Why do you oppose the theory of evolution?
FT: because its not true. IF it was then why are there still some monkeys and apes left on earth? Besides its written in the Quran.
FT: and…….look at this:
“Although accepted in mainstream science as altogether factual and experimentally proven, a closer examination of the evidences reveal some inaccuracies and reasonable alternative explanations. This causes a growing number of scientists to dissent from the Darwinian theory of evolution for its inability to satisfactorily explain the origin of man.”
FoF: Your first question is a very good one. I will ask someone knowledgeable to provide an answer.
Your second reason leaves no room for argument but the Quran also urges people to think and add to their knowledge. Is it possible that the Quran does not intend to make a literal statement but a metaphorical or allegorical one? The same thing is mentioned in the Bible but many eminent Christians now subscribe to the theory of evolution and still remain good Christians.
FT: no……..it is a literal statement. Adam and Eve were the first HUMANS on earth. They didnt evolve from anything. God made them and gave them power over all other living things.
How are they good Christians if they are disbelieving their own Holy Book?
P.S. Did you get my second mail? The one with the scientists dissenting from the evolution theory thing?
FoF: I got an answer to your surviving apes question from an expert:
“The short answer is that evolution as taught in the past looked at it as a ladder, which is the wrong picture. A bush is a better analogy, and therefore when the primate branch bifurcated in the humanoid and others, the non-human branches continued to flourish. Of course some branches die off as did many on the human branch.”
The expert has also recommended the following PBS documentary on evolution for students. Why don’t you browse through it slowly over the next week and come back with more questions for the expert.
Yes, I did get your second mail and will respond to it after I do some research. You are making me work hard!
FoF: Okay, I thought about this and have the following comment:
The key here is the statement that evolution theory is “accepted in mainstream science as altogether factual and experimentally proven.” However, there are some inaccuracies and reasonable alternative explanations.
So, the way to look at this would be to see for which position the scientific evidence is stronger. Why would one prefer the position with the weaker evidence? What criterion does one use to accept or reject scientific evidence that is experimentally proven? Why not try to resolve the remaining inaccuracies (which is the normal path of scientific progress) rather than to reject outright a theory for which there is a lot of factual evidence?
There are still some people who believe that the earth is flat, that the sun revolves around the earth, that human beings could never land on the moon, and that women are less intelligent then men. But the scientific evidence for the contrary positions is very strong. Which position does one accept? As Groucho Marx said when caught in the act of cheating: “Are you going to believe me or your own deceiving eyes?”
Does one still go back to the holy books to see if the conclusions of science are validated? And if one goes back to the holy books, which holy book does one go back to? And what determines the logic of this latter choice? It cannot just depend on the accident of birth, can it? And how does one know that the interpretation of a holy book as literal fact is the right one?
Thursday, February 19, 2009
FT: What about the part “a growing number of scientists to dissent from the Darwinian theory of evolution for its inability to satisfactorily explain the origin of man.”?
Everything in the Quran has been scientifically proven. Thats a fact. Take the Hajr al Aswad as an example.
Islam is also the only religion which is based on both “Deen” and “Dunya”. It does not ask Muslims to just pray and worship because Allah does not need our worship. Nor are Muslims supposed to completely ignore Allah. There is supposed to be a balance. The Quran is like an instruction manual for life. Reading namaz is not just doing a few actions and mumbling a bunch of words with no meaning. Everything has a reason. Namaz exercises every part of the body and contributes to the body’s fitness. That is proven. Wuzu keeps all parts of the body clean. All muslims are told to follow the path of the Holy Prophet. The Holy Prophet has never done a wrong in his life. What reasons do people have to NOT believe whats written in the Quran and instead turn to theories which even scientists are beginning to disbelieve?
P.S I didnt copy this from anywhere!!!!!
FoF: There should be an easy empirical answer to this question: growing number means what? What percentage of all scientists?
Science is really advanced in the Western countries (check the distribution of Nobel prizes for science). And the vast majority of Western scientists (who are also good Christians at the same time) accept the theory of evolution. They do not interpret the Bible literally – only fundamentalist Christians do that.
Take, for example, the following panelist from the PBS program on evolution I mentioned:
Arthur Peacocke is a physical biochemist and Anglican priest who pioneered early research into the physical chemistry of DNA and has since become a leading advocate for the creative interaction between faith and science. The 2001 winner of the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, he is the author of Paths from Science Towards God: The End of All Our Exploring (2001).
He is a priest and he says “the second and third chapters [of the Bible] are kind of mythical stories which tell a story about Adam and Eve to convey a theological truth.”
The vast majority of scientists in Muslim countries do not accept the theory of evolution. But science education in Muslim countries is very backward – these individuals are Muslims first and scientists second; no evidence can convince them. If that is the case they cannot really be called scientists; they are technicians who have studied or memorized science. I am not even sure that they can be called Muslims because the Quran requires people to think.
The interesting question is: Why are Western countries advanced? Is it because they accepted the scientific worldview and were guided by objective evidence? And why are Muslim countries backward? Is it because they rejected the scientific worldview and refused to accept evidence no matter how powerful?
The Quran is a great instruction manual but it cannot teach you to design an iPod or make a computer. That too is necessary in today’s world. And that requires an open mind, a questioning nature and a willingness to give up cherished beliefs when they are contradicted by evidence.
FT: They’re not just beliefs. Everything is PROVEN. By Science.
I never said it could teach us to design an iPod or a computer. But who do you think gives us the intelligence to think how we think and discover what we do?
Arther Duck is a dud. He can say what he likes but i wont lay an egg. Besides he’s talking about the Bible. I dont know anything about that. Talk about the Quran.
Who says all Muslim scientists are backward? Thats like saying all muslims are terrorists!! which they are NOT.
What about Sir Syed Ahmed Khan? He was very skilled scientist. One of his main works for Muslims was to promote education. He founded the Scientific Society. He made the University of Aligarh. He was a MUSLIM. MUSLIM. MUSLIM.
FoF: Now you are displaying a biased attitude by ridiculing an eminent scientist who did pioneering work on the physical chemistry of DNA. You can disagree with his position on the basis of argument but calling him a dud will not turn him into a dud.
The story of Adam and Eve like many other stories in the Quran is taken from the Bible. If you don’t know anything about the Bible how can you say it is not an equally good instruction manual?
I termed Muslim scientists backward based on evidence. How many things have been invented by them, how many patents filed, how many papers published, how many Nobel prizes won? I don’t wish them to be backward but the evidence speaks for itself. This is different from calling all Muslims terrorists which is a biased statement.
Sir Syed Ahmed Khan was not a scientist himself although he was a supporter of scientific education. He was a religious scholar and was a Munshi in the British civil service. We are not talking of one person (no matter how brilliant) but about the attitude of society. Intelligence to think has certainly been given but nobody seems to be making much use of it. Muslims seem quite happy to be living in barbaric times killing each other in their mosques – that does not give much confidence in their ability to think.
We should not fall into the trap of blindly defending everything. Rather we should use the intelligence to think and figure out what is wrong with our society.
I have no quarrel with the Quran. Why don’t we go over the PBS program on evolution and see if the arguments make sense to us. Let us not reject it without studying it – that is not a scientific approach.
Friday, February 20, 2009
FT: Im not saying anything against the Bible.
The stories have some differences by the way.
Just because some Muslim scientists can be backward doesnt mean every Muslim scientist will be. Some Christian scientists can be stupid too but you cant term all of them just by judging a few.
NOTHING can convince me of something that is against what the Quran says. Im not blindly defending it. I have reasons.
What do you believe in, by the way?
FoF: I am going to write an article about this:
There are two broad attitudes to life – of the lawyer and of the detective:
1. The lawyer starts out believing in something (let’s say the innocence of his client) and then finds all the evidence that supports his or her belief. He/she ignores all evidence that contradicts his/her belief or tries to discredit it.
2. The detective (someone like Sherlock Holmes) starts out by looking at the evidence and bases his/her belief on whatever the evidence supports. If the culprit turns out to be his/her best friend, that is just too bad.
I prefer to be the detective type – I believe in what the evidence tells me even if it is contrary to my most cherished beliefs. I change my belief when the evidence tells me that my prior beliefs were based on false knowledge or understanding. I don’t want to go on believing that the earth is flat for ever or that disease is caused by jinns. I don’t want my ego to make me stupid.
On the scientists, I am not judging the many by the few. In fact I am not judging individuals at all. Often the problem is not with individuals but with the systems in which individuals live and work. I am just talking about factual numbers. I am saying that very few modern Muslim scientists have any noteworthy achievement to speak of. All major achievements are due to Christian, Jewish or agnostic scientists. That may not make us very happy but it is fact that can be verified by evidence.
FT: But what evidence is contradicting the story??!!!
Iv even forgotten what we’re arguing about now!! Are you supporting christians or evolution or are you just debating with me? *confused*
FoF: The evidence provided by fossils casts serious doubt on the assumption that all life in the form that it exists today was created at one time – the Biblical seven days. Note that there are fossils of dinosaurs but no fossils of human beings of similar age. We have to explain that finding.
We are not supporting or opposing Christians or Muslims. Because it is Darwin’s 200th birthday which is being celebrated all over the world we are trying to understand better what his contribution was.
Sorry for the confusion. We can have a more coherent discussion once you have watched the PBS program. Our objective is to see how well Darwin’s theory can explain the evidence provided by the fossil findings.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
FT: ummm…………what are fossils?
I dont think people are ”celebrating” his birthday. What contribution did he make?
If the theory of evolution was true, why isnt it written clearly in the Quran? There were plenty of humans already before the Quran was sent to the Holy Prophet (PBUH). It would have been written there not just compatible with the Adam and Eve “story”.
FoF: Definition of fossils:
On the celebration of Darwin’s birthday (from Wikipedia):
Darwin 2009 commemorations
Darwin Day has become an annual celebration, and the bicentenary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species are being celebrated by events and publications around the world. The Darwin exhibition, after opening at the American Museum of Natural History inNew York City in 2006, was shown at the Museum of Science, Boston, the Field Museum in Chicago, theRoyal Ontario Museum in Toronto, then from 14 November 2008 to 19 April 2009 in the Natural History Museum, London, as part of the Darwin200 programme of events across the United Kingdom. TheUniversity of Cambridge features a festival in July 2009. His birthplace is celebrating with “Darwin’s Shrewsbury 2009 Festival” events during the year.
In the United Kingdom a special commemorative issue of the two pound coin shows a portrait of Darwin facing a chimpanzee surrounded by the inscription 1809 DARWIN 2009, with the edge inscription ON THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES 1859. Collector versions of the coin will be released at a premium, and during the year the coins will be available from banks and post offices at face value.
In September 2008, the Church of England issued an article saying that the 200th anniversary of his birth was a fitting time to apologise to Darwin “for misunderstanding you and, by getting our first reaction wrong, encouraging others to misunderstand you still”.
On Darwin’s contribution:
Charles Robert Darwin FRS (12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882) was an English naturalist[I] who realised and demonstrated that all species of life have evolved over time from common ancestors through the process he called natural selection. The fact that evolution occurs became accepted by the scientific community and much of the general public in his lifetime, while his theory of natural selection came to be widely seen as the primary explanation of the process of evolution in the 1930s, and now forms the basis of modern evolutionary theory. In modified form, Darwin’s scientific discovery is the unifying theory of the life sciences, providing logical explanation for the diversity of life.
Many people consider this “the single most important idea to occur to a human mind”.
On why this is not described in the Quran:
I really don’t know. My guess is that the Quran is not intended to be a textbook of science. That water is made up of oxygen and hydrogen is also not described in the Quran but that does not mean it is not true.
My opinion is that the descriptions of genesis, heaven and hell, etc. in the Quran are meant to be interpreted metaphorically not literally. Ghalib also felt the same way when he wrote:
ham ko ma’luum hai jannat kii haqiiqat lekin
dil ke khush rakhne ko Ghalib yih khayaal achchhaa hai
Sunday, February 22, 2009
FoF: This is from the latest issue of The Economist. You don’t need to follow the entire argument but just get a sense of how the modern scientific process works – trying to find coherent explanations (that can be tested) for observed phenomena.
This scientific enquiry is not inhibited by what is written in religious texts. That used to happen in olden times as, for example, when Galileo was punished for saying that the earth revolved around the sun because it contradicted what was written in the Bible. As you must have seen in the last email, the Pope has apologized to Darwin. I am sure he has also apologized to Galileo.
The lesson here is that religious texts should not be interpreted as scientific texts but only as moral guides using metaphorical stories to communicate important principles, messages and lessons. Then there will be no contradiction between religion and science – each will have its own legitimate domain.
FT: but thats the thing about the Quran, that it supports both deen and dunya to go together!!!!!!!!!
You’re saying heaven and hell are not true? How can that be a moral guide? Its absolutely literal, in every sense. Wrong doers will go to hell and all those who deserve it will be granted the permission to go to heaven. It will happen. If anyone contradicts that then they shouldnt be called Muslims because thats one of our main beliefs.
FoF: The fact that the Quran supports both deen and dunya to go together does not mean that it is a manual of science or politics or medicine, or that it is supposed to provide an answer to every question.
For example, nowhere in the Quran is it said that the normal body temperature is 98.4 degrees F. Does that mean that the concept of a normal body temperature is flawed? And does it make the Quran any less as a moral guide?
I am not saying that heaven and hell are not true. I am suggesting that the concepts of heaven and hell, of reward and punishment, are sufficient for the purposes of a moral guide. There seems little need to specify whether heaven is square or round and to start killing each other over who is right.
Let me ask a concrete question: You go to school to be educated. The Taliban, who are the most strict followers of literal Islam, are bombing schools and arguing that the education of girls is not allowed in the Quran. Who is right? If the Quran spells out everything clearly, why is there this immense difference of opinion?
I think the problem is arising because we are looking to the Quran to be a manual of educational policy rather than as a guide to moral behavior. In the process we are making fools of ourselves in the eyes of the rest of the world.
FT: they’re not real Muslims then. Because in the Quran it clearly says that all Muslims SHOULD receive education; boy or girl. The Quran can be interpreted in a million different ways and they just got hold of the wrong one.
im not saying the Quran can do everything. im just saying that if something is stated clearly in the Quran, then no matter how hard Darwin or anybody else tries they cant change it.
FoF: There seems to be a contradiction in your logic. You are looking for something that is clearly stated in the Quran. Then you are saying that the Quran can be interpreted in a million different ways. If so, then things cannot be clearly stated – even something as basic as whether girls should go to school.
On top of that you are saying that of the million different interpretations, yours is the right one (when you are only 13 years old). Everyone else (including those who have spent years learning theology in madrassas) has got hold of the wrong one. Therefore they are not true Muslims.
This logic is the root cause of violent conflicts between Muslims with different interpretations – the cause of ruin in the country. Will you decide who is a true Muslim or should this be left to God?
I am sure Darwin had no interest in changing the Quran; most likely he never even read it. Darwin presented a theory – you can accept it or reject it or ignore it or work to improve it. If you reject it because it does not conform to what you interpret to be written in the Quran, your rejection is based on faith not logic. And blind faith is not good. How can you be so sure that your interpretation is the correct one and not that of the Taliban’s? At least they know Arabic, which you don’t.
FT: So what if they know Arabic? They dont seem to be reading it right, anyway. And so what if I’m 13? My mom happens to be working for womens rights and told me that a learned Islamic scholar also agrees with the fact that women should receive education. The Taliban are mad nutters, everyone except them, knows that!
Basically God is Good without one “o”. Muslims are those who go out of their way to be good to people and refrain from causing anyone harm. No interpretations can change that.
This argument is getting us nowhere. Nothing can convince me that evolution is right because its not. Its not blind faith, i have reasons.
FoF: Okay. Tell me the reasons.
FT: I did!!!
For one, its not written in the Quran. The Quran tells the Adam and Eve story, which i believe is true.
Second of all, even scientists are moving away from this theory as Darwin did not manage to provide satisfactory evidence for his theory.
Does Darwin have any evidence against Adam and Eve?
Its funny how all this started from a simple happy birthday message!!
FoF: Yes, isn’t it funny how it all started from a simple birthday message. It was quite a lot of fun too.
Would you mind if I used some of this material in an article about Darwin – I won’t mention any names?
Monday, February 23, 2009
FT: yes it was a lot of fun!!!!!
sure……!!!! are you writing against him or for him?
Neither for nor against. I will send it when I finish it.
FT: okey dokey………..
Thanks to Isa Daudpota for the expert input.