a little taste of eastern creationism…

According to a Muslim creationist, Allah is less of a deity and more of a programmer with a mad scientist streak.
mosque stained glass

Usually, when this blog mentions creationists, the emphasis tends to be on fervent Christian fundamentalists like the staff at Answers in Genesis, or on promoters of theistic pseudosciences like the Discovery Institute and the Templeton Foundation. But we shouldn’t forget that Muslim creationists can be just as bad and are in fact noteworthy players in global evolution denialism. In an effort to demonstrate the problems with creationist arguments across the spectrum of faiths, today we’ll be taking a look at a truly odd paper written by Professor Pallacken Abdul Wahid, who has a PhD in agriculture and a passion for armchair theology. According to a few of his musings, the universe is actually a computer program ran by Allah and he intends to demonstrate this concept with such a thorough mangling of genomics, he will literally lead us back to the Garden of Eden in a supposedly scientific paper about the structure and function of chromosomes, and hereditary information.

Ok, we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves here. To properly appreciate Wahid’s attempt at shooting down the modern understanding of biology, we need to start with his arguments. First he says that an organism’s cells all carry the same information but come in different types, something he insists that genetics can’t explain. It’s pretty clear that somebody hasn’t looked up how differentiation happens during an organism’s development. There’s a number of very accessible popular science books and shows which talk about genetic toolkits and how turning certain genes on and off produces an impressive variety of cell types which go on to form organs and body parts. So far, so bad. Then, we’re hit with another terrible argument. Wahid notes that after death, an organism’s genetic code is the same as it was in life, therefore, genetics can’t account for things like life and death. And this already ridiculous argument is made even worse with the following display of ignorance…

Added to that is the failure of the synthetic genome to spring to life. A team of molecular biologists at the J. Craig Venter Institute, U.S., artificially produced the complete genome of an organism [ … ] This is a landmark achievement in biology .. it proved [that a] genome cannot come to life implying that genome is not genetic information. This experimental evidence also confirms that life cannot be produced from non-life.

Talk about not even wrong. Since when has death been genetic? Organisms die when their bodies wear out, not according to a killer gene that determines lifespans. Now, if Wahid tackled the lack of a fixed lifespan limit in our DNA, I could see where he would be able to take this line of reasoning. But just pointing out you’ll find a living organism and its dead counterpart carrying the same genes and considering it a good enough base for stating that genetics can’t explain life or death and therefore, the science behind it is terribly flawed, could only show a total lack of relevant knowledge on the author’s part. That goes double for his argument that if you put together a synthetic genome, this genome will come to life, and if it doesn’t, you’ve disproved abiogenesis.

It’s an absurd notion from start to finish because hereditary information is very important in organisms, but so are all the other biological structures they have. DNA by itself is a very long molecule carrying hereditary patterns. It has to be interpreted and its codes translated into proteins. Without machinery for that, a replicated genome is not going to suddenly come to life as Wahid seems to believe it should.

So what does the good doctor make of our chromosomes and the DNA contained within it? That we’re all “bio robots” and the nuclei of our cells get divine programming to carry out daily functions. Just to put this in proper perspective, we have a person who doesn’t know the difference between an organic molecule and a living cell go forth and rule out abiogenesis on the basis of of an experiment in which DNA didn’t get up and do a dance in a test tube, but it’s not too big of a stretch for him to consider that Allah is downloading divine software to the chromosomes in our cells. Talk about having your head in the clouds.

And then, just to add to the combination of ignorance and sweeping, wild claims, he decides to throw in the idea that human chromosomes look like a pair of ribs and therefore, when Genesis and the Qu’ran talk about Eve coming from Adam’s rib, it’s really just a metaphor for Allah booting up the first woman’s “biosoftware.” I’m just going to say that if you were to look at an actual micrograph of a chromosome, you would not be thinking of little, floating ribs and leave you to come up with all the ways to count the approximate amount of absurdity in his statements.

Obviously, the world of Dr. Wahid and that of actual biologists are very, very different. It’s a fanciful place where gods download mysterious “biosoftware” into rib-shaped chromosomes and strands of DNA are required to routinely come to life on their own to prove the validity of genomics. It’s also wrong from top to bottom and just begs me to issue kids a warning to stay in school and keep studying for those science tests. Though maybe, pass on Kerala Agricultural University, since they seem to have a given a PhD to someone who clearly doesn’t know how to use it or even how to do some very simple research for a public paper.

[ original story via PZ Myers ]

# science // biology / evolutionary biology / genetics / religion

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