The short answer is “Yes”.
There is of course the rather common experience of a complete dismissal of facts and a continuous assertion of debunked claims. A rather extreme example concerned a posting in which a Muslim quotes Darwin writing about the evolution of the eye being absurd. In response, it was quickly pointed out that he had quote mined it out of context and that in context, Darwin was saying the exact opposite. A rather common writing style at that time was to anticipate the arguments of your opponents and then proceed to address them, which is exactly what Darwin was doing. So having had his daft quote robustly debunked, our Muslim friend promptly starts a new thread just above the old one with the exact same quote – this can only leave us to conclude that some Muslims think non-Muslims suffer some form of short-term memory loss.
So anyway, well-known Muslim apologist, Hamza Tzortzis, has in the past been rather fond of promoting the idea that the Quran contains accurate descriptions of modern science. For example, while attending an Atheist conference in Dublin (yes really, he registered and attended so that he could stick a camera in faces and conduct interviews with well-known non-believers) grabbed PZ Myres and proceeded to interview him on camera claiming that the Quran describes modern embryology. What they did not appreciate is that PZ is in fact an embryologist and so promptly proceeded to demolish their daft claim …
Regrettably, the scientific miracles narrative has become an intellectual embarrassment for Muslim apologists, including myself. A few years ago I took some activists to Ireland to engage with the audience and speakers at the World Atheist Convention. Throughout the convention we had a stall outside the venue and as a result positively engaged with hundreds of atheists, including the popular atheist academics Professor P. Z. Myers and Professor Richard Dawkins. During our impromptu conversation with Professor Myers we ended up talking about God’s existence and the Divine nature of the Qur’ān. The topic of embryology came up, and Professor Myers being an expert in the field challenged our narrative. He claimed that the Qur’ān did not predate modern scientific conclusions in the field. As a result of posting the video of the engagement on-line we faced a huge intellectual backlash. We received innumerable amounts of emails by Muslims and non-Muslims. The Muslims were confused and had doubts, and the non-Muslims were bemused with the whole approach. Consequently, I decided to compile and write an extensive piece on the Qur’ān and embryology, with the intention to respond to popular and academic contentions. During the process of writing I relied on students and scholars of Islamic thought to verify references and to provide feedback in areas where I had to rely on secondary and tertiary sources. Unfortunately they were not thorough and they seemed to have also relied on trusting other Muslim apologists. When the paper was published it was placed under a microscope by atheist activists. Although they misrepresented some of the points, they raised some significant contentions. I have since removed the paper from my website. In retrospect if this never happened, I probably wouldn’t be writing this essay now. It is all a learning curve and an important part of developing intellectual integrity.
Now to be frank, that is impressive, he is admitting that he was wrong and has learned something from all this. So what happens now? Well, apparently he is now proposing to promote a new approach …
So what now? How do we change the direction of the science in the Qur’ān tidal wave that has engulfed Muslim apologetics (more commonly known as daᶜwah in the Muslim community)? How do we transform the narrative? The simple answer is we need a new approach. … The new approach is based on the following axioms and principles:
OK, so lets look at each in turn …
The Qur’ān allows multiple and multi-level meanings.
That is true enough, it is suitably vague enough and poetical enough for this, like most religious texts, you can grab bits and mine almost any interpretation you want.
Our understanding of natural phenomena and science changes and improves with time.
This is factually correct, as we gain better instruments and more data, we also gain better insights and a deeper understanding.
The Qur’ān is not inaccurate or wrong.
Nope … wrong, there is no justification for this stance, it is not fact based, the book is filled end-to-end with factually incorrect information, for example the earth is not flat as it asserts, the sun does not go into a muddy pool each night, etc…
In the case of any irreconcilable difference between a Qur’ānic assertion and a scientific one, the following must be done:
- Find meanings within the verse to correlate with the scientific conclusion.
- If no words can match the scientific conclusion then science is to be improved.
- Find a non-scientific meaning. The verse itself may be pertaining to non-physical things, such as the unseen, spiritual or existential realities.
In other words, this “new” approach is exactly the same as the old approach – basically quote mine the Quran, crowbar in any old meaning you want, and if you still can’t make it fit, simply declare science to be wrong and ignore all the fact-based evidence.
<insert your face-palm here>
He was wrong, he knows he was wrong, and now he admits that he was wrong, and yet he still clings to a narrative that his irrational belief forces him to adopt. Will he ever take the next step? Perhaps. Having taken one, it is not such a huge leap to take another. The fact that he is still struggling to rationalize is understandable, those entangled and ensnared often find it very challenging to break free of the psychological trap, the journey is akin to a deep sea diver slowly rising to the surface de-compressing as he goes.
He appears to have taken the first step and for the honesty involved in doing that I applaud him, and can only wish him the very best of luck on this journey and hope he makes it all the way out.