Islamic Fly Science!!! – Yep, more lunacy apparently from a Saudi University

There is a science experiment currently doing the rounds at the moment. The reaction to it can be summed up as follows

  • Muslims: “Yea, proof that the Islam is truth”
  • Everybody else: “You have got to be kidding, this is not science”

OK, some details, the very brief paper starts out with the a quote from some Holy Book as follows …

“If a housefly falls in the drink of anyone of you, he should dip it (in the
drink), for the one of its wings has a disease and the other has the cure of
the disease.” [Bukhari, vol. 4: 537].

Yes, apparently the belief is that only one wing contains disease and the other is the cure!!! So they apparently decided to test it, and got the following results …

The text that comes with it reads …

Plate 2- Cultured water sample taken from a flask containing sterilized water and
where a fly fell (without submersion). Growth of pathogenic (disease causing)
bacterial colonies of the E Coli type were identified after taking samples from the
water in the flask for culture.
Plate 1- Cultured water sample from the same flask following the complete dipping
of the fly. An entire disappearance of the bacterial growth seen in Petri-dish 2 is
clear. The new bacteria growing in plate 1 was identified as Actinomyces, the one
from which useful antibiotics can be extracted. This explains the complete
inhibition of growth in plate 2

They then did this two more times and got the same results. You can see how this will play out … there will be loud shouts of … “See, here is proof that our Holy Books are right” … sigh!.

So what is wrong here?

  • This is not science, the paper does not come from a credible peer-review journal, but you guessed that … right?
  • There is exactly zero description of what was actually done. We have no idea how they verified anything, I believe we can safely assume that no controls or blinding of any sort were applied, and we also have a ton of variables in the mix.
  • Clearly the gunk on the right-hand side is supposed to convince us that the claim is true.
  • They assert that the bacteria growing in plate 1 was identified as Actinomyces and claim that antibiotics can be extracted from it, but we have no idea how verified that. Should I point out that Actinomyces are known to cause disease in humans, not cure it.
  • There is also the bleeding obvious that has not been done. Clip off both wings then try each separately, and also try the fly without wings, and for good measure, try with no fly at all. (If for example you use some instruments to manipulate the fly, do exactly what you did without any fly to verify that your instruments are not contaminated.
  • What else did they do and simply fail to mention because it did not come out they way they wanted.
  • But then we can also ask questions regarding the basic premise here … one wing causes disease and other is the cure!!! How exactly do they explain that.

What we actually have here is basic confirmation bias. They have a holy book and it must be proved, so they started with the conclusion and fish about for some crude piece of cargo-cult science that pretends to confirm it all yet ignores all of the most basic steps you would need to really test it.

So what comes next … proof that salt-water and fresh water do not mix!!

The truly scary part is that you will have a lot of people buying into this crazy idea and dunking flies into their drinks because it has been “proven” to cure any ill effect from the fly touching it in the first place. If anybody is really seriously suggesting that, then perhaps we should see how willing they are to drink the stuff from Plate 1. Now that just might put a fly in their ointment.

I would deeply hope that the authors of this are just a couple of kooks that the Saudi University would bounce out.

PZ has also chewed over all this and quite rightly spat it all out.

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