The Theory of Evolution: An Overview


19 Jan 2018


Aisha Khaja

Aisha Khaja and Shabir Ally continue their discussion of biological evolution.  In this segment, Ally suggests that biological evolution as presented by Darwin (d. 1882) always included the concept of a creator.  He does this by reading one of the last sentences from Darwin’s On the Origin of Species:  “There is grandeur in this view of life with its several powers having been originally breathed by the creator into a few forms, or into one, and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity from so simple a beginning, endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been and are being evolved.”

The discussion then turns to how ideas about biological evolution have progressed in the 150 years since Darwin published his work.  Ally mentions genetics and the book, Adam and the Genome (2017, by Venema & McKnight), and briefly talks about genetics.  He also mentions (incorrectly, see the discussion in the evaluation) how antibiotics demonstrate how biological evolution works.

He then attempts to discuss natural selection, using strength (or in this case, aggression) as an indicator of which individuals will survive to produce offspring.

This clip is a segment from the Canadian TV show, Let the Quran Speak.  The original air date is not known.  It is part 2 of the series; the first episode may be found on the Portal as well.  The organization which sponsors the show is Islamic Information & Dawah Centre International, in Toronto.


Islam:  The limited material on Islam is within the bounds of what Muslims have historically understood as acceptable.

Science:  Rather than drawing from history and using mythology about Darwin to discuss science, scientists today might instead point to textbooks designed to teach biological evolution, such as Carl Zimmer and Douglas J. Emlen, Evolution:  Making Sense of Life (2013).

Ally’s discussion of antibiotics is incorrect.  Antibiotics — that is, medicines which kills bateria — are ineffective on viruses.  So a doctor will not prescribe an antibiotic to treat a virus.  When used to treat a bacterial infection, the medicine kills not just “weak” bacteria, but all the bacteria that are susceptible to that medication.  As with any instance of natural selection, those bacteria that have mutated enough to no longer be susceptible to that medication will survive, and perhaps flourish because of the lack of competition.  The point of taking the full course of the treatment is to ensure that all the bacteria that are susceptible are killed, including any with minor mutations.  A good lecture on viruses and bacteria may be found here.

For those who want to learn more about Darwin and evolution, see PBS’s 7-part documentary, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, one of many excellent documentaries on evolution.

History:  There is insufficient historical material on which to base an evaluation.