Academic Problems of Darwinian Evolution
26 Sep 2017
Evolution, Philosophy of Biology
Mohammed Hijab (in the hat) and Subboor Ahmed discuss biological evolution and whether or not it is true, or as they frame it, “certain”.
In the video, Hijab generally plays the naïve questioner, permitting Ahmed to take on the knowledgable reporter on “academia”. Ahmed repeatedly notes that he his not presenting his own ideas, but those of numerous scholars. He says, “I’m going to show the academics, not me, say it is based on a probabilistic framework which has multiple assumptions which are being challenged, and its core concepts are disputable.” He and Hijab construct this “academic” framing as different from the “popular” framing, which they link to Richard Dawkins. One should note, however, that this “academic” framework is merely the structure of nearly any scientific theory. The pair do not offer any evidence beyond suggesting that because other models are possible, evolution cannot be considered certain. (See more on this in the evaluation on the right.)
Throughout the video, the pair toss around a variety of technical terms and names of scholars, generally without discussing what they have to do with the material they are discussing.
The video closes with Ahmed saying that he accepts evolution as a valid scientific theory, but that he does not believe it is absolutely true. Hijab suggests that for “Islamic reasons”, Ahmed must not believe that humans have a common ancestor with chimpanzees. They then advertise Ahmed’s YouTube channel, Darwin’s Delusions.
Because the video does not include a list of sources cited in its description on YouTube, we have compiled the sources here. Reviews of these works are generally available through Google Scholar.
Barker, Gillian, and Philip Kitcher. 2013. Philosophy of Science: A New Introduction, Fundamentals of Philosophy: Oxford University Press.
Brady, Ronald H. 1985. “On the Independence of Systematics.” Cladistics: The Willi Hennig Society 1 (2):113-126. doi: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1096-0031.1985.tb00416.x
Coyne, Jerry A. 2009. Why Evolution is True. New York: Viking / Penguin.
Darwin, Charles. 1859. On the Origin of Species. See online manuscripts.
Dawkins, Richard. 2004. A Devil’s Chaplain: Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science, and Love. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Dawkins, Richard. 2009. The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution. New York: Free Press / Simon & Schuster.
Dawkins, Richard. 2015. The Blind Watchmaker: Why Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.
Fodor, Jerry, and Piattelli-Palmarini. 2010. What Darwin Got Wrong. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Gee, Henry. 2013. The Accidental Species: Misunderstandings of Human Evolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Godfrey-Smith, Peter. 2014. Philosophy of Biology, Princeton Foundations of Contemporary Philosophy. Princeton / Oxford: Princeton University Press.
Ruse, Michael. 2016. Darwinism as Religion: What Literature Tells Us about Evolution. Oxford / New York: Oxford University Press.
Sober, Elliott. 2008. Evidence and Evolution: The Logic behind the Science. Cambridge / New York: Cambridge University Press.
Stove, David. 1995, 2006. Darwinian Fairytales: Selfish Genes, Errors of Heredity and Other Fables of Evolution. New York: Encounter Books.
Individuals named without mentioning a work:
Islam: The discussion here rarely touches on Islam directly, except at the end, when Mohammed Hijab implies that because they are Muslims, he and Subboor Ahmed must reject biological evolution for humans. As one finds in many videos on the Portal, there are a wide variety of Muslims, including Muslim evolutionary biologists, who do not have an issue with biological evolution, including for humans.
Science: The science presented here is generally only masterful propaganda. Ahmed claims to differentiate “Darwinism” from evolutionary biology: “Evolution is different to Darwinism. Evolution means biological change over time, Darwinian evolution is tree of life and a mechanism.” It is unclear if he means to suggest that “Darwinian evolution” is the concept as it was understood in the 19th century, and “evolution” is the contemporary understanding. Contemporary biological evolution also understands natural selection as the mechanism, and although the tree of life is considered too simplistic a representation now, few would suggest that the basic framework that Darwin presented is wholly wrong.
His representation that it is somehow surprising that evolution can be questioned is spurious. Any form of science, not just evolution, is probabilistic, etc. However, the contemporary theory of biological evolution has so much evidence to back it up that it is considered, as Ahmed has Dawkins suggesting, as well-tested as planetary motion. See this web site for a discussion.
In addition, much of what Ahmed is presenting as if it is current thinking in evolutionary biology is considered out of date by most if not all evolutionary biologists. Homology, for instance, is no longer used when considering evolution. It is well known that not only can similar features occur without interaction, but that features can come and go even within a single species.
History: There is insufficient historical material on which to base an evaluation.
About Subboor Ahmad
Subboor Ahmad (also sometimes spelled Subboor Ahmed) is a speaker for the Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA), who, like many speakers of the iERA, made a name for himself at Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park, London. Ahmad attended City University London for engineering, though it cannot be confirmed if, or when, he graduated. Current iERA materials note he is pursuing a postgraduate degree in the philosophy of science. He specializes in arguing for God’s existence and aspects surrounding proselytization, with a particular focus on biological evolution. He can be found guest lecturing at colleges and universities, in addition to occasionally appearing on “The Big Debates”, “The Dawah Show” (Ramadan TV), and “Face the Faith”. According to Mission Dawah, Ahmad also manages iERA’s publishing company, One Reason.
Ahmad, Subboor. Facebook. Facebook, n.d. 16 June 2015, 6 January 2018.
Ahmad, Subboor. Twitter. 1 August 2016, 6 January 2018.
Ahmad, Subboor. LinkedIn. 1 August 2016, 6 January 2018.
“Course Instructors – IERA.” IERA Mission Dawah. IERA, n.d. 16 June 2015, 6 January 2018.
“Subboor Ahmed.” Islamic Education and Research Academy. IERA, 6 January 2018.