Discussion about Darwinism – Speaker’s Corner
27 Jan 2017
In this undated video from the “Speakers’ Corner” in Hyde Park in London, Subboor Ahmad argues with several audience members about biological evolution and the existence of God.
Ahmad suggests that “jumping genes” prove that “Darwinian evolution” isn’t true. (See discussion in the evaluation.) He also seems to suggest that several scientists, such as Lynn Margulis (1938-2011; died in Amherst, MA) and her son, Dorion Sagan “disagree” with “neo-Darwinism”. (These terms might all have multiple meanings.) While Margulis was an evolutionary biologist, Sagan is a science writer.
They get into a discussion of altruism and Richard Dawkins‘ book, The Selfish Gene, a copy of which Ahmad is holding throughout the video. Ahmad tries to use “archeological” evidence (he does not say from where) to demonstrate that humans took care of the disabled “3000 years ago”, apparently demonstrating for him that Dawkins is wrong.
By about the fifteen minute mark, rather than discussing evolution, they have shifted to the existence of God. Ahmad repeatedly questions the “assumptions” the audience members are making. He asserts that because the universe is complex, “it makes sense that” it was designed/created by someone, rather than randomly occurring.
The video includes front and back bumpers for SCDawah (Speakers Corner Dawah), which seems to be related to the London Dawah Movement, which is related to iERA. Most of the speakers appearing in the videos among these groups are the same. SCDawah maintains an active YouTube channel and Facebook page. The other groups have additional Facebook pages and web sites.
“Dawah” is generally the “call to Islam”, which may be done to call Muslims to a particular understanding of Islam, or to call non-Muslims to Islam (proselytizing).
Islam: There is little here that addresses Islam. Ahmad does not quote from the Qurʾān. Most of his statements about Islam are framed as what he personally believes, which may or may not correspond with what other Muslims believe.
Science: Subboor Ahmad is wrong about nearly everything he says about evolution here. That cows and snakes share 25% of their genetic material is simple: genetic material is made up of 4 kinds of building blocks (nucleotide bases), hence everything with genes shares 25% of its genetic material with everything else having genetic material.
“Jumping genes” usually refers to transposable elements, which may be of many types or classes. In a human genome, they are about 40-45% of the genetic sequence. Most of these elements are now inactive, that is, they no longer move. There is currently no evidence that transposable elements move horizontally across species. The process is usually parent to offspring, like other genetic material.
The emphasis here on “Darwinian” (or neo-Darwinian) evolution is a distraction. Evolution using natural selection and random mutations is a given among evolutionary biologists, making the label meaningless.
(Written with the assistance of Charles Ross, Hampshire College.)
History: Ahmad asserts that “the scientific method” was invented by Ibn al-Haytham (d. ca. 1040 CE), which may be disputed. Ibn Haytham used experiments to study optics, among other things.
Ahmad’s suggestion that 3000 years ago represents a long time is inaccurate. Three thousand years ago in many parts of the world there were many societies which were highly sophisticated, such as in Egypt. So the suggestion that this represents something in terms of evolutionary time, which would need hundreds of thousands of years, is inaccurate.
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.