Have Muslims Misunderstood Evolution


5 Jul 2016

Evolution, Biology

Ehab Abouheif

In this clip from “Have Muslims Misunderstood Evolution”, Ehab Abouheif, professor of Biology at McGill University, Montreal, Canada and a practicing Muslim presents evidence for evolution and addresses some of the major myths about evolution.

Abouheif begins by defining what he means by biological evolution:  descent with modification of all organisms from common ancestors.  He then insists that biological evolution is a fact, and that while scientists might argue about how some of the details occur, overall, there is no dispute that this descent with modification is how the diverse species on Earth developed.  He uses the eye as an example of how genes control development, and how the genes controlling development of eyes are related across widely different organisms.  The lecture is well illustrated with slides from a variety of sources.

For the second half of his lecture, Abouheif presents six myths about evolution that are common around the world.  He then uses examples from evolutionary biology, and in some cases simple logic, to rebut the myths.  Those that are best known include ideas of irreducible complexity, evolution being the same as Darwinism, and there needing to be transitional fossils.

Abouheif closes by reading verse 35.45 of the Qurʾān, coming full circle to his opening, when he noted how happy he was to be discussing evolution with a Muslim audience.

Topics discussed in the lecture:  definitions of biological evolution, progression of species, genes for eye development (pax6), similarities and differences across species, vestigial limbs and pelvises in whales and dolphins.

The myths he discusses are:

1.  Evolution = Darwinism
2.  There should be transitional fossils
3.  Traits are irreducibly complex
4.  Evolution is completely random
5.  Evolution is equal to racism, classism, eugenics
6.  Evolution = atheism

This clip is from a series of lectures by various speakers given over four hours on 5 January 2013 in London, sponsored by the Deen Institute, which now appears to be defunct.  The full video is available here.


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

Science:  The science presented is consistent with a consensus of contemporary scientists.

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

About Ehab Abouheif

Ehab Abouheif received his PhD from Duke University (North Carolina) in 2002.  He began teaching at McGill University in 2004, after post-docs at the University of Chicago and University of California, Berkeley. He is now an associate professor and Canada Research Chair at McGill University. His research focuses on evolutionary development, particularly in ants.  He was awarded a prestigious Guggenheim fellowship in 2017.  Abouheif is also a co-founder and co-director for the McGill Centre for Islam and Science. He discusses Islam and evolution widely.

Abouheif has many publications, including chapters in The Tree of Life (2014) and Islam and evolution education (in press), and articles in journals such as the International Journal of Developmental BiologyScience, and Evolution and Development.

Abouheif has a Facebook page.  Although he is frequently mentioned on Twitter, he does not himself seem to tweet.  He served as an advisor for the Science and Islam Video Portal project.

Select Bibliography:

The Abouheif Lab: Evolutionary & Developmental Biology.”  McGill University Biology Department. Accessed 31 January 2018.

Ehab Abouheif“, Wikipedia.  Accessed 31 January 2018.

Ehab Abouheif“, Canadian Arab Institute.  Accessed 31 January 2018.

Ehab Abouheif“, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, Fellows.  Accessed 31 January 2018.