My demanding major on one hand, and my horrible time management skills on the other, afford me very little opportunity to seriously study apologetics. Whatever little knowledge I have on different topics pertaining to apologetics is wide, not deep. (Which explains why I write blog posts instead of books)
I don't claim to have a detailed, precise rebuttal to the scientific theory of human evolution. Like most other topics that I write about, what I have in mind are approaches and models of how to solve the problem. I can show you the path, although I haven't walked to the end of said paths. The present post is a testament par excellence to that fact. It's a roadmap to the different strategies one can adopt in answering the challenge of human evolution. Hopefully this will generate interest among enthusiastic Muslims who would study the relevant material and see the solutions to the end.
To rebut human evolution means to rebut, undercut, or re-interpret the evidences for it, like the evidences from fossil record and comparative genomics. It also involves calling into question the method in which the conclusion is reached, and the dataset used in the analysis. What follows are the different ways in which this can be achieved.
There is method to the way the strategies are arranged. You can picture theorizing about human evolution as an elaborate argument, with a number of different premises. If even one of the premises is faulty, human evolution would be rendered unjustified. Only if all premises are solid would the conclusion go through. The premises range from being very general (e.g. science is reliable) to very specific (e.g. this is the only way to interpret the data). The strategies given here target different premises leading to the conclusion, progressing from the more general ones to the more specific. I think this is a useful and intuitive way of thinking about the issue. I've provided a graphic at the end of the article which I've made with my mad MSpaint skillz.
Strategy 1: Scientific analysis and theorizing are irrelevant when it comes to Adam, since he was a miracle. Given the available scientific data- and nothing but the scientific data- is the claim of Jesus (as) being born a virgin defensible? The answer is no, and that's irrelevant. Miracles are by definition unscientific. Scientific explanations need to invoke laws, but miracles by definition defy laws. As such, miracles by their nature fall beyond the scope of scientific unfalsifiability. So it is with Adam. More can be said about this, but that's the long and short of this approach.
Listening material for Strategy 1:
1. Yasir Qadhi's lecture on evolution, available here
Strategy 2: Paleontology, genomics etc are not the only constituents of the relevant dataset when it comes to theorizing about human origins. This approach of rebutting human evolution is powerful, promising, and underrated. Both the creationist and evolutionist are in the business of explaining human existence. The evolutionist's strategy is to explain the human genes and bones in evolutionary terms. But, the proponent of this strategy would argue, there is more to human existence than just genes and bones and flesh. What makes humans human is not our bipedalism or brain size or genetic microsatellites, but our mental or cognitive capacities. These include language, rationalism, enhanced degree of self-awareness, higher-order desires, autobiographical memory, and so on. These fundamental characteristics of humans- what truly constitute the human package- is very difficult to explain in terms of evolutionary processes, simply because cognates of these features are rarely found in any other animal species. As such, while the evolutionary explanation may triumph on the limited dataset of bones and genes, once you expand the dataset to include other, perhaps more crucial features of human existence- that explanation breaks down completely. On a broader dataset, creationism sports at least as much explanatory power as evolution.
Reading material for Strategy 2:
1. Vincent Joseph Torley's articles (thick with references) on the topic, available here, here, here and here.
[Note: This "other data" can contain data from revelation as well. If the dataset under consideration includes the proposition "Islam is true", then what the Qur'an has to say needs to be incorporate in our theory of human origins. Of course, in that case the proposition needs to be backed up with other evidences]
Strategy 3- The science is bogus. This strategy involves calling into question the specific scientific disciplines which yield the aforementioned evidences. So a proponent of this strategy would argue that as far as scientific disciplines go, paleonanthropology or molecular archaeology are not very reliable. As such, whatever evidences they yield must also be called into question. This strategy isn't as implausible as it may seem. Quite often, paleontology (especially archaeology) draws conclusions based on extremely scanty amounts of data, especially when it comes to answering questions like whether a certain species could be characterized as having symbolic/linguistic capabilities. How would linguistic capabilities be correlated with bones and stones? Would relatively advanced technology correspond with linguistic capabilities as well? What constitutes artistic expression? How do we know whether patterned scratches on cave walls constitute as art or not? What evidences would be appropriate to establish controlled fire use or burial? These questions tend to be extremely controversial. In addition, there are concerns with the availability and transparency of fossil data, biased interpretation (and rejection) of evidence, et cetera, et cetera, and so forth.
Reading material for Strategy 3:
1. Forbidden Archaeology by Michael Cremo and Richard Thompson
2. The Hidden History of the Human Race by Michael Cremo and Richard Thompson (condensed version of 1)
3. Forbidden Archaeology's Impact by Michael Cremo (sequel to 1)
4. How reliable are genomes from ancient DNA? by Brian Thomas and Jeffrey Tomkins
[Note: Cremo's approach may be said to belong more neatly in strategy 4. I saw it fit to include under strategy 3 because my key takeaway point from his book was the unbelievable selectivity that is at work when it comes to paleontological data generation. If his conclusions are true, that would mean the paleontology cannot be said to yield reliable data to begin with]
Strategy 4- The science is alright, the data is bogus. This strategy, to an extent at least, admits that paleontology and/or molecular archaeology and/or comparative genomics are reliable sources of knowledge, but the data derived from these sciences is not what mainstream scientists claim them to be (and hence don't support evolution). This is usually the most common approach taken by run-on-the-mill creationists and Intelligent Design advocates. It's important to note here that evidence for evolution isn't homogenous- it involves genes from existing species, genes from extinct species, fossils, artifacts, and so on. So different people can direct their skepticism at different sorts of evidences.
Reading material for Strategy 4:
Skepticism about paleontological data:
1. Buried Alive by Jack Cuozzo
2. Bones of Contention by Marvin Lubenow
3. Science and Human Origins by Casey Luskin, Ann Gauger, and Douglas Axe
Skepticism about comparative genetics data:
1. More than a Monkey: The Human-Chimp DNA Similarity Myth by Jeffrey Tomkins
2. Science and Human Origins by Casey Luskin, Ann Gauger, and Douglas Axe
3. Who was Adam? by Fazale Rana and Hugh Ross
4. Relevant papers by Jeffrey Tomkins, available here
Skepticism about population genetics data (this is a topic I know next to nothing about):
1. Science and Human Origins by Casey Luskin, Ann Gauger, and Douglas Axe
2. Relevant articles by Ann Gauger, available here
Strategy 5- The science is alright, the data is alright, the interpretation is bogus. Proponents of this strategy would agree with the data generated by mainstream scientists. Note, however, that there is no "orthodoxy" or "standard narrative" when it comes to paleontology. The data is ambiguous enough to have multiple stories describing the evolution of humans. By saying the proponents of this approach would agree with the data, I mean they would agree to some version of the "orthodoxy". As an example, there's no consensus in the academia about whether Neandertals had symbolic expression. So people who agree or disagree to this conclusion would both count as adopting this strategy. Anyways, while they would agree with the data, they would interpret the data differently. Fazale Rana, for example, agrees with the data but thinks it points to abrupt origin of humans on earth, and not the slow-and-gradual evolution. Young-Earth Creationist Robert Carter believes the data generated from population genetics actually supports all of humanity being derived from a very, very tiny population.
Reading material for Strategy 5:
1. Who was Adam? by Fazale Rana and Hugh Ross
2. The non-mythical Adam and Eve by Robert Carter, available here
3. Does genetics point to a single primal couple? by Robert Carter, available here (also peruse Carter's other relevant articles from here)
Strategy 6- The science is alright, the data is alright, a different interpretation is possible. While proponents of strategy 3 would claim that the interpretation of the data presented by evolutionists is wrong, proponents of strategy 6 would claim their interpretation is not wrong, but a creationism-friendly interpretation can also be given.
Reading material for Strategy 6:
1. Who was Adam? 12 theses and a caveat by Vincent Joseph Torley, available here
[Note: Since strategies 5 and 6 basically agree with the scientific data (but differ in interpretations), mainstream scientific literature would constitute reading material as well]
All of these strategies have things to be said in their favor, and I believe the most comprehensive and satisfactory solution to the problem of human evolution can be developed by adopting an eclectic approach incorporating the insights from all of them.
There are two other strategies used to reconcile human evolution with scripture, I haven't mentioned them because I don't find them convincing. The first strategy would say Islam supports human evolution. I haven't seen any responsible, evenhanded interpretation of the scripture grounded in a consistent tafsir methodology that lends support to this view. Also note, this strategy can get away with claiming only so much. A central claim of human evolution is that there were no "primal human couple" from whom we came, i.e. human monogenesis is false. Yet, the Qur'an and ahadith emphasize on this point so thoroughly and repeatedly that I don't think there's any way a Muslim can doubt monogenesis. We could claim at best that the primal couple arose by evolution, and all humanity came thence. From a scientific perspective, that view is still super weird. So even granted the success of this strategy, it affords little cause for comfort to the scientifically minded Muslim. Anyways, the best paper I've come across which defends this "reconciliation" thesis is available here.
The remaining approach involves some variant of science denial. Proponents of this view point to some fundamental problem with science as a truth-seeking enterprise itself, and conclude that scientific knowledge is by nature unreliable to different extents. This is a view I find to be extremely unsatisfactory, if not ludicrous. Sure, certain parts of science can be unreliable- I myself am a little sympathetic to the claim that one can trust paleontology only so much. If one objects to evolution on such a restricted ground, more power to him. But to say evolution is unreliable because science in general is unreliable just strikes me as a cop out.
(click the image to enlarge)