Friday, October 26, 2012

Scientism and obscurantism at iERA...

Take a trawl through the innumerable Islamic websites proclaiming the miraculous nature of the Qur'an and one soon encounters a depressing refrain: science is to be relied upon only when it is confirmed by the Qur'an (or, at the very least, when it doesn't contradict it).
Apart from the ludicrous claims of preternatural  knowledge of embryology, isostasy, cosmology etc. in the Qur'an, this also leads followers to deny such universally accepted (in the scientific community) theories such as evolution, since however hard the miracle seekers try to twist the original Arabic and search the tafsirs they cannot but accept that Allah has plainly stated that all species were created at once and that man can trace his origins back to two individuals, Adam and Eve, created by Him.
Hence science that plainly contradicts the Qur'an (and thus God) must be denied. Denial, however, is not enough. Such blasphemous beliefs must be denigrated and belittled lest any curious Muslim be tempted to reflect upon the overwhelming evidence for science that contradicts the Revelation and reach his or her own conclusions, namely: Allah wasn't much of a scientist.
Christianity, of course, has been here before. But the West had the Enlightenment and religion has retreated in the light of advancing knowledge ever since. Islam, however, is still fighting to maintain its grip on its followers' hearts and minds, and the deniers of evolution - such as those neanderthals at iERA - will go to any despicable lengths to hide knowledge from those who are the targets of their dawah.
Take the use of the term "scientism". Miracle seekers use it relentlessly when what they actually mean is ...well, science.
Here's our favourite miracle seeker, Hamza Tzortzis of the Islamic Education and Research Association writing about Richard Dawkins in his paper, A response to the God Delusion 
The statement presumes scientism to be the only way of establishing facts. 
In case you're wondering (and my spell check certainly is...), scientism sees science as "the absolute and only justifiable access to the truth". It's used exclusively in a pejorative sense. And yet the irony is that the miracle seekers love quoting (cod)science when they think it'll confuse the bejesus out of their gullible readers. 
Here's Hamza again, explaining why evolution is "impossible" (well, it's true we have our doubts with you, Hamza, ol' son) by quoting from Barrow and Tipler's book, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle..

Evolution is impossible because we have not had enough time on Earth yetAccording to John D. Barrow and Frank J. Tipler, the odds of assembling a single gene are between and 4-180 to 4-360. The implications of this are that there simply has not been enough time since the formation of the earth to try a number of nucleotide base combinations that can even remotely compare to these numbers!

I wonder if Hamza would be happy to quote the figures if he knew he was using "science" from an author infamous for writing a study on the mechanism for raising the dead (The Omega Point).
George Ellis, writing in the journal Nature, described Tipler's book on the Omega Point as "a masterpiece of pseudoscience ... the product of a fertile and creative imagination unhampered by the normal constraints of scientific and philosophical discipline",and Michael Shermer devoted a chapter of Why People Believe Weird Things to enumerating what he thought to be flaws in Tipler's thesis. Best of all, Physicist Sean M. Carroll thought Tipler a "crackpot". I suppose it won't surprise you to learn either that Tipler was a fellow of the International Society for Complexity, Information, and Design, a society which advocated, wait for it... intelligent design.

So here's another -ism for you Hamza: obscurantism - which we might summarise as attempting to blind your readers with the dubious science of creationist crackpots while attacking the real science of world-renowned scientists.


  1. Many years ago I bought a Tipler & Barrow book (ACP), which I never finished as it's one of those big fat ones with lots of equations. Sounds like I saved some time. I don't know how they could be so lacking in understanding of probability and evolution to think that the odds of spontaneous assembly of a complete genome have any significance.

    Btw, it's the Islamic Education and Research *Academy*, I'll have you know. An academy for what? Must be the mass production of utter bollocks, and of beard-brains willing to peddle it. Oh Allah, what has your ummah done to deserve such representatives?

    1. Good grief - you're right, Anon.
      I apologise to iERA.
      Now I've had time to reflect a little it seems obvious they're an Academy - so devoted are they to the furtherance and dissemination of knowledge without prejudice...

  2. I just reread your quote and thought I'd misquoted Tipler for a second. Then I looked at Hamza's page and realised you were quoting his misquote of Tipler.Tipler is indeed talking about a whole genome, not a single gene, but Tzortzis seems to be utterly incapable of reading a source without misrepresenting it or misquoting it, even when he has the correct quote on his own page!

    If I believed in censorship that guy would be among the first on my list for being banned from citing or quoting anyone to back up an argument.

  3. Well after that I decided to find the page in my copy of the book (p565). It turns out that they give the odds of a both single gene and a whole human genome. The former they base on average length of 180-360 base pairs, with a choice of 4 nucleotides for each base pair, hence between 4^-180 and 4^-360. Given 100,000 genes in a human, they give the odds of the genome as between (4^-180)^100000 and (4^360) ^100000 (sic). Tzortzis messed up the latter quote as he doesn't know anything about mathematics.

    Now the latter is obviously irrelevant for anyone who understands anything about evolution. As for a single gene, the first thing is that genes are just arbitrary lengths of dna that are small enough that they don't get split up too often in meiosis and thus are capable of persisting through enough generations to be selected in the gene pool. But I think the main problem, if I'm using the correct term, is the Texan Sharp Shooter fallacy (or maybe false lottery), attaching significance to the tiny odds of an outcome such as a combination of coin tosses, without bearing in mind that you are doing so after-the-fact, and there are many other genes and possibilites for genes that did not occur but would have been just as unlikely. Actually, unlike Tzortzis, Tipler and Barrow on the next page say their high odds are not significant, but do so by invoking the anthropic principle.

  4. Tipler and Barrow are sources used by William Lane Craig and I suppose that is where the copycats got it from.