Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Islamic creationism in Malaysia

Salman Hameed is an astronomer and sociologist of science at Hampshire College in the US. He has been conducting an extensive survey on Muslim attitudes to science and religion in several Muslim-majority countries around the world.
"[Hameed] has found that attitudes about evolution vary greatly from country to country. For instance, most Pakistani doctors accepted evolution, even human evolution. "But in Malaysia, we were really surprised to find a major rejection of not only human evolution but evolution in general," he says.

"Hameed expected to find more acceptance of modern science because Malaysia has a sophisticated high-tech industry. He and his colleagues now speculate that Muslims are trying to carve out a cultural niche that's distinct from the more educated Indians and Chinese in Malaysia. "We think the rejection of evolution has become part of their Muslim identity," he says."

(Source: Chronicle of Higher Education)
The article goes on to discuss other findings that were presented at a symposium on Islam and science held at Cambridge University this past May. One of the major figures in the world of Islamic creationism is Harun Yahya from Turkey, the pen name of Adnan Oktar. A previous blog post here on creationism in Hong Kong schools mentioned him in passing. He was responsible for sending a hefty, full-color tome titled the Atlas of Creation to major universities and research institutions world-wide, to the amusement and befuddlement of academics and scientists who received them. He has an extensive media empire publishing creationist titles, but a profile in the New Scientist magazine suggests that politics are also at play.

The apparent growth of creationism in Malaysia is as much a sociopolitical issue (of "identity politics") as it is a scientific one. Therefore the standard solution of "more education" on its own may be insufficient to overcome this obstacle to promoting scientific and technical literacy in the country.

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