INTERVIEW WITH NADEEM HAQUE CONCERNING MACROEVOLUTION AND THE QURAN

OPTAGON: What’s your thesis concerning evolution as expounded in your book, volume 3 of the Microbits’ series: “Beyond Darwinism and Creationism”? NH: In order to understand that macroevolution is described in the Quran, for all species, including man, one has to examine most of the key verses in the Quran related to clay. In the late 1980’s, the Islamic group I was with, called ANALYS (a loose acronym that stood for Associates for Knowledge, Analysis and Synthesis) organized (under MSA) – at the University of Toronto – the now well -known lectures of top embryologists/anatomists - Keith Moore, T.V.N. Persaud and Marshall Johnson. After the lecture, when I was clearing-up the podium, Professor Marshall Johnson who was the last speaker left on stage, informed me that he was intrigued by verses in the Quran that dealt with the creation of man from clay. He also complained that he felt that the Muslims were not doing enough to inform the non-Muslims of the amazing correlations between recently discovered scientific facts and the Quran; he felt it was an obligation for the Muslims to do so. These two points certainly inspired and intrigued me; then in a conference that I attended in Pakistan in the year 2000, organized by the Islamic Research Institute, the Templeton Foundation and CTNS, I posed a simple question in one of the panel discussions which was: why do all these scriptures speak of creating the human being from clay, which is silicon based (i.e. silicates), while all life that we see is carbon-based? It was a question that no one could answer. However, in the 1990s, I had written a book called From Facts to Values and had covered evolution from a logical perspective in terms of whether it was a theory, fact or nonsense, but had not really studied the Quran on this. But by the year 2000 I had published volume 1 of the Microbits series with author M. Muslim, where we attempted to unify the whole of physics with a very simple idea. Then with Muslim and I completed volume 2 on new proofs for God’s existence, etc. Yet the issue of evolution remained untackled and hence my question which was posed at that conference in the year 2000 remained unanswered.

I knew that really this whole universe is one integrated system and that all laws are integrated: that is that the so called laws of biology are integrated and are just upper level manifestations of the lower level particle physics that we had worked on, where our work (that is the work of M. Muslim and myself) goes beyond the quark level from a theoretical and logical viewpoint. This one mind of Allah has created and designed everything with unbelievable precision, wherein no flaws exist in and at any level – look again and again as the Quran states and you will be left visually strained in your efforts to find flaws or debunk the thesis of a designed system. That is indeed the case if any human being looks rationally, that is without thinking about the behavioral and social consequences of accepting this truth, or, in other words, by being perfectly honest and seeing things the way they are. So the evolution issue was still bothering me and Marshall Johnson’s statement was still ringing in my ears, crying out for an answer. In the late 1990s there was a theory about the origin of life from clay by Cairns-Smith in that he stated that clay had this crystalline growth like property analogously akin to replication and he suggested that clay was somehow involved in creating life as a scaffold, which later on dissipated after the emergence of replicative life. However, I was not satisfied with this view as it was too simplistic, but the involvement of clay I found to be indeed connected to the Quran and that held potential. But in early 2000, after I stumbled across and then studied the work of James P. Ferris – a Professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the States – concerning clay, things began to click and fall into place. I realized that all the verses on clay have to be taken together and used as an equation (analogically speaking) to solve the problem for the origin of man. OPTAGON: What’s that process described in the Quran? NH: The process is described in detail in Chapter 1 of my book which is now available on Scribd. Specialists and non-specialists could go through this. Suffice it to say that the Quran speaks of the evolution of all life forms, including the human being from chemical evolution in clay, which served as a catalyst. One has to look at all the verses on clay in an integrated way. Plus one has to look into some key words being used. Also there’s a verse which was overlooked by everyone, in the past, as far as I am aware and it clinches the whole argument, from my perspective. Now the book also covers very briefly the chemistry and physics of montmorillonite clay (that comes mainly from volcanic explosions) and we know these were very prevalent on earth billions of years ago. Essentially what does this clay do and what is so special about it:

It is actually like a nano-factory: Without its ability to select and arrange chemicals from the point of view of physics (and not natural selection) in terms of the attraction due to ions and physical forces etc. the probability of the RNA chain being built up is highly improbable. In fact, Ferris and his co-author talk of the improbability of the creation of RNA nucleotides from a free flowing soup of molecules. I have quoted this important point in my book. What they say is another way of saying it is impossible without an attractor that is a catalyst. What clay is doing is that it is being a catalyst, due to its plate like structure, where you have positive and negative charges within its matrix, it becomes analogously speaking, like a selective magnet and combiner/gluer or like an intelligent grabber and connector. Also these days, outside scientific experiments, this clay has the great property to retain water and is used in drilling at construction sites and as an absorber in cat litter. Another property observed is that it can insert itself in a watery vesicle that is like a precursor to a cell. To get longer chains of RNA they have to force the clay through some small holes; but that is not a natural process. What these few researchers are speculating is that through some process if the chain became long enough reaching a critical threshold then replication might ensue and you have the emergence of a very primitive cell that is the transition of non-life to a life like replicative process that then eventually becomes what we know of as life, that is, it leads to the macroevolution of all life, from primitive cellular processes, including that of the human being. There is a kind of a branching out of life, but not one that accords with all aspect of Darwinism, which entails gradualism and has problems with the Cambrian explosion. OPTAGON: This of course raises the controversial question of Adam as being the first human being. NH: Yes, it does and part of the reason for the controversy is that the approach to Hadith is incorrect. Hadith are not above the Quran. One cannot canonize the Hadith, but certainly one can use those which do not contradict the Quran. The Muslim world must rise from the hole that it has dug itself into and think rationally – which is the prime methodology of the Quran. Since from the Quran, it seems to me that man’s creation was initiated from clay, all life experienced macroevolution. Therefore Adam was not the first Man but represents all of mankind; so Adam has been used two ways in the Quran: to represent Adam the individual who certainly did exist, but the term Children of Adam must be taken to be a symbol of speciation or more like Children of Man/Son of Man, where Adam represents the prototypical human being. There’s another reason why Children of Adam is applicable but I cannot get into it in the details here: you can read this in my article published in the Journal of the Scientific God Institute: Suffice it to say that Adam’s line (succeeding others/successorship, which is one of the meanings of the Arabic word khalifa/khilafah) led to many prophets that culminated in Prophet

Muhammad and that humankind was given a second civilizational opportunity as it were – that opportunity is to develop a concerned global civilization that takes care of all humans and non-humans with equanimity and creates an atmosphere of true freedom constrained by laws of the mizan and the Quran that produces harm minimization and the maximization of benefits for all with the aforementioned provisos. This civilizational project is a work-in-progress that will achieve fruition eventually, in stages. So really, I take Adam’s advent before and close to the time of Prophet Nuh. Therefore, certainly homo sapiens of Adam’s kind, that is, our kind, existed contemporaneously and before the time of Adam too. I will not get into a detailed analysis of verses on this, but you can read my book and one of my article related to this – the one on the Pre-Adamic civilization. OPTAGON: What then is the larger picture of what transpired? NH: That the creation of the universe, according to the Quran, occurred with the Big Bang, the ultimate “BE, and it IS!” at which point everything was set with precision for evolving into all forms from galaxies to ants using the principles of equilibirium and specifically quasi-equilibrium, where everything was programmed but in terms of motion, structures and processes wherein pathways were created at hierarchical levels and networks that are governed by physical if/then statements (placements) that direct the pathways. There is no natural selection for macroevolution. I introduce new concepts in my model for macroevolution as hypotheses: quasi-equilibrium, motion based programming and threshold levels. Quasi-equilibrium refers to a quasi-stability that remains in generations but which is not really that stable but moving in a particular direction from the genetic perspective. That’s the reason for stasis. After generations the shift in particular genes of a network is such that the next change reaches a threshold in overall configuration which produces a rapid change (a cascade of internal coordinated generic changes) and hence a change in the phenotype – therefore there is no mutation but a directed change. This is programming but on the level of the motion of particles, processes and structures which I hence call motion-based programming; as such these are creative changes and not mutations. OPTAGON: Do you think macroevolution is a fact then? NH: From the epistemological view as a Muslim my view is extended as it encompasses facts from both the Quran and the Universe. I see, through my own research, clear proof from the Quran of this directed evolutionary scenario without a God-of-the-gaps, but laws all the way through to the Big-Bang and therefore am now taking this as being a fact, even though from natural evidence we are still behind, but

the clay research of Ferris and others is catching up to the Quran, slowly but surely. When you bring the Quran into the picture, yes, it becomes a fact as we Muslims have an extended epistemology. In my view, God’s creation in stages and through development is more fascinating than instantaneous creation because it allows us to see the ingeniousness of the mind of Allah and at each stage and level we have the Awe of Allah both in terms of the frequency of the Awe (moments of the extreme recognition of Allah through His signs) and in terms of the amazingness of the design in nature itself. This is why we are so amazed at really lifelike drawings, more than at photographs, (though such paintings and drawing have gone out of vogue) because if someone produced a lifelike drawing/painting (extreme realism) we are in awe because we know that it took stages and steps (i.e. it evolved) and we compare this implicitly to what we as individuals can do. This produces the AWE. This comparison with our own abilities forms part of the AWE – the AWE is the recognisance of wondrous teleology, in fact. Likewise when Allah created this system of the universe that points to Him in every facet, the creation of things in stages through development, adaptive systems and macroevolutions yields the AWE in the individual which will increase more so than if God created each species as a God of the gaps special creation arising instantaneously out of thin air, or in a rapid process out of the ground every time a ‘new species’ is required. OPTAGON: So you are claiming that you are sure and the ideas discussed in your book will be confirmed? NH: Indeed, the time is fast approaching when God will show us the signs in the farthest horizons and within ourselves until we know that this (Quran, God as Reality etc.) is the truth. Part of these signs within ourselves have come from those outside ourselves in terms of the creation of stellar systems and the prevalence of chemicals and molecules in space that formed the building blocks of life – the stardust and part of the signs within ourselves will be the new profound revolution of understanding the mechanism of macroevolution to higher life forms that began in clay. And that is why Allah places the signs in the farthest horizons before the statement in the Quranic passage ‘within themselves’. Indeed, that which is close to us – our consciousness and how we evolved or came into being is closest to us in physical proximity and yet conceptually the farthest; yet to understand that which is the closest (consciousness, evolution etc.) we need to understand that which is the farthest: stellar evolution, galactical evolution, particle physics etc., the latter (particles) serving in both camps of being both far and near.

We have reached a new synthesis that unifies our understanding of ultimate reality that now needs to be examined and delved into further by both non-Muslim scientists, Muslim scientists, the Muslims specializing in the Quran and Hadith and in fact anyone interested in knowing reality to see if the new synthesis being expostulated integrally connects the Quran with the nature of ultimate reality in a symbiotic relationship, where we all Glorify the non-anthropomorphic Creator and if we do not, certainly ought to. God is indeed the best Knower and no just estimate do most of mankind make of Him of the sophisticated way He has created the universe and all life. Almost half of humanity is caught up in simplistic notions (instantaneous creation) and the other half in denying such notions but then coming up with counter-notions that are childish (i.e. creation from nothing, no design etc.). Actually children at least are being logical from their naturally limited perspectives, but the grown-ups must grow up! People should start questioning critically any claims, including the one I am making, rather than, as usual, be emotional, as the issue of the supposed division between ‘science’ and ‘religion’ is the most important question today. We are at the brink of global annihilation with the power of our weapons and human stupidity – these two do not mix together too well unfortunately! Once we realize that there is a Creator and that we and other species are an extended family, then we can learn to co-operate and take care of ourselves and each other not only from a local perspective, but from a systems perspective too. But this cannot be achieved globally unless we have a united and integrated view of reality. It is something long, long, overdue and badly needed. Badly needed, before it is too late.

Published by the IHR, January, 2013. Optagon Publications Ltd. website: http://optagon.page.tl/